Spare Me That Tire

Or why we now need a whole new map to our waistlines.

If hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings weren’t enough, now you’ve got a spare tire hugging your waist that refuses to deflate? Yes, apparently so.

Lose estrogen, gain a tire. Or love handles. Or muffin top. Or menopot. (Why are there be many cute names for something nobody wants?!)

It’s true that as we age, we tend to gain weight.  A slowing metabolism. Less muscle and more fat. You’ve heard all that before.

But what about increasing belly fat? There’s mounting evidence that estrogen is to blame.

Tell me more.

Researchers unearthed a link between estrogen and belly fat when they studied women taking hormone therapy for their menopausal symptoms. This particular group of women had less fat tissue, particularly in their belly area, compared to women who didn’t take hormone therapy.

And guess what happened to these women when they stopped hormone therapy? Ding, ding, ding! They began to put on belly fat.

Now, we’re not saying you should rush to go on hormone therapy just so you can save your waistline. That’s a conversation you need to have with your doc, who will likely tell you that hormone therapy is indicated mainly for hot flashes and vaginal dryness. (Other symptoms of menopause that may respond to hormone therapy include sleep disturbances, mood disorders and sometimes joint aches and pains. But that’s another story for another time.)

Estrogen’s Decline = Belly Fat

Loss of estrogen changes the way fat is deposited in your body. Experts aren’t sure why, but fat tends to favor your abdomen over other parts of your body so the fat that used to live on your hips, thighs, buttocks may now decide to pack up and travel north to your waist.

Enough with the scientific research. Let’s talk about what we can do about it.

For one thing, you can be aware of the health problems related to excess weight and try to keep it under control before it becomes a problem. Abdominal fat, which is also called visceral fat, is more problematic than subcutaneous fat (the fat we can actually pinch between our fingers or grasp in a fistful).

Visceral fat lies deep within the abdominal cavity, closer to your internal organs. It is also much more biologically active than subcutaneous fat. All of which means it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as raise your risk of diabetes and harmful cholesterol.

If your belly size is getting out of hand — a waist measurement of more than 35 inches is a warning — you can battle that belly fat by:

  • Focusing on healthy, plant-based foods

  • Eating lean sources of protein

  • Consuming low-fat dairy products

  • Replacing sugary beverages with water

  • Keeping portions in check

  • Aiming for 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (like brisk walking) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity (like running). Combine that with weight training and core work.

  • Sleeping more. Logging less than five hours a night has been linked to increased abdominal fat, according to experts, who also found that poor sleep increases your body’s production of cortisol, which also increases its tendency to store fat around the mid-section. (Poor sleep also increases the production of a hunger hormone and a craving for high-calorie, high-fat foods, which also doesn’t help.)

You can do it. Seriously, you can.

Don’t abandon your zip-up pants for elastic-waist styles just yet.

In the end, the same tried-and-true weight control basic rules apply here: move more, stand more, sit less, eat less — and cut down on the alcohol and sweets. Essentially, the rule for all is to eat and drink mindfully.

And let us know how it goes with your jeans. We’ve put them back on too!

Leave a comment


For a Pause

  1. All this talk about muffin(top)s makes us crave some healthy blueberry muffins, like these, made with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and whole wheat flour. Take that, visceral fat! (Sheryl recently made them and vouches for their wholesome deliciousness.)

  2. And of course, you need a good pan to bake those in, so how about this non-stick one?

  3. Don’t play guessing games with your waist size. A good reliable tape measure can help keep tabs on that important number.

  4. If you’ve made a commitment to walk more, know that we have too. Now that the weather is warming up, how about treating yourself to a new pair of comfy sneakers? Runner’s World has 14 picks to get those miles in. And you don’t have to be a “runner” to wear them. (Jennifer is wearing these from Brooks.)

One More Thing


Until next week, stay well. Stay healthy. Stay safe.

See you next time!

XO Sheryl + Jennifer

Every now and then I get a little bit angry
And I know I've got to get out and cry
— Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bonnie Tyler

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