Why You Can’t Lose Fat in Menopause

Trying to lose fat in menopause? This is for you. 

You enter menopause without having bought a ticket. You just find yourself suddenly inside. Things around you start changing. For you it may be sleep changes, a change in your body composition so there’s a little more padding in the cushions. Weight seems to have relocated to your belly. Maybe the skin seems to have suddenly thinned making cellulite you never noticed, noticeable. Every woman’s journey to lose fat in menopause is unique. 

Regardless, how you got there many women will say at a certain point, 10 lbs appears and doesn’t want to move out. For you it may not be a weight gain but a change in proportions so that your once hourglass is more apple shaped. It may be more muffin top, pinch-an-inch or it may be unpinchable, visceral belly fat. 

Whichever of these describes you, or the clients you work with [Don’t miss She Means Fitness Business, by the way if you’re a fitness or health coach] this episode offers some insight and support. If you have 20 or more pounds to lose, even if it didn’t all come on during menopause, this is ESPECIALLY for you.

What’s the problem? [And part of the answer]

For a lot of midlife women, the first place to look is sleep. In You Still Got It, Girl! (Healthy Learning, 2015) whether a woman is or isn’t exercising for her hormones, or eating to optimize them and fuel her exercise, if her sleep isn’t optimal, she will struggle to lose fat in menopause.

What the H [Hormones] Is Going On? 

Ghrelin and leptin become dysfunctional without sleep. So do your cortisol and insulin levels. Those cortisol and insulin levels team up and redeposit fat cells to the belly. In fact, they create more fat cells, increase baby fat cells to bigger fat cells, as well as relocate fat to the belly. That results in the “menopot” that is either the muffin top or the more heart risky visceral belly fat you can’t pinch. 

Cortisol and insulin are delivering fat to your belly faster than Super Shuttle. Also teaming up are ghrelin increasing cravings and leptin is not signaling you as it is supposed to that you’re full. You get hungry more often and sooner after meals, you never get satisfied and all the extra calories you eat are dropping into belly fat. All this because of sleep.

Compounding this issue is a lot more sedentary time. If you’re giving into it that means your glucose levels (and corresponding, insulin levels get elevated and stay elevated for longer) and now you’re looking at more time in fat storage mode and with inflammation turned up. In a recent podcast I shared the evidence that there is an easy button for reducing this issue! Literally 2 minutes of moving every 1-2 hours during the day helped. These small movement breaks reduced glucose spikes after meals by 17%. That episode is here: https://www.flippingfifty.com/walking-off-weight.

Still Struggling to Lose Fat in Menopause?

If you think you sleep great, check on your quality. If you’re monitoring with a tracker, what’s it telling you about sleep quality? Are you reaching deep cycles of sleep? Completing those cycles without waking up? 

Those deep cycles of sleep are also important to your growth hormone and testosterone levels. These are important ANABOLIC hormones. They contribute to muscle building, repair, recovery. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone contributing to breakdown. With deep sleep you build up muscle, without it you break it down. There is no neutral. You’re doing one or the other. 

Sleep timing is also an important consideration. Sleeping the same duration with a delayed bedtime significantly reduces insulin sensitivity. 

Eating earlier in the day with higher protein (and possibly fat) when glucose tolerance is poor according to most studies and finishing the last meal higher in carbs during insulin sensitivity, and beginning a fast with a significant span between the last meal and bedtime is more optimal for those who may already have compromised insulin sensitivity. *

*This is however worth testing for yourself. Individuals vary. Even in studies where this is the conclusive evidence there were studies that show individuals varied on their glucose and blood sugar response to meals. 

How to find out for yourself: Use a CBG monitor as I do personally and do with my clients.


Simple Hormone Truths to Lose Weight in Menopause

We don’t have the levels we once did. 

So, if you think you can get away with the same workouts (less intense than you need for stimulation), the same sleep (or worse sleep) because you need it MORE, the same low calorie/low protein diet… because your muscle and bone both suffer when you do, you’re simply going to struggle with fat burning. 

Working with your hormones on a 24-hour basis. That’s going to be true for you for the rest of your life.


There’s one more thing. 

If you’re still cycling – even if irregularly – you want to work with your hormone’s monthly status too. 

So, what I’m saying is there is an ideal time of day for you to exercise, eat, and sleep. 

For the details on timing of exercise, eating, and sleeping join me for Fat Loss After 40: Not Your Daughter’s Exercise

There is an ideal time of month for you to lift heavier and to reduce what you’re doing. 


The same is less true for women in post menopause. You regain some flexibility and you do become a little more like a man. Still, you have to remember [as a woman] you’ve had a lifetime of less testosterone, less muscle, and potentially have dieted or exercised in ways less than what we now know would have been optimal. 

So, to you endurance lovers asking, can you get back to a bit more endurance than you tolerated during menopause? I’d say yes, if you still prioritize strength training to avoid muscle and bone losses and being wise in your training volume. Opt for quality vs quantity. 

For the rest of us non-endurance activity craving individuals, the need for strength training and exercise that gets us breathless is going to prevail and has the potential to change the way aging happens for us compared to current models of aging. The amount of muscle you have will determine how optimal the health of every breath you take.

There you have it, to lose weight in menopause, especially if you have 20 or more pounds to lose is not the same as what may have led you to success – or what you thought was – when you were premenopause. It’s not hard, but it does require a mindset, and physical activity shift. 




YSGIG Book References: https://www.flippingfifty.com/ysgig-book-resources/


Sleep Yourself Skinny: https://www.flippingfifty.com/sleep-yourself-skinny 

Other Episodes You Might Like:

Walking Off Weight in Menopause | Controlling Blood Sugar: https://www.flippingfifty.com/walking-off-weight/

The Missing Link in Weight Loss for Women Over 50: https://www.flippingfifty.com/weight-loss-for-women/

Midlife Weight Loss: Burn Body Fat, Balance Your Hormones: https://www.flippingfifty.com/midlife-weight-loss/

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