Menopause and Your Changing Body

In our culture, menopause is frequently seen as a negative milestone, a time of loss and is sometimes viewed as a disease or medical condition requiring a cure. With messages like this from the medical establishment and the media, it's no wonder many healthy women in the midst of this transition develop negative feelings towards their bodies.

What's an average woman to expect regarding her body as she travels through her perimenopausal years (typically her mid- and late- 40s)? Should she yearn for the 30-year old physique she may once have had? Is it possible to achieve that objective? What's a healthy and realistic goal for women hoping to optimize their body composition as well as their body image as they move through the last endocrinological change in their life?

Here are some facts. An average woman can expect to gain from two to five pounds during the menopausal transition, usually ending up in the lower tummy area. The main reason women experience this weight gain is the decline of estrogen. Fat cells in the hip, thigh and buttock areas have receptors for estrogen. Estrogen, in most women, drives most fat storage to the lower part of the body. As estrogen levels begin to decline, however, estrogen loses its hold on fat storage below the waist and instead, fat starts to show up in the "pinch an inch" area of the waistline. It usually extends from the belly button down to the top of your pubic hairline. It's like a small, soft pouch. I refer to this as the "menopot" and the great news is that it is not associated with life-threatening medical illnesses.

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