The truth about stubborn belly fat, after middle age

Oct 28, 2021
Let’s delve into the main culprits of that stubborn belly fat. Source: Getty

Although it’s nothing to be ashamed of, stubborn belly fat impacts everyone. And with everyone’s metabolism working differently from each other, the ‘spare tire’ usually tends to show up on middle-aged women the most. 

To put it simply, your body changes as you age, and sometimes it becomes difficult to maintain your weight when you hit a certain age. Even if you grew up on the leaner side of the spectrum, ageing still impacts your weight gain, especially with a decline in estrogen levels and the slowing of your metabolism.

However, belly fat isn’t just caused by eating too much food and not engaging in enough exercise. There are underlying root causes that play a big role in fat distribution and, consequently, how hard it is to lose belly fat. 

Here are four of the major players that contribute to stubborn belly fat in middle-aged women.


Estrogen is a hormone that plays a major role in fat distribution and storage in females. As you age, estrogen levels decline, especially after menopause. This decline can affect weight as things start to slow down. 

With higher levels of estrogen, women usually store fat in their hips and thighs, but when estrogen drops, it changes. Estrogen decline is mostly associated with an increase in abdominal fat. 

Keeping that in mind, estrogen also contributes to cognitive and bone health, alongside other essential bodily processes. Three different types of estrogen impact the body in different ways.

Estrone: is present in the body after menopause and is the weakest form of estrogen.

Estradiol: is present in both males and females but is most common in females during reproduction. Too much of this estrogen can cause acne, osteoporosis, and depression, but very low levels can increase the risk of weight gain and cardiovascular disease. 

Estriol: is present during pregnancy as it helps the uterus grow. 

It’s also possible for women to struggle with an estrogen imbalance, which can cause several difficult symptoms to deal with, including but not limited to: 

  • Weight gain in hips, thighs, and waist 
  • Hot flashes or night sweats 
  • Mood changes and sleeping problems 
  • Low sex drive 
  • Fatigue 


Your metabolism is an essential process that helps your body produce energy. Once your body converts food into energy, your metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body uses that converts into everyday functions, such as breathing, digesting food, circulating blood, and repairing and growing cells. 

As metabolism slows with age due to loss of muscle, your body can’t transition stored energy into working energy as effectively as it once did, creating more room for that stubborn belly fat than you anticipated. Additional health issues can also affect your metabolism. 

For example, hypothyroidism is a common condition that occurs when the thyroid is overactive. It can negatively impact your metabolism by leading to obesity, among other issues like joint pain and infertility. 

There has been speculation surrounding if it’s possible to increase your metabolism to burn more fat. There is little scientific evidence for this, but there are some effective ways to burn kilojoules, including walking, cycling, swimming, and strength training.


Hitting your midlife can be stressful, as it’s often a time where many people feel the need to transition into a lifestyle or career that’s completely different. The stress that this causes can lead to overeating foods high in sugar, fat, and salt. 

Even though stress is a normal reaction to not feeling in control, it can become a chronic condition with serious side effects if you don’t manage it properly. With that said, there are two types of stress: acute and chronic. 

Acute stress: the most common form of stress as it’s short-term and tends to have a clear and immediate solution. 

Chronic stress: this stress develops over time and is more harmful as it contributes to problems in cardiovascular, respiratory, sleep, immune, and reproductive systems. 

Tips to lose belly fat

If you want to lose belly fat but aren’t a fan of the gym, there’s no need to worry. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in August 2021 found that tai chi is just as effective as conventional exercise for middle-aged adults. 

The results showed that both groups of more than 540 adults over the age of 50 had a reduction in their waistline after 12 and 38 weeks. 

If tai chi isn’t for you, you can always commit to low-density interval training or stick to a calorie deficit if you are serious about losing belly fat for good. 

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Do you struggle with belly fat?

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