Why Apple Shape Happens - and What It Means

Has your body turned to the classic apple shape, where every spare ounce seems to have set up home somewhere between your bust and the top of your thighs?

Do you have the dreaded muffin-top overhanging your jeans? Has your waistline disappeared, and all your curves settled firmly at the front, bulging outwards?

Developing an apple shape body after menopause happens to thousands of women. The weight creeps on slowly and deposits itself around your tummy, and midriff, although your thighs and bottom may stay quite slender. But being apple-shaped is bad news for your health, and your best strategy is to try to lose that belly fat.

You may be interested to ready my review of a book I recommend that can teach you how to lose menopause belly fat

Why does the apple shape develop?

Apple shape belly This kind of weight gain often appears during and after menopause, as the whole shape of your body changes, for several reasons.
  • Hormonal changes - mainly lowered oestrogen levels - make your body put on fat more readily.
  • Your metabolism slows down just at the same time when you might be becoming more sedentary and less active. Result? Weight gain.
  • But the main suspect in apple shape weight gain is the hormone cortisol, which your body produces when you're stressed. If you haven't looked into ways to relieve stress, now's the time to do so.

What is cortisol?

The effects ofstress and menopause are felt all too commonly in the lives of 45+ women, who are often coping with jobs, families, teenagers and their own aged parents, never mind concerns of their own about growing older.

When you're feeling stressed, your body realises that you're in some kind of distress and produces the hormone cortisol which is part of the primitive 'fight or flight' response. Its effect is to raise blood levels of fat and sugar, so that you'll have the energy you need to face that sabre-toothed tiger.

But when you don't sprint away from danger or throw a punch at your irritating 17-year-old, that fat and sugar isn't used, and so it's stored - right around your middle.

Cortisol 'tells' your body - 'store fat, we might need it' - and that's what creates the link between stress and belly fat. Cortisol and stress are closely linked. The hormone can even make you hungrier, and more prone to stress eating, so that you always have enough energy on tap to face those dangers that are stressing you. And every time your stress level rises, cortisol springs into action, with the longterm result of creating an apple-shaped you.

Why is being apple shape bad?

If you carry excess weight around your middle, then that fat belly gives you a greater risk of developing heart disease and diabetes - in fact your risk could be as much as four times higher, according to research done at the UK University of Birmingham.

Fat carried in the mid-section of your torso secretes a whole range of chemicals including proteins and hormones that enter your bloodstream and can affect your insulin system, a key factor in diabetes, as well as causing raised blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Women who are overweight or obese have many health problems, and the heavier you become, the greater the risk to your wellbeing.

How to tell if you have an apple shaped body

Maybe you suspect that your body shape is becoming rounder simply because you've noticed a pinchable roll of fat accumulating around your middle. Your skirts and trousers fit too snugly, and a garment that was perfect last year is a trifle too tight now... But how much is too much? When do you go from being mildly rounded, to dangerously middle-heavy?

Don't think that just because you're not obese, you are safe. Even moderately raised waistline measurement can be harmful. If you've noticed your body shape shifting, your waistline becoming less defined and a midriff bulge appearing, then it's time to do something about the belly fat that arrives in menopause.

There are two ways to check whether you are an apple shape.

Take your waist measurement

That single measurement reveals all you need to know about your potential health hazards. Measure your waist around your belly-button. Don't suck it in, but don't push it out either.

For women, a waist measurement of 32 inches (81 cm), is enough to significantly raise your risk of disease.

If your waist clocks in at 35 inches (89cm), then you are at high risk of ending up with heart disease or diabetes.

Find the difference between waist and hip

Another way to determine whether you are an apple shape is to work out the difference between your waist and hip measurement. You can use inches or centimetres, whichever you prefer, as long as you use the same unit for both measurements.

Measure your waist, then measure your hips, holding the measure comfortably across the widest part of your backside.

Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement using a calculator (if you don't have a calculator handy, you can do the calculation online. If, for example, your waist measurement is 79cm and your hips are 98cm, just type '79 divided by 98' into the Google search box).

Got your answer? If it's 0.8 or more, then you are an apple-shape - and you need to take action.

How much do you need to lose to beat the midriff bulge?

As a rule of thumb, to knock 1cm (0.5 inches) off your waistline, you need to lose around 1 kg (2 lb) in weight. It's really important to be more active, so try using exercise to lose weight.

Go back to top of Why apple shape happens.

Find out why weight loss in menopause is a challenge. See our 5 tips for slenderising that apple-shaped body. Or go to the home page of Beat Menopause Weight Loss

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Facts about Menopause

Why pear shape is best

Pear body shape

The traditional hour-glass female shape, where most weight is carried on the hips, is declining as more women become apple-shaped. Pear-shaped women store fat on the hips, thighs and lower body.

Fat which gathers on this part of the body doesn't affect your health in the same way as excess midriff fat, and can even produce substances which protect against heart disease.


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