Causes of belly fat after hysterectomy: ways to reduce it
Getting rid of belly fat after hysterectomy can be a daunting task. So, if you just recently had a hysterectomy and are worried about the fat around your belly, you are not alone.
A hysterectomy is a common surgery done by women nowadays.
Among the many reasons for performing this procedure is the fact that it may be a last resort treatment for conditions like endometriosis or uterine fibroids or a permanent birth control method for women.
It is not unusual for women that get a hysterectomy to add a few kilograms and get belly fat. Medical research reveals that there is a direct link between hysterectomy and weight gain.
The type and purpose of the hysterectomy performed can affect overall body weight and significant fat accumulation.
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove all or parts of the uterus (womb) and possibly the cervix and surrounding organs & tissues like the ovaries and fallopian tube.
The procedure is usually done to treat certain medical conditions that affect the uterus or other surrounding organs like the cervix, fallopian tube and ovaries.
However, the uterus (womb) is the main focus of hysterectomy surgery. After a hysterectomy, a woman will not be able to get pregnant and see her period.
As mentioned earlier, women undergo hysterectomies for different reasons such as:
Belly fat or weight gain can occur after a hysterectomy which isn’t necessarily attributed to any significant changes in lifestyle, habits, physical activities and diet.
The belly swells after a hysterectomy and it can easily be mistaken for belly fat. Additionally, other organs in the abdomen or pelvis tend to swell after this procedure which gives the stomach a sagging appearance. The swelling of the pelvic and internal lower abdominal structures can take several months to resolve after a hysterectomy.
An abdominal hysterectomy can be a catalyst for anatomical and muscular changes in the body, especially the lower abdominal region.
Certain ligaments and muscles keep the uterus in place, maintain pressure in the internal abdominal area, and stabilize the midsection. The incisions from a hysterectomy can sever these muscles and weaken them or make them stop working.
This makes the belly protrude or look floppy and also makes the midsection appear shortened and thick. Some people may have rolls of fat in the abdominal area and a saggy stomach.
One of the major causes of belly fat after hysterectomy is reproductive hormonal changes. When the uterus is removed, there are changes in hormone production.
Also, if you had your ovaries removed during the procedure, there will be changes in hormone production and this leads to what is called “surgical menopause”. During menopause, estrogen is secreted in little amounts, thus a reduction in estrogen production.
The ovaries secrete estrogen hormones, and when they are removed, there is an absence or reduction in the production of estrogen which would cause you to experience menopausal symptoms.
Essentially, there is a direct link between hysterectomy and increased weight gain. However, fat accumulation and weight gain are entirely individual, and so, not every woman may be affected. Certain factors affect weight gain after a hysterectomy which include:
Some types of hysterectomy impact weight gain more than others. For example, a hysterectomy that involves removing the ovaries leads to a reduction in estrogen levels which triggers weight gain. The sudden hormone change which leads to surgical menopause increases overall body and belly fat.
If you were overweight before a hysterectomy or have gained and lost weight repeatedly, you stand a high risk of adding more pounds after a hysterectomy.
The more weight you have before the procedure, the more likely you are to add weight after the procedure.
Additionally, overweight women are at risk of having conditions that require a hysterectomy.
The time to recover from a hysterectomy is extensive. Usually, it takes up to 4 to 6 weeks to recover and resume normal physical activities.
However, the recovery rate is different for every person. Women who perform abdominal hysterectomy require a longer time to heal, and may add more weight afterwards.
To fully recover, it is necessary to be physically inactive to help the body heal. This physical inactivity requires staying in one place for a long time, and this leads to weight gain.
After a hysterectomy, you may not have the luxury of exercising immediately due to the discomfort and pain that comes with the procedure.
The longer the time to heal, the more physical inactivity affects your weight. Staying physically inactive so you can heal after the procedure can increase the risk of accumulating fat, and ultimately gaining weight.
Generally, there are two major ways of reducing belly fat after a hysterectomy which are abdominal exercises and nutrition.
Engaging in regular exercise for 150 minutes weekly or 75 minutes for aerobic exercises is essential in your weight loss journey after a hysterectomy.
Before performing any exercise of any kind, ensure you speak with a certified doctor or your surgeon and get approval to do so. The minute you get the go-ahead, you can begin with little walks or other little movements with low impact.
When you are fully recovered and have regained your strength, you can develop an exercise plan that focuses on burning fat and building muscles which includes:
These exercises will tone and flatten the appearance of the belly and protect the pelvic floor. It is important to incorporate activities you really enjoy into your daily routine and exercise. It can very well set the pace for a long-term and sustainable exercise.
One of the best ways of reducing fat around the midsection and belly is dieting and nutrition. Nutrition cannot reverse or change anatomical modifications from a hysterectomy but positively affect hormones and reduce belly fat significantly.
When planning your diet, eliminate calories and include ingredients such as:
Vegetables’ antioxidant components prevent inflammation in the body. They are also good sources of fibre which is good for the gut. Most vegetables are low in fat and calories thereby creating a calorie deficit which is important for weight loss. This makes them a perfect choice for reducing belly fat and weight loss.
Fruits have a lot of water and fibre content that adds volume to your meals and prevents you from eating too much and eating fewer calories. Fruits are very low in calories and high in nutrients, so naturally, they will prevent weight gain and chronic conditions like cardiovascular diseases. Fruits are a natural way to lose weight and can be consumed raw or as smoothies.
Whole grains have a lot of fibre and fibre decreases the digestion rate in the body. Whole grains stimulate calorie loss by decreasing the number of calories stored during digestion. It will make you feel full longer and prevent you from overeating.
Picking whole grains over refined grains reduces belly fat and also lowers your chances of becoming overweight. Whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat, corn, popcorn, whole oats, whole rye, buckwheat and wild rye will help you shed weight and belly fat after a hysterectomy.
Beans have high protein and stimulate weight loss by burning calories and fat. Beans are low in fat and glycemic index and are also a great source of fibre. Using beans as a major source of protein prevents fat accumulation in the belly.
Belly fat is a common post-hysterectomy challenge and some factors responsible for belly fat after a hysterectomy include hormonal changes, damaged or weakened muscles and ligaments, and abdominal swelling.
Developing belly fat after hysterectomy occurs without any significant lifestyle change. However, after a hysterectomy, you can modify your lifestyle and diet to efficiently trigger weight loss and burn the belly fat that comes with the procedure.
Perform light exercises and also consult with an expert doctor for supervised guidance on ways to lose belly fat without disrupting your healing process.
Moorman, Patricia & Schildkraut, Joellen & Iversen, Edwin & Myers, Evan & Gradison, Margaret & Warren, Nicolette & Wang, Frances. (2009). A Prospective Study of Weight Gain after Premenopausal Hysterectomy. Journal of women’s health (2002). 18. 699-708. 10.1089/jwh.2008.1019.
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Some are more accurate than others. You can calculate your daily calorie needs manually or with the use of an online calculator. For the manual calculation, the average person can simply multiply his/her present body weight by 15 to gauge just how many calories is needed on a daily basis.
The general formula for calculating a calorie deficit is: