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One Surprising Thing You can Do to Tackle Mid-Life Fat Around The Middle!

by Penny Crowther(more info)

listed in nutrition, originally published in issue 295 - June 2024

Reducing fat around the stomach is a major health goal for many women in mid-life. “Middle age spread”, that unwelcome roll of fat around the middle is an unfortunate effect of changing hormones in peri menopause.

Apart from making your clothes feel tight & uncomfortable, abdominal fat brings health risks such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It’s also linked with inflammation, which strongly influences chronic disease and accelerated ageing.

Menopause (defined as 12 months without a period) is a very natural occurrence. But now that we have on average, a further third of our lives after menopause, we need to meet the challenges to our health, of drastically reduced female hormones.

HRT can be helpful for many women but it’s not a magic bullet. Diet and lifestyle changes either alongside or without HRT, can be very powerful. Mid-life is a time to change your food habits because often you can’t get away with your old habits like you could in your younger years.

 

Sculpture Naked Lady by Fernanco Botero

The sculpture Naked lady by Fernando Botero, placed outside Kappahl´s
head office in Mölndal, Sweden. Author Mattias Blomgren

 

Snacking

If it feels too overwhelming to radically change your diet, start with this one thing. It will help you meet the challenge of an expanding waistline - change your snacks!

Did you know, a quarter of our daily calories in the UK come from snacks? Even if you’re having healthy main meals, unhealthy snacks can undo the benefits.
As well as helping with weight loss, the right snacks will reduce bad cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity and boost your mood.
The other day, I was listening to Dr Michael Mosley interviewing a researcher about a recent snacking study on a few hundred people.[1] The findings were very interesting:

  • Unhealthy snacking was linked with higher cholesterol and more weight around the middle. Healthy snacking was not associated with increased risks for these issues
  • A quarter of the participants were having healthy main meals but were undoing the benefits by eating unhealthy snacks
  • Those who ate starchy, highly processed snacks (such as crisps) most days were far more likely to be anxious, stressed and depressed, than those who didn’t
  • It seems the types of snacks even affected mental health. Those who snacked on fruit were more likely to report being in a good mood!

 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=AhdFpWBeJSQ

 Intermittent Fasting - How it Works? Animation – Alila Medical Media

 

 

Timing When You Snack

Timing of snacks is all important. Snacking after 9pm, even with healthy food, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, higher blood sugars and fats and poorer insulin sensitivity. This supports research on Intermittent Fasting (IF).

There are many different ways to do IF.  One easy way is to do a 14 hour overnight fast. So, for example if you eat your last food by 8pm, you don’t eat until 10am the next morning. Having an extended period of not eating in this way, can help your body be more responsive to insulin. Insulin resistance occurs when your body ignores insulin so that more and more is produced. This contributes to fat storage in places you don’t want it!  Keeping your insulin balanced also prevents diabetes and all the health complications that come with it.

Whilst more extended fasting comes with contraindications, the 14 hour overnight fast is generally the safest type of fasting.  But even this may not be suitable for everyone, particularly if you have poor blood sugar control (i.e. you feel weak or exhausted if you don’t eat frequently), or are on strong medication. Waking up in the night feeling hungry is also a sign it’s not working for you.

What is a Healthy Snack?

Popular snacks are crisps, biscuits, cake and confectionary. Surprise, surprise these foods are high in refined carbs, processed fats and sugar. And they tend to be low in fibre and protein!

As good rule of thumb, a healthy snack should contain protein, fibre and good fat. For example, cheese & olives or fruit and a Greek style yoghurt (dairy or plant based such as coconut or soya).

Nuts make a great snack and provided you don’t eat too many, they don’t make you put on weight, contrary to popular opinion! In fact, the opposite seems to be true. People who eat more nuts tend to weigh less![2] In a huge study on 300,000 people, those who ate nuts were less likely to put on weight over a 5 year period. One factor could have been that the participants felt full on the nuts and therefore ate less. As a general guideline, 30g is a recommended portion size for nuts as a snack.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37709944/
  2. https://nutrition.bmj.com/content/2/2/90

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About Penny Crowther

Penny Crowther BANT CNHC qualified as a nutritional therapist in 1997 and has been in clinical practice ever since. She has seen several thousand clients over the years, at her practice in London and online. Penny now specializes in nutrition for women in their 40s and beyond, particularly around peri and post menopause. Mid Life for women can be a time when fluctuating hormones play havoc with your wellbeing. In the midst of all the publicity around HRT, it's easy to forget just how powerful diet and lifestyle changes can be when it comes to navigating the menopausal years.

Penny will guide and support you through specific changes to your diet, targeted to you specifically, in midlife. She provides practical, easy to follow menu plans with easy and delicious recipes. The food you eat affects every cell and system in your body. It optimizes how you look and feel, both mentally and physically.

To book an appointment view consultation options here >>

As well as being a regular columnist for Positive Health, Penny has written for Holland and Barrett, and contributed to articles for the Daily TelegraphThe Times Literary supplement, Pregnancy & Birth and Marie Claire. She has been featured in the Daily Express, Daily Mirror and on local radio.

Penny is a registered nutritional therapist with standards of training endorsed by BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and CNHC. This includes completing 30 hours of continuing professional development, annually.

Penny’s approach to health is holistic, and takes into account emotional, mental and environmental factors as well as nutrition. She has trained in coaching and studied many complementary therapies before qualifying as a nutritionist, which provides a broad foundation of knowledge in her nutrition practice. Penny may be contacted on Tel: 07761 768 754;   penny@nutritionistlondon.co.uk   www.nutritionistlondon.co.uk

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