STRUGGLING to do up your jeans? These expert tips will help banish that stubborn belly fat for good.
Do not succumb to the dreaded “midlife middle” in your 40s and 50s can feel inevitable, but you don’t have to just put up with weight piling on around the tummy.
What causes it? Healthspan nutritionist Rob Hobson says a change in hormone levels during the menopause – mainly a drop in oestrogen – can influence body fat distribution.
“Reduced physical activity and loss of muscle mass, the number of children you’ve had, a family history of obesity, use of antidepressants, and eating out or ordering in more often, can also be factors,”He elaborates.
Pippa Campbell, a nutritionist, suggests that too much insulin (the hormone that regulates metabolism) could be the problem.
“Insulin is responsible for converting sugars and carbohydrates into energy,”She said.
“When we fail to use this stored energy through exercise, it quickly converts to body fat that sits around the middle.”
The good news is you can lose the flab – however there’s no fad-diet quick-fix. These tips will help you to make the most of your diet.
Check your stress
Stress can cause havoc in your stomach.
“When your brain thinks your life is in danger, it stimulates the release of adrenalin and cortisol,”Rob.
“This fight or flight response is very efficient, providing immediate energy for five to 10 minutes, allowing you to quickly react to dangerous situations.”
But if you’re stressed and don’t have a specific “danger”To react to, the glucose and fat (essentially, sugars), swimming around in your system become fat around your middle.
So if you stress eat a load of doughnuts, that’s going to land on your tummy.
Pippa believes that you can make yourself thinner by drastically reducing your stress levels. “You can’t eliminate stress completely, but you can reduce it with meditation, yoga, or deep relaxation,”She said.
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Mix it up with your workouts
There’s no two ways about it: exercise is an incredible stress-buster, flooding you with feel-good endorphins and giving you that post-workout high.
“The fact that during exercise we use more oxygen, creating more blood flow, also has a positive effect on the brain and how we’re feeling,”Maria Eleftheriou (head of the barre at Psycle), explains.
It is important to mix up your workouts during midlife in order to reduce belly fat. You can make a big difference with weights, barre (which incorporates ballet moves), and Pilates.
“Barre workouts are ideal, as the small, controlled body-weight movements help build strength and increase bone density,”Maria.
“As you get older, your body won’t change by doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) or cardio classes alone.
You need isometric (when you contract specific muscles, like holding a plank) and eccentric (slowly lengthening a muscle, like lowering into a press-up) exercises, which work both short and long muscles,”Maria.
So hit the weights, but don’t stop cardio – even a 30-minute walk or 20-minute bike ride will release all the endorphins you need, and won’t be harsh on joints.
“Interval training once a week can help support heart health and relieve menopausal symptoms, blended with a combination of yoga and stretching,” says Maria.
As if you needed more reasons to sex! Due to the endorphins in sex, it has been shown that it can reduce stress levels and even burn calories.
Libido struggling? Rob suggests foods rich in zinc such as oysters and lobster, red meats, nuts, seeds, lentils, and ginseng via tea or supplements.
“Ginseng is thought to have a restorative effect that improves both physical and mental energy as well as stamina – hence its link to libido.”
Order your food
“Research shows that the order in which we consume different food types can significantly impact our post-meal insulin levels,”Pippa.
“Protein is best eaten first in any meal. Even vegetables that are starchy or rich in carbohydrates can still be nutritious. This will reduce insulin resistance.
The more you fill your body with insulin, the more you will have fluctuations in blood sugar, and this rollercoaster effect can cause food cravings, fat storage and irritability.”
Have eggs for brekkie
Move on from toast. Pippa advises that carbs should be avoided at breakfast and lunch, in favor of protein.
“Swap porridge oats or granola for a protein-rich breakfast such as two boiled eggs, smoked salmon or a protein shake.
This can help increase your metabolism in the morning. Lunch should be a large plate of salad with a variety of coloured veg and a lean protein such as chicken, fish or tofu.”
Thankfully, you don’t need to abandon carbs entirely. Rob recommends a Mediterranean diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, oily seafood (sardines and mackerel), salmon, wholegrains, and olive oil. However, Rob recommends meals that are approximately 25% carb-based such as rice beans, potatoes, bread, and potatoes.
“During the menopause, this diet is useful as it contains many phytoestrogenic foods – substances that act like oestrogen, which is lacking in menopause – that may help manage symptoms such as hot flushes,”Rob.
Although we all enjoy a few crisps in between meals, more insulin is required to make your body feel full and you will experience spikes in blood sugar.
“If you’re eating nutritious, balanced meals packed with protein and fibre, your body simply doesn’t need any more.
“Instead, try eating three smaller meals and no snacks,” Pippa says.
If you really can’t imagine a life without snacks (we feel you), grab a handful of almonds or apricots – they’re both boron-rich, which can help manage metabolism and may even prevent obesity.
Wine is possible!
Good news if you love a glass of cab sav on the weekend: wine isn’t a total no-no, but Pippa recommends making Monday to Friday alcohol free.
“Midweek, try drinking kombucha instead, which feeds your good gut bacteria.
“A happy gut also equals a happy mind, as serotonin, our happy hormone, mostly resides in the gut, so this also makes us more resilient to stress.”
Do you want to keep up with the latest at weekends? A vodka soda and lime is a great alternative to wine for a fun, high-energy drink that doesn’t contain sugar.
Could your midlife center be a sign that you are looking for something more?
If you’re doing everything by the book and still find yourself clutching at excess tummy weight, it could be a sign of a thyroid issue. Visit your GP if you’re concerned.
Obesity can also be caused by certain genes. “If you have a family history of obesity or type 2 diabetes, or are of Asian, East Indian, Native American, Pacific Island or Middle Eastern heritage, you are much more likely to be carbohydrate intolerant,”Pippa.
“Therefore, small amounts of sugar or starch will cause you to make way more insulin than others. This will set you up for hunger, weight gain and fatigue.
“However, genes are not our destiny – they’re just a hurdle to work around.”