Over the years, I have had many women asking me why they start putting on weight around their middle as they approach the menopause. Well, researchers at Monash University in Australia have shown that hormonal changes at this time of life cause a shift of fat storage from the hips to the waist.

Unfortunately for women this is a natural process that we will all have to go through so it is important to make sure you are eating the right kinds of foods and doing targetted exercise to minimise weight gain becoming a problem. Research shows that people (both women and men) who carry excess weight around their tummies are at risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

So, how can you help yourself to eat healthily and stay fit into, during and beyond middle age?

  1. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables – aim for more than 5 a day! Add extra salad vegetables to sandwiches, snack on fresh fruit or vegetable sticks, aim for at least 2 green veg with your main meal.
  2. Eat complex carbohydrates – wholegrains like brown rice, oats, wholemeal bread – try to swop over from white breads and pasta and add grains such as pearl barley into your diet in soups and stews.
  3. Eat phytoestrogens, including beans such as lentils, chickpeas and soya products – add these to soups and casseroles or have in salads.
  4. Eat oily foods, including fish, nuts, seeds and oils – aim for 2 portions of oily fish a week which can include sardines, tuna, salmon and mackerel. Sprinkle seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower onto salads. Eat nuts in moderation because they tend to be high in calories – make sure you have unsalted ones.
  5. Reduce your intake of saturated fat from dairy products, etc. – experiment with soya milk or other dairy alternatives, cut off the fat from meat and avoid processed foods such as sausage rolls, cakes and pastries that are often high in saturated fats
  6. Drink enough fluids – aim of 6-8 glasses of plain water a day. Try herbal or fruit teas as an alternative to normal tea or coffee
  7. Increase your intake of fibre – if you increase your vegetable and fruit intake and swop to complex carbs (see 1 and 2 above), you will automatically increase fibre
  8. Avoid additives, preservatives and chemicals such as artificial sweeteners – avoid fizzy drinks including ‘low sugar’ or ‘sugar free’
  9. Reduce your intake of caffeine – try decaff varieties of tea and coffee and increase consumption of herb or fruit teas
  10. Reduce alcohol – the government recommends that women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, no more than three units in any one day, and have at least two alcohol-free days a week. Men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week, no more than four units in any one day, and have at least two alcohol-free days a week. (So what is a unit? 1 pint of beer or cider = 2.8 units, a standard glass of wine or champagne (175ml) = 2.1 units, a single shot of spirit = 3.1 units. Have a look at this link to calculate how much you are drinking: http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Alcohol-unit-calculator.aspx
  11. Avoid sugar on its own and hidden in foods – try to eat as naturally as possible. This means cooking meals from scratch so you know exactly what is going into them; keeping pastries and cakes to an occasional treat rather than a daily snack; making sure you have suitable snacks to hand in the cupboard, office or car; stop having sugar or artificial sweeteners in tea and coffee. The easiest way to do this is to gradually cut down how much you take over period of a several days or weeks. You will be amazed how quickly you can lose your taste for sugar!

Further reading: Natural Solutions to Menopause by Marilyn Glenville (available from amazon.co.uk)

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If you would like dietary and nutritional advice why not get in touch with me, Pippa Mitchell at Luck’s Yard Clinic on 01483 527945