Women are ‘designed' to put on weight in their 40s
Many of nutritional therapist Nicola Moore’s female clients come to see her because they’ve become confused - and I don’t blame them.
Their formative years were lived out in the dietary fat-phobic 1970s and 80s, at a time when eating healthily was all about cutting calories, often with substitutions for real food.
Today, the messages have changed. Voices shout from every different corner of food-land to highlight the proposed benefits of high-fat, low-carb, paleo, vegan, ketogenic, macrobiotic eating plans (to name just a few).
Nicola, who is also part of the senior academic team at The Institute for Optimum Nutrition, training and educating a new generation of nutritionists, explains in HealthHackers episode 23 how social expectations have added an extra burden on the wellbeing of some of her clients.
“I think we were one of the first generations of women where we really have been told you can have a career, you can have a family, everything can be perfect.
“I don’t actually think that’s realistic.”
“A lot of the women that I’m seeing are actually now suffering a little bit.
“They don’t know what to eat, they’re confused, they’ve got health problems going on under the surface and they’re potentially not putting themselves first,” she told me.
Forty is regarded as a milestone age and it may have something to do with the hormonal shifts that take place in a woman’s body around that time.
You might think oestrogen simply declines as we age, but it actually fluctuates, according to Nicola.
The changes can bring on unexpected symptoms, including digestive issues or emotional ones, she told me.
But there are foods she recommends to help manage and support hormones.
Cruciferous vegetables, in particular, seem to pack a powerful punch when it comes to steering excess oestrogen out of the body.
“Sometimes, if we’re not eating a diet that’s rich in certain vegetables, for example, you might process your oestrogen in a way that seems to be linked to some of the problems we see with oestrogen, especially transitioning through the menopause, like increased risk of breast cancer.”
Reminder: cruciferous veggies include: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale. You can make them taste even better when you cook them how Nicola does (see her Instagram feed for inspo!)
While we’re talking oestrogen, it’s worth noting that the hormone may be the reason for gaining some extra fat as you near the menopause.
“As we start to go through our forties we are actually designed to put on a bit of weight,” Nicola said, explaining that it’s because our ovaries are no longer producing as much oestrogen so the body decides to get it from fat stores instead.
She points out that the weight gain shouldn’t be around the middle (that can point towards metabolic issues) but instead around the bottom and hips, and said she's seen it happen to her own body, which is now “rounder” than before.
“I need to embrace it a little bit'" she told me.
“If I push myself to try and lose weight at this point, I’m possibly not helping myself when I do start to notice menopausal symptoms.”
So, for anyone panicking over sudden mid-forties unexplained roundness... embrace it!
Find out more about Nicola on her website.