Q I am coming up to menopause (49) and, for the first time, getting fat around my middle. Can you explain why, and I can to shift it?"
A 'Menopause is not friendly to the waistline,' according to gynecologist Dr Rebecca Booth, author of The Venus Week, which advises on managing hormonal shifts. 'Estrogen helps shape an hourglass silhouette to signal fertility. As estrogen levels drop around menopause so fat tends to be redistributed around the waist.'
'Estrogen is connected with the production of insulin, which organizes your body's storage system.' If there is excess sugar (or fat) in the blood, insulin sends a signal for it to be stored in your fat cells. Additionally, insulin tells these cells not to release stored fat to use as energy. Before menopause, estrogen lowers insulin. 'As estrogen levels drop, more insulin is produced. Sugars and starchy foods then tend to increase the fat stored in the cells around your waist.'
Central body fatness is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The most problematic type is visceral fat, which is stored deep in your belly.
'Fat around the middle can be reduced naturally,' advises Dr. Booth. East less sugar and carbohydrates (except for vegetables, excluding potatoes). Eat more foods containing phytoestrogens, which mimic estrogen and help lower insulin. Find these in nuts, seeds, legumes (eg. peas and beans), lentils, berries and spices including turmeric, cinnamon, licorice, fennel, ginger and cumin.
For breakfast, choose phytoestrogen-packed foods, such as berries, nuts, seeds and almond milk, that boost your metabolism (the rate your body burns the energy from what you eat and drink) and help whittle your waist.
Top food swaps include seed-based crispbread instead of bread, lettuce as a wrap, quinoa with chia seeds instead of pasta or couscous (quinoa is high in protein and fibre as well as phytoestrogens), blitzed cauliflower instead of rice or potatoes, and raw vegetables instead of chips, with hummus and guacamole.
Exercise every day to speed up your metabolism. Walk, walk, walk. Do regular training, dancing, yoga, tennis - whatever you enjoy. And, if possible, don't sit down more than three hours a day. A sedentary lifestyle will increase your waistline and harm your health.
Dr. Booth is co-founder of VENeffect Anti-Aging Skin Care, which utilizes natural plant estrogens.