LADIES. Do you remember the heady days of your 20s when losing weight was as simple as cutting the calories? Did you still get average results from calorie counting in your 30s? Now you’re hitting your 40s or 50s is it getting tougher and tougher to shift the pounds using traditional approaches?
If this is you then carbohydrates could be the culprit. Now, before I go any further, let me get this straight. I am not saying that carbohydrates are bad – they aren’t. They’re an essential part of a balanced nutritious diet, giving us energy and also providing nutrients vital for the production of good bacteria. What’s more, without carbohydrates our bodies would have to get energy from the protein stores in our muscles, which effectively means your body would start to eat itself. Eurgh.
If you’re struggling to shift those wobbly bits then rather than focusing on calorie intake, instead make a shift in your carbohydrate balance.
When you eat a food containing carbohydrate, the digestive system breaks it down into sugar, which enters the blood. As blood sugar levels rise, cells in the pancreas release insulin, a hormone that tells your cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage. As cells sponge up blood sugar, its levels in the bloodstream begin to fall. That’s when other cells in the pancreas start making glucagon, a hormone that tells the liver to start releasing stored sugar.
This back-and-forth of insulin and glucagon ensure that cells throughout the body, and especially in the brain, have a steady supply of blood sugar. Simple carbohydrates such as cakes, bread, sugar etc cause a rapid release of sugar into the blood. Regular consumption of an excess of these kinds of foods means the pancreas is releasing ever increasing amounts of insulin.
The cells in the body can become less responsive to the messages to open up being sent by insulin and so the body has to produce more insulin to get the message across. This is known as increased insulin resistance or, alternatively, reduced insulin sensitivity and is responsible, amongst other things, for reducing the body’s ability to use stored fat for energy which leads to weight gain.
But why exactly is it more of a problem for women, the older we get?
The key lies with the female sex hormone, oestrogen. Oestrogen lessens the detrimental impact of insulin and can therefore serve to mask insulin resistance issues. However, as we age and move ever nearer to the dreaded M word our oestrogen levels drop, thus allowing the full impact of that excess of insulin to run havoc around our body.
So, if you’re struggling to shift those wobbly bits then rather than focusing on calorie intake, instead make a shift in your carbohydrate balance. How radically you need to do this will depend very much on your individual sensitivity levels but as a starting point try the following:
Rather than opting for bread, pasta, potatoes or rice with your meal, stack your plate with leafy dark green vegetables and other complex carbohydrate sources. Not only will you lower your insulin resistance, you’ll also end up feeling fuller for longer.
Fancy a snack? Try nuts and seeds rather than crisps and biscuits. Or why not make these yummy date bars – a low carbohydrate high energy option for nutrition on the go.
1/2 cup cashews, almonds or brazils or a mixture of the three
1/2 cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped (4-6 whole)
Pinch of sea salt, cinnamon, ginger or other spices, splash of vanilla (optional)
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine nuts with pitted dates.
- Pulse until the mixture combines and starts to ball together. (if the mixture doesn’t start to ball together add another date)
- Place into cling film, or in between two sheets of greaseproof paper and form into rectangular logs.
- Refrigerate for a few hours. (They DO taste better after resting.)
- Cut into slices and wrap individually.
For a fruity variation add a couple of raspberries or strawberries or ¼ apple to the mix.
Here’s to fitness, health and happiness.
Sara Perry is the Thinking Woman’s Personal Trainer and is passionate about helping women over 40 to improve their fitness, health & happiness.