Following the right diet plan for your body is they key to reclaiming your waist and looking and feeling your best. Dr Christiane Northrup, doctor and regular on The Oprah Show, has battled with her own weight and loves to bust the myth of midlife spread. “It was always believed that after menopause, it was normal to gain up to 15kg. But it’s not inevitable – I’m lighter now than I was in my 30s,” says Dr Northrup.
Dr Northrup now keeps her shape and encourages others with a low-GI way of eating. “Your body will be able to burn fat and keep your insulin and blood sugar levels stable only when you don’t eat or drink excessive amounts of the wrong kinds of carbs,” she says.
“Otherwise, excess blood sugar will be stored as fat, which will accumulate not just on your middle and hips, but also in your arteries, heart and brain. If you keep blood sugar stable, you’ll experience less hunger, more energy, fewer flushes, more restful sleep and stable moods.”
Eat at least three meals a day
Dr Northrup recommends we eat smaller meals frequently, to keep blood sugar stable. Never skip breakfast or lunch, as the metabolic rate peaks at midday and decreases after that, so food eaten at night is stored as excess fat. “I recommend a snack at around 4pm when blood sugar, mood and serotonin levels plummet. This stops you overeating at night.”
Focus on portion size, not kilojoules
“Instead of kilojoule counting, concentrate on eating high-quality foods in smaller portions,” says Dr Northrup. “Cup your two hands in front of you. That’s how big your stomach capacity is. Limit your intake to no more than that at each meal. To keep my weight stable, I’ve had to eliminate grain products most of the time, reduce desserts to no more than one a week, make lunch the biggest meal of my day, eat very lightly at dinner and increase my exercise time.”
Eat protein at each meal
That means eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy products or a vegetarian alternative, such as tofu or tempeh. If you’re vegetarian, watch out for beans – they’re packed with protein, but carbs too, so judge what’s right for you and limit porttions. Beans and pulses can also make you feel bloated, so it’s important to soak them overnight.
Eat colourful fruits and veg daily
Five-star praise from Dr Northrup. “The healthiest fruits and vegetables are the most colourful. Pigments in these foods are very powerful antioxidants. Go for broccoli; red, yellow and green peppers; dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, and tomatoes and dark berries.”
Eat healthy fats each day
“Back in the 80s and 90s, women were brainwashed into thinking that all fat were the enemy. Now we know differently,” says Dr Northrup, who urges us to increase our essential fatty acids – omega 3, 6 and 9. Find them in olive oil, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, linseed or linseed oil, oily fish or fish-oil supplements. “Nuts are also a good source, but only a handful each day.”
Cut down on refined and high-GI carbs
Dr Northrup urges us to wipe out as many unhealthy carbs as possible from our diet. White rice, pasta and foods made with white flour are on the hit list, as are sweet things such as sweets, biscuits, cakes, pastries and ice cream, plus fizzy drinks and alcohol. “One of the first things women notice when they eliminate alcohol is that they lose weight very quickly. Many also notice that their hot flushes go away and that cravings decrease rapidly as the blood sugar balances.”
Drink more water
Water helps eliminate the breakdown products of fat. “I keep a jug of decaffeinated green tea in the refrigerator at all times,” says Dr Northrup. “It’s loaded with antioxidants and contains phytohormones, which have been shown to build bone.”