Updated: Nov 5, 2021
The day after Halloween always feels to me like the start of the holiday season – as I promise myself I'll never eat that much candy again. But then as the start of the holiday celebrations commence with Thanksgiving and on into Christmas, again I find myself battling with the carb-rich, sugary foods and increased alcohol intake.
Unfortunately for women over 40 – the wrong food choices (uh hum carbs) could mean an increase in already annoying symptoms – like more weight gain (ugh to the muffin topped stomach), poor sleep, mood swings, anxiety, acne, hot flashes, bloating, food cravings, and energy crashes. It can also leave us stranded with an extra 10 pounds in January that won’t come off like it used to, even though we have the best intentions to work out more and go on a diet.
As we approach menopause and our sex hormones start to decline (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) we forget that insulin is really running the show here. Get insulin under control and you’ll see symptoms lessen and weight start to come off.
Quick physiology lesson – insulin is the hormone secreted by your pancreas in response to eating carbohydrates – that’s grains (yes, even whole grains, gluten free grains, rice and oats), sugar, fruit, beans, root vegetables like potatoes, and alcohol. Once those carbs are digested and broken down into glucose, insulin steps in to shuttle glucose into your cells for energy. Glucose is your fuel source; insulin brings it into the cells where it can be used. The problem comes when we eat too many carbs – our cells don’t like insulin hanging around, constantly knocking at the door. So our cells ignore insulin, glucose rises in our blood, and insulin instead directs all that glucose to be stored as fat instead. Meanwhile, our cells are screaming out for food – so we get hungrier for more carbs. End result - we gain weight, and we hold on to it.
It’s a vicious cycle and the only way to curb it is to get carbs out of your life. I hate to be the bad guy here and tell you – you won’t see the weight come off until you cut ties with bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, chips, tortillas, rice, sugary drinks, and alcohol. Yes alcohol. They all cause our body to put out a lot of insulin. It's no longer about calorie counting - it's about eating foods that won't trigger insulin.
I have so many women come to me saying that they can’t eat like they used to, and that they can’t believe the weight won’t come off because they eat a very “balance diet”. But when we delve into what they are truly eating, we see refined carbohydrates and alcohol are still very present in their diet choices – both of which are detrimental to weight loss and curbing other unwanted symptoms.
It's time to redefine our relationship with food. Our body chemistry changes, and we have to shift and adjust our food choices to help our slowing metabolism.
Here’s how to get a jump start on that, naturally:
1. Set your intentions. Write down how you want to feel and post it in your kitchen. Remind yourself daily what your end goal is. Make your choices reflect your goals. Are you helping or hindering?
2. Say goodbye to refined carbs and sugars (and alcohol). Sorry folks, there’s no way around it. If you want weight to come off, or stay off, you have to ditch the breads, cereals, pastas, muffins, cookies, crackers, sugary drinks, and alcohol. By replacing these with vegetables at every meal, insulin will naturally come down. If it’s made in a factory or has a food label, put it down and find something that grows on the earth (plant or animal.)
3. Every day you should aim for a 13-15 hour fast between your last meal of the night and breakfast the next morning. That means if dinner was at 7 p.m., don’t eat again until 8 am….or 10 am. If you have trouble curbing hunger early in the morning, drink tea or coffee with MCT oil and your favorite healthy creamer – I love Laird Superfood Creamer.
4. Meal timing is everything. Get rid of that outdated advice that frequent snacking revs metabolism and helps weight loss. That may have worked when you were 25, but it’s actually the opposite when you are dealing with insulin resistance in your 40's and beyond. Insulin resets every 3.5 to 4 hours, which means if you are constantly snacking, you are constantly secreting insulin. If you are not able to go for 4 hours until your next meal without feeling like you are going to starve, then you are not including enough protein and fat in your meals. Use this cheat sheet to help transition in to a 4-hour eating schedule.
5. Alcohol plays a big role in hormone dysregulation and belly fat. I’m all for socializing and enjoying an occasional drink, but alcohol is the ultimate sugar that depletes key B vitamins needed for hormone production and mood, and contributes to poor sleep. Poor sleep makes us hungrier. Alcohol increases insulin and estrogen, reduces testosterone, and lowers our inhibitions causing us to make poor food choices and overindulge. It's also seen as pure sugar to the body so it get's changed in to fat and stored away.
The first couple days of eliminating carbs, will leave you feeling worse than better. With time, your carb cravings will diminish as your body resets over a couple days. If you are really struggling with the cravings and find it’s hard to go 4 hours between meals (even though your meals are filled with protein, good fats and fiber), then consider these 2 products between meals to help you until your body resets.
Place 5 drops of Amino Acid Quick-Sorb under your tongue when every you feel symptoms of low blood sugar, or food cravings.
L-glutamine, when placed on the tongue - helps curb carb cravings pretty quickly. Put some on your finger, and just wipe it on your tongue and see what happens!
Don’t forget – testing to see if you have any markers related to insulin resistance and hormone imbalance is also key to best directing diet. Knowing what’s going on inside is also a great motivator to do better and get healthier. Reach out to get help as you start on your improved health journey.