Dr Potter shares advice for ‘menopause belly’

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The hormonal changes experienced by women as they transition through menopause impact their bodies in many ways, with many seeing excessive weight gain around their mid-sections. While there isn’t a one-diet-fits-all approach when it comes to losing weight, Dr Clare Spencer from My Menopause Centre, told Express.co.uk what she recommends her patients eat when going through the mid-life change, claiming “the best diet is a diet that suits your lifestyle”.

She explained: “We know that women are more prone to insulin resistance as they lose the hormone oestrogen. Insulin is the hormone that helps your body to use sugar for energy.

“If your body is resistant to insulin, it is more likely to store the extra sugar as fat.

“This means that any extra carbohydrate, or sugars, are more likely to be stored as fat, particularly round the middle – that ‘middle-aged spread.'”

And while there are many diets out there targeted at menopausal women, promising them they will lose weight, she admitted: “I’ve not seen any evidence of one best diet that’s suitable for all women as they transition through menopause.

“Rather than ‘going on a diet’ I encourage people to think about ‘changing their diet’, making sustainable healthy changes which will help not just with weight management but will also provide longer-term health benefits.

“Really looking at what you eat can also be helpful in managing some of the symptoms of menopause.”

A balanced diet is a combination of protein, fat and carbohydrates and Dr Spencer explained that she recommends that people increase the amount of protein they eat, reduce the number of carbohydrates they consume, and opt for “slow-release” carbs such as vegetables, fruit, pulses and whole foods like porridge.

“The type of carbohydrates we eat are important,” she explained. “It is better to eat more slow-release carbs with a low glycemic index, meaning that the food is broken down more gradually with a lower release of sugars into the bloodstream.”

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Fats should also be of the healthy type, such as oily fish – mackerel and salmon – as well as avocados, nuts and seeds.

She also suggested: “Some may find that intermittent fasting can help them also. The reality is that as we get older, our bodies burn fewer calories to get us through the day, so we also need to eat less than we used to. I know, it’s not fair!

“Many women find that the hormonal fluctuations that come with the menopause transition can impact them psychologically – they might feel flat, low and just lacking in motivation.

“It’s easy to comfort eat or have that glass of wine when you feel like this. But trust me, those extra calories add up.”

She continued to explain that there are around 600 calories in an average bottle of wine, which is a lot when women need around 1,500 calories or less to maintain their weight depending on the amount of exercise they do.

“Before you reach for that piece of chocolate or glass of wine just stop for a moment and think, ‘do I really need this, is it helping me get to where I want to?'” she said.

Dr Spencer stated that weight management and changes in diet are “more effective” when combined with exercise.

She said: “Weight-bearing exercises are particularly helpful for women as they help also with bone health and muscle mass.

“Any exercises that aim to strengthen the core and abdominal muscles can help shift fat from round the middle.

“They are more likely to be successful when combined with changes to diet. Any form of exercise that builds muscle and burns fat will help with all-over fat loss and muscle gain, including that from around the middle.”

The medical professional added that the “key factor” to losing menopausal weight is by finding a method that works and sticking to it.

“The best diet is a diet that suits your lifestyle and women I speak to lose weight through a number of different ways – whether it’s joining a slimming club or group for additional support, intermittent fasting or changing their balance of carbohydrates and proteins themselves or with the support of a nutritionist or dietician,” she said.

“The key factor is sticking with it, being patient and accepting that losing small amounts of weight over longer periods of time but small sustainable changes is likely to be more successful in the long run.”

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