- Menopausal women need to eat more fats and go easy on grains
- Office workers should eat protein-rich snacks to keep cravings at bay
- Shift workers should eat foods containing tryptophan to encourage serotonin, a calming chemical which encourages sleep
- Here, nutritionist Fiona Kirk reveals what to eat in each stage of life…
Fiona Kirk is a nutritionist and author of the new Diet Secrets Uncovered series of books
Is everyone around you losing weight on some new and guaranteed weight loss diet but you are not?
Are you cutting calories like crazy only to see the needle on the bathroom scales stubbornly refusing to move to the left or worse still, moving depressingly to the right?
You are not alone.
On the article published on mailonline, Research reveals that for every 10 people that launch into the latest weight loss diet with gusto, only two or three shed those unwanted pounds of flesh within the promised timescale and keep them off.
Depressing? Yes! Inevitable? Not so fast.
Fiona Kirk, nutritionist and author of the new Diet Secrets Uncovered series of ten books, believes that permanent weight loss is all about acknowledging that our nutritional needs change, often quite dramatically, throughout our lives dependent on our age, our lifestyle, our health status and our level of fitness.
Ms Kirk says: ‘A weight loss diet that works for a single woman in her 20s is unlikely to reap the same results when she is in her 40s and struggling through the early stages of menopause.
‘A diet that is going to encourage post pregnancy weight loss is never going to suit a teenager who wants to stay strong and healthy whilst shedding a few pounds and a diet that sees results for regular exercisers who want to shed a bit of fat around the middle is a million air miles away from the weight loss diet that a stressed executive who regularly jets around the globe should consider.
‘With a bit of focus, most people can successfully lose weight but we have to take quite a number of things into consideration before we leap into the unknown!
She added: ‘In just two weeks, you can make some positive changes to your eating, exercise and supplement habits and see some very pleasing weight loss results when you embark on a diet that is tailored to you.
‘If you want to see results, you have to consider what best suits you. Don’t fret about the diet that your co-workers or friends are following, this is about you.
‘Follow my guidelines for a month and look forward to losing up to a stone, feeling great and gorging on delicious and nourishing foods rather than reduced rations and grazing on unappetising titbits.’
Here, she reveals the secrets to diet success…
If ever there was a time in a woman’s life where she wants to sob into her cornflakes with frustration over fluctuating weight issues, it is before, during and after the menopause.
Some of the lucky ones sail through the whole thing without too much turmoil but most of us face all manner of physiological and emotional disruptions and to make matters worse, no two days are ever the same.
THE TEN DIET TYPES
Single men and women
It is little wonder that the menopause merits the change of life label as change is what we have to address.
Our hormones are changing their behaviour so we have to change our behaviour – and our diet.
We have to convince the body that all is well and whilst it prefers to store fat to meet the hormonal havoc head on, there is a great deal we can do nutritionally to manage the stress, thwart invasive mood swings and prevent weight gain.
• Eat More Fats. Hormonal disruption starts to occur in the premenopaual years, can last right through menopause and it doesn’t stop there but to keep hormones happy, you need fat in your diet.
Make oily fish a regular dietary habit, snack on seeds or add their oils and butters to your meals and snacks and consider supplementing with Omega 3 fats.
• Go easy on grains. Yes, unrefined grains offer fibre, vitamins and minerals but they are still a rich source of sugar when broken down into their component parts after digestion and you don’t need many of them in a day unless you exercise a lot.
Include them in your breakfast and/or lunch but cut back or exclude them in the evening and if you struggle without bread, opt for womens’ breads made from sprouted grains (Ezekiel etc) which are rich in not only vitamins, minerals and natural fibre but are also a good source of protein which helps to keep insulin spikes at bay.
• Feed your thyroid. Your thyroid gland can become sluggish pre, during and post menopause and may need a bit of help to stay healthy.
Iodine is the thyroid’s best friend when it comes to encouraging the action of the thyroid hormones which play a major role in a healthy metabolic rate which encourages weight loss so you will be doing it and yourself a big favour if you get the sea vegatable habit.
Sushi and sashimi provide good sources, a tablespoon of spirulina in a smoothie provides a boost and you can buy dried sea vegetable flakes in jars which make a great alternative to table salt to add to meals and snacks.
Gaining weight when you are at a desk for endless hours is easy, losing it is not.
We were born to move and whilst just breathing or shifting a computer mouse around burns calories, they won’t compensate for the number we consume in a day.
Sad but true. Studies reveal that desk-bound jobs are amongst the worst when it comes to packing on the pounds no matter how dedicated we may be to lowering the calorie content of our meals and snacks.
What is important is the nutritional content of the meals and snacks rather than the number of calories.
To keep your metabolism firing while you are sedentary depends on a diet that keeps it nourished and that means eating more fats than you are probably used to consuming and a whole lot less starchy carbohydrates than you might imagine.
• Limit Starch. Carbohydrates should always feature in a healthy meal or snack but the starchy ones (bread, pasta, rice and other grains) need to be carefully monitored as they can all too quickly upset blood glucose levels, prompting weight gain when we are sedentary for many hours. Get the bulk of your carbohydrates from vegetables and limit your starches to one or two meals or snacks per day.
• Plan Ahead. Not always possible dependent on how busy your day is but a lunchbox filled to the max with delicious and nourishing goodies beats the sandwich and crisps option from the local fast food outlet hands down, keeps hunger at bay for hours and greatly reduces the chance of a mid afternoon energy dip.
• Avoid Cravings. It’s all too easy to reach for a sugary snack when you are at the desk and need a little something to keep you focused and energised for a while but the resulting surge of sugar in the bloodstream merely encourages a greater need for more all too soon.
Make your snacks protein-rich (a couple of rye crackers with nut butter, a piece of fruit with a handful of almonds or a small carton of natural yoghurt with berries and seeds) and keep the sugar monster at bay. You may also wish to consider a supplement that helps to blunt cravings.
SINGLE MEN AND WOMEN
What you eat when you are with others probably has an impact on your food decisions but few see what you eat when you are home alone.
Perhaps you reason that the tub of ice cream, the large bag of Kettle Chips or the takeaway pizza occasionally hoovered down whilst relaxing in the evening is justified because you work long hours, you are over-stressed and often, way too tired to cobble together a healthy meal.
But you know this kind of behaviour isn’t waistline-friendly and when it gets a grip, you neither like what you see in the mirror nor on the bathroom scales.
Shopping and cooking for one can be arduous and it is all too easy to continually snack rather than prepare and sit down to a meal but this discipline can have a huge impact on how our appetite hormones respond – they will thank you for a good feed but continue to nag at you if they don’t get one.
• Consider Two Meals a Day. Many singles, both male and female find the habit of having two really good meals a day and leaving around five hours between each works well for waistline management.
A filling breakfast rich in protein and good fats (eg ham and eggs or porridge with fruit and seeds plus a nourishing vegetable smoothie) provides plenty of energy to get you through the morning.
A proper lunch (eg a hearty bowl of soup and a mixed salad with plenty of protein) where you take time to sit down, get the cutlery out and savour every bite keeps hunger at bay for hours and unless you have a physically-demanding evening ahead, a light meal or snack in the evening won’t see you heading to bed feeling stuffed and uncomfortable.
Office workers should eat little and often. Ms Kirk recommends hummus and vegetables
• Little and Often? If you find regular small meals and snacks work better for you, focus on keeping them small and ensure that each one is light on grains and rich in protein, fats and vegetables or fruits.
A small tub of hummus and a selection of raw vegetable sticks or a 2 egg omelette with a selection of steamed greens will fill you up and keep the metabolic fire burning until your next meal/snack, a blueberry muffin and a caramel latte won’t and will do little other than please the palate for a short time.
• Head to the Discounted Shelf. When time is tight or you are tired and have to opt for a ready meal, make a beeline for the discount shelf.
Good quality ready meals that have been prepared with care are light or devoid of preservatives, meaning they have a short shelf life. And remember, the shorter the list of ingredients, the more natural the product and the better it will be for both your health and your waistline.
One of the biggest frustrations many recreational fitness enthusiasts have to deal with is that despite hours dedicated to exercise and training, some still struggle to reach their desired body fat percentage and cart excess flab either around their middles or in other areas of the body that makes getting the lean look they desire a battle.
Could you be nutritionally deficient or could your diet be working against you?
Regular and strenuous exercise requires attention to detail on the nutritional front.
What and when we eat before and after exercise can make a big difference to our performance and recovery but a diet that meets our needs for regular strength training at the gym won’t meet our needs for regular 50 mile bike rides and vice versa.
Managing the balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and getting the timing and portion size right dependent for our chosen sport or exercise programme is the secret to building and maintaining muscle and encouraging fat loss.
• Beware of Sport-Focused Products. Energy bars and drinks geared to the sports market are not always what they seem – many simply deliver an abundance of sugar into the bloodstream and can encourage fat storage rather than fat burning.
They may be convenient but do you really need them? If you find a pre or post exercise snack helps to meet your energy requirements, fill your sports bag with real food and unadorned drinks to limit your intake of added sugars.
It’s hard to beat a couple of rice cakes or light crackers with smooth not crunchy nut butter or fresh/tinned fish (crab, tuna, salmon, prawns) and a green smoothie to fuel your exercise session or top up your glycogen levels after exercise and ensure that your snack doesn’t cause uncomfortable digestion issues.
• Focus on Fats. Fat provides the largest energy reserve in the body and because it is slowly digested in the stomach, extends the amount of time that energy can be utilised.
Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (oily fish, seeds and a few nuts) have been repeatedly shown, through extensive study to increase endurance and encourage stored fat to be burned for energy.
You may also wish to consider a supplement to meet daily reqirements of these fabulous fats.
• Play Clever with Protein. Fitness enthusiasts are continually targeted on the subject of how much protein they should consume in a day to build and repair muscle with the more equals better message often predominating.
Unless you are looking to build the kind of muscle required to compete in bodybuilding events, are a professional endurance event athlete or need to seriously bulk up for weight lifting or field sports, the inclusion of protein foods in every daily meal and snack should meet your requirements.
Protein powders are convenient for recreational fitness enthusiasts and there is no doubt that they are a quick and easy way to meet your daily protein requirements if you haven’t had time to prepare a nourishing meal or snack but they are not essential and can be very damaging to the wallet.
You are over 60, you may not be as fit as you were in your 30s, you may not have quite the same energy for partying into the night but generally-speaking, you don’t feel too bad.
But, what’s with the expanding waistline? When did that happen and why? Some say it is inevitable as we age thanks to our metabolism slowing down, others like to depress us by telling us that everything works less efficiently as the years progress – digestion, circulation, repair of bones and muscles and worse still, our mental faculties.
For over 60s, fat around the middle is the type that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes but a strategic approach to diet, exercise and possible supplementation can reverse the damage
Not so fast. There is a lot we can do to keep mind and body functioning well into our senior years and that includes maintaining or regaining a waistline that doesn’t require us to opt for baggy shirts and trousers with an elasticated waistband.
Fat around the middle is the type that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes but a strategic approach to diet, exercise and possible supplementation can reverse the damage we may have already inflicted and greatly minimise the risks.
• Snack Carefully. Smaller meals and regular snacks appear to suit us better as we age but it’s all too easy to opt for a cup of tea and a biscuit when we feel we need a quick pick me up.
A good snack has to deliver on many fronts. It has to look good, taste good, be quick and easy to prepare and above all, be highly nourishing.
Replace the cup of tea and a biscuit with a couple of oatcakes topped with ham and cheese, replace the hurriedly-prepared sandwich with a small bowl of chicken broth and replace the toasted teacake with a piece of fruit and a handful of mixed nuts and seeds and see your energy levels soar and your waistline begin to shrink.
• Make Your Habits Less of a Habit. We are creatures of habit and changing habits can be hard, particularly if they have been entrenched in our psyche for decades.
Some types of starch (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and other grains) have possibly been part and parcel of most meals for as long as you can remember but whilst they didn’t necessarily pack on the pounds when you were younger, they are likely prompting a bit of weight gain now.
Get them off the plate and replace them with a bigger selection of vegetables in the bulk of your meals and snacks and you may soon find that you avoid all manner of digestion issues which plague you, feel lighter and look leaner.
• Stay Fit. Resistance exercise coupled with a diet rich in energy-dense foods is the way to go if you want to avoid the natural biochemical slow down that can occur as we age.
Resistance exercise is anything that encourages our muscles to pit themselves against some sort of resistance and encourages the body to use stored fat for fuel (lifting weights, press ups, working with exercise machines).
And it’s never too late to start. In one study of elderly men and women (average age 87) who lifted weights three times a week for ten weeks, muscle strength increased by a staggering 113 per cent on average.
This improvement in strength enabled them to walk 12 per cent faster than before, climb 28 per cent more stairs and lose excess body fat.
WOMEN POST PREGNANCY
Breastfeeding continues to tick the box when it comes to losing weight post pregnancy but breastfeeding can make you ravenously hungry so you understandably need to eat more and if you eat more of the foods that interfere with weight loss, it can be a long hard slog.
Choosing not to breastfeed means you have greater control over your diet but lack of sleep which is unavoidable, often prompts the need for foods that may not be too kind to the waistline.
The secret, whether you choose breast or bottle is to ensure that every snack and meal is rich in foods that pack a nutritional punch and keep you energised, satisfied and perhaps most importantly, positive.
Whether it is your first baby or your fourth, low mood and fatigue can easily invade the joy of welcoming a new life into the household and when you are determined to lose post baby weight but it doesn’t happen, it can have a frustratingly-negative effect.
• Control Cortisol. Pregnancy and childbirth involve a great deal of hormonal change. If you are breastfeeding, the hormonal upheaval continues and even if you are not, it takes time for hormones to settle back into their pre-pregnancy pattern of behaviour.
Stress can be a hard one to deal with in the aftermath of childbirth. Not just the emotional stress caused by the demands of the newborn but also the physiological stress caused by lack of sleep and mind-bending fatigue.
Any stress on the body prompts an increased production of the stress hormones and one in particular, cortisol can make post baby weight loss difficult to achieve.
The mineral, magnesium calms the nervous system and tempers the action of excessive cortisol release. Seeds, beans and greens are tops for magnesium and soaking in a bath rich in mineral salts allows the magnesium content to be absorbed through the skin.
• Eat Fat to Lose Fat. Deficiency of Omega 3 fatty acids is common in Western diets but their fat busting properties should be shouted from the rooftops.
Not only are they filling but they also stimulate the action of the fat burning enzymes that encourage healthy weight loss.
They are also essential for the development of the newborn’s brain so if you are breastfeeding, keep your levels up by eating plenty of oily fish and snacking on seeds as your levels can quickly diminish and both you and the baby will benefit from optimal levels.
• Say Yes to Snacks. Blood sugar swings are not unusual for new mums and your mood and energy levels can plummet fast. Shop online and ensure that you have a good selection of healthy foods within reach to avoid the overwhelming need for a sugary snack.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, bean and lentil salads, fresh soups, eggs, tinned fish, cheese portions, nuts and seeds and small bars of dark chocolate all help to keep you sharp and satisfied while helping you to burn off excess, stored fat.
Long working hours, timetables that change from day to day, travel commitments, poor sleeping patterns and haphazard eating habits all create stress within the body over time and ongoing stress prompts not only an increased risk of ill health but also fat storage so what’s the answer? Reduce the stress?
Easier said than done! How to eat to feed the stress, allowing the body to believe that it is not under threat is the secret every stressed executive needs to know.
The latest research into the impact diet, exercise and supplementation can have in counteracting the damage stress can cause provides us with exciting and proven strategies that allow us to feel good, look good and deal with the negative aspects head on.
• Pack a Snack. Never leave home without a few protein and fat-rich snacks in your handbag or briefcase to ensure that you body swerve sugars and starches between meetings or on the road that prompt the action of the stress hormones and encourage fat storage.
Top combinations are hummus, cottage cheese or chopped egg with vegetables sticks, fresh fruit slices with nuts and seeds, mini oatcakes or celery sticks with nut butter, rye crackers with fish pastes, fruit and vegetable smoothies with no added sugars, miso soup sachets or natural yoghurt topped with berries.
• Steer Clear of the Bread Basket. If you have to lunch or dine out occasionally or regularly the often-warm and generally-delicious homebaked breads that are on offer are hard to resist but your waistline will thank you when you say ‘no thanks’.
Some would like you to believe that it is the butter that packs on the pounds but no – it is the bread which rather too quickly releases its sugars into the bloodstream and prompts you to eat more during the remainder of the meal. Have the olives instead.
• Try Not to Eat Late. After a long day and particularly if you are travelling and don’t get to your night stop until late, it is mighty tempting to order a burger and fries or a club sandwich from room service, finish off a few emails or watch a bit of TV and then head to bed.
If you are trying to lose weight, this kind of meal won’t help in any way. Better to stop off en route and have dinner earlier or if a late meal is your only option, lose the burger bun and the fries and ask for more salad or coerce the kitchen into making you an omelette.
Oh, and don’t open the mini fridge – it is invariably heaving with fizzy drinks, salty snacks and milk chocolate goodies.
We live in a 24/7 world, increasing numbers of us work well outside the classic nine to five day and endless studies reveal that irregular working hours result in weight gain over time. Depressing statistics? Yes. Irreversible statistics? No.
Our circadian rhythm is geared toward us being awake during daylight hours and asleep in the hours of darkness so when we upset the rhythm we are likely to suffer but the body can adapt and we can hone our nutritional skills accordingly.
Planning is vital for shift workers. Eating foods that energise before a shift is vital, eating foods that see workers through a shift is vital, eating foods that encourage uninterrupted sleep is vital, regular exercise and getting the timing right is vital.
Acknowledging the weight-gaining risks and adopting nutritional strategies that address them requires a bit of focus but once adopted, can provide a very positive shift for shift workers!
• Eat for Sleep. What you eat during the three or four hours before you sleep has a huge bearing on how well you sleep even when you have to get your sleep hours in when it seems like the rest of the world is awake.
Continued lack of sleep or disrupted sleep patterns are one of the most recorded reasons for weight gain or the inability to lose weight. Your pre-sleep meal or snack should be rich in protein foods that offer up good levels of the amino acid tryptophan which encourages the production of the sleepy and calming brain chemical, serotonin.
Turkey, fish, chicken, cottage cheese, nuts, cheese and eggs are all good sources and to help the brain properly process the tryptophan, add a little starch such as brown rice, lentils or beans.
• Bin the Fizz. Treat colas and other fizzy fruity drinks as the enemy no matter how low or zero cal or energy-enhancing the manufacturers tell you they are! They are sugar, plain and simple or some chemical variation of sugar which the body treats in the same way and benefits little from.
The ones rich in caffeine may help to keep you focused during a shift but a natural fruit and vegetable smoothie offers a great deal more nourishment without the sugar and the waistline-expanding properties.
• Love Soup. It is almost impossible to get more nutrition into a small space than in a bowl of good soup and research indicates that the combination of liquid and solids in soup fill us up faster and discourages us from eating too much during the course of the day or night than exactly the same liquid and solid foods eaten separately – it’s all about how the digestion process deals with the mix.
The other huge bonus is that soup is easy to make, easy to refrigerate in portions and easy to transport to work. Is it any wonder that regular soup suppers lose weight with greater ease and more satisfaction than those who shy away from a warming bowl of nutritional fabulousness.
Could there be a worse time in your life to be overweight than when you are in your teens? Possibly not. You and your school or college friends appear to be existing on a similar diet but whilst others stay slim, you are packing on the pounds.
What is going on? Is it your genes, is it your hormones, are you eating more than them, is it a hangover from the diet you have grown up on? It could be some or all of these but ascertaining which, is where it gets tricky if you want to be in that place where you can slide carelessly into your skinny jeans with confidence.
There is no worse time in life to be overweight than in teenage years, Ms Kirk says
When you are in your teens, both your body and brain are still growing – fact. You have to feed that growth with a lot of nutritional goodness – fact. Going on a very low calorie diet will starve growth and development and reduce your metabolic rate – fact.
And a diet groaning with sugar, starch and junk food and lacking in vital nutrients won’t feed brain and body sufficiently but will likely encourage weight gain – fact.
If ever there was a time when your body responds in super quick time to a few improvements in your diet, it is when you are in your teens. Your body is crying out for nourishment right now and if you get the equation right, you can get slim and stay slim for life!
• Don’t Go Low Cal. Fight off the temptation to go on a very low calorie diet. Your metabolism won’t thank you and weight loss will be short lived.
We can thank our ancestors for this rather frustrating body biochemistry reality.
When you cut back drastically on calories and don’t provide your trillions of body cells with sufficient food to meet their energy requirements, your whole system slows down so not only do you burn calories at a slower pace but your fat cells hang onto as much energy as they can and fat loss comes to a grinding halt.
• Feed Your Muscles. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat (not rocket science) but a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat so when you build muscle, which is also rather good at munching its way through calories, you burn stored fat and look leaner.
You also feel stronger and have more energy for sport and having fun. Muscles love a diet rich in protein and fat and not only does a healthy dose of vegetables in every meal and snack provide a wealth of protective plant chemicals to keep your immune system strong but the vitamins and minerals they provide spark up the action of enzymes that help to burn stored fat if you are carrying a little excess.
• Don’t Short Change Your Brain. The brain is 60 per cent fat, mostly saturated but around one third is polyunsaturated and both types of fat are crucial for the health and integrity of the insulating envelope of myelin that surrounds the core of nerve fibres and facilitates the transmission of nerve impulses so a diet that skimps on fats robs the brain of the raw materials it needs to keep the conversation between brain cells animated.
Eat fats from meat and dairy to feed the brain
Saturated fats from the meat and dairy produce of pasture-fed and happy animals and essential fats found in fish and fish oils, seed and seed oils and eggs laid by birds fed on seed-rich diets enhance communication between nerve cells within the brain.
And, good fats don’t make you fat! It is the heat-treated and chemically-skewed fats and added sugars in many processed and fast foods and almost all junk foods that make you fat – and sick!
You both looked and felt fabulous on your wedding day but in what seems like no time at all one or other or both of you have gained weight and whilst you are still blissfully happy with married life, you may not be quite so happy about your expanding waistline so something needs to be done.
Cooking meals that you both enjoy makes a whole lot of sense both from a time and available cash perspective but what works for him doesn’t always work for her and vice versa.
Males have more muscle so burn fat more efficiently, females gain weight more easily so need less sugar and starch, males are generally bigger and taller so need more food in a day, females have monthly hormonal activity so need more fats, both sexes need protein but portion sizes must be managed – we don’t just look different, our nutritional needs are different.
• Talk It Over. Discuss your weight issues, make a list of the fat busting foods and dishes you both enjoy and cook them regularly, focus on portion sizes (larger plates for him, smaller plates for her) and decide on how you are going to shop, who is going to do the cooking and when and how you are going to tackle the waist-expanding issues without you both ending up on different diets which make the whole eating-together experience a chore rather than a pleasure.
• Watch the Booze. Too much and too often can really pile on the pounds. Alcohol is not the enemy but it has to be treated with respect and some of our favourite poisons are little more than a delicious pile of sugar and are not going to help much if you want to lose weight.
Make ruby rich red wine, dry white wine, champagne or spirits on the rocks or with soda your go-to options and wherever possible, stick to the recommended one for girls, two for boys daily consumption and always have a large tumbler of water on the side.
Don’t do tonics, ginger ales, ginger beers, red bull, coke or any of the other sugar-loaded cans and bottles on offer and if the occasional cocktail is on the cards, go for a dry martini (shaken or stirred!) rather than something sweet, creamy or fluorescent.
Replace cereal, toast or croissants with ham and eggs, omelettes or Greek yoghurt with fruit
• Make Your Breakfast Count. The debate rages on about whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day for adults or not. It depends on the breakfast.
A carbohydrate-rich breakfast, which is the norm for many, encourages a rapid release of insulin and a corresponding drop in blood sugar levels causing you to feel hungry again fairly soon and need a refill which is not what you want when you are trying to lose weight.
Replace the commercial cereal, toast or croissant-style breakfast with a high-protein breakfast of ham and eggs, a vegetable omelette, Greek yoghurt with berries and nuts and seeds or a protein-packed fruit and vegetable smoothie.
Or, if you are in a real rush, keep a bowl of homemade bircher muesli in the fridge, pack a portion and have it when you get to work or when you have time to sit down.