Let’s face it – carbohydrates are natural-born waistline killers. It’s widely accepted that too many refined carbs (think white bread, white pasta, pastries), are one of the main culprits for adding weight to our middle, so it makes sense that cutting back will ensure a slimmer and more svelte appearance around that tricky area.
But it’s worth bearing in mind that, of course, natural carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, brown bread), are all good for us, and a key source of energy. So before embarking on a plan to cut all carbs out of your diet, it’s important to keep that in mind.
Our expert, Dr Christiane Northrup, shows you how to cut back on the bad carbohydrates…
Why cut carbs?
Reworking your diet is key to reclaiming your waist. Dr Christiane Northrup, a practicing doctor and regular on The Oprah Show, has battled with her own weight and loves to bust the myth of mid-life spread.
“It was always believed that after menopause, it was normal to gain up to 30lb. But it’s not inevitable – I’m lighter now than I was in my thirties,” says Dr Northrup.
Dr Northrup now keeps her shape and encourages others with a low-GI (low carb) way of eating.
She says, “Your body will be able to burn fat and keep your insulin and blood sugar levels normal 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.” Sounds good to us!
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.
She says, “I recommend a snack at around 4pm when blood sugar, mood and serotonin levels plummet. This stops you overeating at night.”
But what should we be eating everyday? As an example of a healthy daily diet, w&h suggests…
Breakfast: Fresh fruit salad with a topping of plain natural yogurt
Snack: Hummus with crudités of carrot and celery
Lunch: Cottage cheese with a crisp mixed salad, plus herbs
Snack: Small handful of unsalted nuts
Dinner: Grilled salmon and steamed vegetables
Focus on portion size, not calories
“Instead of calorie counting, concentrate on eating high-quality food 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 food or a vegetarian alternative, such as tofu or tempeh. If you’re veggie, watch out for beans – they’re protein, but carbs too, so make a judgement on what’s right for you.
Eat colourful fruits and veg daily
Dr Northrup says, “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 was 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 carbs and sugary items 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.
She says, “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,” say Dr Northrup. “It’s loaded with antioxidants and contains phytohormones, which have been shown to build bone.”