Remember the low-fat era of the 90s? Well it’s time to break up with the calorie counting and restriction. I’m here to tell you that fat doesn’t make you gain weight – it’s been unfairly demonised.
Confused? Let’s dive into the reason that fat is a non-negotiable part of your diet, especially if you’re a woman in her 40s (hint: it’s the hormones!)
Newflash: fat is calorie-dense, but it’s not why you’re putting on weight!
It might sound crazy (especially if you remember the diet books of the 80s and 90s!) But we actually need fat for optimal wellbeing.
Healthy fats are needed for:
- Forming cell membranes
- Blood clotting
- Hormone production
- Muscle movement
- Nervous system function
- Absorbing vitamin A, E, D and K (as well as many antioxidants) into the body
- Acting as a preferred energy source for the brain
- Pulling fat out of cells to use as an energy source
Yes, you read that last point right – it actually helps you to utilise the stored energy in your adipose cells!
The other handy thing? It’s actually really hard to overconsume it (at least from healthy sources that don’t also contain a bunch of sugar and carbs) Ever tried eating 3-4 avocados in a day? It’s almost impossible because the body has feedback loops in place to tell us when we’ve had enough!
For optimal wellbeing, you’re looking at an intake of around 30% of your calories from dietary fats. Reach for your:
- Coconut and coconut oil
- Butter and ghee
- Avocado and avocado oil
- Oily fish
- Flaxseed oil (cold only!)
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
What should you be avoiding? Vegetable oils, canola oil, rapeseed oil and margarines. These are highly processed and too high in pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids.
How the process of weight gain works
Now keep in mind this is a simplified version (there are hormones and chemical reactions flying everywhere!). But for you to understand why weight gain happens, this is what you need to know:
Body fat is simply stored energy. We store the excess glucose from the food that we eat so it can be used for our survival when there’s a famine. The glucose is carried to the cells by insulin, and turned into energy. If it can’t be used, it will be converted to glycogen. But we have little storage space for glycogen – less than 500g in the body.
On the other hand, fat cells have unlimited capacity – they just keep expanding. So whatever is not used by the cells straight away or converted to glycogen goes straight to your adipose cells.
So what drives the process of eating more than we need and then storing it? There are 3 key hormones at play:
- Insulin – the master fat storage hormone. If this is high, your body will prefer to store energy rather than use it
- Ghrelin – the hunger hormone. This will usually increase before meals, then drop off around 30 minutes after eating. But unfortunately, excess body weight can mess this up and keep your levels higher than usual
- Leptin – the satiety hormone. This tells the brain that you feel full after eating. But much like insulin, your cells can become resistant to leptin and make you feel hungry all the time
For you to maintain a healthy body composition, you want your insulin level to stay relatively steady on the lower side. You also want your ghrelin levels to spike before meals then drop off, and your leptin to kick in once you’ve eaten. Unfortunately, this can be a challenge for many people to achieve.
So if fat isn’t to blame – what is?
Excellent question! Now that we know the process of storing weight, we can identify why it happens.
The biggest offenders that I see are:
- Eating a low-fat diet that is high in refined carbs and sugars – this drives insulin resistance, causing you to store more energy
- Calorie restriction and yo-yo dieting – the stress this puts on the body can trigger increased insulin production (as well as sabotaging your thyroid function)
- Fasting and skipping meals – more on that here
- Excess intense exercise – this has a similar effect to calorie restriction, increasing your stress hormones
- Out-of-control hormones – particularly for those in perimenopause, which can lead to the development of insulin resistance
Ok so how can I ditch these extra kilos then?
That’s where I’m here to help!
Weight loss might seem impossible in your 40s and beyond, but it doesn’t have to be! By taking a holistic and tailored approach, we can help you to not only look like a million bucks, but also feel amazing in your body.
Book in for a free discovery call today, and we can explore how I can help you to reboot your body and feel good again.