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Questions for Michele Chevalley Hedge, qualified nutritionist,  and health author of Eat, Drink & Still Shrink… a joyful guide to living. 

1. Why does it become harder to lose weight as we get older? Or why does it seem easier to stack weight on as we age?

Sadly, yes, it is harder to lose weight with as we get older but ( and that is a big BUT) it is possible to lose weight any age.

There are a number of reasons for stubborn weight loss.

Firstly our muscle mass is declining and our muscles burn more calories than fat.  So less lean muscle mass means a slower metabolism and needs to more protein, not necessarily less calories.

Secondly, sex hormones, like oestrogen and testosterone,  can start shift for both men and women as early as 40’s and partially in our 50’s.  Hormones are very powerful substances and affect both our physical size and our mental and emotional wellbeing.

And the other thing to consider we do not move or exercise as often as we age and this has a factor in weight gain but not as important as our food consumption. You cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet.

2. In their 40s women are often very time poor and sleep-deprived, juggling young children and working. Exercise can be the first thing to go out of the window along with the motivation to eat salads for dinner. Can you give me some tips on how to fit exercise in, and also adjust your mindset so healthy eating becomes as necessary for you as it is for the kids?

Women in their 40’s are busier than ever.  Work, young families, aging parents, and social life. ( forget that! ) One of the keys to maintaining a healthy life, weight and moods are planning.  We plan for almost everything… our weddings, our careers, and even babies but the single most important thing in our life often comes last.  We need to take some time for planning what a healthy day looks like from sleep, to exercise to our meal plans.  Once we take this time to plan through reading and researching and create small changes into our day it can become ‘do-able”.  If these incremental changes are ‘ do-able’, then they are repeatable and repeatable leads to healthy habits you don’t even think about.  Once   It is micro changes in our diets that allow for long term weight loss.  Fad, restrictive diets just create rebounds and a sense of deprivation.

3. In their 50s, women are often menopausal, which can be a time of weight gain around the middle. How can women in their fifties adjust their eating to not exacerbate that (e.g what should they be thinking in terms of carbs, proteins, and fats?)

The middle-age spread can be very real at menopause but it does not have to be with a few healthy micro habits.    Our wonderful, powerful oestrogen is declining in menopause and biochemically this can make us have greater insulin sensitivity. ( 1)  Ouch! Insulin is our fat storage hormone and we need to keep it functioning efficiently to avoid being the person who looks at a slice of bread and against weight.  From a meal perspective we need to go low carb, not no carb.  This means a diet full of quality fats and lots of protein with the occasional root veggies and tons of non- starchy veggies too.   Half cup size servings of non-gluten grain ( quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and millet ) alternating with a small number of root vegetables like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beets, and parsnips especially at breakfast and lunch are ideal.

4. In their 60s women may feel extra aches and pains – or maybe they’ve never really exercised or paid enough attention to their diet before. Is it too late to take up healthy habits now? Where can they start doing in this decade, to lose weight, or at least prevent themselves from gaining more?

Our 60’s should be a time of liberation and movement.  Keeping our bones strong and joints supple.  An anti-inflammatory type of diet is excellent for someone who’s body is paining them.  If the diet is whole food, only natural sugars, non-gluten, a2 dairy proteins and doesn’t contain packaged processed foods- it is anti-inflammatory and the basis of all the diets myself and my team write and consult about.

This is an edited extract from New Idea Magazine |  Page 60

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