I always surprise my patients when I tell them, fat is good, carbohydrates are bad.
In all my clinics I see women who tell me that they follow a healthy diet and eat well. It is always a surprise to them when I explain that there are two types of fats and one of them is good, which our bodies need to function efficiently. The bad fat we store in our bodies comes mostly from the sugar we consume through carbohydrates, but do not utilise. It is this fat that makes us overweight. If we continue to consume carbohydrates, be that in the form of cakes or pasta, our bodies will derive energy from sugars and the fats will continue to accumulate. However, by depriving the body of carbs the fat burning mechanism will be kick started, so slowing our weight gain and eventually, particularly in older women, our spare tyre or saggy middle.
This is the concept behind the ketogenic diet, which comes with a lot of good evidence, but can prove difficult to comply with over the long term. But, over the years that I’ve been practicing medicine, and in particular, women’s health, I have observed that people who aim high, for example with the keto diet, get the best results. If you struggle with a total ban on carbohydrates the ones you can turn to, with the most benefit, are pulses and nuts. Long term, a low carb lifestyle is definitely the healthiest and most beneficial in terms of weight management.
Very often, in my clinic, I work with women who want to go a step further, and are interested in exploring intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating. This is where, by consuming only one meal a day, you are giving your body a food rest from time to time. It keeps the body guessing and on its toes. Our spark plugs or mitochondria fire better under these conditions. From personal experience, I also recommend taking a quick 30-minute walk or exercise session before eating anything in the morning as this works best for autophagy. This hypothesis received the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine because of how clearly it demonstrated how cells recycle and renew their content. If we can slow down the cell aging process and help cell renewal we can subsequently reduce disease.
One of the fantastic resources that we have at hand and to which I regularly refer my patients (and use it myself) is dietdoctor or Dr Michael Mosley and Dr Claire Bailey’ Fast 800 recipe book. They both simplify your food shop and help you to become carb aware. We can then empower ourselves to make better food choices. I can speak not only from my own experience but those of patients who have completely revolutionised their lives and hormonal journeys by embracing this concept.
Key benefits to celebrate are supporting fertility and cycle control for younger women and those with PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome); reduction of middle-age spread during perimenopause and menopause, and restoration of energy levels.
My mantra as always is KEEP IT SIMPLE, KEEP IT SMART. Low carbs, healthy fats, spice it up and have food rest periods.