Getting close to 50 is definitely bringing on less than desirable changes for me. My gray hair is getting more difficult to color and maintain, my wrinkles are getting stronger everyday and I am gaining weight around my middle. I know I am not alone, but nonetheless I am struggling to get through this transition.
So in the midst of this metamorphosis called aging, I am happy to report some good news. The doctor who wrote this article believes that a little extra belly fat, in women, is a good thing. And from all the research I have done on hormones and longevity, I have to agree with her. I still don’t like it when I see my “love handles” spilling over the sides of my jeans, but I am finding solace in knowing that it is part of a natural process that’s intended to protect and prepare me for what’s to come.
The most recent studies on longevity cite that people with 10-20 extra pounds on them live the longest. And most interestingly, after age 65, the thinnest people have the highest mortality rate. It makes sense to me. Fat serves many life-sustaining purposes on our bodies. For women, fat is used to create more estrogen, which is essential for maintaining strong hearts, bones and brains. Fat insulates aging bones from fractures. It also is one of the main ingredients in the myelin sheath, which is the fatty substance that covers our nerves.
Over the last couple of decades fat undeservedly became the taboo of the 3 main food groups. Some poorly designed studies, based on faulty assumptions, blamed fat as the reason for the growing obesity problem in this country. Now, many scientists have realized that they over-generalized the fat hypothesis, and have found that most of our excess weight is coming from artificial fats like trans- fats and too many simple carbs in the diet in the form of junk food (also our sedentary lifestyles play a major role here).
Fat, we have come to learn, is crucial to good health. It helps to make our skin more supple, balances our hormones, and as previously mentioned, keeps our bones, heart and nervous system working smoothly. But like everything in life, there is a delicate balance required for optimal health. Too much fat, of course, can be unhealthy. The message here is to include fat in your diet, but consume it in its most natural form. Healthy meats (grass fed is best), dairy from animals allowed to graze outside, eggs (yolks are extremely good for your health), nuts, avocado and fish are some of the best sources of good fats. Moderation is also important to remember. That means do not eat meat everyday, and do not make fat the bulk of your calories. Balance, as always, is key.
So enjoy some fat. And if, like me, you are starting to look like your mother, try to remember that nature is doing her job. It’s normal to mourn the loss of your younger, svelte body. But as in all types of loss, you will need to eventually accept it and move on. And remember you are in good company!