Updated: Nov 7
Are you a woman over 40 struggling to lose weight even though you've been closely
monitoring your calorie intake? While calorie tracking is important, it's not the sole factor in achieving hormonal weight loss. In this blog post, we'll explore the nuances of nutrition labels and how they can play a crucial role in supporting your mid-life weight loss journey. If you'd rather watch/listen to "How to Read Nutrition Labels For Weight Loss Over 40", I go into more detail in this YouTube video.
Understanding the Challenges of Weight Loss After 40
Before we dive into deciphering nutrition labels, let's grasp why weight loss can become more challenging as we age. Did you know that women spend 50% of their lives in some stage of menopause? This transition, spanning from perimenopause to post-menopause, puts our bodies through significant changes and makes us more susceptible to inflammation.
Inflammation, a major concern, is linked to weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. It often begins at the cellular level. Unhealthy cells can replicate and accumulate, leading to increased body fat and decreased energy. Fat accumulation stems from a surplus of processed foods, sugars, hormone imbalances, and toxic build-up. Our bodies protect us by storing this fat in cells rather than vital organs like the heart and lungs.
Calorie Counting: A Limited Approach
Our bodies are intricate systems that operate beyond a simple calories in, calories out equation. Hormonal balance, nutrient intake, and food quality play pivotal roles in overall mid-life health and weight management. To effectively shed extra weight and rev up metabolism, we need to prioritize making our cells healthy. This starts by educating ourselves about the contents of the foods we consume. Whole, nutrient-dense foods, including proteins, healthy fats, and fibrous foods that maintain stable blood sugar levels, are vital in supporting our hormones and overall well-being.
Reading Nutrition Labels for Hormonal Support
Now, let's explore how to read nutrition labels with your hormones in mind. Often, the front of a food package is like a billboard, aiming to entice you with terms like “skinny,” “keto,” “low carb,” or “no sugar.” However, it's essential to look deeper and inspect the back of the packaging, where you'll find the nutrition facts and ingredient list. (I share a full list in the YouTube.)
Start with the ingredient list. Aim for foods with as few ingredients as possible, particularly avoiding processed and enriched substances like wheat, flours, soy, sugars, and chemical additives. Remember, ingredients are listed in descending order of weight, so if a sugar like honey or brown rice syrup is featured at the beginning, the food is primarily a sugar source.
Prioritizing Protein and Fiber
When analyzing the nutrition facts, look at the serving size, then shift your focus from calories to protein intake. Adequate protein supports muscle maintenance, helps you feel fuller for longer, and reduces cravings. Aim for about 100 grams of protein or at least 80% of your goal body weight in grams daily.
Next, pay attention to total carbohydrates, with a focus on fiber content. Fiber offers numerous benefits, including satiety, regulation of blood sugar, gut microbiome support, and regular bowel movements. Aim for 8-10 grams of fiber per meal or a minimum of 25 grams daily.
Balancing Carbs and Healthy Fats
Under carbohydrates, differentiate between carbs, fiber, and sugar. Fiber should be your priority, canceling out one gram of total carbohydrates for each gram of fiber in a food item, also called "net carbs". Net carbs are what your body still uses for energy and what still affects your blood sugar.
Keep sugar intake to a minimum, as excess sugar and refined carbohydrates can disrupt hormone balance and contribute to weight gain. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. Carbohydrates aren't inherently bad; they provide glucose for energy. Focus on fibrous carbs from vegetables and low-sugar, high-fiber fruits like berries.
Additionally, incorporate a serving of healthy fats like those from avocados, nuts, and olive oil into each meal. Fats are essential for hormone production, provide satiety, and support healthy cholesterol. In the video I give a list of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats to include.
In summary, aim for approximately 100 grams of protein, at least 25 grams of fiber, sugars below 25 grams, and embrace healthy fats in your daily nutrition. By prioritizing nutrient-dense, whole foods and understanding nutrition labels, you can take significant strides toward hormonal weight loss, especially as you navigate the challenges of aging and menopause.
A quick tip: Learning how to interpret nutrition labels is just one aspect of achieving better hormonal balance in mid-life. If you're seeking comprehensive guidance and accountability, explore my online program, the Mid-Life Mom Bod Tune-Upp, designed to help women improve hormone balance and overall well-being. Stay informed and empowered on your weight loss journey, and remember to prioritize your health and happiness above all else.
Let's get FIRED UPP!