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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
If you're a woman in your mid to late 30s, chances are you're noticing a bit of extra weight settled firmly around your waist. If you're in your 40s, those few extra pounds may be more like 10 or 15, or for some women, even 20 or 30. And more than likely, you're noticing these changes even if you haven't changed anything about your diet or lifestyle. What's going on? As nutrition expert Debra Waterhouse explains in her new book, OUTSMARTING THE MIDLIFE FAT CELL, your body is actually trying to cushion you against the fluctuating, gradually decreasing estrogen levels that begin during perimenopause, the 10 to 20 years before the onset of full-blown menopause. Fat cells, especially those in the abdominal region, begin to grow in size and store more fat because doing so causes them to produce estrogen, helping to offset the decrease in estrogen from the ovaries and other organs. So the stubborn weight gain so many women see as a curse is really a blessing in disguise — the trick is to keep the gain within healthy bounds, to stay fit, and to learn to make peace with menopause and recognize it as a positive transformation to a whole new stage of life.
Waterhouse helps women achieve these goals first by urging us to change the negative attitudes we may have about menopause — after all, she writes, it's a natural process just like puberty or pregnancy, and we do ourselves a disservice if we think of it as a disease or disorder. Changing our negative attitudes toward our bodies is essential as well — Waterhouse deplores the thin-obsessed culture that has so many womengoingthrough years of yo-yo dieting trying to conform to a slender ideal. All that dieting means that not only is it harder to maintain a healthy weight, but our fat-storing cells become less efficient at manufacturing symptom-alleviating estrogen. "We are gaining 50 percent more weight than our mothers did, and our transition is 500 percent longer," Waterhouse writes. "We have more hot flashes, more memory loss, more insomnia, more everything. And most of the blame goes to dieting." She offers practical, step-by-step advice for leaving conventional calorie-cutting diets behind, and instead choosing the best foods for menopause (including those high in phytoestrogens) and changing our eating habits in healthy ways that work to foil excess weight gain. Waterhouse also analyzes the latest research to determine which exercises will do the most good and why, and encourages readers to explore lifestyle changes that help in managing stress and increase well-being, such as meditation, massage, and aromatherapy.
Throughout OUTSMARTING THE MIDLIFE FAT CELL, Waterhouse reminds us that we need to learn to tune into our bodies and to fully accept them to achieve true health: "We are each biologically unique, and therefore, we each have a different weight that is healthy for us," she writes. "Your doctor, your scale, your aerobics instructor, or the height/weight charts can't tell you what you should weigh. Nobody can because only your body knows for sure. If you are exercising and fueling your body with instinctive eating habits, and your body gravitates to a certain weight — and feels comfortable there — then that's your healthy midlife weight." For women at any stage of midlife, this practical and inspiring book can go a long way toward getting us there.
—Kate Murphy Zeman