Archive for Menopause and Your Weight
Like many of us, I am constantly trying to tweak my health habits to improve health, weight, and energy. As I look at ways to improve my diet, one thing has become clear to me.
The importance of preparing your own meals.
Luckily, many stores can provide us with healthy alternatives in the form of organic produce, eggs and meats from animals raised humanely and feed quality nutrition.
When looking at nutrition that is optimal, the safety and quality of many commercially prepared version of foods is often questionable and inferior to what we can prepare at home. We put a lot of trust into food manufacturers and regulatory powers overseeing the health of additives used by large food corporations. In many instances, they have done a good job, but there may be a myriad of ways that these chemicals may affect us that have not adequately been looked at.
Take the example of high fructose corn syrup.
This was felt at one time to be a healthy additive that improved commercially prepared foods. We now understand how this item has contributed to obesity. The chemical makeup of HFCS causes it to be metabolized differently in the body, contributing to diabetes, liver disease. The shear volume of sugar hidden in foods with HFCS adds calories that our brain does not necessarily acknowledge, preventing us from feeling full. Contrary to industry claims that sugar is sugar; this form of sugar does not act like regular table sugar. If you are interested in reading more about this, Mark Hyman is a well recognized leader in nutrition and integrative health.
While organic foods may be more expensive, you may find that you can eat less and still afford the better quality food. Plan some time over the weekend or your off days, to prepare some meals and dishes. You will be happier knowing what has gone into your food and may even notice a change on the scales!
How comfortable can we really be handing over control of the quality of our meals to total strangers?
We likely enjoy the actions that cause our weight gain, eating tasty food and lots of it. Or maybe it feels like the only way to get in nutrition; we are busy so we reach for fast food, convenient food or even quality restaurant food. It all tastes good. Of course, that is the point of the food industry. Keep us coming back for more.
The problem is that most of our health issues start with weight gain. And stress, with the associated behavior changes that come with stress. Smoking, eating, drinking, not sleeping, and probably not exercising.
So the question is how do you want to live your life? And what are you willing to do to achieve this?
You may not feel empowered to make the changes needed to avoid illness and disease that your genes may predispose you to. Or you feel it is inevitable. You may not feel you have the time and energy, or deep down, deserve the time and energy to devote to yourself. It could be a combination of all or none of these reasons. Granted there are many exceptions to this, diseases that a life style change will not prevent or treat. Or it feels too late and medications are needed to improve and prolong life.
Most likely your medical professional has not devoted the time to talk with you in depth about diet; they may not even be very well trained in this themselves. Add to this, the confusing internet barrage of diets promising a quick fix. This is why the drug industry has become “big pharma”.
But most of it starts with weight gain.
Weight gain causes inflammation and a host of hormonal responses that makes it extremely difficult for the body to maintain its balance. As a result, systems start to malfunction, causing production of other substances that more profoundly affect the balance within our body. This can even set us up for cancer.
If you want to avoid all this, it is not too late. But you do have to change, and maybe change big-time; but not necessarily all at once.
Some simple rules to live by:
- Eat 3 meals daily, starting with a lot of protein at breakfast. Eat enough to space meals 5 hrs apart at least; and do not snack. If you must snack, make it healthy.
- NO SUGAR, or anything that acts like sugar when you eat it. This includes processed foods with any sort of fructose corn syrup or any syrup, agave, honey, sugar. No white rice, white potatoes, white pasta, white bread, white tortillas, snacks like pretzels, chips, cookies, cakes, pies, candy etc. No biscuits, donuts, bagels. They are all compressed white flour and are the equivalent to sugar in your body and brain.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night. I cannot stress how important this is. The hormones that regulate your appetite and food metabolism are actually to some degree, secreted and regulated at night. Not sleeping interferes with this.
- Do not eat after dinner. Your liver needs a rest from all of this food metabolism and giving your body a 12 hr fast during the night helps it to work at producing the right hormones at the right time. This is also why not snacking helps.
- Get rid of as much stress as possible. I know this can be a hard one. You have one life to live and your life would be so much better if stress were reduced. Some things we cannot get rid of, but we can change how we react. Look into meditation, even 5 minutes a day is beneficial. Exercise helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which contributes to the unhealthy cascade that aging can bring. And sleep of course, helps reduce stress as it places parts of your brain in standby mode, helping to reset certain functions.
Ok, this all seems overwhelming perhaps.
Pick one item on the list above and work on it for a month or so. Figure out what will work for you. Then start on the next thing. You do not have to do it all at once, but you may notice a curious affect. When we change one habit for the better; sometimes other habits change without us really making an effort.
It is up to you, but I am here to help. Trust me, I have seen it, done it, lived it; and to some degree successfully changed it. Contact me with questions, and consider contracting for some coaching time if you are stuck and need help.
All this change may seem hard, but it is really not hard once you start taking steps.
Uterine cancer affects tens of thousands of women yearly, roughly 49,000 new cancers diagnosed a year! It is the most common female cancer and you may be at risk for this!
This sort of cancer occurs when there is a production of estrogen without progesterone to counter estrogen’s affects on the uterine lining. Estrogen does many things for our bodies, and when we are still menstruating; it thickens the uterine wall. Progesterone stabilizes that lining and with an increase in production once a month, the lining separates from the uterine wall and comes out. So without progesterone, this lining would develop without any periodic shedding, and a potential cancer can then occur.
At this point you may be saying to yourself “Anne, I am menopausal and do not have periods any longer. What is the big deal?”
Unopposed estrogen may still be occurring even without your ovaries working!
It is true that the bulk of estrogen production comes from our ovaries, but a little is made by the adrenal glands. This production is minor and helps keeps us going after the ovaries stop functioning. It has very little impact on the uterine lining. There is another source of estrogen that can contribute to uterine cancer however, and that is adipose tissue, or fat.
That’s right, the fat we develop at middle age is active and secretes hormones. It can store and secrete estrogen. This is the reason for the increased risk of breast and uterine cancer with excess weight gain and obesity. The uterus is especially susceptible to developing cancer from being obese and having higher estrogen levels.
Does that mean you will get uterine cancer if you are obese, or if you gain 20 or more pounds following menopause? Probable not, but you should know your risk. While being overweight can increase your risk of uterine cancer, researchers at the American Institute for Cancer Research state that your risk can be reduced by 60% with 30 minutes of exercise daily leading to better weight control.
In addition to weight control and a healthy diet; taking HRT will for menopausal symptoms should always be accompanied by progesterone in order to prevent uterine lining development.
The signs of uterine cancer is almost always unusual vaginal bleeding and discharge. Most uterine cancers are diagnosed in women after 60, well beyond the years of normal menstruation. Any vaginal bleeding that occurs post menopausal requires immediate attention. Pelvic pain can also be a symptom and this should be reported also.
Lessening your risk of endometrial cancer, or uterine cancer; can be as simple as a healthy diet and regular exercise. If there is a strong family history of uterine cancer, avoiding hormone replacement therapy may be advised by your medical provider. Regular checkups and reporting any unusual vaginal bleeding, discharge or pelvic pain immediately can usually catch a problem early.
Gluten free diets are very popular, and gluten free products seem to be overtaking the shelves in many supermarkets. Gluten free products are a staple for those that have celiac disease, but can they benefit those of us who do not?
The sense that you may be allergic to wheat may increase as you get older. Lots of people are adopting a gluten free diet to cure all that ails them, including joint pain, allergies, heartburn to name a few. You may be wondering what an allergy to wheat, something that goes into the mouth and gut; has to do with migraines or arthritis.
It is all about inflammation. There is true gluten sensitive enteropathy, or celiac disease. These are the people that will have horrible diarrhea, lose weight to the point of malnourishment; if they eat wheat or gluten containing products. It is often inherited, or prominent in certain ethnic groups including those of Anglo Saxon (Scotland, Ireland, England) descent.
There is also gluten sensitivity, which may becoming more prominent. The increase in Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is felt by some scientists, to be due to the increase in use of antibacterial products. This can impair the immune system of the developing gut leading to altered function and perhaps other food allergies. Other scientists are speculating the increase of gluten allergies and gluten sensitivities may be due to the strain of wheat that is currently grown today.
A slightly different strain of wheat was developed in the 1940-50′s to increase crop resilience. There is a protein in this hybrid wheat product that some of us may not be fully able to breakdown, thus giving increase in gastrointestinal complaints.
There is no mistaking that aging can bring on weight gain and a sense that you are no longer metabolizing food as you once did. There is also an increase in many ailments as we age, most likely attributed in large part to wearing out of body parts and systems. Whether or not you feel that some of your ailments may be due to a wheat allergy, or celiac sensitivity; cutting out gluten from your diet may cause you to lose weight. As a result, many other ailments may improve.
This reduction of gluten consumption and improvement of well being may be due to less inflammation from gluten sensitivity. Or it may be a result of less caloric intake. It is important to keep in mind that many important vitamins are in wheat products, and you will want to be sure to get these vitamins in other foods. It is also important to avoid gluten free products that mimic their gluten containing counterparts. If you have true Celiac disease, you will want to use some of these products as most likely you are not battling being overweight also. However, gluten free starches tend to be made from refined carbohydrates and can be high in calories.
So how do you decide to go gluten free or not? Chances are if you have true gluten allergy, you would have been diagnosed by menopause or the later years, as the diarrhea and malnutrition of Celiac disease is profound. But a gluten sensitivity is less obvious and can be easily diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or constipation.
A relative gluten free trial for a few weeks may be easy enough. This would involve eating whole grains, no wheat products, rye or barley. You would want to do the following:
- No bottled or canned sauces or dressings, make your own.
- No desserts using flour, crusts, thickeners.
- No beer or brown alcohol; wine is probably ok.
- No packaged breads, pastries, cereals, cookies.
- You can have fruits and vegetables, any and all.
- Meats and seafood as well as poultry are safe but watch the fat and cholesterol content!
- Anything you make from vinegar and oils as far as dressings is recommended.
- Sugar is ok but it won’t help you lose weight if that is what you want.
In considering this way of eating, it is pretty much like to South Beach diet, Mediterranean diet and numerous other diets that help fight diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and obesity. It’s success is probably due to low sugar and low processed carbohydrate consumption resulting in weight loss.
Whether a gluten free diet will cure arthritis, migraines, allergies and asthma, and numerous other inflammatory based diseases remains to be proven.
But it can’t hurt to try as long as your diet is balanced with protein, healthy fats and high fiber whole grains.
The holy grail of weight loss research is finding a pill that enables people to lose weight with theoretically less action than what people are willing to take. We have all heard the mantra that increased activity and reduced food consumption is the way to lose weight. Anyone who has ever needed to lose weight understands this equation. The difficult part has always been developing and sticking to a plan that works.
Many medications developed for weight loss have been effective, but usually at a tradeoff that presents serious problems for some other system in our body. Remember Phen-Fen? That was highly effective in causing weight loss, but was found to cause serious heart and lung problems. So it looks like for now, we are back to the equation of eat less move more for weight loss.
Researchers have known for years about the different hormones associated with eating and food metabolism. What has been an eye opener is how these hormones interact and effect our appetite and sense of fullness. Most studies have been performed on men, but there has been a recent study performed on a small group of women noting the affect of exercise on appetite and hunger.
Appetite and hunger are complicated and involve signals from many parts of your body, as well as our emotions. There is one hormone that stimulates hunger, called ghrelin. What ghrelin does in response to exercise has been inconsistently documented in studies, however a this recent study suggests it is variable for women, depending on what exercise you engage in. This study found that this appetite hormone spiked during running exercise in the test subjects, but not in the walking test subjects. Additionally, the hormones associated with feeling full also were raised following the running exercise group but not the walking exercise group.
The combined result surprisingly showed that appetite and food intake was reduced following exercise for the runners, but not for the walkers. The walkers were noted to eat more following their exercise, more calories than what they burned for their activity.
What does this mean for us?
- To lose weight, you must pair your exercising with a diet that is restricted in calories to some degree.
- The more vigorously you exercise may also positively impact your appetite and resulting calorie intake.
- There may be some difficulty with weight loss using walking alone as your exercise.
- Interval training may be more effective, with short bursts of intense exercise added at intervals with your walking.
- As of yet, there are no pills or short cuts to the process of weight loss.
Find a schedule or program that works for you, that you enjoy; and stick to it. There are many ways you can enjoy exercise.
- Zumba and dancing and dance aerobics are fun ways to move and may appeal to you who do not like gyms. Many classes are offered through gyms as well as churches and facilities not requiring a membership.
- Walking or jogging/running with a club or friend(s) may appeal to the social side of you. Some local athletic stores sponsor walking and running clubs that are loosely structured but can help get you moving.
- Many gyms have classes that can appeal to you such as spinning, pilates, as well as different movement regimens.
- For those of you that want to start off in the privacy of home, exercise CD’s or home equipment can be a good and often affordable option.
Keep in mind the more vigorous your exercise, the more you will engage natural hormones to help you with healthy food metabolism and appetite control. Adding healthy food choices in your kitchen and getting rid of unhealthy choices can then help you replenish with less calories. This is a key to weight loss, and unlike pills, can be continued for a lifetime!
There has been an ongoing discussion and sometimes debate within exercise circle over the benefits of aerobics vs. weight training for fitness. No doubt many of you have tried either form of exercise in an effort to lose menopausal belly fat; or weight gain associated with aging. You may find yourself confused over whether to get out and break a sweat; or whether you should hit the weight machines at your local gym.
A recent study at Duke University has compared the benefits of both forms of exercise. It turns out that aerobic exercise is the best way to burn belly fat. Three groups of people were observed with either aerobic exercise, weight training, or both aerobic and weight training. One group did weight training 3 days a week with 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions of resistance or weight lifting; one group did aerobic activity of running, walking or swimming 12 miles per week; and the third group did both.
Surprisingly, the aerobic group demonstrated the most efficient weight loss with the least time spent exercising compared to other groups. The mixed exercise group saw the same weight loss but also a bigger decrease in waist circumference, but spent far more time at exercising than either of the other 2 groups. The strength training group noted an increase in muscle mass and decrease in waist circumference, but actually experienced weight gain.
These researchers are careful to point out that exercise methods should be age specific. If an older person is losing muscle mass and strength, it is important to have strength training as part of their exercise routine.
What this means if you are a menopausal woman, is that you will most likely need to perform both types of exercise. You may not require as much strength training as the study group participated in, but you will need to put in the time with aerobic exercise. 12 miles a week equates to walking 2 miles 6 days a week- or 40 minutes a day; or 3 miles 4 times weekly with may take you an hour or more. Running takes less time to cover this distance as does using an elliptical machine.
If this seems too much for you, start slowly and aim for less distance or time; and work on regularity and commitment. During the holiday season you may not be able to do as much due to time constraints, so don’t stress about it! Do what you can and plan for regularity after the holidays.
What this study makes clear, is the fact that losing your belly fat takes a time commitment and exercise that increases your heart rate for at least 20 minutes on a regular basis. So talk to your medical provider about what type of physical activity may be right for you. Plan a way for your to enjoy movement and exercise so that it becomes something you look forward to!
Your may have read some headlines recently, discussing how lack of sleep can cause you to gain weight. You may even have experienced this first hand. I know when I do not sleep well, I usually overeat the next day. I had assumed this was my bodies way of getting much needed extra energy. I assumed it was something that specific to me, not necessarily driven by any known biological mechanism of action.
It turns out there is a biological reason that we eat more when we have not slept. Through knowledge gained from research studies on why sleep is so important, it has been shown that many important functions occur while we sleep. The body and brain repairs itself while we sleep. Most of us have always assumed this, but many of us would never imagine that lack of sleep can make us fat!
Sleep deprivation, even if only for a few days; can wreck havoc on our hormone system. It can cause cortisol to rise in the evening, when it should be declining. This rise in cortisol can contribute to diabetes and obesity as it promotes fat storage. Thyroid function can also be affected by lack of sleep.
But how can sleep actually make us fat? In addition to the cortisol rise mentioned above, sleep deprivation affects the appetite regulatory hormones leptin and ghrelin. These hormones play an important role in helping to regulate our appetite through signalling when we are full and when we are hungry. Lack if sleep causes them to rise and fall inappropriately, encouraging you to consume more calories than you actually require.
Additionally, lack of sleep has been shown to also decrease glucose sensitivity by almost 30%. This means that the food you eat will not be utilized as efficiently and will be more likely to be stored as fat. Such a response implies that chronic sleep deprivation may cause an increased chance of developing diabetes and obesity.
Menopausal sleep deprivation can not only add to the weight gain and fatigue of menopause, it can also increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. If you are being told by your medical provider that your glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure are becoming higher than normal; your sleep patterns as well as diet may be the reason.
It is important to work on your sleep habits in order to minimize the effect menopause may be having on your health. Work on getting plenty of exercise, decrease caffeine, learn to relax and maybe meditate to decrease stress. Talk to your provider about help with sleep and any medical conditions other than menopause which may be contributing to lack of sleep.
Most importantly, set a schedule for sleep and stick to it! Work on not allowing the phone, your computer, or TV watching interfere with your bedtime.
How do I lose weight when I am too busy to plan my meals, and I eat on the go all the time?
This is one of the most common questions and dilemmas I hear in the clinic when counseling women of all ages, but especially busy, working mothers. Our lives are so busy between working, keeping a household going, caring for children (sometimes of all ages!); it can seem impossible to plan 3 healthy meals a day!
I feel I have it under pretty good control most of the time, but I admit to the challenge of frustration and feeling overwhelmed at times. On those days, the pull to eat for emotions is very strong. My sweet tooth can kick in and it feels that I will die if I don’t get some chocolate! That’s when a plan really helps.
We all have emotional eating urges, and knowing how your willpower can work for you will help to avoid the pull of these moments. I speak to this topic in depth on my Squidoo lens, and you will find these videos helpful in evaluating your weaknesses in changing your undesirable habits.
In speaking to diet and weight loss alone, revving up your metabolism is key. One of the most common mistakes women make in trying to lose weight is skipping meals, especially breakfast. If you don’t give your body food to work on, it will slow down metabolism in order to compensate. It will only mobilize fat stores when it has been working on food eaten, then runs out of this food.
So what can you do when you feel there is no time for breakfast or lunch? First, realize that it actually doesn’t have to take much time; just a little planning. If you cannot make a healthy breakfast and lunch that you like, stock your pantry with healthy items 200 calories or so, and grab a bunch of these to eat every couple of hours throughout the work day.
This is what I have arrived at in recent months:
- Breakfast is a smoothie: almond milk, banana, other fruit, and handful of greens. I rotate greens and fruit, but this gives me 200 cal. Mixes in minutes, blender goes in dishwasher if I don’t have time to wash, smoothie goes in travel cup to drink in car. I also add whole grain slice of toast with 1 slice of cheese on top, eat in car if in a rush. Alternative: Naked juices (brand name) are fairly good and healthy, whole wheat crackers and slice cheese goes to refrigerator at work to grab mid morning.
- Snack mid morning: cracker and cheese mentioned above, or I put in a small container or baggie: raw almond, raw cashew and raisins 1 Tbs each. this is about 150 cal. and I can package this for several days in advance and grab in morning.
- Lunch: salad I made night before with dinner, I usually make too much on purpose, place left overs in container and take to work. Sometimes I slice/shred carrots, beets, radishes a few days and store all separately for a quick grab. I may add left over cold vegetables like corn, peas, edeme, maybe some cheese or left over meat. I have oil and vinegar at work and dress salad there so it doesn’t get soggy. Alternative: container of yogurt and nut mixture mentioned above. I can grab this quickly when running out of the house.
- Snack mid to late afternoon: this snack is critical for me because I will inhale food when I walk in the door at end of the day if I am hungry. Apple or other fruit that takes a lot of chewing.
While this may not work for you, you get the idea and can make your own plan. I have planned for quick days and I make sure that I am eating 200-300 calories every 3 hrs or so; so I have energy and brain power. This triggers my metabolism to work without giving any excess for fat storage. Unless of course I give into cravings. When this happens, I try to make up for it by eating less for dinner or less later in the day.
This kind of plan does not include eating out for lunch. If this is important for you to do at work, maybe chose one day to eat out. Keep in mind though that losing weight is almost impossible with eating restaurant and fast food due to added hidden ingredients and calories.
An additional help for food planning is utilizing grocery store online ordering. Many stores are offering this feature, and it can be a major time saver in addition to helping you avoid impulse buying. It can be a major time saver, and ordering when you can sit and plan the week can help with healthy decision making.
The most important thing is to find what works for you through trial and error. Don’t give up, keep trying different strategies. Work with what you like and how your schedule unfolds for any given week. And remember, one failure does not mean you cannot achieve your goals!
We all know exercise is good for us. The majority of us do not exercise despite knowing this. Even though it will add years of better health to your life, we don’t do it or don’t do it regularly or we over do one area like cardio to our detriment and ignore muscle strengthening activity that make our bones and our muscles stronger. What can you do? How can you make this more automatic.
How about life style exercise? What is that?
Parking across the lot from the front of the store or the entrance to work and walking a little further.
Walking up one and down two flights of steps when we run an errand. Going up more than one floor, walk up to the next floor to catch the elevator.
Put on some music and dance, not hard, no wild moves, just dance gently and for 3 or 4 songs each day. Doesn’t even have to be all at once. 1-2 in the morning and 1-2 in the evening.
Take a walk on your lunch break, just 10 minutes.
The effect of exercise is cumulative meaning we don’t have to do it for an hour straight but 5 minutes here and there 12 times in a day add up to an hour.
Loosing weight is 80-90% diet. Looking better naked though is more like 50/50 diet and exercise. Face it, we want to look better naked and if we get healthy that is a beneficial side effect but most of us would trade 2 years at the end of our life, unless it is that 2 year period, for better looks now. I am not saying that is the right thing to do, it isn’t, but it is human nature to take the quick easy way and pay the consequences later. If our nature wasn’t like that, would we have such a huge national debt or so many of us be so deeply in credit card debt? You know this is true, even at the life stage of menopause. We value youth in our culture. Why would Joan Rivers (and many other women) do what she has done if that were not true. Well, how about being young in your muscle, bones and internal organs? OK, lets look at my new video and then I will direct you to some links that will help you.
Where can you find out more about Kettlebells and exercises to do with them? Here on Squioo - I have a lens there called Female Menopause Solutions!
Dumbell exercises you can do on the ball or off.
Tell me what is working for you? How are you controlling your weight and what are you doing for fitness?
If you are in my email membership group, you will receive a special video link with I discuss how you can get and keep the will power to do what you need to stay on track with a healthy lifestyle. Look for that in your email soon.