Posts

menopause

The Menopause – Symptoms & Relief, Nature’s Way

As women mature and the menopause looms,  it can become harder to lose weight.  But we really don’t need to accept this as our lot.  Although there is a tendency for women over 40 to gain up to 2lbs per year, it is more likely down to the fact that we move less and our general activity levels drop rather than from hormonal changes and the slowing of our metabolism.  That is not to deny that hormonal changes, particularly the lowering of estrogen as we enter the menopause, can change the way we store fat particularly round our trunk.  Hence the dreaded thickening waistline.  So what can we do to keep these excess pounds away?

It is important to acknowledge that the tried and tested quick fixes of our 20’ and 30’s are gone.  Our bodies just don’t respond in the same way.  Personally I love this. It means that any changes we make will need to be long term for the weight to stay lost and so we give up on the “diets” and make the food and lifestyle changes that lose the weight and benefit both our physical and mental health.

A couple of years ago, in the height of my embarrassing hot flushes and sleepless nights – the ones that left me looking and feeling like a wrung out tearful shadow of myself, I started investigating why some women suffer so much and others seem to sail through (maybe they actually didn’t, but if they were feeling like me, they surely deserved an Academy Award for hiding it!).  I started to read about cultures where the effects of the menopause where unknown.  Initially I wondered if this was maybe down to embarrassment and under-reporting on the part of the woman of these cultures, but even female health care professionals there had never heard of “hot flushes”. Why?  Here follows a brief description of the changes in our bodies during the menopause, please bear with me, I expect most of us know this, but still, I do have a reason for writing this……

When we stop ovulating our need for estrogen drops off dramatically. We do still produce some estrogen but in much smaller quantities in our adrenal glands and adipose tissue (fat cells).   The menopausal symptoms we come to dread, the hot flushes, sleepless nights, mood swings etc. are simply the result of our bodies being in withdrawal.  We don’t tolerate the drop in estrogen because in our Western diet of high fat, low fibre, we are accustomed to much higher levels of this hormone than our bodies ever needed. Basically we are going cold turkey!   Our bodies really struggle to re-equalize this balance and so we swing from one feeling to another.

So, that’s the science.  Now my response as a weight loss specialist and nutritionist and someone who cares passionately about women’s health and wellbeing.

During the menopause, as with all natural bodily functions, there is a natural diet based solution, which even if it does not completely alleviate all the symptoms, definitely makes them more manageable because our hormones become more balanced.  In the instance, the re-balancing is achieved by eating phyto-estrogens (plant based estrogen), antioxidants and essential fatty acids, along of course with cutting out the foods that work against them.

The highest sources of phyto-estrogens are soy, lentils and chickpeas – don’t panic though, this is nowhere near as dull as you might imagine.  Whilst it would be great to up your intake of these, the list of phyto-estrogen foods is long and varied and includes, seeds, nuts, grains, many vegetables and fruits (which also include the antioxidants) as well as herbs and spices.  Along with some healthy fats, think salmon, avocado, eggs and a little lean red and white meat, you can see that your daily diet won’t be dull but will go a long way to reducing your symptoms.

So these are nature’s menopause helpers.  What about its saboteurs?  They include excessive caffeine and alcohol, sugar in its processed form and refined wheats, salt and excessive meat protein intake.  I say meat protein specifically as vegetable protein (quinoa for instance is a complete vegetable protein), as meat protein seems to take more calcium from our bones which can make us more vulnerable to osteoporosis.

Also, whilst it is vital to maintain calcium intakes during the menopause, dairy sources of calcium can have high saturated fat content so should be limited to one to two servings a day.

So, armed with all this information, I made some really easy changes to my diet.  I upped my phyto-estrogen foods and minimized my processed/caffeine and sugar.  And I kid you not, I do not have any symptoms at all now!  Truly, I have gone from changing my sheets at least twice a week to the much more normal once.  My energy levels and mood are right up there and I still have my waist (not so much maybe, but it is still there….), plus, and for me most importantly, my so precious sleep is back on track.

Obviously there will be some ladies who say, “I do all this and I am still really suffering”.  My heart really goes out to you and please see your doctor in case there are any other underlying issues, however in the main these changes do work and will benefit every aspect of your life.  Dare I say it, here’s to a happier, more manageable menopause! x

 

 

food

Food Swaps Made Smart & Easy For Successful Weight Loss

Food and recipes – we all have our favourite’s.  The ones we have maybe grown up with, that our families and friends love us to make and the ones we are best at and like to show off, or is that just me…..?

Anyway, when it comes to shifting our excess weight, the last thing we want to have to do is abandon all our tried and tested and much loved recipes and replace them with foods we hope to learn to love but don’t initially have the same appeal.  Can you imagine your family asking for the “lovely raw veggies and low fat dressing”?  or the response you would get to the “Mum, I’m starving, what’s for dinner?”  and you reply chicken breast with salad……Not good I suspect.

So, what to do to keep all family members happy and you on your weight loss track?   I have the answer.  Food swaps.  I do this all the time and no-one even notices and often if they do, they love them for a number of reasons, such as the food swap is less heavy so they feel less sluggish afterwards and certainly has less sugar so there is no sugar crash shortly after eating and the subsequent hunger, and sometimes they just love the change of taste or texture within the recipe.

The easiest examples I use are these.

  • Out with the Spaghetti, in with the Courgetti and Butternut noodles mixed – you don’t have to go the whole hog and cut out the spaghetti altogether, just mix a smaller amount of the pasta with a larger amount of the veggie noodles – this also looks so lovely and colourful and tempting on a plate.
  • Out with the Cheese sauces in lasagne, bakes etc, in with the half fat crème fraiche with a pinch of nutmeg and a grating of cheese.  No butter, no flour, no milk and a much smaller amount of cheese.
  • Out with the sheet pasta in with the wholemeal tortillas in all instances.  My family love lasagne and cannelloni with wholemeal tortilla.  Pizzas with whole meal tortilla are also a massive hit.
  • Out with minced beef (5 to 15% fat and the 5% is much more expensive), in with minced Turkey (4 – 7% fat at a much lower price).  Every single recipe that requires beef can be swapped with turkey.  You don’t have to do this very time, but even if you alternate between beef and turkey you will save so many calories and a big reduction in fat.
  • Out with tomato sauces in jars (a total sugar and additive fest!), in with homemade sauces.  This is so, so easy.  When I have very little time, I put a can of tinned tomatoes, garlic cloves, onion, chilli, basil – basically whatever I fancy in my blender, whiz up and tip on anything that needs a sauce. Voila!
  • Out with the sour cream as dips, in with the 0% Greek yoghurt – not Greek Style Yoghurt – topped with herbs.  Think of the calories saved in this one small change alone!

Look around you and be creative.  Use herbs and spices – there is always recommendations as to which foods they work well with on the labels. Keep it simple and definitely keep it stress free.  Eat your favourite family meals plus add in some new ones and you will achieve your weight loss goals painlessly and keep the family happy.

Prepping

Prepping for SUCCESS! A Key Factor in Successful, Sustainable Weight Loss & FUN!

As a Specialist in Weight Loss and Nutrition, I know that food prepping is one of the key factors in successful, sustainable weight loss.

Once you start regularly prepping your food for the next few days/week, you really will never look back.  The days of grabbing totally unsatisfactory “beige food” from a fast food outlet or a pre-packed supermarket  sandwich (with a food label listing suspiciously chemical sounding ingredients), will become a distant, unpleasant memory – along with the uncomfortably tight waistband, lethargy, insulin spike, subsequent frequent hunger and disappointment in your continuing struggle with weight loss.

No matter how busy your life is, if you have time to watch watch TV in the evenings, you have time to prep.  It is all about prepping your life around your health and weight, not the other way around.

Make a list of wholefoods during the week (plus add some spices and other staples).  Choose and stick to a quiet time to spend half an hour in the shop – believe me, when you are mainly buying mainly wholefoods there is no wandering up and down the isles pondering over chemical choices and checking out food labels for the healthiest options.  Then set aside just an hour, experiment with easy recipes, mix up some that need cooking and some that don’t.  Batch up into sealed tupperware containers and pop into the fridge/freezer.  Keep it simple and keep it stress free.

Whilst I accept that in the beginning the idea of prepping and cooking food in advance for the fridge can be quite daunting, you quickly adapt and factor it in to your weekly routine.  As you start to make easy meals that you look forward to and that keep you on your weight loss track, it will become fun.  How fab to come home, grab something you really like from the fridge or freezer, pop in the microwave or oven, and by the time you have taken off your coat and changed your shoes, a delicious meal is done.  Or to wake late knowing that no matter how much of a rush you are in, breakfast, lunch and dinner is sorted and you just have to grab something from the fridge!

I am not a cook, but I really enjoy the (up to) 2 hours in the kitchen, normally at the weekends, “creating”.  I have my standard 5 – 6 meals which I jazz up with different herbs, spices and individual twists and I LOVE IT! I also love the fact that I know exactly what I am eating and feeding to my loved ones.

Always prepared.  Never hungry. Always working towards your health & weight loss (and one last and important point, much cheaper)!

Let’s get prepping.