Life Beyond The Weight Loss

It hasn’t taken long for me to realize through media, talking to people, and my own personal interactions that there is a whole lot of time spent focusing on weight loss, losing weight, ways to lose weight, how fast we can lose weight, and trendy diets to help us lose weight.

The weight loss/diet industry rakes in billions of dollars a year so we could even assume from those numbers people are hungry to accomplish this goal. ( oh I just made a cute pun, appreciate it 😉 )

Many will set out with good intentions only to always be on some kind of diet track or have the idea always on their mind they “have” to lose weight.

Many just give up and quit.

Others, others will get it. They will find the thing that works best for them. The “thing” that allows them to slowly, steadily drop weight, live life, not feel deprived and it will be sustainable long term.

They will cross the bridge that leads them to a lifestyle change. This is the only permanent thing that will last. They will find a healthy balance of all foods, learn the right amount they need to lose, then maintain that loss. They will have figured out that a their favorite meal or a treat here and there isn’t going to end their success, in fact, they will have figured out it can lead to their success.

This month marks my 8th year since I crossed over “the bridge”.  8 years of  not just losing it, but keeping it gone. It’s my celebratory month of figuring out what worked for me and getting out of the hamster wheel diet mentality/trap. I’ve learned so much about myself in these past few years. I’ve learned a lot about food, nutrition and exercise too.

Of course, just because this is the month I started the process doesn’t mean it’s when all things connected for me. That took some time, some patience, and some strong willed perseverance. It took a willingness to learn and experiment. To stumble and get up again.

Eventually, I hit a point where losing weight wasn’t such a focus anymore. I stopped my weekly check in’s with the scale. I stopped thinking or worrying every bite was gonna land on me like a ton of bricks. I stopped worrying about what size label my clothes carried.

I was in a good place.. the land of maintenance.

So what about those who “get it” who cross over into that understanding that the only thing that works forever and long term is a lifestyle change. It’s about losing the old lifestyle and mindset that got you there in the first place.  This means mentally, physically, and emotionally. An entire changed perspective on how to approach food, our relationship with it and finding the balance of eating just enough but not to much. It’s a better awareness on taking care of yourself.

Where do you go after weight loss?

In the beginning you’re so focused on the numbers changing, whether it’s your clothes or the scale it unwittingly becomes your main focus on the journey. Once you hit that point of being comfy you realize you need to have a new focus.

I’d say where I am now, as to where I was then, I’ve learned a lot more about food and nutrition.  Yes, you can lose weight with almost any foods as long as you are creating a daily deficit.

Losing weight comes down to having a negative expenditure each and every day. It’s just learning what to eat ( in a positive way) to contribute to the weight loss.

But there are things that start to happen in this process, in the “after” part of losing weight…

You really start to prefer healthy, nutritious foods

I was never a horrible eater  but I probably snacked on stuff that didn’t support my health and fitness goals like I do now. It has been a ongoing learned process, to intentionally select good foods over fast foods or some junk type of food.  In time your body really does begin to crave the good foods and you lose your taste for a lot of the things you used to find so desirable. I often eat salads now simply because I enjoy them, I crave the veggies, and it leaves me feeling energetic and not sluggish for my day.

By the time you get to a maintenance mode, you’ve learned more about the foods that got you there and don’t view eating that way as being deprived or missing out.

So yeah, you’re much more tuned in to how to eat and what to eat and you feel better not only physically, but mentally too when you do. Making good choices just makes you feel good all over.

You don’t dread those morning workouts anymore

I try and tell people this when they are wanting to start exercising. They seem to not believe me. I’m telling you, do it enough, it becomes a habit. And it turns into a habit you WANT to do. You anticipate them and you might even find yourself up for some new challenges you never thought possible. And you’ll get all kinds of energy from keeping at it. Not only that it builds your confidence, clears your mind, helps center you and gives you a new appreciation for what your body can do.

Speaking of energy

it’s fairly obvious, the less you have to drag around on your body during the day, the more energy you might have. Of course, if you’ve been exercising along the way that has been building your entire cardio system so you’ll feel more energetic in your daily tasks without huffing and puffing so much and as well during your purposeful exercise.  I just love having the energy to still hang with my young 20something kids if we’re up late ( they freely admit I have more energy than they do) or to be able to play in the pool with my grandson catching him ( over, and over, and over ha) as he comes off the water slide. And in a weird way, energy seems to breed energy, so the more you do the more you seem to produce. It’s a good feeling.

Clothes shopping anyone?

ok I’m a girl and it goes without saying, I can be drawn in by lots of pretty things. It’s even more fun when all the pretty things fit great and look good ( hmmm maybe that isn’t a good thing) it’s just an enjoyable experience.  I really do love fun, trendy fashion, a lot. There were times in the past I didn’t want to shop nor did I find it nearly as fun as I do now.  Shopping is just much more enjoyable when you are rewarded with fitting into smaller clothes for your efforts.

You might find yourself inspiring others or giving advice

In a weird turn of events, what started off as me doing my own thing to lose weight and get on a healthy lifestyle change has morphed into being here talking to you ( my blog) as well as sharing things on my other social media sites, and encouraging/helping people who ask me questions on everything from nutrition to how to start running and all things in between.  I think that’s like, a super cool thing. My desire always is that if someone can see I’ve done it, they can do it too. There’s nothing I love more than seeing someone “get it” and start on their own journeys.

The rest of your life

I guess it goes without saying, being at a healthy weight, exercising to keep your body strong and fit and eating good foods to support that will go a long way to letting you live a full, healthy life. Hopefully without diseases or ailments that can plaque people who carry extra weight or lead a sedentary lifestyle.   Being a strong, healthy you means the ability to live a active life to enjoy your family and all the adventures you want to have with them.

Strong. Healthy. Fit. Energetic. Active.

I’d say those are some pretty good goals to have in the long run far beyond the weight loss.

 

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Celebrating 8 years of  living a strong, fit, healthier lifestyle
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Food Choices Deprivation Or Empowerment

Pass Junk food

 

“Don’t you miss eating fun foods?” I was asked that question one day…. this person obviously didn’t know my eating habits super well or they’d know my weakness for some occasional chocolate, powdered sugar donuts, or better yet, French fries.

Years ago as I embarked on my health journey, that may have been my mentality. It would’ve have been my mentality if I had banned foods or put them off limits or treated them like I’d never, ever get to have them again.

Not making foods “good” or “bad” has helped me be successful, and stay successful on this path.  I think this theory will work for the majority of people wanting to be healthy.

Oh, in the past I can remember parties or get togethers and “abstaining” from whatever foods/desserts I thought I shouldn’t have.

Let’s be honest, that kinda stuff flat out sucks.

But here’s the weird kicker. What starts out in the beginning as something that feels out of your routine, or daily habit, can slowly be transformed into a new habit and permanent change in our lifestyle.

If you eat “junk” food and it’s your thing to go to, then your taste buds have definitely been trained to eat that way. I’d like to think all of you were raised by moms who attempted to feed you good, healthy food in the beginnings of your life.

As a free willed individual, you grew up and did your own thing. That might involve not eating what mom tried to get you to eat but instead opting for other less desirable choices.

You get it… you train yourself to eat foods that support your health and give you energy or you’re comfortable eating foods that satisfy your emotions and mouth and offer no or minimal nutritional value.

It does make me sad when people make jokes about eating foods that support good health and they don’t participate in eating that way. I’m over here thinking… “that’s your body your living in, the only one you get!”

A mental shift has to occur for anyone to be successful in weight loss and eating in a manner that supports good health.

If you view not getting to eat “junk” food as deprivation, you will not move forward. If you view eating well as punishment, you will not move forward.

We all face temptations when it comes to foods. I have my own that are best for me to stay away from.

I know what it’s like to be in the store, hungry, and all those things I know I don’t need seem to taunt me to buy them.

After all, I’m hungry, right?

But then there’s the stronger part of my mind and body that knows better…. I know how empowering it is to know it’s there and leave it. I know how empowering it is to make good food choices and how I feel after the fact.

And yes, if you are hungry in the store ( a practice I do not recommend 😉 ) there is a plethora of foods that can help you that are healthy to snack on…. really. You don’t have to be drawn in at the candy when you are checking out.

It all takes practice. And determination. And failure.

Yes. I said failure.

You aren’t going to nail this each and every time. In the beginning it will be a struggle. With repeated efforts of success and failure you will eventually have more success than not ( this is where determination comes in… and a bit of stubbornness doesn’t hurt either)

As you practice this you will develop new strength, new strength is empowering when you walk away from something. It gradually turns into something you will just automatically do.

Assess what it is. Think about if you really need it. Think about if it will support your health and fitness goals.

Make a choice.

And you know what, sometimes, it’s ok to get that candy bar.

I had done a long endurance session recently and by midafternoon my body was wanting just all out pure sugar. I’ve come to know this feeling occasionally since I’ve become involved in endurance sports.

I intentionally bought a candy bar. I can’t tell you the last time I had one. It was delicious. That feeling went away after. I haven’t wanted one since.

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It was good…

 

No guilt.

I fully knew I could’ve gotten a “healthier” treat. I also made a mindful decision that I wanted to get that candy bar.

It is empowering when you are in mindful control of making choices regarding what goes in your mouth and how you eat.

As you learn to make eating healthier a priority, you not only feel better and are more energetic, your tastes for the lesser quality food really will diminish. In time, you will find those desired foods will have less pull and it becomes quite easy to ignore them and never have them, and yeah, you won’t feel “deprived” either. You will however, feel empowered.

A successful healthy lifestyle will involve balance. Good days and bad days. The key to success is to keep moving forward. Learn to enjoy how you feel when you make more aware choices of what you eat and when you choose a better option.

In time, it will come almost effortlessly to you.

Tell me was there or has there been a time you’ve felt deprived because you didn’t think you could have some type of food? How do you feel when you make a better choice or a more purposeful decision in what you eat?

In Pursuit Of The Ideal Weight

ideal-body-weight

 

“I want to be the weight I was in high school!” says the middle aged woman… “I want to weigh what I did when I played football” declares a man

These are weight ideals that men and women have every day. When they begin to focus on a goal for weight loss for some reason, the weight they were in the past and they felt like they were “their best”, becomes the new and current focus, even if they haven’t seen this weight in decades.

Where as there’s nothing wrong with this, it could also just be an unrealistic goal based on where you are today in your life.

Perhaps there’s a sense that once that “ideal” weight is reached there will be a feeling that you’ve “arrived”. Or it could be an assumption if you got to that weight again you’ll be really happy. Maybe you view it as your body will finally be how you want it.

I guess the reasons could go on… however… it just might not be where you need to be… today.

Our bodies are beautifully designed to live in a perfect balance of a weight that is “good” for us. Yes, we can have times of our weight being lower but it might take a lot more work and attentiveness to our diet to just be able to maintain those numbers on the scale.

It certainly could be an unwanted burden to bear if you have to be constantly watchful of everything you eat to stay at that perceived “good” weight.

That perceived weight goal you have might not be where you need to be at today in your life.

You might have a different job or more activities to keep you moving. You might have health issues or be on meds that don’t allow you to move to that goal. You might not “look” healthy if the weight is a bit to low for you.

But let’s not over look the fact that our bodies often have a preset weight that they can stay at and you can easily maintain and it might not be your predetermined goal weight.

Let’s establish this:

First there are a lot of factors that can determine our “ideal” weight.  Your height, age, gender, frame size, muscle to fat ratio, and body fat distribution all play into your ideal weight.

You could be the same height as your friend and maybe trade off borrowing clothes, but I can guarantee your body composition will be very different.

There are several “tools” that doctors/health care professionals use to help determine an “ideal” weight. But again that is so subjective based on many things. Let’s take a look at a few ways supposed ideal weight could be determined.

One of the long time used meters is the BMI (body mass index)

Your BMI is calculated on your height and weight and a scale is used on what “normal” body weights are for the gender/age/ etc.

You can figure your own by looking it up on an online calculator. You can also do it as a math problem, but that makes my head hurt, so I prefer the handy online calculator to help with it. I already know mine, but maybe you need to figure yours out.

This can give a base line of “health”.

Standard numbers are less than 18.5 you are underweight, healthy weight 18.5-24.9, overweight 25-29.9, and obese 30 or higher.

This is a good tool but not a good indicator if a person is carrying a more “muscle to fat ratio” as their numbers can come in higher, although they are technically more fit and more lean muscle mass is definitely preferable to a higher fat ratio.

BMI is a surrogate measure of body fatness because it is a measure of excess weight rather than excess body fat.

BMI uses your weight in the formula but it doesn’t distinguish if it comes from an abundance of fat or lean muscle tissue. Athletes and body builders who carry a great amount of muscle  can come in with a higher BMI, which does not distinguish muscle mass carried.

Because BMI does not directly measure fat it can miscategorize people as healthy  who have a normal weight for their height when they are actually carrying to much fatty tissue.

You can see just using a BMI has negatives in both directions although it offers a guideline as a basic health screening.

Another more accurate tool is body fat percentage.

I learned a lot about this a few years ago. My doctor told me I fall more into the category now of figuring body fat than the standard BMI due to my lean muscle mass.  Many experts say that body fat percentage is the best way to go as it is the best way to gauge their fitness level because it’s the only measurement that includes the bodies true composition.

Using the body fat percentage would not make the couch potato seem more fit than an Olympic athlete as the case with just using BMI.

There are several ways of determining body fat percentage and although none are 100% accurate it will give you a close enough estimate.

Examples include near-infrared interactance, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, and bioelectrical impedance analysis.

I’ll give you one other example.. that should be enough to over load your mind for today …

Waist to hip ratio

A waist-hip measurement is the ratio of the circumference of your waist to that of your hips. You measure the smallest circumference of your waist, usually just above your belly button, and divide that total by the circumference of your hip at its widest part.

Less than 0.9 for men and 0.8 for women is considered low risk for cardio problems

0.9-0.99 for men and 0.8-0.89 for women moderate risk of cardio problems

1 or over for men  and 0.9 or over for women is considered high risk

The WHR of a person is commonly said to be a much better indicator of whether their body weight is ideal and what their risks of developing serious health conditions are, compared to BMI.

The biggest problem with WHR is that it’s just not a good indicator of overall health, it doesn’t accurately measure the persons total body fat percentage, or their muscle to fat ratio. It is a better predictor of ideal weight and health risks than BMI.

So… your ideal weight…does it exist?

Your “ideal” weight is as unique as your daily dietary needs are for health and wellness.

A few things to consider about it…

Know roughly what your body weight range should be. If you are outside of that or know you are carrying extra weight ( and we all know when we have extra fat on us), a sensible plan will help you steadily knock of those pounds to get to a more normal healthy range. The ideal weight charts sometimes can give you a close estimate and some are ridiculous ( as in one that told me I should weigh between 108-112. Yeah, I laughed over that. At 6’0 those are ridiculous numbers) I do know what my “range” is, but for me that’s pretty loose because again, it doesn’t take in my lean muscle mass, my activity level, or any other unique aspects of my physical person.

Your ideal weight won’t necessarily be your high school weight or whatever other magic number you have in mind.

Once you are in a healthy weight zone, allow for a 5 lb. limit to swing back and forth in. Trust me. It’s freeing. Ladies, this is especially important depending on where you are in your cycle. I know that a few extra pounds that might show up mid cycle will go away as some water weight. If it’s water, things will balance out again.

Depending on your level of physical activity ( and I mean workouts most days of the week or specific weight training) you will build lean muscle mass. This level of body fat you have to lean muscle mass is your body composition. The more lean muscle you build, the better. Muscle isn’t “heavier” than 1 lb of fat, it’s just that fat takes up more volume or space then muscle. Muscle is more dense.  Understanding this, if you are doing very purposeful exercise all the time you can gain lean muscle but the scale might not change a lot on you.

Your ideal weight will become easy enough to maintain based on your daily food intake and purposeful exercise.

If you have to go hungry, restrict meals, workout more than usual, or do any other crazy thing to stay at a given weight, that’s your wake up call. Your body isn’t going to stay there unless you are constantly diligent and practicing those methods to keep it there.

Your ideal weight will allow you to do the things you love, to take care of your family, pursue active endeavors, or take on your daily purposeful exercise with lots of energy.

It’s great to have an ideal weight in mind, but having a happy healthy weight that’s sustainable for your life is even better.

Do you or have you strived towards an ideal weight? Have you found a place of balance with a happy healthy weight?

 

 

 

Sweet Sleep

sleep

Sleep. Sometimes we get more of it. Sometimes we get less. Often there are things that distract us from resting peacefully. Sometimes we sleep like the dead.

We know we need it, yet we tend to burn the candle at both ends. I am more of a night owl than anything. Yet my alarm and rise time is 6’ish each morning and I know that. I’ve disciplined myself whether it’s a weekend, school is off or on, or whatever, to get up at the same time.

So when I make choices to stay up late, I understand I am eating into my rest time.

Sometimes, I don’t care 😛

Another way to understand your need for rest? Turn into an endurance athlete and you will welcome pillow time 😛  I have my deepest sleeps after long training days.

This is how I’ve learned to consider “rest and sleep” as valuable as how I eat or train. Sleep is crucial for our bodies, athlete or not. I’ve learned if I’m going to train well, I need to make sure my body has proper rest to heal and recover from what it goes through. Sleep is as important to health as eating well and getting exercise.

First of all, what IS sleep?

Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings.

Sleep is an important part of your daily routine—you spend about one-third of your time doing it.  Quality sleep – and getting enough of it at the right times — is as essential to survival as food and water.  Without sleep you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.

Stages of sleep.

There are actually two basic stages of sleep.

REM (rapid eye movement) and non-rem which has 3 stages. You cycle through all stages in a night with increasingly longer REM periods closer to morning.

Stage 1 rem sleep is the change over from wakefulness to sleep.  It is a short period of relatively light sleep.

Stage 2 non-rem sleep is a period of light sleep before entering deeper sleep. You spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep than in other sleep stages.

Stage 3 non-rem sleep is the deep sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning.  It occurs in longer periods during the first part of the night. You are so relaxed this is when it would be very difficult to wake you.

REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep.

Your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids.  Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness.  Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels.  Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep, although some can also occur in non-REM sleep.  Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams. ( Isn’t that freaky?! I always just thought it was a weird feeling I had)  As you age, you sleep less of your time in REM sleep.  Memory consolidation most likely requires both non-REM and REM sleep.

How much sleep do you need?

Sleep and sleep patterns change and vary as we age and there is no “magic number” of sleep that works for everyone. We are all different and have different needs and requirements. Most adults need 7-9 hours a night. A few may get by on less and do fine. Others require more.

Cutting your hours during the week thinking you can “make it up on the weekend”? No… there is no making up sleep. Try to get adequate rest during week so you don’t feel a need to make it up.

Getting good rest is vital for your overall health and wellness.

Below are a few suggestions for a good nights rest:

Set a schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day but no later than a few hours before going to bed.

Avoid caffeine and nicotine late in the day and alcoholic drinks before bed.

Avoid eating big meals.

Relax before bed – try a warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine.

Create a room for sleep – avoid bright lights and loud sounds, keep the room at a comfortable temperature, and don’t watch TV or have a computer in your bedroom.

Don’t lie in bed awake.  If you can’t get to sleep, do something else, like reading or listening to music, until you feel tired.

See a doctor if you have a problem sleeping or if you feel unusually tired during the day.  Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.

Of course there are lots of “smart” ways people are tracking their rest time now days.  Smart phone apps, bedside monitors, and wearable devices ( like smart watches, fit bits etc)  all give us a look at how our rest time goes. I have a Garmin Vivoactive HR and for almost a year now I’ve been able to track my sleep patterns ( among a lot of other things!)  seeing my data can convict me if I feel I need more rest, or confirm that yes, I did indeed rest well last night.

Sleep is one of the essentials we all require for a healthy productive life. Make sure you are taking steps to get adequate amounts to have strong, alert, energetic days, every day.

 

 

Menopause, Muscles And Middle Age

As a writer I often have multiple ideas bouncing through my head at any given time. I have random papers with ideas, thoughts, or titles scratched out on them. I do have a writing…uh “journal”.  Journal might be the wrong word… it’s like my writing BRAIN.

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Don’t judge me.  A writers brain can kinda look like this at any given time 😉

 

It has research notes, future blog ideas, and tons of random, misplaced words all over pages that no one would get but me.

Uh…hey… sometimes I don’t even remember what they’re either 😛

The bad thing is when I’m out on the road…bike or running… which can be some of my most creative thinking times… and an idea comes to me. I have nothing to write it on so it kinda becomes my mantra till I finish so I don’t forget it.

If I’m fortunate enough to have a title come first, that gets written down to be saved for the body to come and fill it out.

Todays topic has been a slow work in process. I’ve read and scratched out research notes and tried to compare the best sensible ideas and now… hopefully… put it into a readable format.

Todays topic is one that still mystifies me as to why, in this day and age, with the “anything goes” attitude, why it’s still so “hush hush”.

Oh the topic for today? Menopause.

menopause

**Gasp**    I know. I’m going there.

I am a pretty open straight forward person and am not put off by much. To me, it’s simply one more natural part of life.

Well, for women that is. Yet even in todays “whatever goes” world this is still treated in hushed silence with an overarching attitude that says this topic should only be quietly discussed behind closed doors… and certainly not around… men.

Guys, you can bow out now if you want. Or read. I’m pretty sure you have some woman in your life that will experience this.  Maybe you’ll glean something useful.

How did I get started on this topic ? It’s certainly something I personally haven’t given much thought too. I mean, I know at some point it will happen. I’m just to busy living life to think much about it.

However, I’ve had a few women reach out to me asking for help/ideas… how did I deal with it etc. etc.

I’d also see posts or hear conversations with women who were quite a bit younger than me complaining of “the change” and complaining of symptoms ( peri menopause, the years preceeding menopause.)

The thing is I had nothing to offer.  I haven’t gone through it and I seemingly haven’t struggled with horrible symptoms leading up TO the big event.

Based on some things I’d read, and things my doctor had said, I was curious if my lifestyle had an impact on this.

Did a healthy diet, an appropriate weight, and regular vigorous exercise contribute to not dealing with so many of these issues that bothered women?

Obviously, I was curious and began to read and explore this thought. Perhaps, if there was truth to this, women weren’t helpless victims to symptoms but would actually have some measure of possible control over them.

Ok but first.

There’s a lot out there on this topic. I’ve tried to wade through hocus pocus stuff, weird fixes, overall “off beat” ideas, and just bring something simple and easy to digest for the average woman reading.

This is about managing symptoms women deal with, not stopping or preventing menopause.

As stated earlier, this is a natural part of life. It’s largely genetic as to when it occurs in every woman. Other factors can come into play as well as to when it occurs.  The median range in the U.S. for women to experience menopause is 51.  Although there is also an age range of 48-55.  A woman is considered menopausal when she has gone a full 12 months with no periods.

It turns out doing research, and weighing that against my own experiences, that there are things we can do to help with those annoying and sometimes, difficult symptoms.

First, a quick biology lesson.  Menopause is when a woman’s body stops producing female hormones, estrogen and progesterone and monthly cycles cease.

Peri menopause refers to the years leading up to menopause. It is during this time that women can have symptoms or problems associated with declining hormones.

When you have low estrogen ( because it’s not adequately produced) it can lead to symptoms such as hot flashes, rare periods, anxiety, bone loss, insulin resistance, and elevation of bad cholesterol.  Moodiness, low sex drive, changes in skin and hair are also other things that are reported.

Women also complain of weight gain and a slowing metabolism but that can possibly be connected to a lifestyle of inactivity.

So are there ways to keep our super power longer? Estrogen IS our super power. Are there ways to help our bodies produce it longer? Ways to supplement it naturally?

There are definitely things that a woman can be proactive in doing that can possibly help her during this time. It just requires some adjustments to her lifestyle and choices she makes.

What have I learned ?

Exercise IS important!

in fact I believe hugely important. Aside from the obvious benefits of helping maintain weight or losing it there are a plethora of other things to consider.

Exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It can help with moods and aches and pains, all common complaints of post menopausal women.

Exercise also contributes to good blood flow through the body. Regular exercise keeps blood flowing and the immune system normal. Proper body function through exercise increases the bodies hormone production naturally.   Estrogen production levels are kept normal for longer than usual.

This is important as imbalanced hormones are behind most symptoms.

Physically active women experience less stress, anxiety, and depression during this time.

Due to a decrease in estrogen women can also lose muscle mass, which can also mean a loss of strength.

Post menopausal women are also at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

This is believed to be due to the loss of estradiol during perimenopause and at the onset of menopause. Estradiol may have antioxidant properties, and the loss of this can be why oxidative stress levels rise in postmenopausal women and can ultimately lead to cardiovascular disease.

Women who are more active experience a decrease in oxidative stress due to increase in enzymatic antioxidant levels. While this might be true, it is still important to remember that problems with heart health could also be tied to the stress that many women experience around menopause due to lack of sleep, lack of understanding, and a lack of a solid support system. Regardless, training for a healthy heart is so important.

The recommended amount of cardio exercise each week is at least 150 minutes.

Action plan:

If you don’t currently exercise consider what you might enjoy doing and begin to pursue it. If anything, start getting out for daily vigorous walks. And I don’t mean walking like you’re with grandma on a Sunday afternoon. Move quickly. Move your arms. You should really be putting some effort into it.

Add some type of strength training/weight bearing exercise to strengthen and build bones and prevent muscle loss. Women post menopause can expect to lose 2-3% of bone density in a year and physically inactive people can expect to lose 3-5% of their muscle mass after 30.  A healthy diet and exercise can help the slowing of bone mineral density. Running, walking, jumping rope, lifting weights etc are all good examples to strengthen bones and muscles.

older woman muscles

Engage a friend to get on board with you for accountability and encouragement.

Strive for 5-6 days a week of at least 30 minutes. This would easily meet the recommended 150 minutes.  Ideally, in time, you will want to increase your activity level.

Maintain a healthy weight.

All of us have a weight range that is healthy for us. Know what yours is. Being overweight or obese can not only lead to irregular ovulation but it also greatly contributes to hot flashes, the main complaint for many women.

And of course the obvious. Being over weight can lead to a host of health problems you’d rather not deal with.

Action plan:

take a critical look at how you eat and what you eat. Be aware of what your portions are. Most people greatly over estimate portion sizes of food. Aim for healthy foods as the maintain stay of your diet. Don’t be overly restrictive or it could lead to binging.

It might be helpful to record every single thing you eat for a week to see what your daily nutrition looks like. Be honest. This isn’t to beat yourself up over, rather to have as an honest tool to help you.   Use that as a guide to make improvements.

A weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week is reasonable and sustainable. Just approach it in a slow and steady manner. It’s not a track and field event to knock weight off fast.

A before picture will give you a good visual months down the road to compare your efforts to as well as taking your measurements.

Don’t smoke or drink.

ok well in general it’s just my thought that you shouldn’t do these things.  I view neither as a positive or healthy thing for the body.

However, we’re all different.

If you do drink be aware that alcohol can be a major trigger for hot flashes and can increase symptoms as the body is less tolerant to it.  Not only that, alcohol is often high in sugar and calorie content contributing to weight gain.

Smoking. Not only is it horrible for your heart and lungs and contributes to aging, consider these other things:

Women who smoke have signifigantly higher levels of infertility, difficult cycles, and early menopause.

Smoking can also increase natural menopause by 1-2 years regardless of genetics or race.

Heavy or habitual smokers may hit menopause before they are 50.

Smokers may also have more hot flashes as they transition.

Action Plan:

Smoking and drinking can not only cause adverse health effects, but it can also wreak havoc on you during peri and menopause years. Consider reducing or limiting your intake of both, or quitting all together.

Nutrition:

I could camp for awhile on this topic and just tell you how important I think it is.  Not only to your health overall but in these years of transition for your body.

A good daily “diet” not only makes you feel better, it helps with how you look, helps you to lose or maintain weight, and can help with symptoms of peri menopause.

Do you know there are foods called photo estrogens? Photo estrogen foods can stimulate natural hormone production.

Phytoestrogens are created by plants. They are not the same estrogen created by humans. Rather they are a form of xenoestrogens, which means even though they are different, they do have the ability to imitate some effects of human estrogen when in our body.

During peri-menopause some doctors recommend an increase in photo estrogen foods to counteract hormonal imbalances women begin to experience.

Antioxidant foods prevent  premature aging . Since menopause is a sign of overall aging consuming antioxidant foods can delay menopause too.

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and photo estrogens can contribute to overall better health and help stimulate natural hormone production.

Some foods to consider are:

Soy, celery, parsley, beets, apples, mushrooms, brussel sprouts,  seaweed, squash, olives, pears, plums, tomatoes, barley, wheat germ,  yams, and  black eyed peas.

Soy can also help with the reduction of bone loss during peri menopause.

Vitamin D (sunlight exposure) mimics properties of estrogen. Also, make sure you get plenty of calcium as well to help your bones 🙂

Antioxidant foods to consider are:

Red, purple and blue grapes, blueberries, red berries, nuts, dark green veggies, sweet potatoes and orange vegetables, tea, whole grains and fish.

Adequate protein is also extremely important to build and repair muscles. Make sure each meal contains at least 30% to combat hunger, prevent blood sugar spikes, and contribute to muscle growth.

Eating a healthy diet,  and eating minimal junk/sugar/high fat/sugar drinks/fast foods can go a long way to helping you feel and look good and contribute to your overall health.

Finally, it is important that you have open communication with your doctor to discuss issues or difficulties you may be having.  Some women with severe symptoms will do HRT ( Hormone Replacement Therapy) there has been much said about this in recent years so do your homework and decide if you can ride through some things or if it’s something critical to your living well that you do HRT.

Be proactive :

Lose weight. Make exercise a daily part of your life. Reduce or quit smoking. Reduce or quit drinking alcohol. Make an effort to eat healthy, nutritionally balanced foods, incorporating plenty of antioxidants and photo estrogen foods in what you eat.

In summary…  menopause is a part of life.  Women need to be prepared and not just wait for symptoms to occur. Taking care of yourself now will have long term benefits, before and after menopause, allowing you to live strong and healthy in the last third of your life.

 

 

 

The Modern Day Snake Oil

snake
This weirdly sounds like the sales pitch for products today.

 

Oh boy. I’m getting on my soap box again so buckle up boys and girls.  I try and stay off of it, but with this particular topic it’s such a rich sea of constant writing opportunities it’s just hard to not capitalize on them.

What you may be wondering is it that keeps my creative writing pot over flowing?

The world of “health” and wellness companies.  I’ve had a thing or two to say about them before. I’m sure it won’t be the last time either.

The products are sold by your next door neighbor,  the friend you do yoga with or the sweet grandmother down the street.

Once they sign up they become health and wellness experts overnight.

Actually, they just regurgitate what the company spoon feeds them in propaganda.

Listen, I’m not knocking someone who’s trying to make a few extra bucks. Their intentions are well meaning.  I know lots of people who do. I’m just suggesting you might not turn your health care over to someone who doesn’t know squat about most of the things the company tells them to promote or say.

Maybe your blood sugar is just fine and if it isn’t your neighbor isn’t the one to consult.

If you need energy maybe, perhaps, your nutrition needs adjusting and you don’t need supplements of some kind to give you “energy” ( which can translate to nothing more than “natural” speed in some products) maybe you need to lose weight to feel more energetic.

One company vendor posted a screen shot a customer had sent. The customer was proclaiming “how much energy he/she had and they hadn’t even taken their Adderol!” ( Adderol if you don’t know is a legal, controlled substance taken by many people but it’s a legal “speed”) Whatever natural thing was in the product made them feel like they had taken their meds.

That made me raise my eyebrows…a lot….well… there’s LOTS that make my eyebrows shoot off my face sometimes.

Ok well I’m getting to my main point for today. One company is huge on talking up “gut health” and telling you that you need all these products cause you’re more sickly than you realize without them. This company’s literature is loaded with all kinds of “issues” or “problems” you can have in regards to  gut health. But I must say, what’s set me off on todays tangent is something I read earlier and it was a meme that said…

“Anxiety is not all in your head. It’s actually in your gut.”

WHAT?! WHAT?!

I desperately wanted to ask if it was a “for real” post ’cause it just was so… shocking to me… disturbing.. that someone would believe that or say it. Like.. do you know anyone who has anxiety issues?  I couldn’t imagine telling the person I know who deals with  it that it was only “in their gut”.

And I guess I was disturbed that someone would be so casual about a mental condition to use it in a meme that was designed to get you to respond so they could say… “well hey! I have all these products to fix your awful gut and it will fix up your anxiety too!”

Are. You. Kidding.

It honestly bothered me all day on lots of levels.

I have done a bit of my own research on this topic… and let’s just say in a huge way the jury is still out on the topic of “gut health”.  There are lots of opinions and thoughts and there is still a lot of discussion on it.  You can find various writings and articles but like anything out there, you’ve gotta consider the sources.

Ok but first, simplified, what on God’s green earth does that REALLY mean?? Here’s my definition for you so we have something to work with here.

“Gut health is anything pertaining to your digestive working system.”

Everything we eat passes through the GI tract. The tract is lined with a thin, sticky mucous and it’s lined with millions of bacteria that live, grow and metabolize ( digesting and absorbing) in what’s considered a complex ecosystem comprised of both beneficial and harmful bacteria.

So ideally, we eat foods good for us, it processes through our amazing organized system and in the GI tract the food is broken down and nutrients are delivered via the small intestine into the blood stream.

When we feed our body good foods it operates in optimal form.

However, let’s face it. Many don’t.  Sometimes life is going on and we don’t eat as well as we should. So yes, you can have issues or problems with your “gut” ( and I really hate that word, just throwing that out there)

If eating poorly is a lifestyle then there can be many common problems that you may deal with:

Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, inflammation, cramping, indigestion etc.

Wow, that all sounds fun, right? Some people might just come to assume it’s what they have to live with, that it’s normal for them.

You really don’t have to feel that way.  And you really can keep your money and not buy the snake oil to “heal” you.

Our bodies were made to function on foods and not man made supplements. Healing your gut, for the most part, can be helped with improved nutrition and better eating habits.

Here’s a fun fact for you….within 20 minutes of eating whole healthy foods you can begin “healing your gut”  as the bacteria in your bowels divide every 20 minutes on average. Meaning what you eat either feeds your body health promoting bacteria or non healthy bacteria.

The type of food you eat is a powerful weapon for health.

And a few other tips/suggestions to get and stay healthy:

Probiotics. The natural way to get them would be through foods. Yogurt is a wonderful source, make sure to choose ones that say active or live cultures.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut also have a high level of probiotics.

Avoid use of antibiotics unless necessary. These destroy your “good” bacteria.

Eat less refined sugars.

Lower stress levels.

Exercise.

Eat a healthy daily diet.

So here’s the thing that these companies leave out. There is a small nod to diet or exercise with them.  but it’s more about “buy and use our stuff to be healthy and feel awesome.”

The list of problems their products promise to help and fix is staggering. I’m waiting to hear it cures cancer next.

Let’s keep in mind, at the end of the day, they are a marketing company and everyone is out to make money.

They aren’t telling you that good nutrition should be your goal.  They aren’t telling you exercise will help you have energy, change your lab results, or help with your moods.

They are saying… hey, eat what you want and use our products to help you….why should you have to change?

If you don’t change your behaviors and your eating habits there is no product that is going to fix those problems and the only thing you’ll lose is your money to the snake oil salesman.

Rant now over.

Carbs Are Not The Enemy

Say that with me boys and girls…. “carbs are not the enemy”.

Ah, you don’t have to look to far now days to find some diet hype, “health” company or  other nonsense touting the evilness of carbs and some diet dogma that says they should be avoided like the plaque.

“Cut carbs!”  “Low carbs!”  “No carbs!”

Listen up. Carbs don’t make you fat. Eating to much makes you fat. You can gain weight with to much protein and healthy fats.

Bottom line, take in to many calories from anything and at the end of the day if you’ve taken in more than you use, you won’t lose and will eventually gain if it’s a consistent thing.

Carbohydrates provide our body with energy.  Glucose is the form of sugar our brain uses. We need a certain amount of it to fuel all of our metabolic processes so we have energy to do everything from breathe to run.

Pretty much anything we do in our day.

Cut out enough of carbs in your day and you’ll be the lucky recipient of brain fog and feeling off and lethargic.

I’ve pushed myself that hard before ( not on purpose) but yikes, it’s amazing how awesome I feel when I get some good carbs on board!

But first…before we go any further… a brief science explanation on carbs. You see not all carbs are created equal, by any means.

There are two types actually.  Are you ready to learn ?

cake pastries in bakery typical from Spain

Simple Carbs. These really are the ones you should strive to “cut out” or at least really minimize them in your daily nutrition plan.  Simple carbs are found in things like cookies, pastries, candies, breads, muffins, sweet drinks, white bread, sugary cereals, chips, sodas, donuts, etc

Simple carbohydrates are made up of a short chain of molecules that require little breakdown and go directly into the blood stream ( this will cause a blood sugar spike)

This is why you can feel that slump or let down after having that afternoon snack from a vending machine.

Any simple carb/ sugar has no redeeming quality or nutritional value. If you’re going to “cut carbs” these are the ones you should be chopping away at.

 

complex pic

Complex Carbs.

Complex carbs have a longer chains of carbon molecules so it takes longer for your body to break them down.  This means sugar isn’t dumped into our blood steam keeping us from having those “crashing” moments we get from simple carbs. This means we get a steady state of sugar into our blood stream for more longer lasting ( steady) energy.

Complex carbs are found in tons of foods we need and that are GOOD for us.

complex carbs
This isn’t a complete list but it gives you some good ideas!

 

Remember simple carbs wont fill you up and are easy to over eat on.

Complex carbs fill you up and hang out in your body longer.  With your good carbs you should also make sure you have protein and healthy fats alongside it for a solid meal so your body can function at a high level.

“Cutting carbs” can be a good thing if it means you’re not drinking soda or snacking on cookies and donuts.

Many forget that food items like milk, dairy, fruits, veggies, whole grains,  all have carbs and are loaded with vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need for good health.

For a reference point, over half your daily calories should come from good quality complex carbs. This will ensure your brain and body have the good energy they need to get you through the day 🙂