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Health and Weight Management During Menopause

The hormonal changes of menopause can result in mood swings, urinary incontinence, hot flashes and osteoporosis.  It can also lead to weight gain.  Excess body weight can result in cardiovascular disease, breathing problems, type 2 diabetes, and cancer such as breast, colon and endometrial cancer.  However, being attentive to healthy eating and exercise behaviors will help prevent what many women struggle with.

What causes weight gain during menopause? 

Muscle mass diminishes with age, while body fat percentage increases.  As muscle mass is reduced the rate at which your body burns calories is reduced making it much more difficult to maintain optimal body weight.  Most women continue to eat the same amount of food as they always have which leads to increased weight.  In addition, hormonal changes that occur during menopause can make you gain extra weight in the abdominal area.

Tips for menopause:

  • Consume bone strengthening nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K. Although you can always get calcium in supplement form it is best to look for food sources.  Aim for 1,200 mg daily which is equal to four servings of dairy.  Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables.  Most women will need to take a supplement to get enough vitamin D.  Daily vitamin D requirements are 600 IU for those over 50 years of age and 800 IU for those over 70.  You may need additional supplements depending on your blood lab values.
  • Tame hot flashes: There is some evidence that soy may help with hot flashes and night sweats because they contain a weak form of estrogen called isoflavones.  It may also be helpful to limit caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods.
  • Exercise daily to support cardiovascular health and maintain healthy weight.
  • Participate in strength training exercises two times per week to maintain bone density and muscle mass.
  • Eat less. Since your metabolic rate slows down as you age you will need about 200 calories less each day when you are in your 50’s compared to when you where in your 40’s.  One way to eat less is to consume a high fiber diet because fiber helps keep you full.  Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol because alcohol contain excess calories and therefore contributes to weight gain.
  • Make sleep a priority. Hormonal changes from sleep deprivation result in weight gain.
  • Eat a nutritious diet with whole foods instead of foods that are processed or high in fat, sugar or sodium.
  • Get social support. Have a team of friends and family that understand what you are going through.

Successfully managing menopause takes focus and commitment.  Seek help from an experienced Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist to problem solve and strategize a plan of action.

Beat the Winter Blues

winter bluesDo you tend to feel more depressed, anxious or moody during the winter season?  Many feel some degree of winter blues which typically starts in October and ends in April.  Sensitivity to light deprivation causes a disruption in circadian rhythm which is our internal body clock.  Sensitivity level depends on genetics, geographical location and individual brain chemistry.  Some suffer from a more severe type of winter sadness called Seasonal Affective Disorder which requires treatment from a mental health professional.  For less severe symptoms of the winter blues there are many tips to help you cope.

  • Expose yourself to daylight. Open blinds and curtains to all windows and if possible sit near a window at work.
  • Use a light therapy box. This is a special light that mimics natural outdoor light to trigger brain chemicals that improve mood.  Sit a few feet from the light box within the first two hours of waking up.
  • Get outside. Even if it is cold or cloudy it is important to spend some time outdoors.  This is especially helpful within the first two hours of awakening.
  • Manage your stress. Learn what techniques you respond to.  This may include listening to music, talking to a friend, taking a relaxing bath or reading a book.
  • Get adequate sleep. Sleep is the time our body has to replenish itself and make brain chemicals that make us happy.  Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep daily.
  • Use relaxation techniques. Yoga, tai chi and mediation are effective at relieving stress.
  • Exercise daily. Exercise is a powerful tool to improve mood because it increases blood flow to the brain, releases energizing hormones and stimulates endorphins that make us feel good.  All forms of physical activity are beneficial so take a walk, lift weights or take a Zumba class.
  • Eat nutritious meals. Maintain a steady production of blood sugar levels and neurotransmitters by eating regular meals that consist of protein and carbohydrate.
  • Spend time with your pet. Pets have a profound effect on our brain chemistry by increasing oxytocin which is another brain chemical that makes us feel happy.  If you do not have a pet, a visit to a local animal shelter would be very much appreciated for a homeless animal.

It is important to manage your winter blues because it can result in fatigue, weight gain from stress induced eating or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Hints to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

holiday-weight-gain-1The holidays are a wonderful time to gather with friends and family.  However, gatherings often lead to unwanted pounds.  How will you handle the challenge the holiday season brings with a hectic schedule and endless choices of high calorie foods?  The good news is that there are strategies that can help to control stress and keep your weight on track.

  • Maintain a regular exercise schedule. It may be tempting to skip your workout to accommodate a busy to do list but regular exercise is important to stay fit and control stress.
  • Maintain a regular eating schedule. This means to avoid skipping meals.  If you skip a meal and go to a holiday feast you are setting yourself up to overeat.
  • Bring a healthy dish to a party so you have a low calorie option. For example, a vegetable tray is a great substitution for typical party appetizers.
  • Take the edge off your hunger by having a high fiber snack before leaving for a party. Fiber helps keep you full.  An apple or a pear can do just the trick.
  • When you first arrive at a gathering drink two glasses of water before eating.
  • Start holiday meals with a plate of vegetables. The idea is to get full on low calorie foods so you will not overeat calorie rich foods such as casseroles and desserts.
  • Be careful with drinks. Alcoholic beverages are high in calories so drink calorie free beverages such as water or seltzer.
  • Control your serving sizes by using a dessert plate for your meal. This encourages you to reduce portion sizes.  Be careful not go back for second helpings.
  • Reduce temptations by avoiding hanging around the food table.
  • For high calorie foods aim to have just a taste or half of what is served.
  • Slow down when you eat by putting your fork down between bites.
  • Leave some food on your plate. There is no rule that says you have to “clean your plate”.
  • Learn that is it ok to say no to a food from a well meaning relative. You are the one who decides what to put in your body.
  • When you attend a party find a way to avoid sitting for the majority of the time. However, sit down and enjoy your meal when you are ready to eat.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule so you do not get overtired. When we are not getting enough sleep the body gives us a signal to eat more food.

holiday-weight-gainA holiday survival plan includes physical activity, healthy eating and adequate rest.  You have the power to take control of your behaviors even during holidays and parties.  Eating foods in moderation is the key to prevent weight gain.  For a more personalized approach to holiday eating seek help from a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist.

Bone Health

healthy bonesHealthy bones are an important part of good health since the skeleton is the frame of our bodies and the calcium in our bones acts as a reserve for vital functions.  Women over fifty years of age are at the highest risk for a broken bone due to osteoporosis which is characterized by low bone mass and reduced bone strength.  Osteoporosis is known as the “silent disease” because many do not known they have the condition unless they have a bone density test or suffer from a fracture.  Genetic factors play a major role in the risk of osteoporosis.  The most controllable risk factors that effect bone mass are exercise, calcium and vitamin D.  This article will focus on nutrition for bone health. Continue reading

Fat Loss and Spot Reduction

body fatSpot reduction is the attempt to lose body fat from a specific area of the body by doing exercises that target the area of interest.  Although exercises performed for a particular body part will result in an increase in strength in that area, it is not possible to target fat loss to one specific location.  Another misconception is that you can turn body fat into muscle.  Muscle and fat are two different types of tissues and you can not turn one into the other.  Participation in an appropriate weight management program will result in a decrease in subcutaneous body fat and an increase in muscle tissue.  An acceptable range of body fat is 14-24% for men and 21-31% for women. Continue reading

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet fad has been around since 1975 and became popular again in 1985 and 2002. This diet is also called the Paleolithic diet, the stone age diet and the caveman diet. During the Paleolithic era (a time that ended about 12,000 years ago) the only foods that were available were those that can be hunted, fished or gathered; meat, fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruits and berries. Continue reading

Getting In Shape After Pregnancy

If you are pregnant you may be wondering how it is possible getting in shape after pregnancy is  over especially if you gained more than what was recommended. This can lead to feelings of discouragement as pregnancy continues but there are things you can do to facilitate post-partum weight loss. Continue reading

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

We all know that smoking can result in an increased risk of disease such as cancer and heart disease but did you know that sitting for too much time can also have a profound effect on your health?  Sitting can result in not only postural changes but an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

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