Why is nourishing your body important during the peri-menopause, menopause and beyond?
What goes into your mouth is going to have a profound effect on how you feel. But it’s not always easy to control this, especially when your hormones are having a say in what you want to eat.
If you’ve read our article on sleep, you will have learned how sleeping problems can result in unbalanced levels of ghrelin and leptin. These are the hormones that affect your appetite and how full you feel. This can make you excessively hungry and can cause you to experience strong food cravings. In other words, your body is forcing you to eat when you don’t need to.
Your insulin levels are also raised through lack of sleep, pushing excess glucose into your fat cells for storage.
Cortisol is raised when you experience ongoing physical or mental stress — and remember, lack of sleep is a huge stress on your body and mind. High cortisol levels encourage fat gain around your midsection.
So, as you can see, if you want weight loss to occur, you need to practice better sleeping habits, and you need to effectively manage your stress levels. These are your foundations for weight management.
What you eat, however, also plays a big part in your weight and how you feel. As well as tackling sleep and stress, you also need to make changes to your diet. Our focus here is about changing eating habits as opposed to going on a diet.
Dieting has its place and if you have found a diet that works for you and you’re maintaining a healthy weight and feel good, that’s great. You’ve found something that works for you. However, putting your body through the stress of diet after diet can have a negative impact on both your weight and you’re well-being.
What Should I be Eating?
Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair, as well as stabilising blood sugar and promoting a feeling of fullness. It can also increase your metabolism and help you lose fat faster.
Your body has to work hard to break down protein. Much harder than it does for carbohydrates or dietary fats. So, when you’re digesting protein, your body has to expend more energy (or calories).
Protein also helps stabilise your blood glucose levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream. This happens for the same reason we just discussed above. Protein requires a lot more energy from your body to break it down, and it’s therefore a slower process. That slowness will help you with feeling full too. Lowering your insulin levels helps prevent cravings and the need for other foods.
Good sources of dietary protein include eggs, chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, fish, cottage cheese, beans and pulses.
Carbohydrates are found in all fruits and vegetables, all bread and grain products, and in sugar and sugary foods.
These are basically sugars. All simple carbohydrates are made of just one or two sugar molecules. They’re the quickest source of energy for your body because they’re very rapidly digested. It’s important to be aware of all of the aliases sugar may be hidden by:
- Hydrolysed starch
- Invert sugar
- Corn syrup
- Brown sugar
- Crystalline fructose
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Rice/maple/malt/golden/palm syrup
- Corn sweetener
- Raw sugar
Watch out for these on your food labels.
These are often rich in fibre, and are therefore satisfying and health promoting. Complex carbohydrates are commonly found in whole plant foods, so they’re also high in vitamins and minerals.
Food sources of complex carbohydrates include:
- Fibrous vegetables (cougettes, asparagus, carrot, broccoli etc)
- Grains and foods made from them, such as oatmeal, pasta, rice, bread and cereals
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and pumpkin
- Beans, lentils, and peas
However not all complex carbohydrates are created equal. Processed and refined carbs like white bread, white rice, pasta and packaged cereals are still considered complex carbohydrates, but they’re much less healthy and are more quickly broken down into your bloodstream than their less processed counterparts (foods like quality wholemeal bread, brown or basmati rice and wholemeal pasta). Always choose the least processed kind where possible.
Fruit is a simple carbohydrate, but is considered healthy because of the vitamins and fibre most fruits contain.
Your body needs fat for your hormones to function optimally. If you’re trying to lose weight it may sound wrong to be eating foods high in fat. This is from years of us being conditioned towards low-fat diets.
Eating healthy fats in the right amounts will help provide you with a long-term supply of energy, which helps you make it through your day.
Fat is broken down slowly, so it helps prevent hunger between meals. It only takes a small amount of fat with your meals to make a huge difference in how full you feel.
Fats you should be eating
Omega 3 fatty acids are known to have many health benefits, ranging from heart health and cholesterol and triglyceride regulation to playing a major role in brain health, including the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids come from both animal and plant sources. The primary animal sources are krill oil and fish oil. The primary plant sources are flaxseed, chia, hemp and walnuts.
Omega 3 fats are considered ‘essential’ because your body will not produce them on its own. So unless you consume them in your diet, you won’t be getting enough. Most people are believed to be Omega 3 deficient.
In addition to eating fatty fish such as salmon and sardines on a regular basis, the easiest way to make sure you’re getting enough Omega 3 fats in your diet is to take a good quality supplement Super Omega-3 EPA
Extra Virgin Olive oil is another truly beneficial oil and is very high in monounsaturated fats. It also contains a modest amount of vitamins E and K.
Saturated fats come from animals in the form of animal meat, butter, cream and cheese. This is what we were warned against eating for years but now research is showing that it is not these fats that are causing heart disease and high cholesterol. An excess of trans-fats and over-eating of refined carbohydrates as well as a deficiency of vitamins and minerals are now thought to blame.
Fats to Avoid
Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. They’re also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats can be found in many store-bought foods, including fried foods like doughnuts, and baked goods like cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, frozen pizza, biscuits, crackers, and margarines and other spreads.
How do I start making changes?
It’s important you find the right way to approach changing your eating habits.
Firstly, we recommend you implement the following 6 habits:
- Hydration – 2 litres of water per day
- Appetite control – make lean healthy protein part of every meal and feel fuller for longer
- Beware of sugar – fat does not make you fat, sugar makes you fat!
- Increase your vegetables – they are so good for you, try new things, get creative
- Tasty healthy snacks – if you need to snack, plan your snacks like you do your meals
- Size IS important – it’s all about portion size, learn to listen to when your body is full
‘6 Habits’ is about changing your approach to eating forever, one building block at a time! By focusing on one thing each week, you can make it a habit and we all know how well food habits stick. A lot of issues people have with their diet are the bad habits that have been formed over years of eating. However, habits can be changed.
We’ll be sharing more on our 6 habits nutrition programme within the Members’ Club.
It’s also a good idea to set yourself some daily rules to follow if you don’t want to be focused on tracking, weighing and calculating your calories for every meal:
Example Daily Rules:
- Drink 4 pints of water
- Eat protein with every meal
- Have one meal a day which doesn’t include processed white carbs such as bread/pasta/rice/potatoes etc.
- Avoid sugary snacks and processed sugar
- Include vegetables with every meal
I use a daily tracker and I tick off which of the rules I’ve stuck to for the day. At the end of each week I’m able to see an honest picture of what my diet has been like. It helps me focus on what I need to address for the following week.
- Cook and eat REAL food – most days, most of the time.
- Eat a nutrient dense diet – quality over quantity – get everything from your diet and the right supplements to eliminate cravings
- Eat lots of anti-oxidants (found in fruit and vegetables) – they mop up free radicals and are therefore anti-cancer and essential for healing
- Ensure adequate protein to ensure you feel full and support your body
- Make vegetables the star of the show – eat lots and a wide variety of vegetables. They are full of fibre and essential vitamins and minerals
- Contrary to common thinking, we need to be eating good fats and avoiding sugar, not the other way around.
- Add smoothies with vegetables and seeds/nuts as well as fruit – a great, fast, easy way to nourish your body
- Realise that every meal.snack is either a move towards or away from healing and wellness – your nutrition has the ability to make or break you!
- Stay hydrated – 1.5-2 litres of water a day is optimal
- Aim to eat only beautiful food – food that brings you joy!