Menopausal Middle-Aged Spread

My younger self listened to middle-aged women blaming their weight gain on the menopause..

‘I used to be six stone wet through, Sandra. Now I can’t breathe near a cake without gaining three stone!’

I deluded myself that ‘mid-life-spread’ wouldn’t happen to me because I’d always been relatively slim. I assumed I’d be one of those skinny old biddies like Dot Cotton off Eastenders, only shorter.

Before I go any further, this isn’t about ‘fat shaming’ because I admire plus size women who are body positive. I follow a few on social media and they look fabulous! They certainly know how to work those curves! However, I’ve also noticed that those women are not of menopausal age and here’s the thing:

Being menopausal and obese is a disease waiting to happen.

‘When you’re over 50 you have to pay attention to your health a bit’ ~ Dawn French

So, Mother Nature has taken the piss YET AGAIN because after tormenting me with 31 years worth of painful periods and psychotic mood swings, I’m now hauling an extra stone around with me every day – most of it around my middle.

I struggle with how being overweight makes me feel and being hyper-sensitive is probably the reason for this.

Why do we put on weight after the menopause?

  • Women are generally less active than before so muscle mass turns to fat.
  • Menopausal women are more prone to stress which produces high levels of cortisol. This causes us to put on weight around our middles resulting in the ‘muffin top’ effect.
  • Metabolism changes at menopause. It’s slower, so we have to put more effort in to burn fat.
  • Lifestyle habits such as comfort eating our way through family size bags of Revels and downing five gins a day.

‘So what do I have to do?’

It’s simple.

Exercise more, eat less and reduce your sugar intake.

Reduce sugar? Don’t swear at me!

Sugar (and fat) is what makes food addictive. Nobody comfort eats salad, right? However, overdoing it comes at a cost to our health. For this reason, I am concerned about the ‘eat what you want, as much as you want and fuck everybody who says otherwise yolo’ ethos of the body positive movement because it has serious consequences for menopausal women who have lost the protection their hormones once gave them. It in our long-term interests to be (and maintain) a healthy weight.

‘But-but-but I can’t live without five sugars in my tea!’

The current guidelines state that sugar shouldn’t take up more than 5% of our daily calorie intake. I know it’s hard and I haven’t ditched the sugar altogether, but I have reduced it drastically and that’s partly because blood sugar spikes trigger my palpitations.

‘Rightio. I’ll use sweeteners then.’

Sweeteners are an option, yes, but they can have side effects, especially for IBS sufferers, so do your research and see what works for you.

The Educational Stuff

Refined carbs such as white bread, potatoes, alcohol, biscuits, cakes and sugary drinks need to be limited because they make blood-sugar go bonkers and over a period of time this will lead to insulin resistance.

Blood sugar levels are regulated by eating unrefined whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Boring as fuck, but necessary, as complex or unrefined carbohydrates are processed slowly over a longer period of time and require a small amount of insulin for metabolism. Personally, I can’t get as excited over brown rice as I do a plate of chips, but there you go..

So it’s not just as simple as limiting calorie intake. It’s no use eating 1200 calories if there are all refined carbs. This is where the word ‘balanced’ comes in. If we can eat a balanced diet with reduced calories, we will reap these benefits.

  • Clearer skin
  • More energy
  • Better concentration
  • Fewer hot flushes
  • Reduction of PMS
  • Improved sleep
  • Fewer mood swings
  • Better mental health
  • Fewer urges to stab people
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle mass
  • Less bloating

Tempting huh?

So, I downloaded a calorie counting app on my phone and set my limit to 1200 calories a day for a loss of 2lb a week and the result is that a week later I’ve lost 4lbs!

It’s amazing (not to mention alarming) just how many calories I’ve been shovelling into myself without realising it. It’s no wonder I am a stone overweight!

‘A stone? Big deal!’

I know it may not sound a massive amount, but it’s relative, because I’m 5ft 1 inches small AND I have sensory processing issues. That one stone might as well be five in my world and I REALLY struggle with how it feels!

Would it surprise you to know that I struggled with pregnancy for this reason? I was COLOSSAL with all three of my boys. Needless to say, I whinged throughout each pregnancy.

Again, it was Mother Nature having her little joke because there was no way she was going to allow me (a 6lb baby) to produce 6 lb babies of my own. Oh No. I had to heave 8 and 10 pounders out of my vagina. I mean, ffs!!!

So, everyone has their ‘perfect weight’ where they feel wonderful and healthy and the world is full of unicorns and sunbeams. Mine appears to be eight and a half stone – so that’s what I’m aiming for.

Basically, once menopause hits, we have to rethink our lifestyle or risk the proverbial shit hitting the fan health-wise, and by ‘shit’, I mean heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

That’s the reality.

Yes, some women can eat what they like, drink what they like and smoke 100 fags a day and the bastards will live to be 100, but they are the exception, not the rule. Plus, what’s the point of longevity if you’re too ill to enjoy it?

Fuck it, Mildred. Lets get drunk and eat lots of cake!

It’s simple really.

  • Do more.
  • Eat less.
  • Eat healthily
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Reduce refined carbs
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol
  • Lower stress levels

The quality (and longevity) of our lives is in our hands now. According to Super Genes: ”Only 5% of disease-related gene mutations are fully deterministic, while 95% can be influenced by diet, behavior, and other environmental conditions.

We can kid ourselves that life is too short while we are scoffing our fourth chocolate digestive in a row and necking treble brandies, but the reality is that we are potentially the ones shortening it by making poor lifestyle choices.

The key word to mid-life health is moderation. A cake once a week won’t hurt you. Nor will the odd glass of alcohol. It’s when they are consumed in excess that the harm is done. Even the smallest of tweaks to our lifestyle will make a difference and one tweak generally leads to another as we begin to feel fabulous, right?

Viva la menopause!

Changing Your Diet Could Help With Anxiety

In England about 4.7 in 100 people suffer from anxiety, 2.6 from depression and 9.7 from depression combined with anxiety. That’s shit loads of people. Overall, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem this year and I am a one in four because I suffer from generalised anxiety disorder.

What you may not realise is that diet can make symptoms worse..

Anxiety isn’t necessarily caused by our diet but it can definitely make the symptoms worse. When it comes to anxiety eating healthily really does make a difference.

Before I got carted off to A&E with my epic (I’M DYING) panic attack, I’d noticed that I was getting palpitations after eating my daily Kit-Kat (four-fingers) and a pint of real ale would have me waking up at 2am with a 10/10 scale panic attack. The night I was taken to hospital, I’d downed a take-away and a pint of 7% beer. Not excessive by any means but a) I’m a lightweight and b) I was on the brink of nervous exhaustion due to the amount of adrenalin that had been surging through my body over the previous two years. There is NO doubt that it triggered the panic attack.

It makes sense to avoid foods which could be making your anxiety worse.

Such as:

Alcohol

Relaxes you initially but you wake up at 3am with a gob like a flip-flop because you are dehydrated. Dehydration can trigger a panic attack. Alcohol also mucks about with the serotonin levels in your brain which makes things worse once the alcohol has worn off.

Caffeine

It’s a stimulant so it makes your heart beat faster and can give you palpitations. It’s a known anxiety stimulant. Remember Tweak in South Park? One cup a day preferably in the morning is OK for most people but anything more than that is a panic attack waiting to happen. I’m an all or nothing type of girl so I’ve given it up completely and I have to say that some of the decafs on the market aren’t too bad at all!

Fried Foods

I noticed that I felt iffy after trawling my way through a full English and now I understand it’s because the digestive system has to work it’s arse off to digest it all. OOPS!

Sugar

AVOID! AVOID! AVOID!

Naturally occurring sugars are fine but the nasty white refined stuff will have you hyperventilating into a paper bag before you can say ‘One lump or two?’

Dairy Products

Dairy isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things but when it comes to anxiety it can raise your adrenalin levels so if you’re already ‘buzzed off your baps’ it’s not rocket science to understand how eating a lot of dairy can contribute to your anxious state. I’ve ditched the cheese but can recommend the vegan cheese-less cheese slices which are relatively palatable with some imagination.

Acid Forming Foods

Acid forming foods play havoc with your magnesium levels. Many people are deficient in this mineral due to food processing. Low magnesium levels can also contribute to anxiety and many people say that taking a magnesium supplement greatly improves their symptoms. Some even say that it makes them disappear completely but low magnesium levels can cause the same symptoms anxiety.

That’s the depressing part but it’s worth looking at what you are ingesting to feel less anxious. As Del Boy says, ‘You know it makes sense, Rodney!’

So what can you eat and drink to make you feel a bit calmer?

Herbal Teas

Chamomile, Lemon Balm and Valerian are all calming drinks. Be careful with Green Tea though.. It has numerous health benefits but it’s also a stimulant, so make sure you drink it decaffeinated.

Fresh Fruit

Fruit will give you the energy you need without the buzz that sugar gives you. Bananas are also a good source of magnesium.

Vegetables

They make you fart but farting ‘trumps’ a panic attack any-day of the week. See what I did there?

Tryptophan

Foods such as poultry, oats, dates, fish, peanuts, sunflower seeds, soy and chickpeas are rich in Tryptophan which is known to reduce anxiety.

Water

Most of us are dehydrated and dehydration nearly always leads to anxiety symptoms so increasing how much you drink will improve things. I’ve found that knocking back a glass of Lancashire tap settles my palpitations down a treat.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Evidence suggests that Omega 3 is important for anxiety so Flaxseed oil, fish like salmon and tuna are good for you. Your house will stink like Grimsby Docks but your body will adore you for it. I also take a supplement and as well as the improvement in my anxiety, I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t feel as ‘foggy’.

Supplements

Magnesium

Magnesium is a calming mineral. It supports the nervous system and helps to prevent anxiety. In my opinion it definitely helps so I take a daily supplement to make sure I’m getting enough.

B Vitamins

B12 is the most common, but all B vitamins may have an effect on anxiety. B-vitamins play a strong role in the nervous system, so studies indicate that supplementing B vitamins could also improve anxiety outlook.

A word of caution about B Vitamins

I was taking a B vitamin complex until I realised that it was increasing my anxiety and I learned that Vitamin B6 is used in most energy supplements because it can increase the production of various energizing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It’s better to take it in the morning and with food.

The general function of norepinephrine is to mobilize the brain and body for action

When you are in a state of anxiety, your body is permanently ready for action so pumping more of this stuff into your body is going to increase anxiety levels. However, everybody is different in how things affect their body so the best idea is to see how it affects you and adjust the strength accordingly or leave them off altogether until you’re body isn’t constantly flooded with adrenalin and cortisol.

Cutting out the crap and eating more healthily will not cure your anxiety but I can assure you that it will improve how you feel. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar etc are all known to worsen anxiety and trigger panic attacks so removing those from your diet means less triggers to deal with. Less triggers means less adrenalin and cortisol. Try it. You may feel worse to begin with as withdrawal from any addictive substance makes you feel like you’re coming off crack (not that I know) but after a while you should notice an improvement. You will also notice that your skin is clearer and you don’t have ‘brain fog’.

I know how comforting food can be. My heart has soared many a time over the glorious sight of a Yorkie bar hiding at the back of the cupboard but I’ve also learned that those few minutes eating sugar-laden goodies isn’t worth the ambulance ride at 5am in the morning. If you want to get better, I strongly suggest you cut out the stimulants. This is not to say that you can never enjoy these things again. Once your body recovers and is no longer releasing stress hormones 24/7, you will be able to snaffle the odd doughnut and cappuccino again without it being a problem.

Until then, do the right thing by your bod, eh?