By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Our health is important at every age, but especially as we get older. In my experience with clients and Guided Reboot participants, I find that postmenopausal women have a shift in what works for their bodies (as compared to what used to work when it comes to weight management) and that we need to take a few extra steps to promote optimal wellness.
A lot of the changes that happen during postmenopause occur due to the change in hormones, like estrogen, insulin and cortisol amongst others, which can affect all areas of wellness including sleep and metabolism. So the overall approach that I take with women during this time in their lives is to help promote hormone balance, satiety and weight management as well.
I’ve found that there are a few really important things to consider and practice, so I’ve highlighted 7 important points for you below.
This is by far the most important thing that I find with women in this time of life. Way back when, it may have worked to eat two meals daily with hours in between and maintain weight. Now, due to changes in estrogen, cortisol (stress hormone) and insulin production, it’s important to keep blood sugar steady by eating every 3-5 hours. When blood sugar is constantly rising and falling and rising and falling, it can become difficult for the body to maintain weight. So, start watching your meal and snack timing.
Okay, now that you know you should be eating more often, that doesn’t mean you can jump into the bag of potato chips. Instead of choosing empty foods that digest quickly, aim to balance blood sugar by eating foods that contain fiber (i.e. whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fruit), healthy fat (avocado, nuts, seeds, and nut butters), and protein (lean animal-based protein, low fat dairy, organic tofu, nuts/seeds) at each meal and snack. This will help to keep you feeling satisfied and satiated and will also help to keep your blood sugar in check too.
Exercise and movement can not only help to reduce cortisol levels, which when high can correlate to adrenal fatigue and belly fat, but it may also have indirect benefits like promoting healthy sleep and healthy bone density. Aim for at least 20-30 minutes five times weekly (or more). Here’s a few simple fitness hacks to help you get moving more easily: 13 Simple Fitness Hacks for Better Health.
Healthy fats help to reduce inflammation in our bodies – that includes in our blood vessels, in our joints, our brains and more; and they also help to keep us feeling fuller for longer, and will help to keep blood sugar balanced too. Choose plants with a deep rich color like beets, kale, berries (the deeper the color the more anti-inflammatory compounds it contains), and healthy fats like avocado, nuts, olive oil/avocado oil, fatty fish. Skip the processed foods; they can over time contribute to inflammation.
There’s tons of stuff I find that women take postmenopause to balance hormones, but the thing that I find is often forgotten is balancing hormones through food and healthy living practice. Choose some of the following foods/exercises:
Environmental toxins are a big issue when it comes to hormonal balance and overall well-being. Let’s get real; most of the stuff we live in and amongst these days are made from plastics, and plastics (BPA-free or not) can affect hormonal balance, and may increase the toxic load in our bodies, which over time may be detrimental to health. Start by cleaning out your collection of soaps and detergents, switch to glass containers, and try to make your shampoos and conditioners chemical-free.
Sleep is SO important for health, but especially as we get older. Brain health is hugely dependent on the amount of sleep we get, and hormonal balance is too. When we don’t get enough sleep it can increase cortisol (stress-hormone) levels that can further impact blood sugar control (Hint: we want our blood sugar to be in check to promote healthy weight), and hunger hormones; research suggests that not getting enough sleep can affect our satiety hormones and may contribute to excess consumption of calories.
The take-home message is that we have refocus once we are in the postmenopausal phase to promote longevity through sleep and a healthy environment, move our bodies and aim to eat cleaner, more balanced food more often.