Archive for Menopause

Health Tip of the Day

Dr. Oz says “desserts are metabolic suicide! ” To reduce that middle age spread cut out the sweets.  Okay, too extreme for you?  Then shoot for one of Michael Pollen’s food rules, “snacks and sweets on days that begin with S.” (Pollen, Food Rules).

Dr. Andrew Weill says, “contrary to what many women believe, menopause doesn’t lead to weight gain. Instead, the drop in estrogen redirects the process of fat storage in women from the hips to the abdomen.  But the weight gain so many women experience after menopause can’t be blamed entirely on hormonal changes. The fact is, as we get older, we need fewer calories because there’s a shift in body composition from lean muscle mass to fat and a consequent slowdown in metabolism. If you want to maintain your weight as you get older and avoid weight gain, you have to cut back your food intake by about 200 calories per day; this applies to men as well as women. The other part of the equation is exercise. ” (Menopause Re-arranges Women’s Fat)

Not that easy you say. So what else can you do? If you want the full explanation of what causes belly fat and what other tips you can take to lose it, go to my blog article: What Causes Middle Age Spread?



How Stress Causes Belly Fat and That Middle Age Spread

young-woman-trying_~IS098T7U9A chronic complaint I hear from my female clients is “why is my middle getting thicker all of a sudden? Did you notice once you hit your mid 40’s it seemed like overnite, you gained weight around the belly area!

I’ve read an enormous amount of material on mid-life belly fat weight gain and now know there are a number of causal factors involved, including hormone imbalance from perimenopause and sleep deprivation, diet and exercise, and gravity but the one major causal factor that I just couldn’t wrap my head around was the stress factor. I know stress increases cortisol and increased levels of cortisol in the blood cause weight gain in the abdominal fat cells. But why? Call me crazy but this kind of stuff keeps me awake at nite! I had to understand how this could physiologically happen and I wanted to be able to explain it to anyone in a way that they (and I, myself) could understand. It seems like everything I read left off certain connect the dots points for me.

On my flight back home from a lovely and much needed vacation in the Dominican Republic I pulled out my work/reading materials and low and behold in the February IDEA Fitness Journal was a complete comprehensive article that broke this down for me with an explanation I could finally grasp! Without getting too scientific, I will try and share a simple version of it here with you.

First you need to know there are two types of body fat. Subcutaneous body fat is fat which is just under the skin; i.e. fat on your face, arms, chest. Visceral or central body fat occurs in the intra-abdominal area of the body and has much greater blood flow and more glucocorticoid receptors. (sorry, a little scientific, I know). But you need to know that these receptors regulate the fat accumulation effects of cortisol and are four times more concentrated in visceral fat than in subcutaneous fat. To simplify, just think of these receptors as key holes and cortisol is the key that fits. There are a lot of keyholes in the belly area.

When we are under chronic stress (i.e. pressures, strains, boredom at work, our own mid-life mental and physical crises, ageing/ailing parents, children’s college expense, family/life/relationship problems, empty nest syndrome, computer problems, traffic jams,financial worries and retirement planning-aye yie yie!), the brain triggers a chain of command that ultimately causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol. If the chronic stress (real or perceived) does not wind down, elevated levels of cortisol remain in the blood stream and also lead to daily increases of cortisol secretion. Cortisol is known to stimulate appetite and with the help of elevated insulin levels (which happens when you eat those simple carbs-like bread, crackers, sweets, pizza), the enzyme lipoprotein lipase is activated. This enzyme facilitates the deposition of fat and inhibits the breakdown of fat (triglycerides) so voila! Instead of burning off fat you store more fat. And guess where? In the belly as visceral intra-abdominal fat because the fat in those cells have more receptors. Chronic stress consistently contributes to greater central fat accumulation in females. Life isn’t fair is it!

Here are some tips to reduce stress in the first place.

1) Exercise is a way to release excess stress hormones and provides a distraction from stressful situations.

2) Meditation allows the mind and emotions to quiet down and relax. Studies show that a daily meditation practice increases gray matter density in the brain which regulates emotions.

3) Practice Yoga to reduce stress and improve overall well being. A yoga practice will cultivate and maintain a balanced attitude in day to day life.

4) Eat and drink healthy food. Dehydration and hunger provoke stressful feelings and anxiety. Eating a nutritious diet and drinking water throughout the day can reduce stress. Limit intake of simple carbs.

5) Eat mindfully in a relaxed state so your para-sympathic nervous system will be at work, properly digesting and absorbing nutrients from your food. When you eat at your desk your boss may think you’re a martyr but you’ll be making more belly fat. Cortisol will be doing it’s thing and you might as well apply your lunch directly to your belly.

6) Stand and sit up straight. Poor posture leads to muscle tension, pain and increased stress. Do a posture self check regularly while sitting at your desk or when walking.

7) Breathe deeply and speak slowly. Slow down your speech and take deep belly breaths through the nose when in stressful situations. When we stop and breathe we think more clearly and slow down the sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response.

8) Practice visualization. (I visualize that beautiful Carribean Sea!) Relaxing images calm the mind and body.

9) Try Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic product from Bach Flower remedies. You can put a dropperful in your water, use the spray or take the small pellets all day long during stressful times. It is perfectly safe and non habit forming.

(IDEA, Fitness Journal, Feb 2011 pg.44-49).


Middle Age Spread-What Causes it?

why diets don't work tooDo you find no matter what you eat and how much you exercise your WAISTLINE SEEMS TO BE GETTING THICKER? You could eat braised celery and drink water and still have a pot belly. It may have nothing to do with what you are eating.

In times of STRESS, the hormone cortisol is released and when you are under a state of chronic stress, (i.e. traffic jams, work deadlines, financial worry, the Middle East turmoil!) cortisol levels remain high. Guess what increases the chance of developing excess abdominal fat? Cortisol.
SLEEP DEPRIVATION effects 2 other hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which help maintain and regulate appetite. Lack of sleep can upset the balance of these hormones and increase your hunger. Also increased cortisol interferes with sleep so it’s a vicious cycle.  Getting a good nite’s sleep is key to reducing belly fat.
As we age our hormones are readjusting and finding their new levels. HORMONE IMBALANCES can affect weight loss and reduce fat burning in a variety of ways.
But be realistic about your EXERCISE AND DIET.  As we age, we tend to slow down and are less active and therefore do not have the caloric needs of a younger more physically active person. Give Up Low-Intensity Cardio–Love to spend hours on the treadmill or elliptical machine, but haven’t really seen any weight loss results after months of workouts at the gym? You need to switch to interval training for effective fat loss. It’s been scientifically proven to burn more fat in shorter workout sessions. What is interval training? Interval training is switching up your workouts with intensely hard burst of exercise alternated with shorter periods of moderate activity. For example, you might run as fast as you can for two minutes, slow it down for another two, then go hard again. You might only need twenty minutes of interval training to burn as many calories as you did in your old slower method of cardio.

Also don’t be afraid of the weights!  Many women shy away from lifting anything but light weights, thinking if they use heavier weights they will build large, bulky muscles like men have. Nothing could be further from the truth. Women do not have enough natural testosterone to build this type of muscle. If you see women bodybuilders with huge muscles, you can bet that they had help in the form of supplements to get that way. If you switch to heavier weights, you can build more lean muscle mass, which has the effect of kick starting your metabolism to burn more calories even when you’re at rest.

You don’t have to eat twigs and grass in order to lose weight but be conscious of what you put into your body. Watch portion sizes, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks w/dinner (yes, they’re just empty calories!)  Starbucks lattes, mochachinos and Jamba juice drinks and very high in calories. Do you drink can-after-can of diet soda thinking it’s much healthier for you than regular soda is? Do you drink very little water? Do you buy diet foods thinking that will be the solution for weight loss? Check the labels-most often when they take out the fat they put in added sugar which causes weight gain.   Love to eat over-processed foods containing white sugar, white flour or white rice? If so, it’s time to review what goes into your body on a regular basis. You need to think of food as fuel for your body.  Put high test fuel in your gas tank!   Lose the sodas, drink plenty of water and get over-processed foods that add nothing in the way of fiber, vitamins or minerals out of your diet. Go for foods in as natural a state as possible–fruits; vegetables; whole grains; heart-healthy oils such as olive and extra virgin unrefined coconut oil (which actually helps you lose belly fat); and lean, unprocessed meats need to make up the bulk of your diet.