My menopause journey began shortly after the birth of my second child. I was 38 years of age and for the first time found myself struggling to lose the weight I had put on. I did not have any trouble losing weight after my first child at the age of 36, but in a few short years, my body was starting to change; little did I know it was the Big Change!
At the time, I considered myself to be eating well and was reasonably active. Being a mum to two young boys as well as running a business did not leave much time for exercise. Meals had to be prepared fast so for me that meant a lot of processed breakfast cereals for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta dishes in the evening.
Processed cereals included quinoa flakes with soy milk, brown bread for lunch and whole meal pasta for dinner. I was getting in my recommend 6-11 servings of bread, rice and pasta with a smattering of fruit and vegetables (sandwich fillings, pasta sauces). I was following the guidelines but knew that something was wrong.
I was tired, irritable and short tempered. No matter how much sleep I had I wanted more. I was getting bigger and bigger and was denying myself any “treats” due to my ever expanding waistline.
And then I read something that changed my life forever. As a woman’s oestrogen levels decrease, so too does her tolerance for carbohydrates. This is due to the fact that decreasing levels of estrogen lead to insulin resistance and impaired carbohydrate tolerance.
Insulin sensitivity is your body’s ability to use carbs for fuel, instead of storing them as fat. So reduced insulin sensitivity means that you’re more likely to gain weight, especially in areas you never had a problem with before menopause, aka belly fat.
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One of the easiest ways to manage decreased insulin sensitivity and avoid the weight gain that comes with it is to re-evaluate your carb tolerance and adjust your meals accordingly.
My 8 Top Reasons For Ditching Processed Carbs
1. Not all carbs are equal
Choosing other sources of carbohydrates such as fresh fruit and vegetable assists in maintaining a healthy colon. Constipation is a common complaint as women age and the fiber content found in green leafy vegetables helps to keep constipation at bay.
2. Fight fatigue
Processed carbs tend to cause a spike in your blood glucose levels, which will eventually crash; leaving you feeling fatigued, tired and drained.
3. Eat less “quick” carbs and spend more time on food quality.
As we grow older, our body requires fewer calories to sustain it. I now find myself eating less as I sit down to eat, thus leaving some of the meal to be used the following day. This saves time and allows for a lunch on the go the following day.
4. Ease hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalances are one of the most common issues that result from menopause. Certain foods contain phyto-oestrogens, which are oestrogenic compounds that regulate and restore hormonal balance. A diet rich in phyto-oestrogens helps to minimise hot flushes/flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Such foods include sunflower seeds, linseeds, sesame seeds, pumpkins seeds, celery, green beans and rhubarb.
5. Know that eating that muffin is not going to bring you happiness.
We often crave foods with associations to happy times we’ve had in the past. I am not suggesting that you have to forego treats forever. By all means enjoy a treat or two each week, but do be aware that if you are looking for a pick-me-up in the form of a chocolate cake or muffin, you will have a crash landing two hours or so later when your blood sugar levels come back down.
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6. Save money
It never ceases to amaze me when people first start buying more fruit and vegetables; the first thing they complain about is the cost. Dollar for dollar, if you cut down on the amount of processed food and increase your carbs with more fruit and vegetable I can assure you the cost is not higher at the end of the week, but rather you will save money.
7. Decrease stomach bloating
Highly processed, carbs are usually packed with artificial sweeteners, which are linked to promoting bloating and stomach discomfort when eaten in excess. Eating more green vegetables will aid in decreasing bloating. Be prepared though if you previously followed a diet low in fibre and then significantly increase your fibre intake, you may initially experience some bloating. Once your body adjusts, however, you should experience less bloating and abdominal discomfort.
8. More facts on bloating
Processed carbs often contain high sources of sodium, which causes water retention and bloating, however, potassium counterbalances sodium and has a diuretic effect. So by eating foods high in potassium such as oranges, bananas, papayas, kiwis, strawberries, spinach, rocket, and cooked beets—you can reduce bloating naturally.