Menopause: Change of Life, Change of Diet (cont.)

With night sweats, is the idea to cool off before you get in bed?

That's one strategy, definitely. The other strategy is to follow the same rules for the hot flashes so that you're increasing phytoestrogen over time in your body so your body is less likely to go through those shifts in temperature. You want to look at long-range ways of decreasing night sweats and short range, which would be to sleep cool, maybe take a cold shower before you go to bed, maybe have a light night snack that is cold, as well, which is mainly what we did in the recipes in this chapter.

You want to avoid the hot-flash trigger foods and drinks before bedtime, too, because what your body is going to be digesting around bedtime is what you had for dinner.

One quick tip is to definitely make regular exercise part of your life, because it encourages deeper, more productive sleep, which may help you sleep through some of those milder night sweats.

"If you can get to a place where you are happy and satisfied with three Hershey's Kisses or a reduced-fat Fudgesicle, that's a great place to be."

Are there any foods you should avoid; foods that make the hot flashes and night sweats and bad moods worse?

This could be a book in and of itself. It's a very complicated and interesting tie-in between what we eat and our moods. We're basically going to try to eat foods that give us nutrients that elevate our mood. Let me just kind of throw some at you.
  • Working some omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plant sources may be one of the most important ways to decrease depression and elevate mood. It's sort of a mood stabilizer. We're only now learning the extent of the relationship between omega-3s and mood.
  • You want to eat a balanced breakfast . Start your day off without starving. A nice balanced breakfast that has some good fats and some lean and low-fat proteins will last longer and keep your blood sugar more even through the morning.
  • Then we get into sort of "happy foods," or foods that boost serotonin levels in the brain. Believe it or not, this leads us mainly to eating carbohydrates . Perhaps that's why so many comfort foods include some carbohydrates in them. My suggestion is to definitely opt for the smarter carbs when possible, meaning whole grains. Pasta is actually fine in terms of glycemic index as long as it's cooked al dente. Slightly undercooking it makes the body have a harder time breaking it down, which translates into a lower glucose response. Obviously enjoy your pasta with light and healthy pasta sauce.
  • Then there's folic acid , a very, very powerful vitamin with antioxidant types of activity. You basically get your folic acid in foliage: fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoiding alcohol is a great idea. People think that drinking alcohol elevates their mood, but it's short-lived, and if you overdo it, it does the opposite.
  • I don't know about you, but I know what elevates my mood, at least in the short term, is chocolate . I don't let a day go by without a little bit of chocolate. That's the key, the word "little." If you can get to a place where you are happy and satisfied with three Hershey's Kisses or a reduced-fat Fudgesicle, that's a great place to be. You can enjoy chocolate in small amounts. A little goes a long way.
  • Selenium is a mineral that the brain depends on. We're trying to elevate our mood, so we're dealing with brain chemistry here. A few selenium rich foods are:

    1. Brazil nuts
    2. Oysters
    3. Albacore tuna
    4. Clams
    5. Sardines
    6. Pork tenderloin
    7. All salt-water fish
    8. Whole-wheat pasta
    9. Chicken
    10. Whole-grain breads
    11. Sunflower seeds
    12. Brown rice, oatmeal
    13. Tofu
    14. Pinto beans
Gaining weight seems to be unavoidable during menopause. What's the best thing we can do for ourselves to prevent that dreaded "middle-age spread?"

There's a fun chapter in the book called, "If I'm Sweating So Much, Why Aren't I Losing Weight?" The problem is, there are a few things going on for women during this time. Their metabolism is shifting at the same time their body is changing into an apple shape, if they haven't already been an apple. Your body literally starts shifting towards an apple and metabolism changes.

You don't have to roll over and play dead here. You can fight this by exercising more and doing some strength training for your muscles. This will increase your metabolic rate. You're trying to increase your metabolic rate to counteract the natural decrease that's coming with aging, thereby sort of neutralizing this.

Also, eating smaller meals through the day and eating light at night will help sort of increase your metabolism. Paying more attention to portion size is key here, because some of the women who have not had to pay attention to portion sizes earlier in life (definitely not me) now have to because of the shift, because of the changes. Now is the time to pay attention to eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're comfortable. Many people get away from this. It sounds simple, but it's something we have to re-learn.

Another key is not to diet. No "fad diets," because dieting sort of starts messing around with the eating when you're hungry, stopping when you're comfortable strategy, and I think we all know in our heart of hearts that diets don't work long term. What do make a difference are the permanent changes we make in our food choices and our lifestyle.

Let me just list a few secret weapons I talk about in my book to put the odds in your favor about weight loss and weight maintenance:

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