Menopause Minute, March 2013
The saying, “You are what you eat” is not one to be taken lightly. As a matter of fact, it’s truth! Would you like to walk around at menopause (or any time for that matter!) overweight, developing many difficulties due to the extra strain on your joints, with atherosclerotic plaque narrowing your blood vessels and elevated glucose levels slowly souring your kidneys, vision, and further adding to your coronary artery burden?
If you continue to avoid the gym and eat large portions of a simple carb/meat based diet, and snack on sugary/carby stuff, I can guarantee a life expectancy well less than your more healthy neighbors, and more hassles during the years before you finally succumb.
Even if you have been dietarily indiscreet and exercise challenged most of your life, it is never too late to teach us old dogs new tricks. A change relatively later in life will even prolong both total years and quality of life during those years.
This short article will review “…how you should eat…” and surprisingly easy ways to change eating patterns that will actually “melt away” the pounds!
What to eat / what to avoid?
Not many surprises here.
Convert for the most part to a plant-based combined with a Mediterranean-style diet. This means significantly decreasing animal fats and simple carbs. “Good stuff” includes “complex carbs.” What does this look like?
- Fruits and vegetables – Preferably fresh
- Nuts and seeds – Preferably raw or roasted
- Whole grains – Cereals, salad, fully whole-grain breads
- Rice – Preferably brown
Good Protein Sources
- Legumes – All types of beans, including soy bean products like tofu and Tempe
- Fish and shellfish – Be aware that most all shellfish is relatively high in cholesterol
- Poultry – Better without the skin. White meat has less cholesterol than dark. (Note: Watch how you prepare both fish and chicken – you’re sort of defeating the purpose if you deep-fry it)
- Meat – Try to avoid fattier cuts and limit red meat to only once or twice/week! Pork is OK, but same thing as beef – the ribs, bacon, etc are “no-no’s.” Stick to loin fillet and chops. Lamb generally has a lot of fat, but okay every once in a while.
- Mono or unsaturated oils – Olive, Safflower, “nut” oils, and vegetable oils are much better for you than butter and margarine. Substitute oils as much as you can, using only a tiny bit of butter if you must for flavor.
- Dairy products – Choose low fat or non-fat
- Eggs – These are a good protein source, but the yolks are high in cholesterol, so try using only half of the yolks (2 eggs but only one yolk) or better yet, get rid of the yolks altogether. Try and limit yolks to only 2-3/week.
Alcohol and Chocolate
Believe it or not, 1-2 alcoholic drinks/day (red wine may be the healthiest, but I’m speaking of alcohol in general here) appears to be healthier than tea totaling.
Chocolate – Dark chocolate (65-75% cacao content) is not bad, and healthier than milk chocolate, or chocolate/sweet filling combos in moderation. No more than an ounce per day.
Simple carbs (the sweet stuff really isn’t so “sweet”)
- Refined flour (which means doing away with deep-fried/breaded, bread/cake/bagels/rolls except occasionally)
- White rice
…And The Ugly:
- Refined sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Big meals
Here is the real important part:
As important as what you eat is how you eat it, specifically, portion size and number of times you eat throughout the day.
Most of us tend to eat at “mealtimes,” and eat ‘til we’re full, right? What I’m advocating, and the science is behind it, is a different pattern of eating – one which is healthier for your body, and will burn off more calories.
Calories are units of weight. Calories are lost only by muscular action. The intestine is basically a tube surrounded by thin muscular bands that propel food towards a rendezvous with the destiny of your toilet bowl. The more meals you eat, the more calories you expend, the thinner your waist line. You will expend 50% more calories by eating 5-6 small healthy meals/day than if you take in the same number of calories in 2-3 larger meals! This can lead, by itself, to 1/2-3/4 amount of weight loss per month, plus, you will never become hypoglycemic!
So, how do you do this?
By developing a different eating pattern. Instead of eating at mealtimes, and eating ‘til full, try eating when you begin to notice you are hungry, and eating until you are no longer hungry. This is done by having your refrigerator at home AND work, filled with pre-arranged small portions of complex carb/protein foods. (It’s okay to carry around a little cooler with your food in it.)
Having small pre-prepared salads, veggies with hummus, nonfat yogurt, fruit, small portions (not larger than a deck of cards) of leftover chicken, meat, casserole, etc, will help you eat the right foods when your body needs them.
When you eat out, automatically remove half from your plate into a take-away container. Have sandwiches cut in half and each half wrapped separately. Take half home or with you to eat later when you are hungry again.
Eat 5-6-7 mini-meals per day as a routine.
But, also important:
Don’t get too carried away. Treat yourself occasionally. You don’t have to be too severe. If your everyday pattern is what I’ve described, there’s no harm in breaking the pattern here and there. A large meal on occasion won’t kill you, but I think you will find that, if you follow my guidelines, you’ll not feel terribly comfortable if/when you sit down for a big one.
Michael P Goodman, MD
Caring For Women Wellness Center