The mood swings and hot flashes of menopause make it very tempting to reach for the comfort food when we have a bad day.
Macaroni and cheese. Butter, cheddar, and empty carbohydrates. It’s my ultimate comfort food.
I’m also a sucker for chocolate. As it turns out, so is everyone, pretty much. The University of Illinois actually researched women’s top comfort foods and chocolate, cookies, and ice cream were right at the top of the list.
Let’s face it: the cravings have followed us all our lives. And the mood swings and hot flashes of menopause make it very tempting to reach for the comfort food when we have a bad day.
But the food that makes us feel better for the moment is the food that we know will be hard to burn off later.
So I’m here to be your conscience. Next time you have a fight with a friend, or a bad day at work,or you just feel like your body isn’t your own- and all you want is to junk out and watch a chick flick, STOP.
Laura Jeffers from the Cleveland Clinic offers some tips to resist the call of the cookie:
1. Be heart-healthy.
Focus your diet on the “big four”: veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean meats. Also, look at your diet as a whole and be sure you’re eating healthy fats.
2. Mind your minerals: calcium and iron.
Calcium is especially important for healthy bones in mid-life, so be sure to eat two to four servings of dairy – or use calcium supplements – each day. I also advise my patients to eat three servings of iron-rich foods daily: fish, eggs, poultry, lean meat and leafy greens.
3. Avoid “grab-and-go” choices.
Quick, pre-packaged foods are often high in calories that can add up quickly. When it comes to nuts and trail mix, the calories easily add up – have it in limited portions. Also, foods marked “low-fat” or “fat-free” often have a lot of calories without providing many nutritional benefits.
4. Pair up carbohydrates with protein.
Pairing a carbohydrate with a protein helps keep you from getting hungry again too soon. Try pairing apples and peanut butter, crackers and cheese, or cheese and whole-grain toast.
5. Be cautious with soy.
There’s been a lot of media coverage suggesting that eating soy can help with night sweats and hot flashes. Soy contains plant estrogens called isoflavones that can act as a weak form of estrogen in the body. However, menopausal women should use caution; there’s still conflicting research about whether a soy-rich diet might increase the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers like breast cancer.
6. Make changes in baby steps.
If you haven’t already been eating healthy, it can be frustrating to think about making all of these changes all at once. I tell my patients to take baby steps. Make one change at a time. Each time you experience success, it will motivate you to take the next step.
If you’re not already eating healthy, it can be daunting to change years of bad habits. The thing is, we know we have to do it. But knowing something and doing it are two different things.
Taking baby steps is good, but we tend to get frustrated if we don’t see results right away, especially with the hormones raging and the metabolism slowing down.
The bottom line is, make changes at a pace that works for you. Find help and support and an exercise buddy. And don’t beat yourself up if you give in to a craving once in a while.
Sometimes nothing will do but a (very small) piece of chocolate.
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