Tag Archives: health

Body Image After Age 50

Mother Nature is cruel. In addition to hot flashes and night sweats, I’ve gained nine pounds in the last seven months and outgrown most of my clothing.

Going from a size zero to a size four and acquiring a jelly belly may not seem significant. But for someone who runs 25 to 28 miles a week and isn’t much of an eater, it’s pretty disturbing.

At the age of 51, I’m smack in the midst of perimenopause, a term describing the hormonal roller coaster prior to menopause. According to the internet, diminished estrogen levels are to blame for my weight gain. The loss of testosterone has reduced my muscle mass and lowered my metabolism. Online articles by medical professionals offer meager advice: “Move more!” (I already run 80 to 90 minutes four or five days a week), “Cut calories!” (Steamed vegetables comprise my dinner most nights), and the ever helpful, “reduce stress!”

Many products promise relief. There are progesterone patches and creams, herbal remedies, medical grade supplements, and bioidentical hormones.

Given the controversy over hormone replacement therapy, and the fact that I am a wimp who avoids taking medication unless it is really necessary, I opted to start with Estroven, an over the counter product from Trader Joe’s. If they sell it at Trader Joe’s, I reasoned, how harmful could it be? Or how effective? My hot flashes continued, and I struggled not to gain anymore weight.

“Sorry!” The 50-something female cashier said when I returned the product. “I tried this stuff too. It does nothing!”

Tired of listening to myself complain, I consulted my gynecologist. “Eat fewer salty snacks,” she advised.

Since I haven’t eaten a potato chip since circa 2003, I decided it was time to change doctors. My new GYN was much more sympathetic. “The weight will come off once you get through the process,” she reassured me.” But you will lose your waist.”

Lose my waist? That explained the jelly belly. She was a good listener, so I forged on. “My boobs are huge,” I whined. “Huge!”

I explained that in addition to larger pants and tops, it was also necessary to buy new bras, which became too tight within a few months. “Don’t throw away your old bras,” she advised. “Your breasts will return to their normal size.”

I took a breath and started to relax, until my doctor said, “and then they will become pendulous.” Pendulous! I thought, what an interesting word to describe my body, like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. I went home and replayed the conversation for my husband “Pendulous, pendulous,” we said it a few times together.     

Mother N. might be cruel, but she is on schedule. I haven’t had a period since last summer, so my doctor thinks I should be nearly finished with the bloating and weight gain of perimenopause.

Until I complete the transition though, I’ve asked my husband to gain a few pounds; take a couple of extra helpings of mashed potatoes and apple strudel for the team. Being the generous guy that I married, he’s made the sacrifice.

 

Beth Herman is an artist and essayist. She enjoys running the city streets of Washington and the hills of Charlottesville in almost equal measure.

 

Your Time Could Change a Life

wings6Gleaning for the World is announcing their new women’s program, WINGS. Around the world, women are forced out of their schools, jobs and society because of their monthly cycle. Annually, these women lose months of education and income because they do not have access to feminine hygiene products. It is devastating and abandons so many to violence, exploitation and prostitution.

These desperate women resort to any means available for help. They walk to landfills to get newspapers, dirty rags, corn cobs and even bark. In places where taboos are the worst, some women are forced to sit on dirt mounds or above holes for hours at a time.

This new program is an incredible solution. These kits provide all the supplies women need for their monthly cycle and can last for up to three years. That is an extra nine months of education, income and freedom. What’s more, it helps improve their self-esteem and empowers them to reclaim their future. No longer do they have to hide each month or dig through garbage to find makeshift supplies.

“I have been to some of these communities and met these women,” says WINGS program spokeswoman, Danielle Sarchet. “I have seen the happiness on their faces when they realize what they have, and it moves me to know that the volunteer efforts of women in Virginia will change these women’s lives.”

These kits are assembled by volunteers in Central and Southwest Virginia. Due to the donation of supplies and volunteers, they are produced at far below retail price. Fifteen dollars will produce and ship one kit to a woman in the developing world.

If you would like to volunteer to produce these kits (in part or in whole), contact Danielle Sarchet, WINGS and GFTW Volunteer Coordinator, at Danielle@gftw.org or call (434) 993-3600. For more information on what you can do to help, visit gftw.org/wings.

5 tips to avoid holiday weight gain

Who doesn’t love the smell of a warm kitchen during the holidays? They’re designed around food and bringing family, old friends and new friends together. However, holidays can also be a detriment to your healthy lifestyle and cause you to lose your focus through the end of the year.

But they don’t have to.

“Think of fall as the perfect time to reassess the state of your health and prep for the challenges of the holiday season,” says Alicia Rodriguez, corporate registered dietician at Life Time – The Health Way of Life Company. “When it comes to nutrition and avoiding weight gain, my motto is, keep it simple and easy.”

Here are some tips to help you do the same.

Bulk up your plate with protein and vegetables

The side dishes at most holiday meals are often as good as the turkey or ham, but stuffing and mashed potatoes aren’t the best way to fill your plate. One way to avoid-weight gain is to build your plate with protein. This should be easy since holiday dinners revolve around meat. Second, fill your plate with side dishes that include vegetables. You may have a little spot left on your plate – use this space for your “indulgence.” When you look at your plate, the goal is that the majority is still providing you with good nutrients and reduced carbohydrates.

Use the “fork” trick

Many of us go back for seconds, and even third helpings at holiday meals. This year, focus on asking yourself if you’re enjoying your food. To help you answer this question, use the fork trick. Once you take a bite of food, place your fork down on the plate and let it go. Chew your food, swallow and then pick it up again. The key to this trick is letting go of the fork. This will remind you to slow down, enjoy your food and converse with friends and family.

Avoid the clean plate club

Growing up, many of us were always told “You can’t leave the table until you finish everything on your plate” and inevitably, we spent many nights sitting alone at the dinner table. These days, Rodriguez advises her clients to eat until they are full and, if their plate is not clean, it’s OK. Focus on one plate of food, slow down and be careful not to overeat. Overfeeding is never really a healthy thing to do.

Share your dessert with a loved one

After a satisfying meal, it is hard to avoid the sweet smells of pumpkin -or warm apple pie. If you choose not to skip dessert, share a small slice with a loved one or new friend. If you are hosting, designate one family member to bring dessert to limit the endless selection of pies and reduce the urge to over indulge.

Make like a turkey and trot out the door

Start your holiday with a new tradition this year and gather the family to do something active. Take a walk to a local park, put together a family friendly flag football game, rake the leaves up in the yard (and jump into them) or encourage the family to sign up for a run/walk event such as the Drumstick Dash in Roanoke.

Holidays are a time to be thankful for family, friends and everything in between. Savor the moment, really take time to taste your food, get out and have some fun, and avoid the-holiday weight gain.

Maximize snack mixes

Everyone wants to enjoy foods they can feel good about eating, and snacks are no different. While carrot sticks and crackers with cheese are great go-to options, it’s important to mix things up. Snacking should be tasty and combine an interesting medley of flavors, as well as include whole grains and vitamin-rich ingredients, resulting in a savory, nutritious nibble.

When deciding between your favorite snacks, there’s no need to sacrifice flavors and seasonings often reserved for main course dishes. Instead, look to combine different food groups to create unique, delicious snack mixes. A mix can not only pack a lot of flavor but also can be full of nutrient-rich vitamins and whole grains.

The perfect snack mix combines flavors, textures, seasonings and tastes.

* Whole grain crackers add heartiness to your snack leaving you deliciously satisfied.

* Adding vegetables such as leafy greens adds vitamins and minerals – a perfect low-calorie addition.

* For extra crunch, popcorn or nuts are flavorful ingredients to add to your mix for a wholesome, appetizing snack.

Chef Rocco DiSpirito, known for his best-selling healthy comfort foods series Now Eat This!, created Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crumbled Snack Mix, a tasty mix of popcorn, kale and the new Brown Rice Triscuit, which is baked with 100 percent whole grain brown rice. This snack mix is one great way to reap the benefits of whole grains in a distinctive new way.

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Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crumbled Snack Mix (Yield: 9 servings, about 1 cup each, Prep time: about 10 minutes, Processing time: about 10 minutes)

Ingredients:

Olive oil cooking spray

3 tablespoons popping corn kernels

1/8 teaspoon each salt and crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch of Tuscan kale (about 15 leaves), or 4 loosely packed cups of leaves only (remove tough center stem with knife or kitchen shears)

20 Brown Rice Triscuit Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crackers, quartered

1. Spray a medium-sized saucepot with 1 second of cooking spray; add the popcorn kernels and place over medium high heat. Cook, covered, shaking occasionally until the kernels have popped, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat; place popcorn in large bowl and season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

2. Lay the kale out in batches in single layer on microwave-safe plates. Spray each plate with 1 second of cooking spray and microwave on high for 1 minute. Flip the leaves, then microwave on high until the leaves are dried and crisp, about 1 minute. Continue microwaving, if needed, turning every minute until crisp. Repeat with remaining kale.

3. Break the kale crisps into bite-size pieces. Toss with the crackers and popcorn and serve.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 80 calories, 2g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 90mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate, 2g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 2g protein

Veggies, Vitamins & Kids

There is no denying that most kids cringe at the mention of anything healthy. Since this is often the case, it is difficult to find the necessary balance between pleasing kids and giving them a healthy diet at the same time. Below are some tips to get your tot on the right track:

1)  Appearance, appearance, appearance!

Make fruits and veggies look fun. Every now and then it’s okay to play with food and if kids can have fun with it, then they’re more likely to want to eat it.

2)  Let them help.

“Mommy’s little helper” is a merit badge of awesome for kids. If they have a part in making the meal, then they will be excited to eat it.

3)  Show ‘em how to shop.

Kids like to feel independent; show your children fruits and veggies and let them pick the ones they that the think are “cool.” This way, it won’t be as much of a struggle when the food is on the plate.

4)  Make it easy.

One reason junk food is so popular is because it’s quick and kids can grab it easily in their downtime or between activities. Simple changes like making healthy fruit smoothies and having them ready and accessible can drastically improve kids’ diets. Also, small vegetables (like mini carrots) that have been pre-portioned are great for a kid on the go.

5)  Don’t make junk food an option.

The occasional Oreo is okay, but leaving cookies, chips, and other unhealthy foods around conditions kids’ pallets to crave that type of food. By feeding kids healthy things from the start and limiting the amount of junk food that they’re allowed will help them become familiar with healthier foods, thus training their pallets to crave what’s good for them.

Is Organic Food Really Better for You?

As women we are constantly looking for ways to boost our health and the health of our loved ones. A recent trend is the demand for organic foods, especially produce. But does organic actually mean healthier? And is the product worth the price?

The difference in organic versus non-organic foods is simply the methods in which they are grown. Organic farmers use fewer pesticides, and those that are used are naturally occurring.

While many non-organic farmers use growth stimulants and hormones, organic farmers are closely watched and must be given certification to farm according to USDA organic standards which does not allow artificial hormones. The products are more expensive because farmers go through various assortments of certifications, guidelines, and natural methods to produce a back-to-basics product. Sounds great, right?

Make sure to be careful when buying organically. Check for spots and holes on produce because sometimes the lack of pesticides means small creatures burrow into the product.

Also, be mindful that USDA organic does not mean 100% organic; it just means that at least 95% of the product came from organic methods, and that 5% can make a big difference on some items. Unless the product is considered USDA organic or 100% organic, chances are only 70% of the original material is organic. Be mindful that organic foods do not have synthetic preservatives and thus can go bad quicker.

Basically, organic foods do have their benefits and can be much safer than synthetically produced items. However, just like with any trend, there are many foods made to look organically produced that aren’t and there are some organic foods that are produced using the same methods as the one without the sticker.

Remember to shop smart and know your facts before being lured by the organic kick!