If you listen to the Eat To Perform podcasts (Sundays with Dr. Susan) Paul and I talk a lot about why performance is so important for the human condition. Obviously for most people (women especially) what we talk about falls in the realm of how to age in a healthy way.
But what about me? I am a high performance nutritionist in her 60’s, I went through menopause a while ago, how do I maintain my health with the challenges that menopause naturally brings?
Let’s get into it:
1. Firstly once menopause hits your metabolic rate begins to slow so the consequences for what I considered eating normally changed, and I noticed that my clothes were getting tighter even though my habits hadn’t changed, and it wasn’t from gaining more muscle, unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, I was still fit, but I didn’t feel as good in my own skin. Rather than eat less and under-fuel myself I chose a different path that I wish more women my age would choose. Along with my regular morning training and sports workouts, I started to add some extra late afternoon walking or cycling each day. As you might imagine my job can be relatively sedentary at times so it was a big adjustment but one I have found to work well.
2. I love to lift weights. Frankly I have lifted weights for nearly 4 decades. It is some of the most rewarding training that I think anyone can do, because especially when you begin lifting you get results so quickly, both in the gym and out in the real world. You don’t need to lift heavy. Body weight training is a great place to start. One mistake I see happening for women my age is the tendency to want to “lift weights faster” or do body weight circuits that are more cardio than resistance training. As you read above I am pro any kind of exercise movement including cardio, but try to have 2–3 sessions a week of slow and deliberate resistance training.
3. This could really be 2a, eat enough food for your recovery. At our age when we exercise our body doesn’t have the same hormones that allow us to hold onto muscle mass and bone the way it did in our twenties so under eating has serious consequences. Maintenance of bone density happens from the constant push and pull of your muscles and tendons against your bones when you are active. Food and the full complement of important bone nutrients is an important part of maintaining healthy strong bones. If you have been on every diet you came across since you were 15 and you’ve been consistently underfeeding your body and your bones, let your body heal WITH FOOD in an appropriate amount.
4. Most fad or popular dieting protocols eliminate major foods that have calories. Many of the popular diets in the last twenty years have removed dairy and whole grains as a result telling you that these foods are bad for you, but the result is that you have removed a huge chunk of calories from your diet. These are important good calories, but nonetheless you have easily created a lower calorie diet. This is a bad idea on a few levels. BOTH dairy and whole grains are favorable for gut health and both can be a big part of the answer to adding more favorable calories. Also dairy has protein, calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, boron, and many other nutrients which as I stated above are helpful for bone health.
While you may find that you react to processed grain foods, you may be fine, and even feel better, when eating whole grains. I’m not talking about whole grain pasta or bread. I mean the whole grain, like brown rice, quinoa, kamut, barley, and others.
If you’ve taken food sensitivity tests that have been interpreted by telling you that you react to dairy and grains, take that with a grain of salt. Of course, if you have celiac disease, or you are gluten sensitive, then you should definitely avoid gluten. But that still does not eliminate all grains. If you are lactose intolerant then you can still drink lactose-free milk or treat yourself with the lactase enzyme before drinking milk. If you are allergic to milk protein, you might be able to drink one of the new milks that eliminates one or two of the most common allergenic proteins. Finally ,many food sensitivity tests aren’t perfect and you need to know that when you take them. Also most people that are taking food sensitivity tests are doing so for a reason so if the same person that is selling you on a dairy and grain free diet also wants you to be low carb the fix was probably in before you took their test.
5. This really should have been number one because at our age lack of sleep has dire consequences. The reason I am going to keep it number five is because it’s important to know one through four when you lay down to sleep. Think of the other four as a gift that you are giving yourself each day to be better, sleep is the wrapping and the bow all at once. It’s the most important piece of the puzzle.
Let me end on this note, women have been health and weight conscious for a very long time and much of the advice we have gotten is neither healthy nor sustainable for a fit and healthy lifetime. We are told to under eat and exercise more, yet we don’t have the energy to sustain a good exercise program, so nothing really works! Our sleep is disturbed, our stress increases, and we never achieve our fairy tale goals.
AND THEN YOU ARE POST MENOPAUSAL with all of those negatives!
I have had the privilege of working with female athletes of all ages. Food is an ally at all times, and especially in those moments when we feel frustrated that things are not going in the right direction. This is exactly when we need to fully fuel our bodies to get the most out of the hormones and biochemistry that is actually still available to work for us. If we under-fuel, we lose it altogether.
So let’s stay active, or even a little more active. Eat an appropriate amount of food to keep getting better and make sleep a priority. Help your body hang onto those hormones that want to stop working. Imagine it like a challenge that you HAVE to win because you will feel so great when you do!
- Dr. Susan Kleiner
Susan is the co-host of the Eat To Perform podcast where we do “Sunday’s with Susan” she is also the author of Power Eating and the more recent New Power Eating. Susan is routinely shouted out on social media from some of the highest profile athlete’s on the planet!
You may also like this podcast where Dr. Susan gets into the science but in plain talk: Adjustments to make to diet and exercise around Menopause-Sunday’s with Susan
Even the programs that reverse don’t do a good job because they cave to the fear of their clients or they let AI (artificial intelligence) do the work.