A Menopause Survival Guide

 
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At the young age of 53, I understand the struggle of fighting with Father Time and Mother Nature. Just when you think your period woes are behind you, the stages of menopause make their grand entrance. Oh, the joys of womanhood! (Yes, men go through something called “manopause,” but that’s another blog in itself!)

The symptoms we experience can vary and occur over time, sometimes up to ten years before your final menstruation, known as perimenopause or premenopause. It can range from hot flashes, weight gain, mood swings, and skin changes—the list goes on and on.

But here’s the million dollar question: What can we do about it? Luckily, there are perks to this transition. According to Dr. Christine Northrup, “Menopause is a time of profound transformation—a portal to the best and most powerful years of your life.” With certain healthy habits and advances in medicine, it IS possible to go through menopause while still feeling like yourself.

With that said, here’s a survival guide with my tips to help you along the journey:

TIP #1: VISIT YOUR GYNO

Book an appointment with your gyno to discuss your symptoms and the options available to manage them. Your doctor will likely want to run a panel of tests to determine whether hormone therapy is right for you. If the tests find you’re still ovulating, hormone therapy may not be necessary. Instead, your symptoms can be managed through nutritional supplements and other healthy lifestyle changes. But if not, your doctor may suggest progesterone or estrogen, which are both common replacement therapies that help you transition.

TIP #2: INCORPORATE RESISTANCE TRAINING

One of the biggest struggles that women face during menopause is weight gain. And believe it or not, even those who exercise regularly can experience this!

Due to a significant drop in estrogen, the body will try to hold onto extra fat, especially around the belly and hips. Luckily, you can combat this "muffin top" by adding resistance training exercises into your routine. With an increased muscle mass, you'll boost your metabolism that has become imbalanced by hormone fluctuations, and keep the pounds from piling on. Also, exercising will bring mood-boosting endorphins!

TIP #3: EAT A WELL-BALANCED DIET

Watch your portion size and choose a balanced diet filled with plant-based foods and brightly colored fruits and vegetables. It will help minimize weight gain while getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Also, during menopause, your iron levels begin to drop. Focus on adding more lean meats, eggs, spinach, black beans, lentils, and other iron-rich foods.

If you suffer from hot flashes, avoid hot beverages, spicy foods, chocolate, and heat, in general.

TIP #4: SWITCH UP YOUR SKINCARE

When estrogen levels drop, the oil production in our skin decreases, which can change its ability to maintain hydration or support cell turnover. It's why many women will experience dryness or an increase in fine lines and wrinkles.

To maintain the health of your skin and prevent future damage, cater your skincare regimen to your specific needs. Use a sunscreen, cleanser, heavier moisturizer, and facial oil and check each label for one of the following powerhouse ingredients in anti-aging:

  • PEPTIDES: Helps the skin heal and stimulate collagen and elastin production.
  • RETINOL: A form of Vitamin A that helps penetrate several layers of skin to help boost hydration levels and new cell turnover.
  • ANTIOXIDANTS: Fights free radicals that heal the skin. Specifically, L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) which brightens dullness.
  • HYDROXY ACIDS: AHAs and BHAs speed up cell turnover to soften skin, clear pores, and help to improve fine lines. Look for glycolic, lactic, citric, and salicylic acid in the ingredient list.
  • HYALURONIC ACID: Helps to lock moisture in our cells to plump and smooth the surface of the skin. Keep on the lookout for sodium hyaluronate on the product packaging.

TIP #5: GET PROPER REST

Sleep is always important, but especially when you’re going through a major transition like menopause. If you’re well rested, the process and symptoms will be easier on your body. Make it a priority to get 8 hours of sleep a night and maintain a regular bedtime schedule.

If you have trouble winding down, create a calming space. Turn off the harsh lights, burn an aromatherapy candle, and power down your electronics an hour before bedtime. Studies have shown that the LED blue light of your iPhone, laptop, etc. can slow the hormone that signals our brains that it's time to go to bed. Instead, find a "winding-down" ritual, like journaling or reading, that will allow you calm down, center yourself, and drift to sleep.

Why Age Should Be Embraced

 
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Life is a journey—and aging is an inevitable part of it. Often, we see and feel things that are changing for us physically, but our minds still think we are 30 years old. (Well, except for those times that we forget the name of a person we’ve known for over twenty years! It happens.)

Here’s the thing: We can either deny it, despise it, or own it. And I believe that embracing and adapting to the changing context of our lives is the key to true happiness.

Below, I have included some of my personal tips that have inspired me to not only embrace the process but enjoy it gracefully:

TIP #1: CHANGE YOUR MINDSET

Think of aging as a new beginning. It’s a natural progression that can offer us wisdom, and a better understanding of ourselves and what we truly value. This opens up the opportunity to focus our energy on projects we truly care about, like our health and happiness.

Here’s a small exercise: Write a list of advice you would give your younger self. It will help you understand that with age, you have also gained experience and a perspective that mattered.  

TIP #2: BE REALISTIC

 As much as you might want to look 20 again, you will never be 20 again. And, that’s perfectly fine! It all comes down to not comparing yourself to anyone (especially your younger self!)

There’s no way we are “supposed” to look. Set realistic goals and focus on being the best self that you can be.

TIP #3: NOURISH YOURSELF

Often, we crave to have the same energy we did in our twenties or thirties. The good news? It’s possible. It all comes down to maintaining a nutritious diet, sticking with an exercise routine, and a positive mindset. If you fuel your body and make yourself a priority, the better you will feel—in all aspects.  

For nutrition, I suggest sticking to a low-glycemic (low-sugar) diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and a few specific nutrient powerhouses:

  • OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS: Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Fish is an abundant source of omega-3 fats, which help prevent cholesterol buildup in arteries and protect against abnormal heart rhythms.
  • NUTS: Nuts are rich sources of unsaturated fats. They’re also concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals, including antioxidants.
  • BERRIES: Compounds in blueberries (especially) mitigate inflammation and oxidative damage, which are associated with age-related deficits in memory and motor function.
  • WATER: I know it’s not technically a “food” but think of it as one! Every organ in our body (every cell!) needs water to be the best that it can be.

For exercise, adding in endurance, strength training, flexibility, and balance is key as we age. 

New research shows that regular physical activity can reduce the inflammation in the body that comes with aging, which could also help decrease your risk of developing related diseases and conditions—like heart disease, depression, decreased mental function, and loss of muscle mass. Also, the endorphins that you receive from exercise help to maintain a positive mindset—no matter what age you are.

TIP #4: EXPLORE YOUR PASSIONS

Don’t be afraid to try new things and check something off your bucket list. When you take risks, it’s a good reminder of the excitement that life has to offer at any age.

Also, never be afraid to let physical activity be a part of this! Set goals and allow yourself to achieve the things that you thought were “impossible”. It’s a GREAT confidence booster!

TIP #5: FIND YOUR TRIBE

In other words, surround yourself with women who remind you that age is truly just a number. Having fun truly is a form of self-care. Whether it’s letting loose by dancing, enjoying a glass of wine (in moderation), or planning a trip together—these moments can provide clarity on what life is truly about.

5 Tips to Jumpstart Your Routine

 
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When it comes to maintaining a solid fitness routine, I’ve heard a lot of different reasons, from a lot of different women, about why they stopped—or never started.

Many of my clients said that it became hard for them to find time in their busy schedule. Other women felt intimidated, too old, or too out of shape. It came down to something simple: Neither group of women knew how or where to begin.

And, that’s okay! It’s never too late to get fit and happy. Starting or maintaining a fitness routine is like adjusting any other habit—it takes control, choice, and consistency.

Is it difficult? Yes. But the good news is that it’s always worth it. The benefits of exercise extend into every aspect of our lives—body, mind, and spirit. 

Here are some of my strategies that will help free you from your fitness funk and maintain healthy habits that last:

TIP #1: FOSTER A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

This is where it starts. Try not to think of exercise as a burden or something you have to do. Instead, look at it as another form of self-care.

Start by concentrating on the benefits and become mindful of the way you feel after the workout, and not before. Soon, you’ll start looking forward to that healthy glow and endorphin rush—and your body will thank you.

TIP #2: SET REALISTIC GOALS

And never feel guilty about it. There’s a misconception in fitness that you need to push yourself to the limit, at all times. That’s just not true! In fact, this mindset can lead to burnout or even worse, injury.

I’ve had clients start their first session by simply jogging on a treadmill—and that’s okay. Just take that first step and get moving. Whether it’s 20 minutes or up to an hour, you are building a healthy habit through consistency…and that’s what counts.

Keep a log of your goals so you can refer back to them daily. Once you hit a milestone, cross it off the list, reward yourself, and move on to the next. The faster you see your progress, the less likely you will taper off and quit your routine entirely.

TIP #3: KEEP IT ON THE CALENDAR

Sign up for classes online or book a trainer. If it’s already on your schedule (and if someone is relying on you), skipping becomes less of an option.

Speaking of accountability, never underestimate the power of the “buddy system.” Studies have shown that exercising with a friend can help keep you on-track and motivated to conquer your fitness goals—together. Plus, what’s better than breaking a sweat and catching up with a friend? It will easily become something you both look forward to!

TIP #4: PREPARE IN ADVANCE

Don’t let the excuse of your everyday routine get in the way of your workout. Instead, make it become your everyday routine. Just like you did in grade school, lay out your clothes the night before. Not only does it set an intention, but it’s a lot easier to stay motivated if you can quickly reach, grab, and go.  

I also recommend storing an extra packed bag in your car so you can cash in on any random bursts of motivation, whenever and wherever they may be. Another reason? You no longer have the excuse of “I left my gym bag at home.” Problem solved.

TIP #5: FUEL YOURSELF FROM WITHIN

Fitness comes full circle. It’s important to eat well and hydrate your body—especially when paired with exercise. You can’t expect progress and results to come from just one aspect. It all works together to give you the energy and nutrients you need to thrive at your highest potential.

EXTRA TIP:

There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with using cute workout gear as a motivation tool; you’ll want to break in those new yoga pants or bright sneakers and put that look good, feel good mantra into motion.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite fitness brands and products to get you started:

Chill By Will (Clothing)
K-Deer (Leggings) 
Bosu (Fitness Equipment) 
Spri Bands (Resistance Bands)
TRX Suspension Training System
Swell Water Bottles

Ginger & Turmeric Tea

 
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HEALTH BENEFITS:

Ginger and turmeric are two very powerful spices that have been used widely throughout history for both culinary and medical purposes! They both have amazing anti-inflammatory properties and can add spice to a variety foods without added fat and sodium. Each works well to reduce inflammation, stress, diseases, and gobble up the free radicals that seem to accompany our aging process.
 

TEA RECIPE:

  1. Boil water in a small saucepan
  2. Add turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes
  4. Strain tea into a large glass
  5. Add honey if desired

Matcha

 
  Photo by Alfred Coffee

Photo by Alfred Coffee

 

HEALTH BENEFIT:

We're hearing a lot of hype about Matcha Tea these days, and for good reason! The Chinese have long believed that matcha tea is “the elixir of immortality.” The reason being is that Matcha is rich in catechin polyphenols – compounds with high antioxidant activity. These compounds offer protection against many kinds of cancer and SLOW THE AGING PROCESS! This potent anti-inflammatory effect makes matcha an incredible food for the skin by protecting from UV damage and improving skin elasticity. Drinking a cup of matcha each day is one of the best things you can do to combat skin aging and promote skin health.

TEA RECIPE:

  1. Heat ½ cup water to just under boiling
  2. Pour hot water over 1 teaspoon of matcha in a large bowl or cup
  3. Whisk to dissolve the powder
  4. Heat ½ cup whole, almond, or cashew milk
  5. Froth with a milk frother (adjust the milk-to-water proportions to suit your tastes)
  6. Pour the matcha into the steamed milk
  7. Add 1 teaspoon of honey or a small amount of stevia if desired

Acorn Squash

 
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HEALTH BENEFITS:

Can we talk nutrition for a second? People think eating healthy has to be boring... BUT that's not true! Every season has its own delicious and nutritious plant-based foods to choose from, and right now winter squash is at its peak. Get out there today and visit your local farmers market and experiment with new recipes. I'm seeking out acorn squash because it was an all time favorite of mine 25 years ago when I first started my health and fitness journey - time to revisit!

RECIPE:

  1. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and garlic in a large bowl
  2. Season with salt and black pepper
  3. Arrange coated squash on a baking sheet
  4. Roast in the preheated oven until squash is tender and lightly browned for 25 to 30 minutes
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg

Pumpkin Soup

 
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HEALTH BENEFITS

It's finally soup season in LA! Pumpkin soup is one of my go-to's because of its array of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. It helps with joint health, organ health, stress relief and soft tissue injuries - It's an all around superpower food!
 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coconut or avocado oil
  • 2 cups any broth (use vegetable for vegan version)
  • 2 1/4 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk, full fat
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
     

RECIPE

  1. Preheat medium size pot on low-medium heat and swirl in oil
  2. Add onions and garlic until translucent 
  3. Add remaining ingredients
  4. Bring to a boil, cover and cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes.
  5. When soup is cooked, blend in a regular blender
  6. Top with raw or soaked pumpkin seeds