Top 10 Tips to Burn Menopausal Belly Fat

Top 10 Tips to Burn Menopausal Belly Fat

Top 10 Tips to Burn Menopausal Belly Fat

Weight gain as we hit menopause seems to be an inevitable part of life. This is due to a number of reasons:

  • Hormones. It’s our bodies way of adapting to our new hormone changes.
  • As we age we become more insulin resistant due to poor food choices through the years. Insulin controls our blood sugar levels and is driven by the foods that we eat. A diet high in breads, pastas, high-sugar coffee drinks, packaged foods and sugar exposes us to higher blood glucose levels, thereby creating an insulin sensitivity and resistance that will cause our bodies to convert the majority of the calories that we eat as fat.
  • We start lose lean muscle tissue, which in turn slows down our metabolism. This lose starts in our early 30’s and starts to pick up steam in our late 40’s, early 50’s. Instead of using more calories to keep our lean muscle tissue warm, our bodies use less because it takes less energy to keep fat warm.
  • Lack of sleep. When we don’t get a good night’s rest our two hormones leptin and gherlin become out-of-balance. Leptin, the hormone involved in regulating our appetite and telling our brain when we are full, becomes elevated with lack of sleep and gherlin, the hormone responsible for telling our brain when to eat, becomes elevated. When we don’t get enough sleep, we end up with too little leptin in our body, which makes our brain think that we don’t have enough energy for our needs. So our brain tells us that we’re hungry, even though we don’t actually need food at that time. It also takes steps to store the calories we eat as fat, so we’ll have enough energy the next time we need it.
  • Stress. With the increased demands in our lives, accompanied by years of yo-yo dieting, binge eating and even undiagnosed food sensitivities, our bodies are under constant stress. If we allow our stress to manifest on a daily basis, over time our adrenal glands (located on the top of each kidney and responsible for releasing a variety of hormones) will reach fatigue and our once efficient adrenals (helping us to us deal with positively to stress responses) will become out-of-balance and will begin storing calories, instead of burning them.

How does stress pack the pounds around the waistline

If your adrenal’s are out-of-balance a common symptom is extra fat around the waistline.

You see, in normal circumstances when we are under stress the brain will signal to the adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol.

It is cortisol’s job to mobilize our glucose, amino acids and fat to prevent our blood sugar levels from going too low. It is making sure that the control centre, our brain, will always have energy/food to keep it going.

After years (or sometimes only months for some women) of long term stress, the cortisol and insulin levels will remain high in the blood and the extra glucose gets stored as fat – and mostly in the abdomen and thighs.

In addition, the fat being stored in the abdomen is the body’s way of protecting the internal organs. Since the body is under constant stress it will work to protect the internal organs, as well as the brain.

How to lose the menopause belly fat

1/ Control your stress.

  • Try meditation, yoga or any mindfulness based activity. Be present and in the moment.
  • Try my favourite meditation app, Headspace
  • Deep belly breathing. Deep breathing can stimulate the vagus nerve, which can calm an overactive central nervous system.

Lie on your back with a book resting on your belly. Inhale deeply and feel the book rise under your belly. Exhale fully and feel the book lower toward the spine.

Repeat for 5-10 minutes daily to improve your vagus nerve function.

2/ Strength train.

  • Build your lean muscle mass with a properly designed strength training workout.
  • Aim for 3 times a week workouts, total body workouts.

3/ Eat regular meals and snacks everyday.

  • No more starving yourself, or yo-yo dieting. These will only damage your metabolism further.
  • You need to keep your blood sugar levels stable to prevent the cortisol from being released.
  • Eat foods lower in the glycemic index. All foods are listed, or indexed, according to their effect on your blood sugars.
    • Unlimited foods at a 55 or less rating (most veggies)
    • Limited foods at 56-69 rating (beets, yams, most fruits)
    • Eliminate foods indexed 70 or higher (donuts, energy bars, bread, potatoes)

4/ Eat more protein.

  • A higher protein diet (meats, beans, legumes) will help support your lean muscle tissue.
  • Protein also helps us feel fuller, quicker and for longer
  • Aim for a 20-30 grams of protein with each meal and 10-15 for your snacks

5/ Move more throughout the day.

  • Make a point of moving as much as you. This has a huge effect on your metabolism. Walk, do exercises while watching TV, be active as often as you can.
  • All this extra movement through the day is called NEAT, non-exercise activity theremogenesis. It is the energy the body uses that is not planned exercise, sleeping or eating. In active people it can account for as much as 50% of your daily calorie burn.

6/ Avoid sugar.

  • Nothing has a greater impact on your insulin levels than sugar.
  • Be wary of artificial sweeteners too. These have been shown to increase our tolerance for the taste of sweet. Meaning in the future it will take a higher dose to satisfy our sweet tooth.

7/ Avoid low calorie, low fat foods.

  • Quite often the food labels are manipulated in a such a way that it makes the food look like it’s low calorie. Read the serving sizes carefully.
  • Studies have also shown that we tend to eat 50-100% more of a food product when labelled low calorie
  • Low fat foods can have a detrimental affect on our brain. The brain is mainly made of fat and cholesterol, and a diet that skimps on healthy saturated fats robs the brain of the raw materials it needs to function optimally. Eat foods such as grass-fed beef, organic dairy products (butter, cream, milk), and coconut oil.

8/ Eat at the right time of day.

  • Cortisol has a natural rhythm, which is highest in the morning, and decreases gradually as the day progresses, and is lowest at night so restful sleep can occur.
  • Eating tends to increase cortisol, so eating the largest meal earlier in the day is the best option for weight loss and maintenance.
  • In addition, our body’s ability to process carbohydrates decreases as the day goes on. We metabolize carbohydrates in the morning better and more efficiently compared to later at night in bed and the more efficiently our body can use the food we eat, the easier it is to lose weight.

9/ Get in 300 minutes.

Aim for 300 minutes of exercise, strength and cardio, a week.

10/ Drink water.

  • The body has no idea whether it is hungry, or thirsty. However, it only has one signal, and that’s the hunger signal. We could actually be dehydrated and masking itself as hunger. Aim for your half your body weight in fluid ounces in water or herbal tea everyday.
  • Keep a 1L re-fillable bottle by you at all times.
  • Start your day with a big glass of water.
  • Increased water is also important if you are increasing your protein for the first time. The water will help flush the kidneys.
  • Water also increases your energy and decreases fatigue.

 

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Are You Going Into Early Menopause?

Are You Going Into Early Menopause?

Are You Going Into Early Menopause?

We all know menopause is going to hit us.

But, when exactly will it hit us?

To fully understand when menopause may hit us we first need to understand the three stages of menopause.

The Three Stages of Menopause

Perimenopause or “menopause transition.” Perimenopause can begin 8 to 10 years before menopause, when the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but can start in the 30s as well. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last 1-2 years of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, many women can experience menopause symptoms. Women are still having menstrual cycles during this time, and can still get pregnant.

Menopause. Menopause is the point when a woman no longer has menstrual periods. At this stage, the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen. Menopause is diagnosed when a woman has gone without a period for 12 consecutive months.

Postmenopause. These are the years after menopause. During this stage, menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, can ease for most women. But, as a result of a lower level of estrogen, postmenopausal women are at increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

Are You Going Into Early Menopause

Early menopause can be triggered by a number of factors:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Poverty (experts hypothesize that women in poverty have poorer eating habits)
  • Smoking (this can increase your risk of early menopause by 30%!)
  • Alcohol, although it is noted that yes alcohol may contribute to entering the phases of menopause at an earlier age, it is not necessarily deemed as “early menopause” – not sure what the difference is myself.
  • Medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Women who have had their ovaries surgically removed
  • Premature ovarian failure (POF)
  • An overload of heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium can also be a cause

When premature menopause is suspected, you can ask your doctor to order blood tests that look at the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estradiol.  This work-up should also include the thyroid and the adrenal glands because they can be affected too.

Relief for the Symptoms of Early Menopause

According to WomentoWomen.com:

“Our estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels are constantly shifting throughout our life, and that’s normal. But as we age, the fluctuations and ratios between these hormones can become more extreme. When the body cannot regulate these shifts in hormone levels, women can experience common symptoms of menopause, including night sweats, hot flashes, food cravings, and fatigue.”

We can balance these symptoms naturally with:

  • A healthy, whole food diet
  • Herbal remedies such as black cohosh, passionflower, chasteberry, wild yam and ashwagandha have been shown to help support our hormone production
  • Lifestyle changes such as removing environmental toxins, getting enough sleep
  • Reducing chronic stress
  • Getting more exercise

Health Concerns for Early Menopause

Our hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone), are needed for the years leading up to menopause.

They offer protection against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

If you have been found to be in early menopause chat with your doctor, or a naturopath who specializes in women’s health and get yourself on a health plan to protect your heart and your bone health.

Some things to look at are:

  • Vitamin D, to support your bones
  • Strength training, to help build new bone and strengthen the heart
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have shown that women who go through menopause before the age of 46 are twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease or have a stroke
  • Don’t smoke – or quit
  • Take a high-quality omega 3, daily
  • HRT (hormone replacement therapy)

Local Naturopaths Who Specialize in Women’s Health

Dr. Karen McGee

Dr. Heli McPhie

Dr. Nishi Dhawan

 

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Menopause & Sleep

Menopause & Sleep

Menopause and Sleep

Why can’t we sleep? Why is it in our 40’s, 50’s and beyond, we all of sudden revert back to our newborn selves?

Where we are up every 2-3 hours, crying, whining, fists in a ball ready to hit someone (and that someone is usually our significant other who is sleeping just fine right beside us).

Or, perhaps you are one of the chosen that can’t seem to fall asleep. You lie there getting more and more frustrated while your brain is doing a continuous play-by-play of the last 24 hours, and then 48 hours and then the last ten years.

Menopause & Sleep

Sleep disturbances (aka: insomnia) is common around the time of menopause, and while most women attribute their lack of shut eye to menopause symptoms there are many other reasons for sleep disturbances that healthcare professionals want us to look at.

Some factors to consider that may be distributing your sleep:

  • Night sweats (which are simply hot flashes at night)
  • Sleep-disordered breathing (known as sleep apnea)
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Stress, anxiety and depression
  • Painful chronic illnesses
  • And even some medications can get in the way of sleeping

How to Sleep Better When In Menopause

The first order of treatment is to improve your sleep routine and sleep hygiene.

  • Maintain regular hours of going to sleep each night and getting up each morning. Keep your sleep cycle the same, seven days a week.
  • Get outside, and in some sunshine as soon as you can first thing in the morning (if the weather permits it), as well as in the afternoon. This will help set you body’s sleep cycle clock and aid in nixing any napping that could happen in the afternoon.
  • Exercise on a regular basis, but avoid exercising too late in the evening – as it increases your alertness.
  • Avoiding getting too warm while sleeping if you are prone to night sweats
    • Sleep with a window open, or a fan on you
    • Sleep in dri-fit clothes (to wick away the sweat)
    • Buy moisture-wicking bed sheets (here’s a brand that got some great reviews)
  • Don’t have any stimulants, such as caffeine and dark chocolate, 6-hours before bed.
  • Have a light dinner and avoid alcohol. One drink is fine, but more drinks will only increase the chances of you waking up throughout the night.
  • Shut down all your gadgets at least two hours before bedtime. The blue light in computers, tablets and phones is can block the production of your natural sleep hormone, melatonin. If you do have to be on your computer you can try blue light blockers. There are screen covers, as well as glasses that block the blue light out. For the glasses, this brand was the only one that passed the test by Consumer Reports.
  • Give yourself at least an hour before bed to unwind and power down. Dim the lights and read a book, meditate, do some slow-flow yoga or yin yoga, or give my stretch workouts a try.
  • When lifestyle changes fail to alleviate sleep disturbances, ask your doctor to refer you to a sleep centre to rule out sleep-related disorders before initiating prescription treatment.
  • And, if your sleep disturbance is related solely to hot flashes, hormone therapy is likely to help.

 

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Best Exercises For Menopause

Best Exercises For Menopause

Best Exercises for Menopause

 

Best Exercises for Menopause

What’s happening to our bones and muscles during peri and menopause

  • On average a woman will lose about 10% bone mass while in menopause.
  • Doctor’s used to chalk this up to a decline in estrogen levels. You see estrogen helps preserve calcium in the the body, which in turn prevents bones breakdown. However, newer research is now recognizing that there is more to play than just our hormones.
  • We start to lose a percentage of our muscle mass and strength in our 40’s, and that picks up speed when we get into our 50’s.
  • Low estrogen levels can correspond with low serotonin levels (an important neurotransmitter which regulates mood and pain receptors), which can contribute to generalized aches and pain.

How to kick menopause in the a**

  • Exercise. You need to keep your body moving.
  • Strength training and weight bearing exercise to build your muscle and your bone mass.
  • Relaxation exercises (like meditation, yoga, mindful walking) to lower your stress and cortisol levels. This is especially important during our peri and menopausal years because our bodies are under enormous physical and emotional stress (during the hormonal transition of menopause – we also went through it in puberty).
  • Stress causes us to release higher levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol, which can lead to increased programmed cell death in bone-building cells, as well as increased abdomen fat and chronic inflammation.

What I recommend

I would love to see every woman in the world pumping some iron. Strength training workouts:

  • Burn fat
  • Change the shape of you body
  • Boost your metabolism
  • Build your bones
  • Improve your joint stability and balance
  • Increase your muscle strength

What you should be focussing on with your strength workout

Over-40 woman

  • Because of the loss of muscle mass and strength that starts to occur in our 40’s (Kravitz, 2007), a strength training regime is a must for this age group.
  • 2-3 times a week at 60-90% of their repetition maximum.
  • Incorporate balance tools with your strength routine.
  • Areas to target: core, upper body strength

Fifties and Beyond

  • 2 times a week at 50-75% of their repetition maximum.
  • Women in this age bracket tend to see more success when working with a trainer or attending group classes geared for their age group.
  • Areas to target: balance, posture, core, shoulders

 

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How to Correctly Workout for Weight Loss

How to Correctly Workout for Weight Loss

How to Correctly Work Out for Weight Loss

Working out is good for us. This is an absolute fact that we know.

We also know that in order to lose weight we need to start working out too.

Yes, fine looking abs are first made in the kitchen (or more precisely visiting the kitchen less), it is also beneficial to exercise on a weekly basis to help burn the fat that is already on our bodies, increase our lean muscle mass, as well as work off the calories we eat through the day.

What are the best workouts for weight loss?

But, what should we do on a weekly basis to effectively burn the fat?

Should we perform cardio or weights, or both? And if so, does it matter which one we do first?

And what about yoga? That’s supposed to be good for us too, isn’t it?

To help you program the best workouts for your week (and help you look better naked), I have written out exactly what and when you should be doing for your workouts to effectively and correctly lose weight.

Before we dive into that, though, I need to explain a couple of the energy systems in the body that need to be hit for best results.

How to correctly workout for weight loss

First, the anaerobic system.

The anaerobic system depends on energy sources that are already stored in the muscles. This system is utilized when we perform short-lasting, yet high intensity, activities.

Some examples are: sprinting, running up stairs, or doing a hard set of weights.

Anaerobic training is the type of training that burns when you workout. This is because the active muscles are running without the use of oxygen and they are becoming increasingly acidic as the seconds tick.

Anaerobic exercise can only last a few seconds to about two minutes max.

If you are still able to keep going after the two-minute mark you have switched over to your aerobic energy system.

Now you are using oxygen to help break down the glycogen to fuel your muscles. This is why you are more breathless running, than say with weight training. The body is telling you to breath more to help fuel the working muscles.

Aerobic exercise is any workout that is longer in duration and medium in intensity.

Some examples are jogging and bike riding. Basically it’s any steady-state workout where you maintain about the same intensity throughout.

To effectively burn the greatest amount of calories (and therefore fat), you need to hit both of these energy systems.

However, if done in a specific order you can really maximize your fat burning capabilities.

How to maximize your fat-burning potential

For instance, if you perform your aerobic, or cardio, workout after your strength training workout you will burn a higher percentage of stored fat.

This is because you burned the already stored glycogen in the muscle cells first during your strength workout. Afterwards, once when you hit the treadmill, you will start hitting your stored fat cells faster.

Getting older sucks for weight loss

As well, the research pointing towards strength training as a better way to lose weight is astounding – and it could not be clearer for those of us over the age of 40.

You see after the age 30 we start to lose a percentage of our lean muscle mass with every passing year.

This lean muscle mass is what helps our metabolic furnace run smoothly and efficiently. We are better fat-burners with more lean muscle mass.

Take away this lean muscle mass and now you have people who have never had to watch their weight before look down at their waistlines at 50 years of age and think “Where the heck did that come from?”.

It came from a depressed metabolism due to a lower lean muscle mass, my friend. That’s where “that” came from.

There is also some great research on fasted cardio for weight loss (as well as some equally great research saying otherwise… haha).

The theory behind fasted cardio is that you start burning your stored fat faster as a fuel, as opposed to the carbs stored in the cells.

I, personally, have tested this theory and found it works for me and some of my clients. Try it yourself and see if you have success with it.

7 Day Workout Plan - Fitness with PJ

7-Day Workout Plan

Sunday – long, slow cardio. Perform an aerobic activity for 40-60 minutes. This can also be a family activity such as: hiking, or a long bike ride.

Monday – 45-minute total body strength workout, finished off with 15-minutes of intervals on the treadmill or StairMaster. Start with an easy 5-minute pace and then increase the pace and intensity for one minute, recovering for another minute. Alternate these high and low intensities for the remaining 10 minutes.

Tuesday – fasted cardio first thing in the morning for 20-30 minutes, yoga in the evening to help you sleep.

Wednesday – 40-minute total body strength workout, finished off with 20-minutes of intervals on the treadmill. Try jogging, or walking, and using a hill incline for your intervals. Example: warm up for 5-minutes, increase hill to 10% for one-minute, lower to 8% for one-minute, 6% for one-minute, 4% for one-minute and 2% for one-minute. That is one set, perform three.

Thursday – fasted cardio 20-30 minutes and yoga or stretching afterwards or in the evening.

Friday – 45-minute total body strength workout, finished off with 15-minutes of intervals on the treadmill or StairMaster.

Saturday – 20-30 minute fasted cardio, or day off.

How to correctly workout for weight loss - Workout schedule

 

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The Best Cauliflower Crust Pizza Recipe

The Best Cauliflower Crust Pizza Recipe

The best damn Cauliflower Crust Pizza.

I have am addicted to cauliflower crust pizza. It is my go-to meal on a Friday night. And the best part… it’s not even a cheat meal!

You can eat the whole damn pie and not feel guilty.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza - Fitness with PJ

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

1 medium head of cauliflower, washed and dried

1/4 tsp salt

1.5 tsp Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup low fat mozzarella cheese, grated

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg *

2 tbsp almond flour

Pizza sauce (I use tomato sauce and mix in my own garlic and herbs)

Toppings:

Roma tomatoes

Fresh basil

More mozza for topping

However, you can add whatever topping floats your boat – but I highly recommend fresh basil. It’s so good!

Directions:

  1. Place your pizza pan in a preheated 450 degree oven. You want to place your pie on an already hot pan.
  2. Wash and dry cauliflower and cut into florets.
  3. Pulse in a blender or food processor until you have rice consistency. You won’t need the stems at all. FYI: this part is very tedious if you don’t own a food processor – which I don’t. So, if there are any food manufacturers who are reading this may I suggest you start selling riced-up cauliflower. I would be a customer for life!
  4. Place cauliflower in a microwave dish, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Let the cauliflower cool (I put mine in the fridge) and then scoop it into a clean towel and wring out as much water as you can. This is crucial if you want a crust that will stay together.
  6. Place the cauliflower back into the bowl and add all the ingredients (with the exception of the toppings) and mix well.
  7. *If your cauliflower does not form a tight ball after this step you may need to add some liquid egg whites, in addition to the egg. It really depends on how big your cauliflower is… cause size does matter with this recipe.
  8. Form your crust on a sprayed piece of parchment paper.
  9. Place parchment on the pan that was heating up in the oven and bake for 20-minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and flip the crust. This is my secret to getting a crisp, bread-like crust! I simply place another piece of sprayed parchment on top and flip the pan.
  11. Place back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it, though. You want it golden brown.
  12. Once browned, pull from the oven and add your sauce and toppings and then place back in the oven for another 5-8 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is all bubbly and yummy looking.

Nutrition Facts (for crust only):

Calories: 404

Fat: 19g (high due to the almond flour)

Saturated Fat: 5.5g

Sodium: 1216 mg (a little high due to the cheese)

Carbs: 38.7

Fiber: 13g

Sugar: 11.7 g

Protein: 33.6g

The crust on a cauliflower crust pizza is really the bulk of the calories if you only add a 1/4 cup of sauce, and use the toppings that I suggest. If you follow those instructions you will be eating a whole pie that is under 600 calories.

Pretty damn good considering a medium cheese pizza (that’s with no toppings) from Panago is 1,680 calories.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza - Fitness with PJ

 Cauliflower Crust Pizza - Fitness with PJ

 

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