If your midsection has gotten bigger despite not making any changes to your diet or exercise routine, you are not alone. Weight gain is one of the most common complaints in women 40+, especially in the menopause transition and beyond. Unfortunately, the drop in estrogen production in the menopause transition causes a shift in your fat stores, creating that dreaded belly fat. On top of that, your metabolism slows down at midlife, making it even harder to keep your weight in check. Menopause even increases a woman’s risk of preventable chronic diseases: high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
While using hormone therapy definitely helps prevent weight gain and lowers your risk of developing some chronic diseases, its use is not the magic answer to your weight gain woes. There is definitely some truth to the phrase “You are what you eat”. The foods you choose to fuel your body with each day plays a significant part in your body’s ability to prevent disease and control your weight. .
Adapting a lifestyle diet can help you obtain wellness. Our favorite at MyMenopauseRx is the Mediterranean Diet. It has been supported in the medical literature over and over again as a healthy way to eat and live that prevents chronic diseases like heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression and certain cancers. Being physically active along with eating traditional foods from the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea can even help you maintain a healthy weight in menopause and beyond. Fruits and vegetables are the star of your meals, but rest assured, you will not be deprived of any food groups - you can even enjoy wine and dessert!
If you currently have a classic westernized diet full of processed foods and sugary beverages, following a mediterranean diet lifestyle may be too much change all at once. That’s ok. Introducing diet changes little by little is a great way to succeed.
Remember, every healthy change you make in your lifestyle counts toward improving your wellness. Aim to incorporate one new Mediterranean diet principle each week or two. Over time, your small changes add up and allow you to say goodbye to fad diets for good and hello to wellness.
Principles of the Mediterranean Diet:
- Begin with the tough part - eliminate fast and processed foods.
- Eat your veggies! Try to fill half your plate with veggies at lunch and dinner. Fresh or frozen are both great options.
- Enjoy fruit as a snack, meal or dessert. Fresh or frozen tastes great and count equally. (2-3 servings per day)
- Include seeds (sunflower, flax and chia) and legumes like beans (cannellini, pinto and black), lentils and chickpeas on a regular basis. They are high in fiber and filling. (2-3 servings per week)
- Switch to whole grains for bread, rice and pastas. Whole grains are full of fiber and help keep you full longer. Whole grains: bread, rolled oats, bulgur, couscous, brown rice, farro, whole cornmeal polenta, pasta from whole wheat.
- Enjoy regular fat cheese and Greek or regular yogurt daily but only eaten in small amounts. (2-3 servings per day). Try to vary your cheeses: feta, ricotta, mozzarella, manchego, asiago, provolone, parmigiano, gorgonzola.
- Eat fish twice per week. Fish is a great source of Omega-3 oils (the good fats!) Try salmon, tuna sardines, clams, mussels, scallops, oysters, crabs, calamari, cod, shrimp, swordfish and tilapia.
- Try to avoid red meat but if you have a craving, go ahead. Just limit the amount to no more than 2-3 times per month in SMALL amounts. When you do choose to eat red meat, consider a leaner cut like lamb.
- Enjoy 1 egg per day. Eggs are a great source of protein and Vitamins A, D, and E.
- Make extra virgin olive oil your go to oil for cooking and eating. (3 tablespoons daily)
- Go nuts for nuts but limit to one handful daily. They are a great source of good fats and fiber. Raw and unsalted is best. Stick with almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, peanuts and pistachios.
- Save cakes, pastries and other sweet sugary treats for special occasions. Try fresh fruits, yogurt with honey and nuts.
- Enjoy a glass of red wine daily, but only with meals. Measure your pour please! (a glass = 4-5oz)
- Make water your main beverage. We recommend at least 8, 8 oz glasses of water per day. Skip sugary beverages, juice and soda.
- Eat your meals with others! Truly the best part of the Mediterranean diet in our opinion. Social time helps to decrease overall stress and improve well being.