For the last 5 years I’ve been going through perimenopause, which means my honey has been going through it with me. In that time I’ve learned a lot about how my body works, what I’ve done to it that has resulted in issues I’m having now and what to do to bring it back to what is normal for a human female at this time in her life. It has been a long, hard road, but I’m the kind of person who has to keep digging until I know the full story – in this case, the story of me.
There are all sorts of negative perceptions that come along with this time in a woman’s life, so we may go into this period of our lives with dread, which just sets us (and those close to us) up for a rough ride. Those of us who have thought we’ve been taking care of ourselves by doing what turned out to be many of the wrong things have a rude awakening as our bodies rebel and we seemingly overnight physically turn into everything we don’t want to be. We might gain body fat, lose muscle, have difficulty sleeping, have hot flashes, have emotional issues, have trouble remembering anything, lose our sex drive, and go through many other undesirable changes. It’s different for each individual, of course, but almost all of us have to deal with a few things that we don’t want to have to deal with, unfortunately.
The question I and many others have had is, “Is this normal?” It turns out that there’s good reason to think it is not normal, but that because we’ve spent decades living lives our bodies are not geared for, we have issues when this natural transitional period arrives. In my case, I’ve done too much dieting and chronic exercise trying to be optimally healthy. When this change in body chemistry came for me, my body was not ready for it. I’ve had a few symptoms, but not as many as most other women I know. The increased body fat and decreased muscle tissue, brought on by a combination of hormonal changes and a simultaneous injury (which I unknowingly dealt with in the wrong way), have been my biggest challenges. For someone who has always been focused on health, this has been really disheartening.
Eventually, through much education and self-experimentation, I’ve gained a great understanding of what’s going on in my body. I can tell now that I’ve healed my gut and am still in the process of healing my insulin and leptin resistance. I’m supporting my adrenals and sleeping better. I’m also seeing more healing of my injury that has hobbled me for years now, thanks to the practitioners helping me (my doctor, unfortunately, is not one of them) as well as, I believe, healing systemic inflammation from decades of body mismanagement – stress, eating the wrong stuff, insomnia, etc. It’s wonderful to see progress and feel so much better! And it’s so comforting to finally understand what my body wants – to work with my body, not against it.
I was telling my honey this today, and he said he felt the same happiness and relief for me. He wants the same understanding that I have about what I’m going through. When one of us goes through some change in life, we both do – this is the nature of loving relationships. He proclaimed that this change is something to be celebrated, like any other major stage in life, like having a baby. It is a milestone that a couple goes through together. This is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say this, and it made me love him even more, if that’s possible! It can be a rather lonely and depressing time for a woman, especially if her significant other doesn’t understand what she’s going through. So I wanted to share that amazing sentiment with everyone and encourage you to get a good understanding of the changes you or your loved one is experiencing so you can go through it together in a good way that brings you closer together for this next chapter in your journey through life.
I did not know where to go to get the information I needed when I started noticing the changes in my body. I went to several doctors with different orientations, but they were of little help. An endocrinologist pointed me in the right direction, but I had a LOT to figure out. I therefore decided to take it on as a personal challenge, and boy was it ever! It took years of sifting through and evaluating research and testing various theories on myself to find out the particulars of what my body wanted. As a former researcher, I was at home doing this, but it really tried my patience. I don’t want anyone else to have to go at it alone, so anyone who would like help understanding how your body and mind have changed and your body’s unique needs, feel free to book a free consultation so we – your honey included, if you like – can chat about celebrating this time in your life together.
I just listened to an interview with Dr. Benjamin Bikman, a PhD in Bioenergetics whose research specialization includes insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when we eat too much carbohydrate (sugars and starches), and it produces systemic inflammation, which is our body’s healing response to damage. Yes, excess carbohydrate consumption damages our bodies. In fact, according to Dr. Bikman, all non infectious chronic illnesses are ultimately the result of insulin resistance. Think about that for a second. We can avoid or even reverse chronic illnesses of all kinds just by adopting a low-carbohydrate diet and reversing insulin resistance.
It actually makes a lot of sense. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who lived from 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago, lived with no chronic illness at all. They had great health and then dropped dead one day. They may have fallen off a cliff or been eaten by a tiger, but they didn’t die of cancer or dementia. In fact, they had a potential lifespan of 94 years – and that’s 94 years of great health, then dropping dead! By contrast, in our modern society we see a steady decline into death from the moment we’re born. Our quality of life gets worse and worse, for which we take more medications and anything else that will help us postpone our inevitable demise.
Why the change? Our diet changed. We now eat as much carbohydrate in a day in America as our ancestors ate in a year. We are literally poisoning ourselves with carbs. And yet, when I talk to people about reducing their dietary carbs, they act like I’m asking them to cut off a limb. They think it would be painful and that they would no longer be able to enjoy life if they can’t eat their favorite chocolate glazed donuts anymore.
Well I’m here to tell you that you can recover from insulin resistance and have your donuts – the best of both worlds. There are so many great recipes for decadent desserts online and in fabulous cookbooks, like my good friend Jo’s new cookbook “Cut the Carbs Keep the Flavor” (available HERE) that you’ll never have to go without your favorite sweet treat. You’ll just be making it a little differently. The donuts I made in the picture above are sweetened with stevia and erythritol instead of sugar, and I used almond flour instead of grains. The result? A truly delicious chocolate donut with very little carbohydrate in it. And because it doesn’t spike insulin, all you want is one, not several. You’re also full for a long time rather than wanting to eat more food shortly afterwards because of the insulin spike and resistance.
When you think about improving your health and the health of your family, think about changing how you’re making your food rather than about depriving yourself of something you love but you know isn’t good for you. Get out of the dieting mindset and into a longevity one. Have your chocolate donuts – just make them part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Never tell yourself you can’t have something to eat, because your brain will look at you and say, “Hold my beer.” Next thing you know you’re chowing down on exactly what you don’t want to be eating.
Instead, if you want to have a donut, or make a yummy cake for your daughter’s birthday, or make a rich, delicious pasta dish for company coming over this weekend, find a recipe that is low-carb (searching “keto” will get you some great options). Forget what you’ve been told you should or should not eat, don’t worry about how many carbs or other macronutrients you’re eating or how many calories are in it, just make it low carb. Use your favorite family recipes and substitute for the sugars, grains and beans (which become sugars after we eat them) and you’ll be amazed how no one will miss what isn’t there!
I’ve lost weight and a ton of inches by doing this, but I don’t even focus on that anymore and don’t want you to, either. Stop thinking about slimming down and think about increasing the quality and length of your life instead. You’ll be so much happier, and the fat falling off will be an awesome extra. It’s about health, not weight loss. If you’re older (like me), you may find that you’ve suffered silently with insulin resistance for so long – decades, probably – that it may take a few years to fully recover, but recover you will. I have been low-carb for about six months now, and I still notice some cravings and other physical effects of carbs once in awhile, though they are fewer and farther between and lower intensity than they used to be. Before I know it I may not want chocolate donuts anymore at all, but until then I’ll make healthy ones once in awhile to allow myself to thoroughly enjoy life while healing my insulin resistance completely.
A problem many people have with reducing the amount of carbohydrates in their diets is that they make too big of a change too fast, which is physically and psychologically painful. It’s also totally avoidable. Take it easy, baby steps, continually reducing the carbs as it feels good. You should be feeling better every day, not worse. Eventually, you’ll likely reduce or eliminate any meds you may be taking, as well. You’ll be thinking more clearly and have more energy. Taking an extreme approach to making this change often results in people feeling bad, weak, and off in many ways, which tends to make them think it’s not a good change for them to make. This is unfortunate, because this is a change we all need to make, whether we’re carrying around too much body fat or not, or whether we’re taking medication or not – it doesn’t matter, we all need to seriously reduce our carb intake. Do it in a way that feels good! I’ve seen my clients reverse labs and other objective medical indicators of health just by starting down this road in a very comfortable way, and they have more energy and feel better every time I see them for the next baby step.
If you would like help getting a plan together to make changes in your recipes or lifestyle to heal your insulin resistance and reclaim the awesome health your ancestors had, just let me know. We can get you moving in the right direction and making easy changes over time specific to your body to feel more and more amazing, the way your body is genetically programmed to feel. Work with your body, not against it, and as you get used to the gradual changes you make in your life you’ll be amazed how easy it really is.
I’ve never been good about eating leafy green vegetables, which are such an important part of a healthy diet. Even when I was a strict vegan I didn’t eat enough of them. I’m just not a big fan of salads. Eating salad is like punishing myself for something. Cold, fibrous punishment. I pretty much have to find ways to sneak greens into my food, like I’m five. To this day my father doesn’t believe that I was ever a vegan, because he claims that as a kid the only green thing I would eat was an M&M.
Well, Dad, you probably won’t believe this, either, but I have a leafy green salad almost every day for lunch. Happily. This is because I found a way to make salad that doesn’t taste like salad. I make it with my all-time favorite food group: casserole! I don’t think I would have happened upon this idea had it not been for the influence of my college roommate who ate nothing but salad. She loved it so much she just piled even cooked veggies on top and ditched the dressing. I remember following her lead in the dining hall one day (and quite a few days after, because I liked it) by dumping stewed tomatoes on top of a green salad. I liked the fact that it wasn’t all cold, fibrous punishment. It tasted more like real food to me.
Every weekend now I make some new casserole, like the nacho chicken one in the picture here. It’s cauliflower based, actually, with onions and tomatoes and green chiles, as well as chicken, cheeses, sour cream and spices. I started with a recipe, but now I have a quick and easy way of making whatever casserole I feel like on the fly. I take a bag of cauliflower or broccoli pearls (or rice a head of cauliflower) and cook it in a large pan with some meat and my cooking fat of choice (when I use ground beef or bacon I just use the fat from the meat; otherwise, it’s usually olive oil or good-quality butter) and any other veggies I want that need to be cooked. When that’s all done, I add any seasonings, cheese, other veggies or meats that don’t need cooking – whatever I feel like adding – and make sure it’s all melted and mixed up completely. Then I put it in a casserole dish and bake it until it’s light brown and bubbly on top (usually about 15-20 minutes).
To make my idea of salad, I put a big handful (about 2 cups) of leafy greens in a bowl and top it with a serving of warmed-up casserole (I usually get about 6 servings per casserole). Then I add some healthy fat to it, like guacamole or parmesan cheese – or even salad dressing! It looks like a mess, but it tastes delicious and more like comfort food than salad, even though it’s more veg than anything else.
I hear so many people say they don’t cook much of their own food because they don’t know what to make or don’t have time to check out recipes or don’t want to go to the store for the one ingredient they’re missing. Well, now you folks have no excuse. This is the easiest kitchen-sink dish I know. Use whatever ingredients you have. Cook until veggies are soft and meat is not raw and cheese is melted. That’s the only cooking skill you need. Any greens will work and you can top it with whatever healthy, yummy fat tickles your fancy. Change it up every time, if you want to, so you never get bored. And because I’ll eat it and love it, you can bet your kids will, too. Enjoy, and if you come up with any epic ingredient combinations, let me know!
Many of my clients come to me wanting to lose body fat, whether to help with a medical condition, increase their energy and quality of life or for aesthetic reasons. It can be a difficult and even painful process, especially for women and especially as we get older. We want to stop making and storing fat and burn it instead. But how do we do that? It can be confusing to know what to do with so much misinformation out there, including “expert advice” and FDA guidelines that are often not supported by research.
We have to stop eating foods that increase our insulin secretion. The job of insulin is to shuttle glucose into the adipose cells to be made into fat. Every time we eat foods that stimulate insulin secretion, we put ourselves in fat-storing mode. When we don’t eat or when we eat foods that do not increase insulin, our bodies can start burning fat. But as soon as we eat something that jacks up our insulin, we’re kicked out of fat-burning mode.
There are two simple concepts that can keep you in fat-burning mode longer and, in time, make your body more metabolically flexible (happy burning both sugar and fat – whatever’s available), thereby reducing appetite and cravings and comfortably giving you all of the energy you need when you need it. In other words, you don’t need to suffer to lose body fat. You just need to change up your routine a bit.
The first concept is intermittent fasting. We all fast for about 10-12 hours or so throughout the night, which is about the amount of time it takes our bodies to run through our sugar stores and be hungry to break our fast (breakfast). Go longer than that without eating, and your body will have to burn the fat it has on board for energy. Research shows that the more you allow yourself to go a little longer (say, 16-20 hours) without eating anything that will stimulate insulin, the more metabolically flexible you will become. If you’d like to try this, I’d recommend that you ease into it and make your eating window during times that you’re most likely to want to eat. I usually fast for 16-20 hours each day and just skip eating in the morning because my body has never felt good when I’ve fed it in the morning. I just have some coffee with a little heavy whipping cream in it, then I do my workout fasted and wait a few more hours to break my fast.
Doing a workout fasted works for me because I feel better working out without anything in my stomach. I burn more body fat that way, too. Waiting a few hours after working out to start stimulating insulin secretion also helps me burn more body fat. Again, this is something you can work up to if you want to try it. As always, listen to your body and do what makes it feel good.
I typically break my fast between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. with a bowlful of raw greens and some kind of casserole on top. I love casseroles and make vegetable-based ones with some meat and lots of healthy fats. Then I throw some more healthy fat on top. A couple favorites are arugula topped with steak and mushrooms in a balsamic cream sauce, with brie on top (see my previous blog post for the recipe) and nacho chicken casserole over baby spinach with guacamole. I mix it up so I don’t get bored and get lots of different nutrients. You’ll notice that I don’t eat any high-carbohydrate foods.
This is the second big concept of becoming a fat-burner: eat fewer carbs. When you eat high-carb foods, like grains, beans and fruit, you make a lot of insulin and increase ghrelin, the hunger hormone, while decreasing leptin, the hormone that tells us we’re full and don’t want to eat anything. Obviously, it is easier to start burning fat when you don’t eat as much carb, and it’s also easier not to overeat because eating low-carb decreases ghrelin and increases leptin. If you want to transition to this way of becoming a fat-burner, I’d recommend you do so gradually so your body doesn’t freak out that you’re no longer giving it jet fuel every 2-3 hours and are going to start burning body fat instead. That freak out happens when your body thinks it’s starving because you’ve made such a big change so fast. Ease into it and be comfortable. Find foods you love and make them low-carb while increasing your consumption of healthy fats.
I’ve recently had a significant amount of body fat to lose following a series of injuries that vastly decreased my ability to exercise – and then going into perimenopause at the same time. Double-whammy! After many failed attempts to reduce body fat long-term, an endocrinologist suggested I transition to a ketogenic diet. She’s on it and she prescribes it to her patients for a host of medical issues relating to insulin. There is a great deal of good research backing up this position (and a recent huge study from the Lancet that contradicts it, but this study is fatally flawed in multiple ways and should not be given an iota of credence, in my professional opinion as a researcher). In the several months that I’ve been focusing on reducing my insulin response, I’ve only lost 12 pounds, but that’s because I’ve been able to exercise more and have put on heavy, lean muscle (muscle outweighs fat 5:1) and lost a lot of fat! I know this because I’ve lost an inch off of each arm and each leg, 4 inches off of my chest and waist, and 3 inches off of my hips. Whenever I eat something that bumps me out of fat-burning mode, I’m back into it remarkably fast. My body has adapted to using fat for fuel and absolutely loves it! When I eat high-carb foods now I wake up the next morning feeling hung-over. When you clean up your eating, your body tells you what it doesn’t want.
Want to find out more? I’m happy to help you with a plan to ease into becoming a fat-burner in a way that makes your body comfortable and energized. Just make sure you talk to your doctor first to make sure that it won’t complicate any conditions you may have. Leaning out doesn’t have to be painful, with feelings of deprivation and suffering. It shouldn’t be anything but comfortable and rewarding, in my opinion. You should feel better, happier and more energetic every day, because, when you do it right, you’re giving your body what it naturally wants. Concerned about not being able to give up your favorite high-carb foods? No worries – the hypno and NLP that I do can make that easy, too! Feel free to schedule a free consultation if you’d like to learn more.
Woke up this morning and stood for awhile looking out my bedroom window where the jogging trail is, contemplating the concept of motivation and how useless it is. I was wishy-washy about going for a run, but I kinda wanted to and it was a beautiful morning and I knew the dogs would love it, so I stopped thinking about it and asked the dogs if they wanted to go for walkies – then I’m committed because they’re so excited and I can’t disappoint them by not following through! I knew I’d be getting some kind of exercise this morning, it was just a matter of what. I’ve gotten myself in the habit of working out one way or another at the same time every morning save one (rest is just as important!). I don’t give myself the choice of not doing it, so it’s easy.
I hear so many people talk about wanting to be more motivated to do something they think would be good for themselves, and I’m often asked if I can do something hypnosis-wise to help motivate them. To me this is the wrong question. I remember my mentor coach telling us that there wasn’t a single one of his high-achieving clients who wanted to do everything that was good for them every day. The difference between them and the rest of us is that they didn’t give themselves a choice. They made it part of their job.
If there is something you want to do regularly but are having trouble doing it, it isn’t a matter of motivation. Where does the notion come from – does the real you want to do it or did someone tell you you should do it? If it’s truly important to you, you’ll do it. When you give yourself a choice and excuse your lack of follow-through by telling yourself you’re not motivated enough, there’s something blocking you from really wanting to do it. Your brain is blocking it to protect you somehow, and reprogramming that can allow you to make the positive activity part of your job of being a healthy, happy human being – no motivation required.
So next time you criticize yourself as not motivated enough, I’d encourage you to get to the real issue by listening to the real you (you can hear it when you’re quiet and not talking to yourself ). How important is it to you, really? When you tell yourself you should do it, it is your voice or someone else’s? Your lack of follow-through is not a weakness, it’s your brain doing its job – you’re just not listening to what it’s trying to tell you. See yourself as not following through with it because it’s wrong somehow. Either you don’t really want it, or you need to remove a protective block that your clever brain put in place that may have served you once but perhaps isn’t anymore and can be reprogrammed. You’re not unmotivated, you’re protecting yourself. Find out why, let go of what isn’t serving you and move on with your life unencumbered by the self-criticism. And send love to your brain for looking out for you.