It’s December and holiday festivities are in full swing. ‘Tis the season of cocktails, eggnog, and foods rich in sugar and fat.
Some may call this time of year binge season. Christmas only comes once a year, right? So, why not overindulge?!
It’s not all holly jolly fun, though. December can be a very stressful time for an already busy woman in perimenopause or postmenopause. There are presents to buy and wrap, cards to write, decorations and lights to put up and so much food to prepare.
All these extra chores tend to be followed by a lack of sleep for days, fast foods, strong coffee, sugary snacks to help get through the day and alcohol to help wind down before bed. As a result, blood sugar levels in the body sway up and down dramatically leading to a vicious cycle of sugar cravings and overeating. This is on top of hunger, fullness and abdominal fat gain already impacted by hormone drops in menopause.
Stress and poor eating habits can trigger many complaints associated with menopause - hot flashes, headaches, irritability, digestive issues and fat around the belly, to name a few.
So, how do we get through this season without losing track of our health and wellness goals and still enjoy the festivities?
Here are some healthy tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your next holiday event.
1. Continue eating at regular times.
Remember to eat 3 meals a day and balance your meals and snacks with lean protein (tofu, quinoa, egg, fish, chickpeas, poultry), dietary fibre (vegetables, brown rice, leafy greens, chia, flax) and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, hemp seeds, olives) to help prevent food cravings and overeating later in the evening. Be sure to eat breakfast, as it helps to balance your blood sugar and it sets you up for success later in the day.
2. Choose whole foods.
Blood sugar levels stay stable on a diet of unrefined, whole foods. Consider meal planning and batch cooking to avoid the urge to stop for fast foods full of excess sugar, fat, salt and, in most cases, preservatives and additives. If you’re too strapped for time to prepare a meal, try a high-quality protein smoothie with berries and greens, like the one below.
3. Keep hydrated.
You’re probably already aware that dehydration leads to hangovers after a night of cocktails. But, did you know that even mild dehydration can affect nearly every system in our body? If you suffer from hot flashes, drink up! Water helps your body maintain its temperature. It also prevents constipation and bloating by helping to flush out toxins and waste. Drinking a couple of glasses of water before snacking or eating can also prevent overeating.
4. Stay active.
Continue to make time to move your body. Yoga or getting outside for a long walk do wonders to help decrease feelings of stress and anxiety. When we feel stressed, we tend to overeat and crave the comfort of unhealthy snacks, which can worsen complaints associated with menopause.
5. Fill your plate with lots of vegetables first.
The dietary fibre in vegetables will help you feel full longer and help crowd out the not-so-good stuff. The veggies will also give your body important menopause nutrients, like magnesium and antioxidants and B vitamins to help combat stress.
6. Go easy on the cocktails. If you indulge, sip slowly and eat some food with your drink. Alternate your drinks with tall glasses of water to keep you hydrated throughout the evening. Keep in mind though that any amount of alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, negatively impacts sleep and is a common trigger for hot flashes and night sweats. You might like to try some delicious mocktails as alcohol-free alternatives.
7. Be mindful and try to enjoy your food. Eat slowly, chew well and savour every bite, as eating too quickly can disrupt satiety signals. Go ahead and treat yourself to a small serving of that special something you only see during the holidays. Keep in mind that fretting over every single not-so-healthy bite ramps up stress levels. It’s important to manage stress as it can lead to stress-related food cravings and disrupted eating patterns.
8. Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation increases the stress hormone, cortisol, and when cortisol is elevated, you’re likely to overeat and reach for foods high in fat and sugar. To read more on sleep and solutions to improve your sleep quality, check out my sleep blog post.
This is a time to celebrate with friends and loved ones, so enjoy! And remember that any step you take to improve your food choices and eating habits is a step in the right direction to support your body through menopause and beyond.
Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
North American Menopause Society https://www.menopause.org/for-women/nine-ways-to-manage-holiday-stress-and-hot-flashes
Drink to Your Health at Menopause, or Not? https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/exercise-and-diet/drink-to-your-health-at-menopause-or-not
Water: How much should you drink every day? - Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#:~:text=About%2015.5%20cups%20
Holiday nutrition tips for women in menopause | by Gennev