Nutrition For Women Over 50

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dieting questionsNutrition For Women Over 50

Maintaining healthy nutrition, for women over 50, can be a real challenge.  Before I started on the food plan I’m about to share with you, I struggled for a few years  with calorie counting.  I failed to lose a single pound even with limiting my diet to 800 calories per day!  This extreme calorie limitation will never serve you well.  I would get so frustrated I’d find myself binging on junk food all the time.

Then, I tried an all natural, organic cleansing fast for 10 days.  I’m not suggesting you try that, but I will tell you I felt amazing!  You should probably consult with your doctor before trying a fasting cleanse of this length, however.  I did manage to lose 10 lbs in 10 days.  It was no easy task, though, and I feared I’d gain it all back once I started back on my regular diet.  (for more on safer cleansing, I recommend you read my article To Cleanse Or Not To Cleanse:  Why You Probably Should.

Instead of going back to my old eating habits, though, I took a closer look at what I was eating daily and discovered what I instinctively knew were the culprits hindering my weight loss.  I noticed a few things that really stood out:  white rice, bagels, English muffins, coffee with cream, potatoes, cheese, alcohol, diet soda and packaged or processed foods.  

What I did was eliminate all of those things from my diet, while keeping the good stuff:  salads, fruits, raw veggies, water, lean meat and fish, Greek yogurt and as many organic foods as I could find or afford from my local grocery store.  I lost 10 more lbs over the next 6 weeks and have managed to keep that off for close to a year, now.  

I need to mention that I was also experiencing a tremendous amount of stress the last few years and have learned how to deal with that in healthier ways, as well.  Through meditation and yoga, I have learned how to calm my mind and control anxiety, which can absolutely hinder weight loss (especially in women over 50).  Over the course of this last year I’ve done some research and found that I was onto something; there were reasons why what I was doing worked, and why what I had been doing failed.  That’s what we’re going to look at first, the physiological reasons behind what works and what doesn’t.

Physiology

We all know that as the years go by, there are visible external indications of aging…wrinkles, gray hair, loose skin, excess weight in the midsection, etc.  But, there are even more significant internal changes taking place that we don’t always consider.  As we age, our metabolism slows down.  These metabolic changes are the result of, not only hormonal changes, but also a natural progression that begins earlier in life:  glycemic stress.  In simple terms, from eating too many refined carbs…like, french fries, mashed potatoes, cookies, ice cream, soda, white bread, etc.  This causes an immediate increase in blood sugar.  This excess blood sugar causes inflammation in the lining of the blood vessels throughout the body, starting in the skeletal muscles.  This is “glycemic stress”.  If left unchecked, glycemic stress eventually results in too much belly fat, an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

 

Refined Carbs

These refined carbs make all perimenopausal problems, such as heavy bleeding, cramps, fibroids, and PMS, worse because of its adverse effect on hormone balance.  This only reinforces the tendency toward excess fat around the waist and belly.

Slowing Down

We start to slow down after 50, too.  We aren’t exercising like we did in our twenties or thirties.  Muscle mass gets replaced with fat, particularly belly fat.

Toxic Stress

There is also a connection between toxic stress and toxic weight gain.  This is the kind of weight gain that accumulates around the belly and puts women at risk for premature death.  Toxic stress can come from any daily challenge, but for women over 50 (or even 40), it’s especially common. I mean, we have so much more happening than we realize at this age…there’s relationship changes, empty nest stuff going on, loss, job stress, illness and don’t forget the effects of menopause.  Think about the times when your perimenopausal weight really seemed to increase…was it during times of increased stress in your life?  Chances are, it was/is.  This is largely due to changes in our serotonin and cortisol levels.  These are the hormones that help us cope with stress and to feel good.  So, naturally, when these hormone levels are lowered or depleted, particularly in the late afternoon, we become more vulnerable to emotions that come from stress.  And, when serotonin is depleted, we are more apt to over do it with the refined carbs to bring it back to normal.  In other words, we pig out on chips and cookies to try to feel better.

It makes sense, then, that we want to focus on limiting refined carbs in our diet and keeping stress levels in balance.  A high glycemic , refined food diet results in overproduction of insulin, deficiencies in omega-3 fats (necessary for the function of nearly every cell in the body), too many trans fats, deficiencies in vitamins C and B6, and magnesium.

Why is a Healthy Diet so Important?

I cannot stress enough how important a healthy diet is to our over all WELLNESS.  Think about some of the issues you have faced since turning 50. Some of them probably include insomnia, lack of energy, dry skin and, of course, excess belly fat.  With a good healthy diet, you will feel better almost immediately.  Not only will you feel better, you will also be reducing your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and breast cancer, to name a few.

Lets talk about a food plan…

  1. Eat at Least 3 Meals a Day – starving yourself all day and saving up calories for later in the day is never a good idea for a couple reasons.  First, the metabolic rate naturally peaks at noon and decreases after that.  So, when you starve all day and eat a big meal at dinner time, the food you eat will more likely be stored as excess fat compared to food eaten earlier in the day.  Also, starving yourself will lower your overall metabolic rate over time, making it nearly impossible to lose any weight now matter how little calories you’re taking in.  Starvation can also result in a decrease in beneficial lean body mass but not necessarily a decrease in body fat.  Most perimenopausal women do best when they keep their blood sugar stable throughout the day by eating frequent, smaller meals.  Try eating a little snack around 4:00 PM to help keep you from overeating at night.
  2. Concentrate on Portion Size, Not Calorie Counting – Nobody likes counting calories anyway, right?  Try to focus on eating high quality foods in smaller portions.
  3. Protein Protein Protein – Eat protein at each meal.  This includes eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy food, soy or whey protein, whole soybeans and tofu.  The amount of protein you should be eating depends on your size and how active you are.  So, the bigger and more active you are, the more protein you need.
  4. Cut Back on Refined & High-Glycemic-Index Carbs.  This includes ALCOHOL.  Benefits of stable blood sugar include more energy, endurance, clearer thinking, ability to build muscle, less hunger, fewer PMS symptoms, fewer hot flashes, softer and more radiant skin, less puffiness and dark circles around eyes, more restful sleep & better and more stable moods.  It’s a win/win, really.

I should also mention that we should go easy on the whole grains, too.  These don’t need to be completely eliminated, but should be limited.  Some people find that eating whole grain products triggers binge eating.  Whole grains include:  whole wheat, whole rye, whole oat and millet flour.

WHAT CAN WE EAT

  • Fresh Fruits & Veggies – strive to eat at least 5 servings per day.  A serving is small, maybe 4  oz or 1/2 cup.  Remember, the healthiest fruits and vegetables are the most colorful and are powerful antioxidants:  broccoli; red , yellow & green peppers; dark green leafy vegetables like collards, kale & spinach; tomatoes.  Blueberries have been found to have the highest concentration of antioxidants compared to forty other fruits and vegetables!  Some of the benefits from consuming pigment rich foods are:  help balance hormones, protect the skin from sun damage, keep the skin & eyes radiant, maintain the lining of the blood vessels, help prevent varicose veins, lower cholesterol, boost immune system and help the body to resist cancer & other degenerative diseases.
  • Other fruits fruit and veggiesand vegetables like potatoes, corn and bananas have lots of nutrients in them, too, but you should remember that the more processed they are, the higher their glycemic index.  For example, a baked potato is way healthier than a pile of french fries!  And, fresh is always better than cannedHealthy Fats – Essential Fatty Acids or EFAs are necessary for human development and health.  There are 2 essential types of EFAs:  omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats.  Omega-6 fats are in the foods we eat; however, omega-3 fats are harder to come by, especially in the American diet.  Good sources of omega-3 fats include pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed or flaxseed oil, hempseed or hempseed oil, organ meats, some fish or fish oil supplements, DHA supplements (docosahexaenoic acid).  Nuts are also a good source, but in moderation…maybe a handful once or twice a day.
  • WATER WATER WATER – Try to drink filtered water.  We need lots of water to help our bodies eliminate the breakdown products of fat.  Drinks lots of water and you will reap the benefits of soft, supple glowing skin.  You won’t believe how pliable it’ll feel to the touch.  I try to drink a gallon of distilled water a day.  Feel free to slice up a lemon or a cucumber to add to your water, if you really hate plain water.  Trust me, though, if you start drinking a gallon per day, you will actually CRAVE it.  Just be careful not to over do it; there’s a thing called water intoxication.  Though rare, it can happen and can be fatal.  Remember, your size and activity level effect how much water your body needs.  The bigger your frame and the more active you are, the more you need.  Start by drinking at least 8 glasses per day.  See how you feel.  Any adverse reactions, like fatigue?  No?  Keep increasing until you hit an amount where you notice positive changes in your skin (softer, smoother, more supple).  You’ll thank me later.

e-mail any questions you may have to Barb@healthandwellnessforwomenover50.com

Looking for a convenient way to shop for organic foods?

Whole Food Weight Loss Program

Source:  The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup M.D.

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12 thoughts on “Nutrition For Women Over 50

  1. Having a good health is my family’s top priority especially that my mother is almost turning 50. At this age she is starting to feel signs of weaknesses. And even though she has no vices, she still feels that her body deteriorates. So what is the major thing that you can suggest to prevent this downfall of health of my mom?

    • How wonderful it is that you’re looking out for your mother’s health and well being! Unfortunately, there is no one magical thing that addresses the issues that face women over 50, such as the weaknesses your mom is experiencing. I CAN tell you; however, that proper nutrition and supplements (ie: vit. D with calcium and glucosamine for joint support), along with exercise will help her out immensely. I highly recommend studying and practicing yoga. Yoga will not only increase muscle strength, but also bone and joint strength. Not to mention yoga will give your mom an over all sense of well being and peace of mind. This will, naturally, ensure a more restful night’s sleep, which is so important for our bodies to recover and restore healthy function. I’ve outlined a basic food plan, here, that your mother may want to look at and try…for the whole family! Thanks so much for your question, I hope I was able to help you out. Best wishes to you and your family. Be well.

  2. I like to ask myself: “does it grow or live?”
    Then I know that it is probably the healthier choice to go for.
    If something is “man made” or manufactured, then you should steer clear.
    I’m 45 now and have seen these tips pay off!
    Keep writing to help a lot of women approach their 50’s with a smile on their faces! 🙂

  3. Hey, I really like the concept behind this website. It can really help a lot of people, especially those over 50.

    I agree with a lot of things you have to say here. I have heard refined carbs are really bad for you and I can see how they can have adverse health effects.

    Also, I agree people lose muscle and aren’t as active when they age, especially after they leave their twenties and thirties.

    Thanks for the information, I’ll make sure to pass it on.

    • Thanks, Dylan, I am so happy you found something useful here. And, thanks for taking the time to check in and leave your comment.

      Be Well.

  4. Wow! This website is beautiful! Great information here. I’ve known a lot of women over the years who have suffered and dealt with menopause in silence, and I know this website would have been a Godsend for them. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks, Dennis, this means so much coming from a male perspective! Thanks for being so empathetic to our plight. h aha FYI most of the info here can apply to anyone, not just women over 50. Be well, my friend!
      Barb

  5. Hey Barb,

    I was going to leave a comment under your recipe page but didn’t see a comment field. So, I am leaving it here. I am going to try the Curly Endive Salad recipe, it sounds so good and I just got a huge bag of walnuts from Costco! I was not sure if endive was related to fennel. I looked it up and it is not. I really don’t like fennel since it tastes like licorice. So, endive salad with walnuts and goat cheese, here I come!
    Thanks!
    Jessica

    • Hey Jessica! Let me know what you think of the salad. I tried it a couple weeks ago and I loved it. I threw in just a few black olives, too. I’m excited for you to try it.

  6. Barb,
    I wanted to let you know I tried the Curly Endive with Walnuts, Pears and Goat Cheese recipe on your recipe page. I had it last night and it was great! I didn’t make the dressing as I already had made my own vinaigrette so I just used that. I toasted the walnuts and they were so good. I don’t usually toast walnuts but I will now! The goat cheese and pear and vinaigrette together were soooooo good. More great recipes please!
    Thanks
    Jessica

    • That’s great, Jessica! I’m glad you liked it. It really is a great blend of flavors…especially the goat cheese and pears!! I’ll work on more recipes for ya!!

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