Part 5: Women and (Unwanted) Weight
As “gracefully aging women,” ourselves, we know there is much to discuss. However, we have reached our last topic in this series. What makes it so difficult to lose weight or maintain our weight during this phase of life? As always, there are multiple factors to this struggle, and we aren’t going to address genetics here. We are not promoting diets or trying to be thin; rather, we are focused on strong, healthy bodies and minds. We are speaking to those in the audience who are peri-menopausal or currently in menopause who are struggling to lose extra, unwanted weight and keep it off. If you are that person in the audience in your 50’s who has maintained your same weight as in your 30’s or 40’s, well…you know what to do…don’t read any further😌.
- Understand your stress levels. Who isn’t stressed these days🥺? When we experience stress, our cortisol — the body’s main stress hormone- levels go up. This rise in cortisol produces extra glucose (the sugar in our blood), leading to increased blood sugar levels. Why does this extra sweetness matter? Well, it isn’t so sweet! When our blood sugar levels go up, so do our levels of insulin. Insulin is our body’s storage hormone, whose job it is to store our excess blood sugar into our cells, so we can burn it off for energy. You know how you feel when you simultaneously put away your groceries while talking on the phone and making a delicious dinner, all at the same time😅? SUPER EFFICIENT! Well insulin loves efficiency, too. However, that efficiency can lead to excess calories being stored away that may not get burned off…and we know where to find them (i.e. buttocks, thighs, abdomen😩). Some quick stress-reducing strategies: get outside and breathe in some fresh air, exercise, call a friend, take a bath.
- Use your support system. Especially during this pandemic with higher levels of social isolation, we need our people! Research shows that people with high levels of social support may experience less stress. Feelings of sadness, anxiety, uncertainty and hopelessness can sometimes cause us to lean away from others, when this is the time that we really need them the most. If you are feeling as though the stress levels are impacting your functionality, your sleep, your mood regulation and you just don’t feel like your usual self, consider making a telehealth appointment with your physician or a therapist. Moreover, and especially if you live alone, staying mindful about healthy eating and exercise can feel like a forever endeavor. Consider talking to friends and family about your plans and encourage others to join you in your day-to-day — trade recipes, cook together over Zoom, challenge others to a contest (who gets in the most steps per week in your family?)
- Time to talk about your THYROID. Your thyroid produces three hormones: Triiodothyronine, also known as T3, Tetraiodothyronine, also called thyroxine or T4, and Calcitonin. Try saying those 5 times fast🙃. Their names are surely not important, but T3 and T4 are serious control freaks, controlling how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats. Diseases of the thyroid cause it to make either too much or too little of these hormones. Depending on how much or how little hormone your thyroid makes, you may often feel restless or tired, or you may lose or gain weight. Women are more likely than men to have thyroid disease. One in eight women will develop thyroid problems during her lifetime.
There can be a number of causes for thyroid disease, including autoimmune disease, hyperthyroidism treatments, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery and certain medications. There are other less frequent causes, including iodine deficiency. The trace mineral iodine — found primarily in seafood, seaweed, plants grown in iodine-rich soil and iodized salt — is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. Too little iodine can lead to hypothyroidism, and too much iodine can worsen hypothyroidism in people who already have the condition. Now you know why your salt is “iodized,” as this has virtually eliminated the issue in the United States.
One challenge for women is that the symptoms of thyroid problems are mistaken for menopause symptoms. However, thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, is more likely to develop after menopause. Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormones (underactive). This slows down many of your body’s functions, including metabolism. It usually happens quite slowly, over years, with a host of other symptoms, including feeling tired all the time, cold for no reason, constipation, muscle weakness, joint pain, pale and dry skin, sadness, dry, thinning hair, and other symptoms. Hypothyroidism could explain weight gain and it could increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
But the good news (there is always some!), IF you are experiencing any of the above symptoms without a known cause, talk to your doctor. There are treatments out there!
In the meanwhile, let’s continue to focus on healthy eating :) — natural, plant-predominant foods — keeping us feeling energized and smiling, while we surround ourselves with friends and family (at a social distance)! We are going to focus on speed in the kitchen, so less time cooking and more time socializing or just taking the time to take care of YOU❤️!
SPICY SPEEDY SHRIMP
I continue to receive lots of requests for air fryer recipes :). No doubt with good reason — they make cooking fun, tasty, crunchy and speedy. I love this recipe, as there are so many options as to what you can do with these spicy crustaceans.
1 Tablespoon hot Mexican-style chili powder
1/2 cup whole wheat panko crumbs
1 large egg
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Nonstick cooking spray
avocado, sliced or guacamole
salsa, any style
fresh lime juice
Preheat the air fryer to 360˚F for at least 5 minutes. While preheating, place prepared shrimp in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with chili powder and mix well. Crack the egg into a separate small bowl — mixing well with fork. Place the panko crumbs into a separate small bowl.
Once preheat is complete, slide out the air fryer basket and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Remove shrimp from bag, one at a time, dipping into the egg, then panko crumbs, and placing in air fryer basket. Once basket is full (not overfull, as shrimp should not touch each other), spray tops of shrimp and slide into air fryer. “Fry” for 7–8 minutes at 360˚F, shaking halfway through to flip shrimp. Remove and repeat until all shrimp are cooked.
Serve on top of salad, in a whole grain wrap, or in a bowl with brown rice. Top with any or all of the suggested toppings, and then some!
MISO LIME CHICKEN
Chicken can get a tad boring sometimes, so I try to spark things up here with a tasty zing from the miso and fresh lime juice. This seriously simple and tasty sauce works well with fish or tofu as well!
1 pound chicken tenders or chicken thighs, skinless, boneless
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (about the juice from one lime)
2 Tablespoons white miso paste
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, plain
1 Tablespoon honey
Nonstick cooking spray
Fresh cilantro or basil for garnish
Prepare the rub by placing the onion powder, garlic powder and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Place chicken tenders in a medium bowl. Pour rub evenly on top and mix well with clean hands, being sure the rub is evenly spread onto the chicken.
Mix up the sauce: Place the lime juice, miso paste, yogurt and honey in a small bowl. Mix well until miso is dissolved and set aside.
Place a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the chicken in a single layer. Cook 4–5 minutes, spray again with nonstick cooking spray, and flip to cook another 3–4 minutes on the other side. Remove from pan and place onto serving platter.
Top with sauce and garnish, and keep some extra sauce on the side!
Looking for a quick veggie on the side? Go for fresh golden beets! Peel, slice, mix with a touch of olive oil, dash of salt, freshly ground pepper. Microwave for a few minutes, then roast for 15–20 minutes at 400˚F. Garnish with fresh sage. Share the sauce here, too!
This recipe was originally a heavier chili. I lightened it up into a bisque with some additional calcium-packed ingredients, as well as adding crab meat for a lean protein, along with the beans. Although the sherry helps bring out a rich, mellow taste, it may be omitted if desired. There is some chopping here, but still a 20-minute or less prep time.
3 medium shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped fine
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2–3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, low sodium
8 ounces jumbo lump crab, shells removed
1/2 cup evaporated nonfat milk
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Flat leaf parsley to garnish, optional
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Once oil is hot, add the shallots, garlic and bell pepper. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the beans, chili powder and tomato paste. Stir and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce temperature to a simmer and continue cooking for about 8 minutes.
Stir in the crab, evaporated nonfat milk, sherry, and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings (any needed salt, pepper, more chili powder). Makes 4 servings.
The Soup Bowl🍲~ T’is the season for soup! Whether you are looking for a meal in a bowl or just a tasty starter, soup usually fits the bill. The natural goodness of homemade soup is warming to the heart and soul. Lots of veggies and whole grains create a high fiber, high nutrient, highly satisfying meal. There are of course times when a lengthier commitment to the kitchen is just not in the cards. Here are some tips when you need to create a quick fix bowl, and still do not want to go for the canned or boxed version:
- Use salsa as a base, adding chicken or vegetable broth until desired consistency. Throw in some pre-shredded chicken, leftover lean ground beef or turkey, or beans, for some lean protein.
- Create a chowder with leftover potatoes. As they are already cooked, they shave about an hour off prep time. You are ready for puree.
- Buy pre-washed, pre-chopped veggies, to quickly throw into a steamy broth. Frozen veggies work well, too!
- Double your recipes when you are preparing soups. Freeze in single portions. Take a break from Zoom, microwave and enjoy.
- Use low salt tomato juice as a base. Add some leftover cooked shrimp, douse with lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and some hot sauce. The speed and spice will warm you up.
- Leftover grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pastas can be added and heated quickly, to balance out a bowl of veggie or protein-based soup.
Real soup is to the body what peace is to the soul. ~Isabel Allende
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