Updated: Nov 20
I get it. I’m a working mom with 2 kids—you're juggling a zillion things, from work to family and everything in between. But guess what? You can still embrace a healthier, fitter, and saner life during menopause with these 7 not-so-secret healthy habits. Backed by research, and tailored to your busy lifestyle, these habits are your key to success if you tackle one at a time and don’t worry about how long it takes to implement them. One micro habit or itty bitty step at a time.
Let's dive in, and we'll even throw in some actionable steps to get you started!
Habit 1: The Amazing Sleep Routine: A study published in the journal Obesity found that individuals who consistently get 7-9 hours of sleep/night have a better chance of losing and maintaining weight. Sleep deprivation disrupts hunger hormones, boosting ghrelin (hunger hormone) and reducing leptin (fullness signal), driving cravings and overeating, especially of high-calorie, sugary foods. Menopause can disrupt sleep with insomnia and hot flashes so change what you have control over.
Action Steps: Create a relaxing bedtime routine, turn screens off 1 hour before lights out, read a book (e-books are okay), and use apps like "Insight Timer" for guided meditation to help you wind down.
Everything I changed to improve my sleep: Use my own covers, no caffeine after 12pm, ear plugs, eye mask, white noise machine, wash my face an hour before lights out, plug work phone outside of bedroom, fan for hot flashes, never work in bed, use 2 different covers for when I’m hot and when I’m cold, bedroom temperature set cooler to 18 C, no pets in my room, screen off 30-60 minutes before lights out(most nights, I’m not perfect;), and remind my teens 50 times to be quiet at night every day, twice a day!
Habit 2: 8,000-10,000 Steps a Day: Research shows that as much as half of functional decline between the ages of 30 and 70 is due, not to aging, but to an inactive way of life. Physical activity can reduce the risk of over 25 chronic conditions including stroke, colon cancer, osteoporosis, hypertension, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease.
Action Steps: Use a smartwatch or phone to track your daily steps. If you’re not into tracking, commit to a 30 minute walk at least 5 days a week. Sneak in extra steps by parking farther from the office, going on walk ‘n talk work meetings, taking short walks during breaks, and pacing while you watch your kids play sports.
How I average 8,000-10,000 steps a day: dog walking(I really try to walk before work for fresh air and a calm mind); walk to run errands: groceries, drugstore, etc.; dancing on and off through the day (making dinner, brushing teeth, when I need to take a little work break); if drive, parking far from store doors, always take stairs instead of elevator (under 8 flights), long nature walks on the weekend with friends or when calling family or friends, tidying house, workouts.
Habit 3: Nutrition for weight loss AND for life:
1)Use your hands to measure your macro-nutrients and vegetables
2) Learn how to eat slowly and mindfully to 80% full - no restrictions and no calorie counting!!!: A study in the Journal of Obesity found that mindful eating, which focuses on savouring each bite and recognizing hunger and fullness cues, can lead to healthier eating habits and weight loss. It feels impossible to put this into practice at first, but if you’re patient, this is the key to magical food freedom. You just have to get over the idea that “you have to finish all the food on your plate”. It’s really OK if you don’t. And if you can't get over the guilt of throwing food out, as this was something ingrained in you since childhood, then always serve yourself less than you think you need and that way you won't need to throw any out!
3) Add a daily 100-150 "treat" to your eating regimen that satisfies your taste buds. By not depriving yourself completely of any food, including "treats", your cravings will actually be easier to manage. Our brains don't like feeling deprived AND there's still a "little girl" living inside us that rebels when she's told she can't have something!! The least processed the treat the better but since it's only 100-150 calories, it's best to find something that satisfies YOU. I sometimes have dark chocolate or an oat based granola bar but I've had clients have popsicles and even almonds and figs.
Action Steps: Print the hand measurement guide and post it in your kitchen. Set the intention to use it for as many meals as possible. To learn to eat slowly and mindfully to 80% full, place reminders in your kitchen and on your phone and set a 20 minute timer when eating, focusing on the textures and flavours of your food, and putting your fork down between bites. Follow this guide so you know how 80% feels:
This habit was a game changer for my weight management. It makes it so much easier to lose weight after I have a week where I overeat. I’m not perfect as sometimes the meal is so good that I eat past full, but I’m good enough that I can remain at my ideal healthy weight. You can do this too! To control cravings by eating a daily 100-150 treat, keep trying different options until you find the one that really satisfies you. I even had a client put her slushy in a martini glass so it upped its fanciness, thus it felt slightly more satisfying.
Habit 4: 3 Weekly Total Body Cardio & Muscle Toning Workouts: When you combine
muscle toning exercises with active recovery exercises between sets (like marching, jumping jacks, etc.,) your heart rate has no choice but to be elevated. And as long as it stays elevated for a steady 20 minutes or more, that workout will be both a cardio and muscle toning workout - no treadmill or elliptical needed. How high does your heart rate need to go for it to be considered a "cardio" workout so you work the heart muscle?
Here’s the simple formula to figure it out:
220 - your age(ex. for me 54) = 166 beats per minute (bpm) - your maximum heart rate
If you're starting an exercise program, you may want to set your target rate at 50% of maximum, and gradually increase the intensity of your workout until you reach 70% to 80%.
At 54 years old:
50% is 83 bpm(166*0.5),
70% is 116 bpm(166*0.7) and
80% is 132 bpm(166*0.8).
However, if you don't exercise regularly, you should check with your doctor before you set a target heart rate. Some medications — particularly beta blockers — can lower your heart rate. Your doctor can help you set realistic goals.
Action Step: To increase chances of starting and sticking to 3 total body workouts a week, you need to find the time and workout that is the most convenient to your schedule, whether that’s before work, at lunch or after work during the week and first thing on weekend mornings. Joining a gym that is not convenient to get to or trying to work out at home when you get easily distracted with other things you need to do, are things you want to think about as you decide where and when to work out. My advice if you hate working out? Hire a personal trainer to come to your house, especially if you have any health problems. And ask her to design a 30 minute total body workout that is right for YOU.
I got in the habit of 3 weekly total body workouts years ago and it really does feel effortless to get them done on most weeks, as it’s such a strong habit in my life. To make sure I don’t get bored, I’ve changed it up throughout the years. Right now at the time of writing this article, I teach Zumba Dance Fitness once a week, go to a hot yoga class once a week, and do a home workout using body weight, bands and dumbbells once a week. I love it!
Habit 5: Daily Planned Stress Relief So You Rely Less on Food: Start with this habit if the main reason you're over eating is due to stress. Stress triggers overeating as it can stimulate the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that can increase appetite, particularly for high-calorie, comfort foods. So it’s not really about willpower. Don’t let people make you feel bad by telling you that you have no willpower!! A study in the journal Appetite suggests that identifying emotional triggers for overeating can help individuals manage stress and reduce emotional eating.
Action steps: shifting from stress eating to healthier stress reduction choices include setting aside time daily for relaxation techniques, incorporating physical activity into your routine, and seeking social support to share your feelings and experiences, ultimately mitigating the urge to turn to food for emotional comfort. As you add healthy stress relieving options to your schedule, it’s beneficial to also journal your emotions and eating triggers.
By identifying them and choosing other forms of stress relief, you’ll eventually find yourself naturally turning to food less and less for that instant relief. You’ll be surprised how much healing there is in self-discovery as you journal your triggers and emotions.
Habit 6: Self-Compassion Dr. Kristin Neff's work on self-compassion has shown that treating yourself with kindness and understanding leads to improved mental health and well-being, which leads to a strong desire to become the strongest, fittest, healthiest version of yourself. Self-compassion can be challenging because many people have ingrained self-criticism and high standards. Society often promotes a culture of perfectionism, and people tend to be their own harshest critics. Additionally, self-compassion may be misconstrued as self-indulgence(hello fellow moms, I see you👀), when in reality, it's a vital component of self-care and mental well-being.
Action Step: Overcoming these barriers involves practicing self-awareness, re-framing negative self-talk, and accepting that self-compassion is not only okay but essential for emotional resilience and personal growth. Practice self-compassion by using affirmations and mindfulness exercises. Set reminders on your phone with affirmation apps like "I Am" to encourage self-love.
Habit 7: Weekly Weigh-Ins without Shame or Judgment: Tracking your healthy weight loss journey and then weight maintenance, by hopping on the scale once a week with love and curiosity; instead of fury, shame and frustration; is one of the top things you can do for lasting weight loss.That’s what Brown University’s(USA) National Weight Control Registry 28-year-study shows (the study tracks people who successfully lose weight and keep it off). When study participants weigh themselves about once a week, they give themselves the chance to make tweaks to their eating and exercise if their weight starts to creep up. A once a week weigh in, when done with a curious and non-judgmental attitude, can help you stay mindful of your weight and make necessary adjustments, especially after gatherings, birthdays, holidays, a stressful week, work travel or events where we tend to overeat or eat more dessert than normal.
Action Step: Hop on the scale every Thursday morning before eating for #trackitthursdays, and focus on curiosity and self-love, not shame or guilt, no matter what the number shows. Sometimes you hop on and it’s down when you thought it should be up, and sometimes it’s up when you expect it to be down! That’s life and it’s ok! The number does not determine our self-worth.
BONUS: Using "Atomic Habits" Wisdom James Clear's "Atomic Habits" teaches us that small changes can lead to remarkable results. Apply this philosophy to each habit:
Start with small, achievable goals.
Make your habits obvious, like placing your workout clothes where you'll see them.
Make bad habits unattractive by acknowledging their consequences.
Reward yourself for sticking to your habits, reinforcing positive behaviour(no food of course, so more like a night out with girl-friends, a massage, pedicure, etc.).
These 7 not-so-secret healthy habits, backed by research and tailored to your busy life, are your keys to becoming leaner, fitter, and saner during menopause. Remember, it's all about progress, not perfection. By making patience your superpower, and making yourself a promise not to give up no matter how long it takes, you can transform your life one habit at a time. Your health and well-being deserve it, and so do you! 💪🌟
If you need help making these habits a reality in your life, that's what I do best! Get in touch and let's have a FREE chat over tea or coffee to see if I can help you!