Today I am excited to have Debbie Hampton as my guest on the Wonders Wellness Be Well Blog. After a serious brain injury, Debbie learned all about the brain and engineered her own rehabilitation. Here, Debbie writes about the female brain and what happens once we cross the line over 40.
Throughout most of history, science has treated women like they're men in smaller bodies - with obvious reproductive differences.
But, that's just not true. (Something any woman could have told you all along.) And, you may be surprised to find that the major differences are in our brains.
Every brain starts out as female. At eight weeks, the fetus either gets surge of testosterone or estrogen. The testosterone bath creates more cells in the sex and aggression centers resulting in a male. Females receive large amounts of estrogen which spurs brain growth in areas for observation, communication, gut feelings, and caring. From this point on, female hormones impact every stage of her life shaping who she is and her reality.
According to The Female Brain, by Laura Brisendine M.D., after girlhood the female brain, much like the weather, changes daily, monthly, and over her life influencing a woman's thoughts, desires, emotions, values, and behavior.
The Maturing Girl Brain
After girlhood, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone increase to bring on menstruation. Once the monthly cycle begins, the female brain changes a little bit every day, with some parts of the brain differing as much as 25% every month.
From a biological standpoint during puberty, a girl’s primary focus is to become sexually desirable and attractive with her attention on relationships, choosing a life path, and finding a mate compatible to raise a family.
The Mommy Brain
There really is such a thing as "mommy brain."
During pregnancy, birth, and child-rearing, the female brain experiences huge increases in hormones with the goal being to ensure the survival of the species. During the child rearing years, the mother gets continual rewards of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, from physical touch with her child and partner. This helps keep her focused on tending to and caring for her family and avoiding conflict to keep the family together.
The Peri-menopausal Brain
Starting at around age 43, girls go through a second adolescence of sorts called peri-menopause which can make them as moody as a teenager.
The female brain becomes less sensitive to estrogen and the ovaries make erratic amounts of it before stopping production altogether. This begins a cascade of symptoms ranging from hot flashes and irritability to erratic sleep, fatigue, joint pain, decreased sex drive, anxiety, and worry.
Since estrogen also affects the brain's levels of neurotransmitters controlling mood and memory, many peri-menopausal women suffer from depression and memory lapses.
But, it's not all bad news.
Because brain circuits fueled by hormones become less active, the mommy brain begins to unplug, and a woman's interests begin to expand and shift to herself: staying healthy, improving well-being, and embracing new challenges. The average age of menopause is 51.
The Post-Menopausal Brain
Once estrogen levels drop and the kids leave home, oxytocin also plummets decreasing the nesting and nursing impulses, and the mature female brain gets a second wind. What WAS important: connection, communication, approval, children, making sure the family stayed together is no longer the biological priority.
Her brain circuits are free to entertain new thoughts, ambitions, and ideas. At this time, many women feel terribly sad, lost, and disoriented because the changing chemicals in their brains literally shift their realities.
A lot of women leave their marriages about now. More than 65 percent of divorces after the age of 50 are initiated by women which Dr. Brizendine attributes to something she calls “post-menopausal zest.”
Women want their turn. They want to find and pursue their passions and step out in the world in a more independent way. Their top concern isn't taking care of everyone else anymore. (A cruel joke of nature is that men start to show increased interest in relationships as they age.)
Whether the mature female sows her newly wild oats by traveling, picking up hobbies, going back to school, or playing the field depends on the person, of course.
But for many women in mid-life, the twilight years are characterized by a renewed energy for life and appetite for adventure. The female brain actually becomes more stable now with lower, steadier hormones which translates into a calmer, less emotional brain not as reactive to stress.
A Word About The Mature Female Brain And Alzheimer's/Dementia
I would encourage post-menopausal women to follow their brain's thirst for novelty and challenge and to keep active because dementia hits the mature female brain the hardest.
According to a 2014 report from the Alzheimer's Association, two-thirds of Americans with the disease are women. A UK study found that women over the age of 60 were twice as likely to get dementia as breast cancer, and dementia surpassed heart disease and cancer to become the most common cause of death in women.
The reasons are not exactly clear, but possible explanations are that women live longer and have different brain structure, physiology, genetics, and sex specific hormones. The best prevention for the disease is a brain healthy diet and lifestyle.
My Mature Female Brain
As a 51 year-old woman, I can whole-heartedly attest to living every one of the female brain stages to the letter. Upon graduating from college, I chose to get married at the ripe-old age of 21.
After being a stay-at-home Mom to two sons and married for 18 years, I left the marriage and found myself completely lost, depressed, without any idea who I was. At the age of 43, I tried to commit suicide by downing a bunch of pills resulting in a serious brain injury and losing custody of my sons who moved out of state with their father. (Read the story here.)
Because the brain injury affected my hormones, I went through menopause early at 47 and maybe even a little bit because the kids weren't around anymore.
Now that I am years into my post-menopausal brain, I take comfort in knowing that my lack of maternal focus and disinterest in nesting is partly due to hormones. I've never let my home get as messy as it does now, and I find it really odd that it's OK with me. I have no interest in cooking, fashion, or decorating, and hardly ever wear makeup, but I do feel totally psyched about my new endeavors: writing and my yoga studio.
My mature brain and I are enjoying ourselves and looking forward to the years ahead without being jerked around by hormones!
Debbie Hampton recovered from depression, a suicide attempt, and resulting brain injury to become an inspirational writer. On her blog, The Best Brain Possible she tells about lifestyle, behavior and thought modifications, alternative therapies, and mental health practices she used to rebuild her brain and life to find joy and thrive and tells you how to do the same.
I recently had the honor of getting to know a new colleague and friend in the field of wellness and nutrition, Nikolett Jones, Certified Health Coach. She's all things wellness and really focuses on how to create a new and loving relationship with the healthiest foods.
When I heard about her programs I had to connect with her because her work in helping thousands of busy mamas around the world lines up with what I am doing to help women over 40. I was so impressed by what she is offering, I asked her If I could be her affiliate partner and help spread the word so together we can help a lot of women worldwide.
Nikolett is leading a 3 day detox February 26-28 and it's actually created for BUSY women on the go.... So, it's easy, and straightforward and may be just what you are looking for. She gives you everything you need including simple, delicious recipes, shopping lists and the best part is there is a private facebook group where you can connect with your buddies doing the program during the 3 days.
So, when IS a 3 day detox a good idea?
- Did you overindulge during the holidays and having a hard time bouncing back? This 3 day detox can be the jump-start you need!
- Have you been ill or especially stressed lately? A 3 day detox can give your body a good cleanse and reset
- Want to release excess weight? A 3 day detox can get your body ready to start a longer weight loss program by cleaning out the toxins
- Want to lead a healthier life? This 3 day detox can be just the launching point for a longer running practice of healthy eating
- Is your belly bloated? digestive unrest? A 3 day detox can give your belly a break and nourish your body with easily digestible foods
- Have eczema? A 3 day detox can be just the shift you need to get you off of the foods that are likely causing or exacerbating your skin issues.
- Worried about aging skin? This 3 day detox will get you moved over to anti-inflammatory foods that are packed with antioxidants and anti-aging properties
- Menopause symptoms? Sometimes doing a 3 day detox can begin the process of leveling out your hormones by giving your body a chance to rest, reset and bring in super-nutritious plant-based foods.
- Are you a yogi? For centuries, yogis have practiced breaks in their nutritional patterns by fasting. While this 3 day detox is NOT fasting, it is a way of giving your body only what it needs to operate optimally so that your mind can clear and your prana can flow smoothly.
With Nikolett's 3 day detox, you will find creative and easy ways to bring whole foods to the front of your daily meals.
Click on over and find out more about Nikolett's "My Little 3 Day Detox" and get your body lined up with your mind and heart. When you get there, scroll down and read all about it. It's really fantastic! And I hope to see you in her buddy group on Facebook Feb. 26-28. I'll be doing it and I hope you will join me!
Here's to your health!
Science tells us that once we arrive at the 40 year mark our bodies start aging faster and faster.
Studies have shown that if we don’t practice very particular daily healthy habits, your body will age about 6 months extra for every year that passes.
Yikes….consider this! If you are 40 now and not eating the right foods, not relaxing enough, not moving your body the proper ways, by the time you get to age 44 you will look and feel 48.
And if you continue eating poorly, not exercising and stay stressed… by the time you get to 60 you will look and feel 70.
But there is good news…. All this damage is reversible. With specific daily habits, you can actually stop this rapid aging process…And it doesn’t involve drugs, equipment or gimmicks.
There are 9 keys to anti-aging
These are the 9 things you must do in order to cease this fast aging process that is happening and even reverse it by restoring your body's natural youth hormones.
- Include healthy fats in your diet. I’ve written about this in my article The Wonders of Healthy Fats so you can go read more. The low fat craze we all were told would help us lose weight is actually working against us at this stage in life. Healthy fats ingested do NOT make you fat. They actually help your body generate hormones that work against aging. I do promote a TEMPORARY reduction of fats and an elimination of all unhealthy fats with a cleanse now and then just to allow the body a chance to rest and rejuvenate. But I have seen first-hand how a low fat diet wreaked havoc for several of my clients.
- Against the grain. If you eat a variety of nutrient-dense sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, zucchini, broccoli, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, apples, papaya, berries, melon, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, cauliflower, pears, lean/clean fish and poultry, avocado, coconut oil– just for starters – you are getting all the carbohydrates, fat and protein your body needs to THRIVE. You do not need grains. In fact, there is much expert opinion that says eating grains is aging you. You can find reams of articles on the problems with gluten. If you must eat grain, opt for sprouted grains and eat in very small portions.
- Exercise efficiently and with resistance. Low impact cardio regularly is good for keeping the heart strong and the lungs in good operation but running and biking for miles and miles is not helping the anti-aging process, according to fitness experts Steve and Becky Holman of Old School New Body. It’s hard on the joints and long cardio sessions are considered by many cutting edge fitness experts to do more damage than good. You are much better off doing an efficient resistance training exercise program according to Dr. Doug McGuff author of Body by Science. You can read more about this theory and specifics here.
- Get your head in the game. Stop talking about how old you are and blaming your weight, aches and pains on your age. You CAN turn this around, feel and look younger the natural way! You must surround yourself with people who are on the same page, think positively, speak optimistically and take action to practice these steps. If you find your thoughts and beliefs are stuck in negative patterns, personal coaching or counseling can help.
- Hydrate daily. Water helps your body to burn fat, suppresses hunger and moisturizes your skin from the inside out smoothing away signs of aging. Drinking enough water flushes your kidneys allowing your liver to process toxins and aid in the fat burning process with ease.When your kidneys are taxed from too little water, your liver has to do the job of your kidneys AND your liver. Your liver is needed to burn fat. Make it a point to drink at least ½ gallon of water daily and after one week you will see the benefit in the mirror. Read more about the importance of water here.
- Bye-bye cocktails. In my work with women over 40 this might just be the toughest part because so much of our society is centered around drinking wine and cocktails at social gatherings. Many women have become dependent on the relaxing effect of a drink in the evenings and even more women have become addicted to the sugar in the drinks. If you want to reverse the aging process, you need to stop drinking. There’s just no way around it. I am the first one to admit to my clients that this has been a tough one for me because I truly love wine. I love the ritual, I love the aroma, I love the whole culture of fine wine. But nightly sipping wreaked havoc on my health. I’ve discovered, you can avoid alcohol 95% of the time and then very carefully enjoy a special wine or a special cocktail on special occasions once every few months and not do damage to your body. Drinking more often than that frankly works against the goal of anti-aging.
- Kick the sugar habit. I recently had a nutrition expert guest blog for me on this subject and you can read all the details here. I will just tell you now that sugar is a drug and a highly addictive one. It is responsible for inflammation in the joints, weight gain, puffy eyes, bloated belly, over-growth of yeast (candida albicans) in the gut, eczema, acne, and sleep interruption. And sugar is lurking in places you might not realize. It’s in salad dressings and sauces used in restaurants. It’s in many spice blends. And by the way, drinking alcohol is like injecting sugar right into your veins. Eating white pasta, bread and rice is just like eating sugar right out of the sugar bowl. Get the sugar OUT of your daily diet and your aging process will slow down immediately.
- Get some sleep. When I was having this website designed I told my web designer I wanted a “night sky” in the background and she asked me why. I said, “Because for women over 40 going through menopause and aging, night time is often the hardest time and if I can help them improve their sleep and embrace the night again, I will have done my job here.” You must take action to create a sleep routine that allows you to sleep well and get enough good sleep every night to reverse the aging process. Grab my free e-guidebook called Sleep Tight here.
- Master stress – teach your brain and body to relax. Maybe the most important of all these points. You must actively train your brain and body to soften and relax. You must learn through dedicated practice how to manage your reactions to stressors. It requires ongoing practice using guided meditations to relax, a seated meditation practice, a gentle-easy yoga practice to do it. If you can learn this, all the other steps will come more easily and when life hits you with those stressful curve-balls you will be prepared. Stress is literally killing us rapidly. Take the reigns, and decide today you will learn how to relax. Grab my free 20 minute guided meditation here.
Feel overwhelmed by all of this? Never fear.
I have some suggestions for you...
If you’re just starting out and don’t have much extra money in the bank, go order my $12 program that provides you one new habit to implement each week over 10 weeks. It’s called 10 Healthy Habits: One Step at a Time.
Want to dig in deeper? Ready to totally transform your body, mind and spirit in 12 weeks? Go check out 12 Weeks to Total Transformation. You can order the program to do on your own at your own pace OR you can sign up to be part of the LIVE version with personalized group coaching with me starting in September.
Want to whittle your waist and get healthier in 45 days? Go take a look at 45 Days to Fabulous Over 40. It’s only $45 and it addresses all 9 of the points above.
Finally, if you want a deeply personalized program, consider signing up for my 3 month coaching program called Redesign Your Life. I will help you create a very personalized program customized just for you with one on one coaching for 3 months.
Here’s to turning back the clock!
I am thrilled to introduce you to my guest blogger and colleague Diana Pagnucco. She is a holistic nutrition health coach and the owner of GreenStartHealth. Today she is going to tell us how to GET OVER SUGAR! Read this carefully my friends because Diana has got the skinny on why sugar is bad news and exactly what to do about it!
Sugar has been in the headlines a lot recently.
And the news isn’t good.
Refined sugar is a major trigger because we’re hard-wired to binge on it. We are wired to keep eating and eating it once we start.
It causes weight gain, of course, and also contributes to a long list of diseases we’ve gotten too used to dealing with: heart disease, immune disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis. It’s not just empty calories - it’s addictive and toxic to your body. Getting over sugar addiction is a challenge worth taking.
I’ll bet you know THIS feeling....You vow that you’re done with sugar! You swear off!
But then… the day [or days] go by and that little voice starts in. You resist - it’s hard, but you do it. Then... the voice gets clever. It says, "C'mon...it’s just a bite. You’ve been so good. You deserve it."
Then it’s like the invasion of the body snatchers. You’re going back for more. You’re totally ignoring the part of you that doesn’t want it - "Oh please, it’s just so good, just enjoy," you tell yourself.
When you’re done, you feel it again. You can’t believe it - and was that really a choice in the first place? It’s like there are two Yous inside you, battling it out. It’s exhausting to keep fighting. Then giving up and giving into temptation. Then fighting again.
Why does this cycle have such a strong hold over us?
Let’s take a trip back in time before we even had processed foods. Sugar was found naturally in fresh fruit, which was precious and fleeting. And these fruits were loaded with nutrients and fiber. So when it was available, we binged. Now that we’ve taken the sugar out of the whole food, when we eat it, our body craves what’s missing. So we want more. And more. It lights up the pleasure centers in our brain, yes, but without any of the good stuff it’s supposed to bring.
The best way to get over sugar? It’s NOT to replace it with artificial sweeteners. That opens a whole new set of problems.
No - the best way to get over sugar is to give it up, cold turkey. Really. There will be a day when you’re in control and can treat yourself occasionally if you even want to, but while cravings are strong? Getting over sugar addiction requires walking away entirely.
But that’s only part of the solution.
Taking something away leaves an empty space, unless we add something back. Something more satisfying, more delicious, more honest.
Consider, when you crave sweets that maybe you’re really looking for is...
- ENERGY: Put down the electronics an hour before bed, and give yourself plenty of sleep at night. During the day, don’t skip meals - keep your body nourished.
- NUTRIENTS: Eat lots of naturally sweet foods like carrots, onions, fruit, sweet potatoes, rice, beets, cinnamon, ginger, cloves. The fiber and nutrients are what will satisfy you.
- ENDORPHINS: Get up and get outside for a minute for a quick walk. Stretch and take several big deep breaths. Do a few jumping jacks or take a lap up and down the stairs.
- BALANCE: If you reduce salty, meaty foods, your need to offset that extreme with sugar will be relieved.
- SWEETNESS: Look for the non-food type, like a laugh or a hug from a friend. Practice compassion with yourself, too. What are you proud of yourself for?
This is such a common concern, I wrote a free guide with all my best tips. “Six Ways to Outsmart a Snack Attack” also comes with a subscription to my newsletter. The link is on my website home page. I’d be glad to see you there!
Diana Pagnucco, holistic nutrition health coach and Founder and Owner of GreenStartHealth helps people who have watched their health slip as they take care of everyone but themselves. She helps people who are scared that the extra weight, low energy, or chronic condition will never go away. Diana motivates her clients to eat, move and take care of themselves in simple, consistent ways so they look and feel great, permanently. Please visit Diana and sign up for her free guide and newsletter at www.greenstarthealth.com
When you simply don't have time to sit down and eat a LARGE bowl of spinach and other veggies, drinking 16 ounces of green juice is a great alternative.
95% of the phytonutrients - vitamins and enzymes our bodies need for optimal health are in the juice of raw fruits and vegetables.
We still need the fiber in those plants, so I strongly recommend you also drink green smoothies and of course eating the whole foods themselves regularly.
But juicing greens is a great way to get a high dose of health benefits in addition to your smoothies and whole food meals.
When you drink fresh green juice, you are getting a highly concentrated dose of important vitamins, minerals and enzymes that hit your bloodstream immediately allowing your body to absorb all of these nutrients while giving your digestive system a much needed rest.
To get the optimal nutritional value you will want to drink your green juice right after the greens have been juiced. If you store the fresh juice in a tightly sealed glass container in the fridge and drink it within 8 hours, you’re good to go. The reason for this is as soon as the juice hits the air, oxidation happens. This process takes away the nutrients in your juice bit by bit.
Be careful about buying those green drinks that are bottled at the store. Unless they come fresh out of the juicing machine that day, they are likely pasteurized which kills all the good nutrients.
I recommend juicing first thing in the morning and drinking your green juice on an empty stomach and then again two hours after and before meals later in the day. This helps your body to absorb all those nutrients.
Tips on how to make juicing greens a part of YOUR healthy regimen:
- Get a good quality juicer. (I recommend Breville – easy to clean and efficient to use).
- Keep the juicer out on the kitchen counter in easy reach and plain view.
- Create a routine of stopping in the grocery every couple of days to pick up fresh, organic produce to juice.
- Add lemon to your juicing – it offsets the bitter of some of the greens.
- Buy a set of pantry jars. Sterilize and keep on hand for storing your extra juice for an afternoon pick-me-up.
- Allow the cleaning of your juicer to be a mindfulness practice rather than a drudgery.
See my video on juicing vs. blending here!
Recipes to get you started:
Always use organic produce whenever possible. If not possible, be sure to clean your produce in a solution of apple cider vinegar, water and baking soda. Remove rind, core and peel before juicing.
Green Ginger Juice
- 1 cucumber
- 1 small green apple
- 1 small pear
- 8 leaves of kale
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 inch of fresh ginger
- 1 cucumber
- 4 cups of spinach
- 1 lemon
- 1 small red apple
- 1 pear
- 1 lemon wedge
Green Mean Machine
- 1/2 lemon
- 4 cups spinach
- 1 cucumber
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 large green apple
Once you get accustomed to the taste of drinking greens, I recommend cutting back on the fruit and moving toward 80% vegetables and 20% fruit.
Are you slogging through your daily grind, slurping down the coffee you’ve become dependent on just to stay awake?
Do you ever think to yourself, “Is this it? Is this all there is?”
As you watch your kids grow up and move out, and you notice more lines in your face when you look in the mirror… are you feeling heavy-hearted? Like your life suddenly has little meaning?
Wondering who you are once the kids don’t need you anymore?
Your work in the world has become a series of motions you move through robotically?
One woman's story...
One of my clients came to me for life-redesign coaching after finding herself smack dab in “mid-life" wondering what is her life purpose now, realizing her job as full-time mom and part-time book-keeper for a small company is no longer it.
As she was releasing her children into the realm of young adulthood, she described a feeling of an empty spot insider herself.
With my guidance, she’s been visiting that empty spot inside. She began a practice of going inward and sitting in that empty spot without rushing to fill it. Sitting in the emptiness has been transformational for her.
When women encounter this feeling of emptiness once the children leave the nest and they see their body aging, many rush to escape it, afraid of it. I encourage women to be with the emptiness and see what it has to show you.
Once my client was able to surrender into that empty spot, she allowed space for inner guidance to emerge.
She realized her 20 years working as a book-keeper while raising children has served a purpose and has made a profound contribution. But none of it was her true life calling.
From sitting in the emptiness, she has encountered some waves of heavier emotion at first. Some grief. Some sadness. Some resentment. But then, after a while... lighter emotions of hope, joy, curiosity and expanded awareness.
She began to hear her life calling.
She remembered when she was a young girl and all the way through high school and college she just knew in her heart she was destined to be a stage performer. She took lessons, she starred in school productions. She even received a singing scholarship to college. She knew one day she would perform before thousands, bringing joy and laughter and great entertainment to audiences.
This was her calling. But her plans and vision were shut down when her father told her with dismissive criticism he would not continue to support her and all this silly theatrical nonsense. He informed her that he would no longer fund her education and student life unless she changed her major and trained for something more practical – like business and accounting.
She shared with me that at age 19, she felt so ashamed by her father's admonishment that she packed away her life’s calling and opted for a business administration major and the track to take the CPA exam.
She met her husband in a college class. They married right after graduation and she became pregnant with their first of 3 children soon after. She never took the CPA exam but secured a job working as a bookkeeper.
Now, she comes and sits with me at age 48, as her youngest is about to graduate high school preparing to revive her life’s calling.
In her times of sitting in the emptiness, she began to experience pulls to return to singing and acting. At first her father’s dismissive and critical voice spoke to and through her. As I helped her to set that aside and continue to explore these emerging pulls to sing and act again she changed before my eyes.
Over the weeks we worked together I noticed her brow lifted, her eyes began to sparkle. She laughed. She breathed. I noticed week after week, over time, her body - once significantly overweight - began to appear trimmer as she was nourishing herself for mindfully.
Together we created a road map for her to find her life calling and bring it back to life. She began walking several miles each morning while she envisioned the new life she longed to create for herself.
She pulled out her old song sheets at home and when alone in the house she started singing on her own again.
Then, one night each week after she got off work, instead of heading home as she had the past 20 years, she started going to meet with a vocal coach.
She auditioned for a part in the local theatre’s production of My Fair Lady. She landed the lead role.
When she arrived at my office for her 12th weekly coaching session with me, she appeared to float in the door bubbling over with joy and aliveness. She told me of her plan to quit her 20 year book-keeping job and start working at the theatre by day as their office manager while she rehearsed and performed by night.
So... what about you?
Are you moving through your life like a slave driven only to survive? Or are you actively creating and rolling out a life that serves your own calling?
Are you living your life's calling?
If you need help wading through this process, check out my personalized coaching program called Redesign Your Life. After all, I am living MY life’s calling helping others live their's.
Page 7 of 16« First«...56789...»Last »