Change Your Food, Change Your Life: Meat & Menopause

There are a few common reasons people reduce or eliminate their meat consumption. The reasons you hear most about are health and the enviroment, followed by ethics. One thing I’d never heard of was elminating meat to get rid of hot flashes.

I have yet to meet Kate Selner in person (we’ve been chatting away on Twitter), but when I do, I have a feeling we’re going to have a heckuva lot to talk about. Kate has been eating a plant-based diet for three months now, and as she’ll tell you herself, she’s not going back.

If you’re interested in reading more about food and hot flashes, you’ll find a few links below. I am not vouching for the validity of the sources, but thought I would gather a few for you if you’d like to continue further on this journey.

Good News for Menopausal Women: You Can Avoid Hot Flashes by Changing Your Diet Natural (7/3/2006)
Foods to Combat Hot Flashes, (last updated 1/4/11)

Guest Post from Kate Selner

I wish I could say that I’ve always been on a really good path with my health, but truthfully, for most of my life I never had to pay much attention. I’ve never been overweight. I’ve never been sedentary. I’ve never had a poor diet, just never a really strong healthy one. I was active, trim and able to eat whatever I wanted for much of my life.

I was a competitive swimmer in high school, and recall, often with head-shaking awe the amount of calories I would consume. But balancing that was 2-3 hour practices 6 days in a row; a week in which I likely burned 10,00-15,000 calories. I would leave practice, walk the 1-1/2 miles home and sit down to dinner my Mom held for me. Sometimes I ate two servings, then consumed a huge bowl of ice cream and chocolate sauce before collapsing in to bed. I would awaken, famished. Rise and repeat for much of the Fall season. And I was scrawny like a twig, but a serious powerhouse in the water. In college, I didn’t have a car for the most part; I biked year-round (unless it was bitterly cold) I walked everywhere and swam still, for recreation this time, 3-4 times a week for up to an hour. Between all that, and living in a third-floor walk-up apartment that on some days I was in and out of constantly, the need to pay attention to what I ate wasn’t even on my mind. I was skinny and muscular. I really miss those days!

But I was sick. A lot. I had chronic sinus problems. Every year I would get a terrible respiratory infection, sometimes twice each winter, and they knocked me flat every time with a deep hacking cough that sometimes took weeks to shake off. I had ongoing stomach issues, slept poorly and my skin was a terrible mess. I may not have needed to pay attention to the food I was eating in terms of my weight, but it was obvious, looking back, that it was taking its toll on my physical body without me even realizing it.

After my son was born at age 30, I still was pretty active, but it quickly went downhill. Although we ate almost all scratch-made foods, including all of his baby food, about all the exercise I did regularly was take him out walking. I did eventually get a bike trailer when he was old enough to ride in one, and we spent a lot of time tooling around my Uptown neighborhood. We took trips to Lake Calhoun to go to the beach, rode the bike and trailer to the store for groceries and just jaunts around for fun while he rocked, laughed and hummed in his seat, clutching a big stuffed teddy bear and smiling at everyone he saw. Then I moved, got a car and suddenly there was little activity. Griffin was too big for the bike trailer. And nothing was in walking distance. Everything, it seemed, ground to a halt.

And around the age of 35, I started looking at the foods I was eating and began to feel that something needed to change. A blood test revealed acceptable cholesterol numbers, but I was still cooking the same 70′s era comfort foods I was raised on. I knew it couldn’t continue. I started reading a lot of magazines about health, and educating myself on nutrition. I changed up our meals, added more fresh vegetables, better cooking procedures. Griffin and I experimented with a lot of foods, and he was a pretty good critic, even when he was 4 and 5. I still remember one dish that sounded really good on paper, but when I made it and dished it up, both he and I looked at it with a hefty dose of skepticism. A few bites in to it, he turned to me and said “Please don’t make this again.”

And he was completely right. It was terrible. Live and learn, I told him. We threw it out and made grilled cheese sandwiches.

Since then, I’ve made many more changes to the way that we eat. I met my husband when Griffin was 7, and we were married a year later. Mike enjoyed unusual foods, and loved trying new dishes. I’m very blessed that he has an adventurous palate, and a willing heart to expand his food tastes. It’s made adventuring in to new food territory much, much easier. We really focused on eating fresh foods as much as possible, cooking from scratch and incorporating as many vegetables, fruits and legumes as we could. Each year I seemed to find a new food item to explore; one year it was grains, the following year I started reaching for more vegetables at the Farmer’s Markets that I was unfamiliar with and learning about them. I experimented with different cuisines, filling my pantry with spices, sauces and odds and ends to try out Thai, Indian, Chinese and Mediterranean dishes. The rise of a food-oriented world on the Internet made searching for unique, flavorful recipes easy. The only issue was that I was over-consuming all this wonderful food. And for the first time in my life found myself heavy and overweight.

I’m probably not at my heaviest in this shot which was in 2005, but it’s pretty close, and I fully realize that it doesn’t look all that bad. But for a girl who’s been very thin her whole life, to pack on enough weight to make Size 16 pants too tight, that was a huge deal. The smallest I’ve been is a Size 6. But I’ve never been healthy and at a decent weight, as my thinnest years have always been the most stressful ones. Could I reverse this? Could I be happy and content without being heavier than I want?

Thankfully, I could. And I did. After realizing that I wanted to make changes, in late Fall of 2008 I changed yet again, the way I was eating, reclaiming control over portion size and increasing the overall nutritional aspect of my meals with more of the good stuff. I focused on fitness and exercise to tone down trouble spots and by Spring of 2009 had lost about 25 pounds and dropped three pants sizes. In the Summer of 2010 I worked full-time as the Pantry Chef at a local golf club. It was a really physical job and by the time it was over, I was the trimmest and most toned I’d been in recent memory.

I was healthy all around now. Rarely did I even get a cold, much less the debilitating respiratory infections or sinus problems I used to have. I loved taking walks and bike rides and eating good meals with Mike and Griffin. But around this time, another health issue came on; menopause. And with it came an increasing occurrence of hot flashes that over the Winter became more and more intense. I dealt with them the best I could, but it wasn’t until May of this year, when undertaking a 28-Day challenge of eating a 100% plant based diet did I discover by eliminating meat and most oils from my meals that the hot flashes disappeared as well.

And I can’t even tell you what a relief it was to realize that I could control these simply by cutting out certain foods. For all of May I cut meat from our meals and increased the intake of vegetables, especially dark leafy greens. I also cut out using a lot of oils in preparing our foods and delighted in the lack of hot flashes. Then one day when the 28-Day challenge was over, I ate a roast beef sandwich. The next day I was plagued with hot flashes. One sandwich, one day. The following week I had a meal that included a lot of coconut oil and butter. Again, I had a lot of hot flashes the next day. I didn’t need any more prompting. The ongoing tummy troubles I’d experienced for most of my adult life disappeared as well, which greatly surprised me, almost even more than getting rid of the hot flashes. What I’d come to think was normal, an issue I’d just dealt with thinking I had no control over, went away when I stopped eating meat. I was thrilled. There’s just no going back now.

I still feel that I’m on a journey that’s never going to end. This is a lifestyle for me, this healthy eating habit. It’s not a fly-by-night thing, something fad-like that I’ll get tired of eventually. This is how it needs to be, for now and maybe for the rest of my life. If I can relieve myself of unpleasant symptoms just by cutting out certain foods, I want to shout from the rooftops that maybe, just maybe others can do this for themselves as well. Mike and I started working with a personal trainer this past March, increasing our overall fitness and endurance, and I can bike a 10-12 mile route barely getting winded. I’m 47 years old, and in the best health of my entire life. It wasn’t an easy fix, nor a quick one either. I started 12 years ago and had many ups and downs over time and once you begin to see the benefits, you never want to stop trying.

And believe me, every effort you make is worth it, hands down. And it’s never, ever too late to start.

Check out Kate’s lovely blog, Kate in the Kitchen. She’s got a beautiful recipe for Ratatouille Gratin up at the moment, just perfect for a mid-summer meatless meal.

Follow Kate on Twitter @katenkitchen or find her on Facebook.

Do you have a journey like Kate’s to share? Let us know below, or on Facebook or Facebook

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    One comment

  • July 29, 2011 - 3:20 am | Permalink

    Very interesting to read more about your journey, Kate! :)

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