While on the HAM Plan in December I got some nice comments but the most recurring one, even from friends, was, “You don’t eat very much, Julia.” I was never hungry on the HAM Plan and also thought I was eating plenty… for a 52 year old woman in menopause. So, I just wanted to go over a few of my thoughts on the subject.
Let’s look first at what I ate. I chose two random days and did a breakdown on the calories and nutrition. I used the software Perfect Diet Tracker to do this.
If you can zoom in it’s a total of 1876 calories which for me is plenty. For exercise I did half an hour on the spin bike and 30 minutes of yoga, so not a large energy expenditure.
Here’s another random menu, from Day 23
You can see that on Day 23 I ate a little less – 1667 calories - but I also didn’t exercise at all that day.
There were definitely days that I ate less, but they were mostly concentrated in the post-Christmas days, after I’d eaten much more than I needed for several days in a row. I listened carefully to my body/stomach/mind and just ate what I felt like. Your body really does know what to do if you listen to it!
Now that we’ve established that I didn’t calorically starve myself during the HAM Plan, let’s talk about metabolism.
I’ve always been extremely active and just love to move. When I was young I loved hiking and backpacking and BIKING! Bikes have always been my mode of transportation. In high school and college I’d bike back and forth from home to school to work and then home again, probably putting in about 50km a day.
When I started running I didn’t start with a 5k, I dove right into marathon training. My love for movement helped curb my appetite. I wanted to stay in shape and feel lighter so I could move easier. Anytime I put on a few pounds from too much eating or over the Christmas holidays, I could feel how much more difficult even 5 lbs was.
My weight stayed pretty stable during my thirties and the beginning of my forties, somewhere around 143 lbs/65kg for my 5’9″/178cm frame. I had to pay attention to my nutrition, but not too much. If I gained 5 lbs I could drop it within ten days of careful eating.
In my forties I had a quick succession of events that totally threw my body for a metabolic loop, all within 5 years: pregnancy and miscarriage, full term pregnancy, 18 months of breastfeeding, then menopause. Boom!
I saw a homeopath to help me deal with problems linked to the menopause and he told me that the breastfeeding had prevented me from going into menopause sooner than I did, at age 47.
One of the first things that happened during the perimenopause phase was weight gain. It wasn’t a lot, but to active me it was a definite change. It made me slower while I was running and there were more pounds to haul up the hills on my bike. I know that all the experts say that you just need to keep your muscle mass up to keep your metabolism going, but it doesn’t quite work out that way. I work with weights; I exercise every day. My metabolism still slowed down, so I’m going to go with the “metabolism is also linked to hormones” theory and leave it at that.
In any case, I knew that if I still wanted to be active and have a strong body I’d need to start looking at food quality. I’d have to concentrate on really getting in the maximum amount of nutrients for the little food my body would still metabolise for me.
My old lady advice to younger women is to get your nutrition and activity habits in place while you have hormones and metabolism working at full speed. Again, as Shauna and I said in the HAM Plan, those habits and activities can be whatever you decide they are. For me it’s keeping my weight down so I can race comfortably, but at the same time fuel my body to race well. It’s a fine balance that I have to work at all the time, but for me, it’s worth the effort.