Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Friday 5

Hi friends & happy Friday!

I can’t believe it, but our baby is off to Kindergarten today! How did that happen!? It seems like just yesterday Quinn and I were watching the school bus from our living room and talking about his first day of school… and now it’s here! 

In today’s episode of the Friday 5, I’m sharing a few food and fashion finds, plus some great info and tips on treating hormonal acne. It’s quite the mix! 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

1. Edible Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – gluten-free and made with just 3 ingredients!

Oh my goddddd, I’m loving this dessert lately! I’ve made this edible chocolate chip cookie dough for years now. The original recipe calls for just 6 ingredients, but I recently discovered that it requires even fewer ingredients – just 3 – when I use vanilla almond butter from RXBAR on hand. My gosh, it’s incredible! I actually like making a big batch at the beginning of the week and storing it in the fridge, so I can just grab a spoon when I want a quick bite of something sweet. Mmm! Trust me, you NEED to try it!

A jar of vanilla almond butter from RXBAR

2.  Ebates (now Rakuten)

Please tell me you use Ebates (Rakuten) when you shop online – it’s seriously the best! It’s not a gimmick either. You simply create an account and then earn cash back at stores you normally shop at online. For example, right now you can get 8% back at Backcountry, 6% back at Athleta, and 5% back at Lands’ End. If you haven’t signed up, use this link to do so!

3. Brooks Launch Running Shoes

I’ve loved the Brooks Launch running shoe for years now. It’s a supportive, but not bulky running sneaker. I often wear them for our driveway workouts or walking with Quinn and Murph. They are so comfy! Zappos has them in a ton of fun colors (on sale!), and always has free shipping. If you have a Fall race on your calendar or you’re getting back into running this season, definitely check out the selection! 🙂

4. onlypuff Sherpa Fleece

Of course, I’m loving (like LOVING) my new LL Bean fleece, but I wanted to give a shout-out to the super affordable fleece that I purchased last season. It was just $23, and I still wear it a good amount. It’s so easy to throw on and go in the morning, especially when I’m walking Murphy or running out the door to the gym.

5. Hormonal Acne Causes and Treatment 

If you’re struggling with acne, this was a great post from Coconuts & Kettlebells to help you get to the root of the problem. Acne is so much more than just a skin issue! Additional info + video: How I (FINALLY) Cleared My Skin Of Acne.

Flashback Friday

Sales of the Week

P.S. If you’re ready to get your diet on track after a fun summer, our next group of Master Your Macros starts on Monday (9/9)! If you’re not ready to work with a coach or you’re pretty self-sufficient on your own, I recently added a bunch of new meal plans to the website. There’s everything from gut healing and thyroid health to a 21-Day Transformation Plan and runner’s meal plan. There’s really something for everyone! And (!!) starting next week on Instagram, I’m giving away a free meal plan every week until my 40th birthday, which is 40 FREE meal plans! Make sure you check-in on Fridays for the giveaway! 🙂

 

This post contains some affiliate links, which means I will earn a small commission from the company if you decide to purchase the product linked to. This compensation helps with expenses to keep CNC up and running. Thank you for your support!

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Menopause, Part II: Psychological Well-being

In our previous menopause post, I mused on some perspectives of menopause that are positive and affirming for women. However, I don’t want to downplay the fact that many women experience menopause as a difficult, frustrating, and even disempowering time. (Again, I am using “menopause” to include the perimenopausal period.)

As I mentioned in the last post, some researchers estimate as many as 75% of women experience some type of “menopausal distress,” and we don’t talk about it enough. Today I want to examine some of the psychological and emotional facets of menopause. In the final post of this series, we’ll look at self-care techniques and non-hormonal therapies that seem to be the most beneficial. 

What Research Suggests About Emotional Well-being During Menopause

Obviously menopause is a major life transition—significant biological changes wrapped up in a complex web of personal and sociocultural beliefs, fears, stressors, and stories. It can be a time of great apprehension, confusion, even despair for some women. Others pass right through menopause with hardly a bat of an eye. Still, others welcome and embrace it. 

It’s extremely understandable why this would be a challenging time for women. Menopause can be a perfect storm of physical discomfort and cognitive symptoms (brain fog, forgetfulness), sleep deprivation (thanks to those night sweats and hot flashes), and emotional fluctuations. Besides how they feel, these symptoms can affect women’s personal relationships, ability to perform their jobs, and sense of self-worth and self-confidence. 

For many women, menopause also coincides with the dual stressors of aging parents and raising teenagers or having a newly empty nest. Plus, menopause is an unmistakable marker of aging, which can evoke complicated feelings as well. 

Overall, stress, depression, and anxiety seem to be fairly common during menopause. Recent Guidelines for the Evaluation and Treatment of Perimenopausal Depression commissioned by the Board of Trustees for The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and the Women and Mood Disorders Task Force of the National Network of Depression Centers describe perimenopause as a “window of vulnerability for the development of both depressive symptoms and a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.”

It’s difficult to know exactly how many women are affected. Studies of depression and anxiety are usually conducted on women whose symptoms are severe enough to seek help from their doctors. Researchers estimate that up to 40% of women will experience depression at some point during menopause; it’s unclear how prevalent anxiety might be. 

It’s easy to assume that some women become depressed and anxious during menopause because their symptoms are so gnarly. To some degree, that narrative is probably true. Studies do find that women who experience more severe symptoms such as frequent hot flashes also exhibit more depression and anxiety. This makes sense—being physically uncomfortable and unable to get a good night’s sleep can certainly set the stage for poor psychological outcomes. 

On the other hand, it’s likely that for some women, depression and anxiety exacerbate the physical and emotional symptoms. That is, depression and anxiety might be a lens that magnifies how bad menopausal symptoms feel, so these women report having more severe symptoms. 

In any case, there’s more to it than “menopause is rough, and it makes women depressed and anxious.” One of the biggest risk factors for depression and anxiety during menopause is prior episodes of depression and anxiety. Women who are also experiencing other life stressors, including relationship stress and socioeconomic stress, are also more likely to become depressed. 

In other words, women who are otherwise vulnerable are more likely to experience poor psychological well-being when hit with the additional stress of the menopausal transition. 

Along these lines, one study compared depressed and non-depressed perimenopausal women on a variety of quality of life measures, including life enjoyment and satisfaction; ability to function in work, social situations, and relationships; and perceived social support. The researchers also assessed the severity of the women’s hot flashes. The depressed women scored lower than the non-depressed women on all quality of life measures. Severity of hot flashes had no effect for either group. 

The authors concluded that future studies “need to distinguish between those women with [perimenstrual depression] and non-depressed women to avoid attribution of decreased [quality of life] to the menopause transition alone.” In other words, don’t blame the hot flashes for what the depression wrought.

This is an important point: We assume that menopause interferes with women’s well-being and quality of life because the symptoms stink (and they definitely do for a lot of women). However, the degree to which menopause actually impacts a woman’s quality of life might depend, at least in part, on whether she experiences concurrent depression or anxiety.

This is not to say that if you’re having a hard time dealing with your symptoms, you’re definitely also depressed. Rather,  consider whether depression and anxiety are contributing so that you can address them directly.

Likewise, don’t assume that depression and anxiety will resolve on their own once the physical symptoms subside. Treating the physical symptoms is important, but for many women it might not be enough.

What We Need to Be Saying (To Each Other) About It

At the risk of stating the obvious, a lot of distress is surely rooted in the fact that women don’t feel like they can talk openly and honestly about their experience of menopause, perhaps especially the mental and emotional aspects. 

In Becoming a Menopause Goddess, author Lynette Sheppard asserts that all of her friends experienced sadness, if not full-blown depression, during menopause. All of them. More than anything, she says, they needed to hear that it was normal, that there was nothing inherently wrong with them. 

Instead, the stigma surrounding mental health struggles and the taboo nature of talking about menopause keep many women suffering in silence. Of course, it’s not like we talk freely about the physical symptoms, either. Sure, we can kvetch about hot flashes with our friends. How many women feel free to discuss brain fog and sleep deprivation with their bosses, even if they have very real consequences in the workplace? 

I understand that “just talk about it” is neither easy nor sufficient—I’m not trying to be trite. It’s not like posting your hot flashes on social media will do anything to stop them. Nor can I promise that your boss will be super understanding if you march into his/her office and announce that you can’t finish your project on time because you simply can’t focus. 

However, let’s think about what we can do to open up the channels of communication with our friends and partners at least to start. It’s no secret that social support can be an important factor in warding off depression during times of stress.

We Need A Multi-Pronged Approach

Besides talking about it, what else can women do to cope with physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms during menopause? Hormone therapy (HT) is the predominant approach that doctors prescribe (of course). I won’t cover the pros and cons, nor the safety questions, since Mark did so recently. Definitely check out that post if you are considering HT for yourself. Mark’s wife, Carrie, has also written about her experience with menopause symptoms in previous posts (1, 2). 

I will point out that most symptoms aren’t clearly caused by the hormonal changes that characterize menopause. Vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats) are the most strongly linked to hormonal changes, but other symptoms seem to be more related to psychosocial factors. Even vasomotor symptoms don’t map perfectly onto hormone fluctuations. Women with the biggest drops in estrogen won’t necessarily experience the most hot flushes, for example. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try HT if you and your doctor decide it’s right for you. It clearly has benefits, including that it seems to help some women with depressive symptoms and anxiety. It’s not clear whether this is because it alleviates physical symptoms or because the depression and anxiety are directly caused, at least for some women, by hormone fluctuations

However, it’s a mistake to assume that if we “fix” the hormones, or get rid of the hot flashes for example, the rest will fall into place.

Thinking about the quality of life study I mentioned above, it’s important not to get wrapped up in the story that hormones plummet, hot flashes and night sweats ensue, and then women become grouchy and depressed as a result. 

In reality, the hormone stuff, the physical stuff, the emotional stuff, the sleep stuff, the relationship stuff, and more stuff all get thrown into the mix, each potentially feeding into and off of the others. 

What we need is a multi-pronged approach. (I feel like there’s a pun here about protecting the flanks—I’ll keep working on that one.) Besides treating underlying hormone fluctuations with HT or herbal remedies, women and their doctors should also separately address specific physical and cognitive symptoms, general health, and psychological and emotional well-being. 

The aforementioned Guidelines for the Evaluation and Treatment of Perimenopausal Depression, for example, offer this recommendation, “Proven therapeutic options for depression (antidepressants, cognitive behavioral therapy and other psychotherapies) should remain as front-line antidepressive treatments for major depressive episodes during perimenopause.” In other words, take care of the depression on its own. 

For women who want to be holistic in their approach, and who perhaps want to avoid or minimize HT, there are a number of non-hormonal, complementary practices that have been shown to help. In the next post in this series, I’ll highlight some of the ones that show the most promise for relieving menopausal symptoms specifically, as well as for stress reduction, emotion regulation, and coping more generally. 

Now I want to hear from you. Do you feel free to talk about your experience of menopause with the people in your life? Have you had positive or negative experiences when you have talked about it in the past?

Primal_Fuel_640x80

Resources:

Deeks AA. Psychological aspects of menopause management. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Mar;17(1):17-31.

Schneider M, Brotherton P. Physiological, psychological and situational stresses in depression during the climacteric. Maturitas. 1979 Feb;1(3):153-8.

Zhou B, Sun X, Zhang M, Deng Y, Hu J. The symptomatology of climacteric syndrome: whether associated with the physical factors or psychological disorder in perimenopausal/postmenopausal patients with anxiety-depression disorder. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2012;285(5):1345–1352. 

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Breastfeeding: The First Year

Here we are at 10 months old!

Birch is nursing four times a day:

  1. First thing in the morning (his favorite)
  2. After morning nap around 11/12
  3. After afternoon nap around 4 (his second favorite)
  4. At bedtime (his least favorite)

New Freedom To Leave

Lately being able to go from 6:30am to noon-ish without nursing has given me a new urge to get out of the house in the mornings without a worry about Birch taking (or not taking) a bottle or me needing to pump. We have a new babysitter who will be coming a few mornings a week, and being able to work in a coffee shop or go to a workout class is a joy I didn’t know I was missing until I did it one day! I really haven’t left the house much these past 10 months and there’s a big world out there :mrgreen:

Nursing These Days

Birch honestly doesn’t seem all that interested in nursing, and at times I’ve wondered if he might self wean earlier than a year. He doesn’t pull on my shirt or face plant onto my chest. He’s a great solid-food eater so I’ve wondered if he’s just not all that hungry/thirsty (even though I always offer it to him after a nap). There have been times when I really want him to nurse and he simply won’t and pushes me away! (Sob!) But there are still days when he likes to run his little fingers through my hair and smile up at me while he gulps, so I don’t think we’re done quite yet.

I’m Only Nursing On One Side

I’ve always had a good side and a bad side. Because so much of breastfeeding is a feedback system based on supply and demand, I have knowingly perpetuated this imbalance by favoring the good side for the past few months. When Birch was younger, I made more of an effort to start him on both sides equally, but now that he’s older I’ve decided to simplify and just stick to the one good side. This has actually been nice because I no longer have to wear breast pads all the time to catch the let down on the good side while he nurses on the other. That’s a small change but a significant one : )

Trip To Cali

I have a trip planned to California with Beautycounter the week before Birch turns one. I’m so excited to be able to recharge after this wild first year. I do have some frozen milk in the freezer that we will be able to use up, but I also really don’t think he’ll miss it that much. (Hopefully he misses me though – I am going to miss him like crazy since we haven’t been apart for more than a few hours his whole life!)

I hope to continue morning + night nursing when I return from California so I’ll be pumping just a little while I’m there to try to keep the plumbing going. And if my boobs decide to turn off and there’s nothing left when I return, that’s OK since Birch will be one and able to wean.

My plan is to test out dropping one or both of the daytime feeds the week before I leave. I’m going to take my pump with me and pump just a little morning and night (and comfort in between if needed). In an effort to be minimal and not haul tons of storage bags, worry about a freezer in my room, coolers at the airport, etc. I’m not planning to bring any milk home with me. Since he’ll be old enough to switch to whole milk when I return, we don’t have much of a need for frozen milk. I thought about donating it on the West Coast, but I honestly don’t think it’s going to be that much (and I’m sure some of it will contain wine!)

Weaning

I don’t have a true end goal in mind. If Birch wants to keep nursing first thing in the morning for the next six months I’d be fine with that. As long as it’s a want not a need it takes the pressure off. I started weaning Mazen at one year and we continued with just mornings until he was 14 months. I stopped offering it one day when I felt done, and he only asked for it once after that. What’s great about first thing in the morning is you can wear normal bras, normal clothes, leave, go on date nights, etc. but can still keep the sweetness and some immune benefit going from the morning session alone.

Bittersweet

Breastfeeding is hard for so many little tiny reasons but I’m so thankful I was able to experience it twice. I think it’s been a little harder for me this second time around because there is more going on in general with two kids. It is truly the best and hardest thing about the first year for me – more than the sleep the first 6 months I think. Weaning is so bittersweet. I will be happy to be done, to get my boobs back to their normal size and to fit my chest back into my wardrobe. To know that my baby is able to be in the good care of his dad or grandparents or caregivers without needing me to plan ahead or rush back.

But that oxytocin is stroooooong and I have loved being able to nurse both of my boys.

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Life Lately

Hi, friends!

It’s been a busy week over here. Mal is back to school, and Quinn starts Kindergarten on Friday. He’s had all sorts of orientation-type activities leading up to the big day, including a playdate, open house where he met his teacher and saw his classroom, and a practice bus ride home. I love that the school really helps the kids prepare, but remember the days when our parents just threw us on the bus and we went to school? Even Quinn said he wanted to “get the show on the road” as far as starting school. Haha!

For the record, I’m glad Quinn’s classroom starts the alphabet with the letter “A.” In my Kindergarten classroom, we learned the letter “M” first, and it still bothers me 34 years later. I mean, WHY would you start with “M”?! I also remember that the second letter was “T” and all of the vowels were saved for the end. My 5-year-old brain did not like this! Haha!

I also wanted to tell you guys that I’m hosting a giveaway to win 3 meal plan downloads over on the CNC Nutrition & Accountability group on Facebook. If you’re not yet a member, just request to join. I’ll pick 3 winners on Friday afternoon!

After a nearly 3-month CrossFit hiatus, I’m back at it. My YMCA + driveway workouts were okay, but I felt like my fitness was really starting the wane. I signed up for an unlimited membership with the hope of becoming a regular at Salt Shack again. So far, so good, and I’m really happy to be back! 🙂

We made this High-Protein Instant Pot Chicken Pasta last weekend, and I forgot how delicious (and easy!) this recipe is. It’s made with high-protein Banza pasta – definitely add it to your meal plan next week! 🙂

Quinn had made great strides with his pickiness in recent weeks. We started to use a reward jar to encourage bites of new foods, and it’s working quite well. He now eats (on the regular) roasted potatoes, cucumber slices with salt, and guacamole! We’re so proud of him and meal times have become a lot more enjoyable!

How the reward jar works: Every time Quinn tries a new food, he gets to add a marble to the jar. Once the jar is full, he gets to pick a prize of his choice. His first prize was a Pokemon Trainer! 🙂

Speaking of new foods… I’m loving the Whenever Bars from Pamela’s. They sent me a few different flavors, and they are THE BEST single-serving (and satisfying) dessert. They’re basically a soft, chewy cookie, and I love that they’re gluten-free and don’t have a bunch of crazy ingredients in them. I highly recommend the Oat Blueberry Lemon and Oat Cranberry Almond flavors!

We had the exterior of our house painted, and we are so happy with the results!

BEFORE (without the dark green shutters):

AFTER:

With Quinn off to school tomorrow, we’re winding down our “Quinn and Mumma” days, and I’m really trying to soak it all in. Yesterday afternoon, we made rice crispy treats with sprinkles! 🙂

That’s it for now. I hope you guys have a wonderful Thursday!

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