I have noticed when I return from holidays and breaks from routines I am a wee bit wider. I have named this ‘Post holiday menopausal blues!’ Last time it was around my thighs. You can read my blog about it here. This time was around my bra and waistline too. Like most people, I am a little more relaxed about what I eat on holidays and I like to try new foods but not massively. The result this time felt hormonal and heavy rather than extra calories (not very scientific I know!).

In retrospect, the difference between the previous holiday post and this one was it was over the festive period. With the best will in the world, it is always stressful. Excess stress hormones are stored around our abdomens.

In your menopausal years you can become more sensitive to both stress and sugar which means taking a different approach to ‘Eat less, exercise more’. You can read more about that in my book The Menopause Diaries. Balancing hormones is a precursor to changing our shapes and losing weight.

Whilst in some ways it is reassuring, that what I am doing normally every day does indeed have a positive impact. I am a bit heavier that I would like to be and it would be easy to think what I am doing is not working because of that. However, I would clearly be even heavier without the simple lifestyle steps that I follow.

This year I had a plan post holidays. The following daily habits I do most days to some degree, I just put a focus on them:
1. Green tea, water and a single espresso
2. Coniferous veggies for lunch and dinner
3. No alcohol
4. 10,000 steps
5. 12 hour overnight fast 7pm to 7am
6. Sleeping by 10am
7. Dry skin brushing

One of the reasons I think most diets fail is because they assume everyone is at the same starting point and has the same habits. You may look at this list thinking that I have omitted something or that something is obvious. Getting into the habit of practicing discernment and amending diets and lifestyle choices to what works for you is important and helps you to notice what you body is telling you.

This was done in the spirit of ‘what happens when …

1. Green Tea, water and a single espresso.
Water helps to keep you hydrated and can reduce hunger pangs.
Green tea is good for fat burning compound EGCG
Single espresso, no reason apart from I enjoy it! It’s optional but a single rather than a double espresso and not later than 2pm.

Normally: I have 2 cups of green tea first thing in the morning. I then drink a variety of hot water and herbal teas throughout the day. Most days I have a double espresso.
Holidays: I drank green tea on holiday but it was a different brand to home and the water is different. The water is soft in Scotland and there is no lime scale. Not sure if it makes a difference to anything apart from taste!
Post Holidays: reduced choice to green tea or water only. As much as I can, loading up in the morning and less in the evening as I don’t want my sleep disturbed with toilet breaks!

2. Coniferous veggies for lunch and dinner
Cruciferous vegetables help with estrogen imbalances, which can happen at various stages of the menopause. A portion of veggies is 80g.  Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, brussels sprouts kale and spinach.
Normally: I eat a portion a day either lunch or dinner
Holidays: Reduced availability meant one portion every couple of days
Post Holidays: increased intake to include a portion at both lunch and dinner

3. No alcohol
Alcohol is a carbohydrate, which we can become more sensitive in our menopausal years, and easily add to our waistline. Alcohol has no nutritional value but enjoyable none the less.
Normally: I have a glass of wine at the weekend. I purchase the small 187ml bottles of wine for portion control. I will occasionally have a glass mid week too.
Holidays: As this was over the festive period, I shared a bottle of wine to celebrate Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, on a couple of other days we had a bottle of beer – single portions. It was more than I would normally drink although still within recommended limits.
Post Holidays: Abstained

4. 10,000 steps
Why: Sitting is the new smoking! If you have a desk job it can be challenging to make 10,000 steps a day. This is a standard measure of activity levels.
Normally: I aim for 70,000 a week which I normally do easily and allows for some days when life gets in the way. I use a FitBit to help with tracking.
Holidays: Varied on holiday from 15,000 on some of the city days and 5,000 on others where we had a car for sightseeing.
Post Holidays: Deliberately aiming for 10,000 steps everyday

5. 12 hour overnight fast 7pm to 7am
Why: My digestive system always appreciates a decent gap between eating dinner and going to bed. It reduces the impulse for late night snacking
Normally: I would normally eat at 7pm or if my husband was working away I would have finished eating by 7pm. Breakfast is dependent on my work schedule but I aim for later rather than earlier to get a good 12 hours overnight fast
Holidays: Usual eating schedule often goes out of whack when it is easy to have late breakfast, lunch and dinner
Post Holidays: Back to 7pm to 7am
Please use common sense with this one if you are diabetic or have blood sugar issues!

6. Sleeping by 10pm
Why: Sleep is the ultimate in hormone balancing which is important in our menopausal years. I am an early bird so I find it easy to get to bed early if I am going to be up early.
Normally: I sleep from10pm to 6am. At the moment my sleep is often disturbed at certain points in my cycle.
Holidays: I usually keep the same pattern, although I may sleep later in the morning or read in bed. The time difference also has a bigger impact than in my younger years
Post Holidays: It was easy to get back into a 10pm lights out routine

7. Dry skin brushing
Why: Well known to be good for improving circulation and helping with dry skin, which can be problematic in our menopausal years
Normally: This is a new habit for me and I probably manage 5 out of 7 days. Other days I jump straight into the shower and forget about it.
Holidays: I don’t take the brush on holiday, perhaps next time?
Post Holidays: Placed the brush somewhere obvious to remind me everyday

By the end of the first week, I felt that the heavy and bloated feelings had left. My jeans and bra fitted comfortably. Next time I will measure although I know different times of the month have an impact.

Most of these habits I was doing already, it was a just a bit more focused than pre holidays which is always more hectic.

If you are interested in starting a new habit, I would suggest concentrating on one at a time. Layering into the daily habits, you already have. Let me know how you get on!

Samantha Valand is the founder of Wise Women Wellbeing Academy.

A comprehensive hub of resources on hormone balancing, healthy eating and exercising in your menopausal years and beyond.