Articles by: Romina Monaco

There’s NO SHAME in Losing Weight

A while back a friend of mine told me she removed me from social media because she found my posts on my weight loss and menopause offensive. Startled, I began to second guess my intentions. Was I right showing women that they could go through ‘the change of life’ and still manage their weight successfully? I began to doubt myself…and this was a horrible feeling.

I was also told that since I’m not a mom I couldn’t possibly understand how hard it is to eat right and exercise when kids demand all your time.  No, I’m not a mom but still do have a family with aging parents who have doctor appointments and many other needs including a husband whose career and unique lifestyle requires my attention 24/7.  I also have my own work/responsibilities including a wide network and a community who reach out to Tony and I for support on their various causes and initiatives.

My friend’s opinion made me STOP, sit and reflect on my reasons for this journey.  Was it unrealistic and wrong of me to show women that it is indeed possible to manage weight during menopause?

And Dr. Michael Carozza has shown me that although it requires a mind shift, it can be achieved.I feel it’s right to help other women who feel as I do.  Weight gain is just one of the many symptoms we perimenopausal girls deal with and all I’ve done is gone back to my original weight.  By changing my eating habits and dropping the extra pounds I’ve put on over the last two years I’m now able to control hot flashes, brain fog and finally have the sleep and energy I need to tackle my daily tasks and live a better quality of life.

I follow many inspirational women of all shapes and sizes and admire them for their courage in speaking their truth. They are my heroes and mentors.  MY truth was that I didn’t want to feel crappy anymore. I didn’t want to take synthetic hormones only to then get cancer as my mother did.  It wasn’t to satisfy any vanity by trying to be ‘skinny’ but instead to not lose myself in menopause’s vicious cycle.

This is what has worked for ME.  I don’t preach but guide women who are on a similar journey and want the same things as myself.  Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t reach out to me to ask about food choices, bloating, weight gain, hormones etc… And many have blown my mind because they are so supportive, loving and give me strength!! Therefore, I know now in my heart that I’m doing must be right.

By sharing what I learn and providing resources, support and advice to anyone who asks I’ve come to understand that I’m an instrument helping to raise awareness to ageism and the stigma associated with menopause.  I hope my friend and anyone who feels as she does will come to realize my intention.

 

Swap Your Food With These Healthier Options!

One of the best tips I can give you when it comes to managing perimenopause weight and its symptoms is to swap your food for healthy options that are equally as tasty. This was a challenge at first because I was constantly craving plates of whole wheat pasta and sweets! So, how could I change my eating habits and still feel satisfied and happy with the food I was eating?

It’s important to know that cravings are both psychological and biochemical and usually the foods we crave most contain refined sugar and gluten including trans-fats and artificial additives.  Eating things like cookies, chips, pasta and pizza on a regular basis is similar to drug addiction since both trigger euphoric feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.  Even worse is that you’ll still want more long after you are full!

However, you could also have a nutrient deficiency such as low protein levels which can result in a blood sugar imbalance and serious sugar cravings!  And don’t go for the artificial sweeteners – they won’t change your biochemistry and your longing for sweets.  Cortisol, your stress hormone, is another big factor in perimenopause weight gain. High cortisol levels from lack of sleep (night sweats!) and hormone imbalance can also trigger food cravings.  Generally, a high carb diet also creates high blood sugar levels and leaves you craving more.  It all sounds complicated but with 30 plus pounds to lose and education as my greatest weapon, I did learn how to substitute my food to lose the weight and control nasty symptoms. This is what worked for me!

Quinoa (Instead of pasta) – Quinoa is a gluten-free grain crop which is very high in protein and minerals.  Low in calories and will help you feel full.  If you’re making a salad just make sure your other ingredients are low in calories as well.

Almond Milk (instead of skim milk) – Almond milk has less calories and has sufficient calcium. Unlike skim it isn’t an animal product and doesn’t contain lactose, sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat.

Kale Chips (instead of potato chips) – Kale chips have less calories and are packed with antioxidants, vitamins. I add a little olive oil and Pink Himalayan salt for flavour.

Boiled Omega 3 Eggs (instead of regular scrambled eggs) – Omega eggs are higher in vitamins and ‘good fats’ because the hens are fed a diet high in flaxseed. Boiled eggs contain less calories than scrambled eggs.

Almonds & Walnuts (instead of dark chocolate) – Although dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, I just wouldn’t know when to stop! So I chose these nuts instead which, like chocolate, also release the ‘feel good’ hormone, serotonin and is nutrient-dense with antioxidants. This is a great afternoon snack and usually eat one handful.

Regular Tomatoes (instead of cherry tomatoes) – I added cherry tomatoes to all my salads until Dr. Mike told me they are higher in sugar and that I should cut them out. So I did.

Berries (instead of other fruits) – this was another great suggestion by Dr. Mike and again, based on calories.  Berries (and lemons) contain the least calories of all the fruits while still being nutrient-dense.  Avocados are my only exception and eat them a couple of times a week.

Apple Cider Vinegar (instead of balsamic) – While balsamic is very high in sugar, apple cider vinegar is low in calories, reduces blood sugar and cholesterol levels while aiding in weight loss.  Dr. Mike calls it a ‘fat buster’!

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust (instead of regular pizza) – This was one of my most challenging substitutes.  I get my ready-made flatbreads from Mimi Foods in Vaughan, Ontario as they are by far the best I’ve ever tasted.  I added shaved parmesan cheese (the only cheese I eat as it is the lowest in calories) with some tomato sauce, peppers and olives.

These healthy changes in your diet make a huge impact and what’s interesting is that since modifying my meals I have begun to crave these super, nutrient-dense foods! Who would have thought I would look forward tp a side portion of quinoa over an entire bowl of pasta?  My general rule of thumb when it comes to meal time is portion control and sticking to a basic template; my dinner plate consists of one quarter gluten-free grains, another quarter high protein and half the dish, a leafy green and/or cooked vegetables. My breakfast consists of two boiled eggs and for lunch my homemade shake (dated January 17 on my Instagram account for those interested in the recipe) with nuts and berries for snacks.  Bon Appetite!

House of Pain

Just because I smile on social media doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time…but I’ll get to that in a minute.

In the last year staying sane (‘balanced’ would be more appropriate) has been a massive challenge as we walk a fine line trying to find stability through the treacherous climate of this pandemic.  Covid-19 aside, winter is traditionally considered the most depressing time of the year and for decades society has been telling us that if we aren’t happy all the time then there’s something seriously flawed within us.  Just go to Chapters and walk down the self-help section.  ‘Read this book to find the secret to happiness’ or ‘listen to that audio and be happy forever.’ It’s all the same rhetoric and although the bookstore is one of my favourite pass times, seeing rows of books telling you how to be happy ALL THE TIME blows my mind!  I just don’t believe it’s human to be happy all the time and forcing that state of emotion as a constant is UNREALISTIC.

One of most important Buddhist teachings is realizing that unhappiness is equally as important as happiness. One cannot exist without the other – light can only appear amidst a realm of darkness.

Think about it. In order to be in a constant state of happiness you’d have to be doing something that brings you joy CONTINUOUSLY – but then you’d be bored because in time that action will no longer stimulate you.  Or perhaps avoid all human interaction and painful emotions that could come from divorce or death of a loved one, for example – but then you’d live a lonely life.

Happiness and unhappiness will always coexist.

Experiencing emotional pain is part of the human experience and necessary for the evolution of the soul. Our teacher and compass guiding us on our life journey, unhappiness can help us gauge WHAT and HOW much we can tolerate from people or situations within our day-to-day lives.  The key (and greatest challenge) is not to remain in your state of unhappiness.  All roads lead to Rome with unhappiness being the root of anger, loneliness, jealousy, greed, guilt, superiority, inferiority and hatred…just to name a few.

In order to deal with my own unhappiness I analyze my painful situation with brutal honesty. I feel it- that nasty raw emotion-without grabbing for a vice such as food, alcohol etc…(the hardest thing to do!!!). I own it and make a conscious commitment not to dwell in my house of pain too long.

Whichever way your unhappiness manifests let it ebb and flow like an emotional tide coming in and out of your life when necessary… because it’s during these dark moments that we learn how strong we really are. It’s not easy and it’s taken me years to learn how to handle pain. However, if you are committed to facing pain instead of masking it then you can learn how to use it to your advantage.

People have asked me how I’ve been able to sustain my happiness and positivity during this time and are stunned when I tell them I experience pain EVERY SINGLE DAY of my life. “How? You always look like you’re having so much fun (especially on social media lol).”  Yes…and the lesson here is not to take what’s online as someone’s total and complete reality.

Almost every day I cry for my mother.  Although, I know I’ll miss her for the rest of my life, I don’t stay ‘down there’.  My tears for her are the catalyst which makes me pick up the phone and call someone close… because I realize in that moment that anything can happen at any time. How terrible it would be to never have the chance to speak and laugh with that person again! This painful thought process comes from losing so many loved ones over the last few years and yet, it helps create so many new happy moments. I try to make maximum four phone calls a day to family and friends (not work related).  Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen but none-the-less it’s my daily goal.  It helps maintain my healthy happy/unhappy balance. In my mother’s death, and those of others, there is this silver lining.

Bad moments are normal.  Just don’t give them power over your day.  However, if you dwell too long in your house of pain please seek an unbiased professional who can help you work through your emotions. I’m not saying I have the answers but all this and my faith in God have been my anchor.

I Have Scars

We can all paint a pretty picture – the image we portray to the world and a beautiful portrait depicting laughter and joy which thankfully hide the scars we’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Large and small, they are masses of distorted emotions left behind from wounds afflicted on us so deep that some will never recover.

I think my first scars appeared quite young and was surprised to learn from my cousins that I was excluded from their pass times – the baby and too small to participate in whatever they were doing. “We were really mean to you!” said my cousin, Joanne. I don’t remember this but it may explain a few things such as my desire to create my community support initiative, Ro On The Go.  The title says it all!

I acquired a few more scars later in childhood and in my teens. In grade 7 I was the only person in school not invited to a party because I was Italian – along with another girl who had developmental disabilities.  Fast forward several years where I was constantly referred to as ‘anchor nose’ and ‘wop’ and of course not one boy through high school liked me because of my ethnicity…and the verbal jabs across the lunchroom table didn’t help attract boys either, even if most were in jest.  No, Romina Jelmini was definitely not girlfriend material and you’d better stay away…unless you wanted to be the butt end of the joke yourself.

Yes, I’ve been scared deeply and although a nose job could never remedy the pain, I miraculously survived my teens!  Suddenly in my twenties, with my heritage now somehow irrelevant to the opposite sex, I blossomed and as a result reacted by becoming a not-so-nice girlfriend while leaving a few broken hearts behind me. It was self-preservation until my husband came along and refused to give up.

You can keep the wounds open, feeling a lifetime of pain while taking your anguish out on the world – or you can heal and wear your scars which I have done by working for an Italian Canadian magazine and supporting my community.  Yes, wounds continue to afflict me even today – friends who have hurt or let me down as well as being used to accommodate others’ agendas. These things happen to all of us and are a part of life. So know that when you look in the mirror the scars will never go away but remember that you are ultimately spirit and the love or hate that has fueled it over a lifetime. Choose grace and realize your endurance and strength to continue living with loving intention will be your greatest legacy…YOU ARE A SURVIVOR!

Italian Girl- Inspired By Venice

Shimmering like colourful, moonlit canals that gently interweave the palazzos of Venice, these Swarovski crosses on 18 carat gold-plated brass are some of the most beautiful pieces of jewellery I’ve ever owned. Reminiscent of Venice, Florence and the renaissance, I am grateful to artisan and Monnaluna creator, Giovanna Bruno for this handmade violet cross necklace and my hubby who gave me the gift of the green – such a beautiful birthday surprise!  Imported from Italy exclusively by Italian Girl Bijoux in Toronto, Giovanna’s pieces inspire, spark the imagination and transport me to another time and place.  To see more Monnaluna visit italiangirlbijoux.com.

ALL Monnaluna pieces are hand-crafted and plated in either 18 carat yellow, rose or white gold…whatever you want!! You can also choose your favourite colours and personalize Swarovski/Preciosia crystal cross necklaces, bracelets and rings. Rest assured that no one will be wearing the same jewellery as you.  Each piece is nickel-free, hypoallergenic and will not tarnish. Delivery takes two weeks. .

*Canadian distribution of Monnaluna jewellery is exclusive to Italian Girl Bijoux.

Power Of The Mind

Someone give me a medal – and not for losing 30 lbs weight loss but instead for blogging these ‘before’ photos!!

These are definitely NOT my most flattering shots but I felt it was important to bare all because I’ve been told for decades that losing weight during perimenopause was IMPOSSIBLE.  Well, they were wrong!

As many of you know via my social media postings the shift in my hormones (in addition to severe stress brought on by my dear mother’s passing) caused a variety of issues including this weight gain and although I packed on 25 lbs in just a couple of years the purpose of embarking on this journey was not to be skinny, but instead to be HEALTHY!!

My last birthday was the big eye-opener. I thought, “How do I want to live the rest of my life? And do I really want poor health to be the culprit that makes me dependent on others in my later years?’ Suddenly, my mortality became a reality.

It’s not easy for me to admit I had lost control of my health.  However, through these images and my story I want to show women experiencing the painful reality of weight gain during perimenopause that they can indeed lose weight and feel good again.  Although Dr. Micheal Carozza of Applemed Clinic  (a.k.a.Dr. Mike) has been an essential guide and wealth of knowledge I wouldn’t have lost a pound if I was not disciplined.  On my first appointment dated March 16, I expressed my doubts to Dr. Mike. It felt like a pipe dream. However, after my first 5 lbs loss I was elated and knew without a doubt that I would lose my intended 30 lbs goal.

I’ve received hundreds of messages from women inquiring about the ‘diet’ I am on and what ‘the secret’ is.  There’s no gimmick diet here and easy way out! My meals are a balance of healthy food choices. The secret? It’s all in the POWER OF THE MIND.  You can have all the tools but if you’re not patient, determined and do the work that’s involved, then you won’t lose the weight. Plain and simple. Your mind can either be your prison (woe is me!) or the gateway to freedom (yes, I can do this!).

All I can say is that I’m relieved to feel like my old myself again.. and to finally fit into all my clothes! Coming soon will be some tips I learned from Dr. Mike.  If you’re perimenopausal and gaining, YOU CAN DO IT TOO!

Introducing…Me!

‘Adversity introduces a man to himself’ – this quote from Albert Einstein came to mind over a month ago in a moment where I felt I could not go on.  I’d spent the last year in hospitals dealing with my mother’s illness and her traumatic death due to ovarian cancer. Yes, watching my extremely active mother take her last breath was traumatizing and is etched in my memory forever.

Despite being her caregiver, I was still working and at the same time I launched my own COVID-19 initiative, Vaughan Together, which became a full-time job as the need was so great.  My dream of writing for Hello Canada magazine also came to fruition during this time.  In addition to this workload, I was managing my anger towards my mom’s gynecologist who misdiagnosed her…and neglected her. Could she have been saved?  One week following my mom’s passing my father underwent heart surgery and the day after his hospital release he was rushed to emergency with complications.  It was here that I cracked. ⚡ S Sprawled on my bed, engulfed in total rage and despair, Einstein’s words came to me and knew I was at a crossroads in my life.

I’d seen people paralyzed by their grief and change forever. I was not going to be that person. The love and support from family and friends was vital but what ultimately got me through was my faith in the mystery of God.  Although my human eyes saw injustice in respects to my mom, I knew in my spirit this was her destiny and the pact she made with God before coming to this earth – just as I have a destiny and you have a destiny. Although I didn’t (and still don’t) understand the reason for her fate, in that moment I realized I was being given a choice and in the days following my faith became unwavering. Through adversity and free will, I was introduced to myself – I am strong and my spirit will never be defeated.  For all my friends in despair, it is time you are introduced to yourself! Find your faith, believe in the unexplainable and know there is a bigger plan and reason for everything.