You're suffering from hot flashes. You're having trouble sleeping and you're very moody. To top it all off, you're waist is getting bigger and you haven't changed what you eat or your daily routine! The reality is that physiological changes during menopause result in a slowing metabolism and an increase in abdominal visceral fat. Often the outcome is belly fat and weight gain, and many women are frustrated with this change. Menopause is not fair!
So what can be done?
There are so many types of ‘diets’ for weight loss: paleo, keto, low carb, low fat, Mediterranean and more. Then there’s intermittent fasting. You will have likely seen a LOT about IF and wondered what it’s really all about.
IF isn’t what we think of as a diet at all. It’s simply a schedule that includes a time for eating and a time for fasting. (1) Fasting for ethical reasons, or cultural and religious traditions, has been practiced for millennia. Fasting has been cited as a therapy, to promote health, since the 5th century BC. (1) The question is whether IF is a helpful strategy for women during the menopause transition and into post menopause to lose, maintain weight and promote health.
A review of studies conducted prior to 2016 demonstrated that, while more research is needed, IF has many benefits. With respect to menopausal women and weight, the benefits include:
Fasting helps to promote weight loss, reduce fat tissue mass, reduce waist circumference (belly fat!), and improve insulin sensitivity.
IF reduces risk for metabolic syndrome (including diabetes mellitus).
IF helps to regulate and improve cardiovascular disease markers including blood pressure, heart rate, lipid profile (decrease in total cholesterol, and LDL and increase in HDL).
Improve muscle and joint health.
In addition, IF helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve overall mental health. IF supports bone health. Fasting also helped to reduce inflammation and the risk of some chronic diseases and slowed the growth of cancer tumours. The authors concluded that IF was a safe strategy for pre and post-menopausal women (2), however people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a history of eating disorders, have diabetes, or take medications should be cautious and should check with their health care provider before starting IF. (3)
Sounds pretty good…but how do you ‘do’ intermittent fasting?
There are several types of IF:
Time-restricted eating: fast every day for 12 hours or more and eat for the rest of the time: e.g. 16-hour fast & eating for 8hours.
The 5:2 diet. Eat normally for 5 days and then eat 500–600 calories for 2 days of the week.
Eat Stop Eat. 24-hour fast once or twice per week.
Alternate-day fasting. fast every other day.
The Warrior Diet. Eat small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day with one large meal at night. (3)
Some IF schedules are difficult, like fasting for 24 hours or restricting calories to 500 or 600 in a day. If you’d like to try IF, then choose a strategy that you’ll be able to succeed with; the one that works best for you and your life. For example, if you would like to eat dinner every day with your family, then the 16:8 might work best for you. IF works best with some planning to ensure you have meals and snacks organized so that you can stick to your schedule.
Even though IF is a form of scheduled eating, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the amount of calories or the kinds of food you are eating…but more about that in another blog!
Don’t forget that the Virtual Menopause Clinic offers support for menopause weight gain. If you’re struggling, think about scheduling an appointment.
Check out the Virtual Menopause Clinic Youtube Channel with more information about all things menopause!
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "fasting". Encyclopedia Britannica, 17 Jul. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/fasting.
Nair PM, Khawale PG. Role of therapeutic fasting in women's health: An overview. J Midlife Health. 2016 Apr-Jun;7(2):61-4. doi: 10.4103/0976-7800.185325. PMID: 27499591; PMCID:PMC4960941. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4960941/
Howshaw C. Pros and Cons of 5 Intermittent Fasting Methods. Healthline. Nutrition. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting