As we all know one of the bugbears of the ‘meno’ years (peri, meno and post) is weight gain.
Debra Waterhouse explains it in her book Menopause Without Weight Gain:
“As soon as your fat cells detect a slightly lower estrogen level, they come to your aid to produce estrogen. (Fat cells producing estrogen? This may surprise you, but it’s one of their highly evolved functions.) They know that eventually, your ovaries will stop producing estrogen, so they start preparing to take over the ovaries’ job. They increase in size, number and ability to store fat. The fat cells in your waist grow the largest because they are better equipped to produce estrogen than the fat cells in your buttocks, hips or thighs.”
Ha. OK, so that’s what happened to my waist. I don’t know about you, but while I appreciate knowing the physiology it’s no comfort when it comes to doing up my trousers!
A lot of people find losing weight at this time of life difficult, but I’ve found losing a few kgs with the help of intermittent fasting (IF) works well. IF – also known as time-restricted eating – is the practice of having periods of eating times and non-eating times – in my case eight hours of eating, 16 hours of not eating.
I won’t tell you it’s easy at first; after all changing lifestyle habits always requires discipline and commitment (it’s far simpler to be lazy). However, it’s a tool I’ve embraced since I first tried it five years ago.
It’s All Good:
IF is trendy right now but that’s not why I became a convert. I like that it’s easily incorporated into my life, it works and that more and more research is coming out about a number of health benefits aside from weight management.
IF is actually an ancient tool, was once used as a method of purification and is commonly practised by many religions. But if Lent, Ramadan or any other religious fasting period is not part of your life it’s probably your experience that food is freely available in the 21st Century. In fact, some would say too much so and many of us have forgotten what it’s like to be hungry.
Purported Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
- Weight loss
- Increased growth hormone
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Insulin resistance and raised blood sugar
- Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
- Prevention or reversal of Type 2 diabetes
- Cellular repair also known as autophagy
- Cancer prevention or treatment
IF and Body Composition/Clinical Health Markers
Impact of IF on health and disease processes
How It Works:
Pretty amazing, huh? And the beauty of IF is its simplicity.
The easiest way and most adaptable way to begin is to fast for 12 hours. So if you eat at 7pm, don’t eat again until 7am. Or if you eat at 8pm, don’t eat again until 8am. This is a very simple plan and incorporates the very good habit of closing the kitchen after dinner and saying no to grazing at night. This doesn’t only help with weight management but also your sleep hygiene.
I and friends of mine who are also practising IF do 16/8, which as I said earlier basically means eating for an eight hour period and refraining for 16 hours. I tend to eat brunch at about 10 am and then what I call ‘Linner’ at about 6 pm. Or if I have a dinner to go to I may start at 1 pm and finish at 9 pm. That’s what works for me, but you can accommodate your needs around your home and family.
Another fan of the regime does the 5:2. This means eating normally for five days and eating just 500/600 calories for two days. She’s had great results with that.
Another method is to fast every other day, this is known as Alternate Day Fasting (ADF).
Eat, Drink & Be Merry:
Of course, eating normally also means eating sensibly. No gorging on chocolate and chips because you won’t lose weight. It’s not a free pass for junk food binges. I tend to eat lots and lots of green leafy vegetables and avocados. There are some fantastic healthy recipes out there.
The bottom line is IF is not a diet, it’s a way of eating. And really, it’s quite natural as back in our ancestors days they’d have times when they needed to go for periods of time without eating before new food sources were found. In days of old they couldn’t go to the fridge or the supermarket like we can.
Other Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
- Saves time
- Reduces your food bill
No matter how much you eat or what time you eat, it’s always best to avoid processed foods and up your intake of fruit and veggies. Your body and your menopausal signs will smile.
It’s also important to note that intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. If you have diagnosed health issues, are highly symptomatic menopausally, underweight or have a history of eating disorders it’s not a good idea.
Does IF Live Up To The Hype?
Many more human studies are needed but most of us in the integrative health field and legendary functional medicine doctors such as Dr Mark Hyman, Chris Kesser and Dr Christiane Northrup believe it’s a useful tool when done the right way.
However, just as it is with perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause everyone’s journey is different so it’s for not for – Every. Body.
As always if you are considering embarking on a lifestyle change it’s always a good idea to undergo a check-up with your medical doctor first.
Have you got your own story to share of weight management with intermittent fasting? We’d love to hear it and you can let us know here.
Jennifer is a certified integrative health coach with a specialty in 40+ women and hormone balance for weight loss. If you have questions email her here.
Main image via Pixabay