The connection between eating and menopause is complex and multi-faceted. During menopause, changes in hormone levels can impact a woman’s metabolism and make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, changes in appetite, cravings, and food preferences can also occur during this time. Here are some ways that eating and menopause are connected:
Hormonal fluctuations: Hormone levels, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, can impact a woman’s metabolism and hunger levels during menopause. These fluctuations can lead to changes in appetite and food cravings.
Weight gain: The hormonal changes that occur during menopause can slow down metabolism and make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Poor eating habits, such as consuming a diet high in processed foods and added sugars, can exacerbate this issue and lead to weight gain.
Fatigue and energy levels: Menopause can also impact energy levels and fatigue, which can in turn impact a woman’s ability to prepare and maintain a healthy diet. A diet lacking essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, can further exacerbate fatigue and energy levels.
Mood swings and sleep patterns: Hormonal changes during menopause can also impact mood and sleep patterns, and in turn, these changes can affect eating habits. Poor sleep can lead to overeating or a decreased appetite, while mood swings may affect food choices.
Bone health: During menopause, women are at increased risk of osteoporosis due to declining hormone levels, and a diet that is low in calcium and vitamin D can further increase this risk.
When we look at food and figure out what’s my bare minimum of treats that I can eat and still feel good, and still fit into my jeans, and still be able to sleep, and not have hot flashes, and not feel bloated.
Then, what happens is we are more likely to do what’s good for us versus doing something because the diet says. We’re more likely to have a better relationship with food, we’re more likely to have a better relationship with our body.
You are listening to the done with dieting podcast. The podcast for women in midlife, who are done with dieting, but still want to lose weight and feel good in your clothes.
You know that diets don’t work long term. But you feel like there’s this secret that everyone else knows that you just haven’t figured it out yet.
I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman. And I’ve helped hundreds of women get off the diet roller coaster, change their relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies.
Through this podcast, my goal is to help you too.
Welcome. Let’s get started.
Hey everyone. Welcome to the Done With Dieting podcast. This is episode 111, and today what I’m going to be talking about is I’m actually starting a series. And the way that I have it laid out right now, it’s a three part series all about menopause and how different lifestyle factors influence our menopausal symptoms.
So, if you remember or if you listened to episode number 110 last week’s episode, which if you haven’t listened to it, I’m going to recommend that you listen to that as well. Although, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in place of this one. However, what I want you to do is listen to episode 110 because in episode number 110 I talk about menopause in general.
Like what are the symptoms, what is the definition of menopause, what is the definition of perimenopause. And in that, I want you to be aware that when I’m using the term menopause, I’m actually referring to perimenopause as well because many of the symptoms and reasons that we have the symptoms overlap between the two stages.
And so, what I want to do here is just call out that if I am specifically talking about menopause, I will mention that. Or if I’m only talking about perimenopause pre cycle, then I will talk about that as well. However, when I’m using the term menopause, I’m really talking to about the entire experience, perimenopause as well as menopause.
Today, what we’re going to be talking about here is how our symptoms are influenced by our diet and how our diet is influenced by menopause. So, it’s a give and take for each one. what I find is that so many women come to me and they’re like, I don’t know what’s going on. I haven’t changed a thing, and all of a sudden, I’m starting to gain weight.
You might be in that same boat. All of a sudden, something has shifted and you started gaining weight around your middle, or your hips, or whatever it was all of a sudden, the things that you were doing before stopped working. And it can be so confusing for us because we’re like, I didn’t change a thing and all of a sudden, my body doesn’t feel the same way.
What we want to do is we really want to understand how food influences our body, especially during this time because our hormones have shifted. And when our hormones shift, then what happens is our body looks at food differently. Our body uses food differently.
Now, here’s the thing. That many women have grown up or learned how to eat and learned to manage their weight, still believing that they could eat like a 13 year old boy.
Trust me, I believe this because I was doing the same thing. I was going out drinking with my husband, drinking lots of beer, and having burgers and fries. And that’s how we met and that’s how we bonded. And then, after our dates, I would just hold back a little bit throughout the week, or I would exercise a little bit harder. And what happened is it really wasn’t that inconvenient for me to go out and have fun. Kick back with some food and some drinks. Right?
But what it didn’t teach me was how to respect food and it didn’t teach me how to have a good relationship with food. And it certainly didn’t teach me how to have a good relationship with exercise. Because what happened then is I started to see exercise as something that I had to pay penance for.
In this three part series, I’m first going to be talking about Nutrition. In the second part, I’m going to talk about physical activity. And in the third part, I’m going to talk about stress, sleep, and recovery. All three parts are super important when it comes to menopausal symptoms. And so, today we’re going to be talking about nutrition.
First, just to go back a little bit. There are three different phases of menopause. There is the perimenopause phase. And in the perimenopause phase, we started to have some hormonal shifts. Maybe you’re experiencing some light irregular cycles. Maybe you’re experiencing some hot flashes, getting a little bit hot at night. Maybe you’re experiencing a little brain fog. It’s going to be different for everybody.
Then, once you have had 12 months of not having a cycle, then you’ve crossed over into menopause. Now, there are two different parts of the post-menopausal phase. Because menopause is really just one point in time, and that is the time at which you haven’t had a cycle for 12 months.
And so, there’s early menopause and late menopause. And generally, our hormonal symptoms will only be in the perimenopause phase as well as the early menopause phase. But sometimes they can linger into the post-menopause. And if you want more information about that, I’m going to invite you to go ahead and listen to episode 110.
Now, in today’s episode, I’m going to mostly be talking about the common symptoms of menopause and also the symptoms that we can lessen. And also, the symptoms that we can lessen through making nutritional changes. If I don’t talk about a specific symptom that you’re experiencing, it’s possible that nutrition doesn’t have anything to do with it or maybe I’ve just left it out.
So, if that’s the case, if you have questions, I’m going to invite you to reach out to me. You can reach out to me at email@example.com and I will get back to you about your specific symptom. And whether there are any nutritional choices that you can make in order to lessen your symptoms.
Alright. So, let’s get started.
When I work with clients, if you’ve ever done a consult with me, you will know that one of the things that I ask about is what I call the five biomarkers that I use to determine whether your hormones are balanced or not. Whether you are eating, exercising, sleeping, managing your stress correctly for your body so that your hormones are somewhat balance.
Now, again, I want to put the caveat out here that I do not believe that 100% of women will be able to balance their hormones through diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management entirely. But many of us can and most of us can reduce our symptoms greatly if we do pay attention to those things.
Again, I do not want to give the impression that all of us get rid of all of our symptoms by simply eating right and taking vitamins. Sometimes the chemistry in our body is such that we need medication in order to balance and to feel good.
As I go through the five different biomarkers, what I’m also going to talk about are some of the other symptoms that we have related to menopause that will be able to be modified through our diet changes.
So, we’re going to start with low energy. Now, low energy can result from having poor sleep, insomnia, right? It can also result from not eating enough calories. We, women have been taught from a very young age that if we want to lose weight, that we need to eat less and exercise more. And that does not serve us. Because so many of us have cut calories, and cut calories, and cut calories until there aren’t any more calories to cut.
Many women today who are in their fifties, who are in their late forties are still on these shoestring diets. And many need to be eating more for their body. So, if you’re experiencing low energy or fatigue, it’s possible that you need to eat more. And I know that that’s really super scary for you to hear because you’re like, eat more, I’m going to gain weight. Maybe, but maybe not. Not if you have someone who you trust with you in order to bring you through the process of getting you out of that calorie deficit.
It’s not a pleasant experience. However, it is possible. So, not eating enough calories can be a reason for you to have low energy. We’ve also adopted a society where we are afraid of starch, where we’re afraid of carbohydrates. And it’s possible that if you have low energy, you might not be eating enough carbs.
Now, the key here is to not be afraid of carbohydrates. What we want to do is eat the right carbohydrates, so whole foods, not sugars, and simple carbohydrates so that our blood sugar rises and then falls again. Or it’s possible that you have this fatigue, this low energy, because your diet is poor.
So, if you are opting for sugar instead of nutrient dense foods, it’s possible that you just don’t have enough energy, vitamins, and minerals in order to allow you to think, and move, and exercise. So, what we really want to do is to have a better relationship with food. And so many of us don’t. So many of us would rather eat the simple thing, the treat, then eat vegetables.
I know this because I work with women every single day. And many women come to me and they’re like, I love vegetables. But then when we look at it, when we look at what they’re actually eating, we don’t eat enough vegetables. And vegetables are what’s going to give you the nutrients, the vitamins, and help to keep you full. Vegetables are so good for you.
And when you can look at vegetables and eating vegetables as an honor, as something that you do that’s good for your body. Then, it crowds out the stuff that you don’t want to be eating. The stuff that’s less nutrient dense.
The next biomarker is cravings. Now, cravings for sure can be caused by hormones. So, what you’ll notice, and you’ve probably noticed this before depending on what your PMS symptoms were. You probably noticed that you got cravings maybe the days before your cycle or during your cycle. Seems to change for everyone.
But whatever your PMS symptoms were, you probably found that you had a dose of cravings in there as well. Of course, hormones are going to impact what it is that you want. However, you can also get cravings because you’re already eating too many simple carbohydrates at once.
So, if you’re taking in a rush of sugar, for example. And maybe you will experience this near the holidays. That cookies were around in treats, and you had a couple for a few days in a row. And then, all of a sudden, it became really difficult to stop yourself. That’s an example of how infusing our bodies with simple sugars just keeps us attached to those types of foods.
One of the things that you can do is go on a detox of simple sugars and rid your body of needing to go for that, so that it levels out your cravings again. But you can also get cravings because you’re not eating enough.
So again, going back to diet culture and how so many of us have been raised that we aren’t eating enough food. And when we’re not eating enough food, our body is sending us cravings. It’s like, Elizabeth, give me some food. I need some fat, or I need some energy. So, that’s a possibility as well. And then, not eating enough protein with your starches.
One of the things that I’ve mentioned before, I mentioned it in episode 110, but I’m going to mention it again here, that as we move into the menopause phase of life, what happens is our bodies become way more sensitive to insulin and way more reactive to stress.
Now, what does that means and some of you already noticed this, maybe you’ve already noticed that your body is way more sensitive to starch, right? We’ve heard this before. Like, oh, if I look at a carb, I gain weight. And that’s not necessarily true, right? It’s something cute that we say. But what we want to do is always have carbohydrates in our diet.
I eat carbohydrates every single day. But what we want to do is we want to be really mindful of what I call our starch tipping point. And that is the amount of starch that we can have in our diet where we don’t start to crave it, but enough so that it gives us the energy. Going back to the first biomarker, low energy.
And so, when we’ve balanced this starch tipping point, one of the things that we really want to make sure that we do is we want to make sure that we’re eating enough protein with every single one of our meals. And the reason why we want to do this is because when we eat starch by itself, what happens is our body will take that starch and it breaks those molecules down into individual glucose molecules. And those individual glucose molecules flood our blood system. And when they flood our blood system, we get high blood sugar. Just temporarily.
And in response to that glucose in our blood system, our body releases insulin. And when our body releases insulin, the insulin goes out into our blood, and it takes up all of those glucose molecules. And it stores them into our liver and into our muscles so that we can use them later for energy.
When it does that, what happens is it cleans up all of the blood glucose. And what happens is our blood sugar plummets. We don’t have any blood sugar anymore. And so, what happens then is we get hungry, and so we eat again. And when we eat again, the same thing happens.
Now, this second time around, what happens is our bloodstream is filled with blood glucose, blood sugar. And our body releases insulin in response to that. And then, as it cleans up that blood glucose, now our liver and our muscles are already full of existing glucose, so it starts putting that into fat stores.
So, what we want to do is to be able to control the rise and the fall of our blood glucose. One of the best ways to manage your weight is to manage the amount of starch or insulin that you have in your bloodstream. And so, what we want to do is eat protein with each of our meals that has a starch.
So, eat protein with every meal that has starch. By eating protein with your meals, what it will do is slow down the breaking down and release of glucose into your bloodstream. And so then, what happens is instead of having a sharp rise and fall, it’s a more even release.
And so then, you will also notice that when you do this, you will not be as hungry as quickly. So, eat protein with every meal.
Now, let’s talk about hot flashes. Too many women do not realize that hot flashes can be completely linked to what you’re eating and what you’re doing. You can control your hot flashes and your night sweats by noticing the relationship maybe not directly but noticing the relationship between what you’re eating and how you feel.
Now, you might notice that when you drink alcohol that you get hot. So now, we know that. Alcohol for sure can impact our hot flashes as well as our night sweats. And for clarity, let’s just talk about hot flashes and understand that night sweats are just a specific timing of that.
If you are having night sweats specifically, but not hot flashes. Something that you may want to notice is what your starch intake is in your last meal of the day, to notice if you are getting hot flashes that are geared to a specific starch. So, two of the things that you may notice is that sugar, or flour, wheat products will impact your night sweats.
And so, you can generally make a direct correlation between the last meal of the day and whether you’re having night sweats. Now on a larger scale, for those of you who are having hot flashes, you may not notice that, well, when I eat a cookie, I don’t get a hot flash immediately after. Or if I eat flour or pasta that I get a hot flash immediately after.
What you want to look at is the general overview of how much sugar and how much starch you have in your diet overall to notice how that impacts you. And so, one of the best ways to do that is actually to get rid of all of the sugar and flour out of your diet for a period of time, like maybe a month. And then, slowly start to add it back in to notice how much can I have before I don’t get hot flashes again.
This is something that I did, and I’ve talked about this before on the podcast that I can have about two to three servings of flour per week without experiencing any hot flashes. But anything more than that, and I will start to get them. And then, I just know that I need to back off for a little bit. It’s not that I have to go off flour and sugar for an entire month again, but I just have to back down for the next week or so. So, that was hot flashes.
Now, anxiety can also be connected to what we consume. One of the things that we will have increased anxiety over is there’s definitely a relationship between alcohol and anxiety. And again, you may not notice it directly like when I drink, I feel anxious. But over a period of time, if you cut alcohol out of your diet, you may notice that you have reduced anxiety. And the same thing is true for just your overall diet.
So, if you have a poor diet, you may experience more anxiety. Because with a poor diet, a diet that is not nutrient rich, what you might experience is that it’s just highly inflammatory. So, if you’re eating lots of processed foods, if you’re eating foods that are fried, if you’re not eating enough vegetables. What you may experience is lots of inflammation in your body and through experiencing that inflammation, your body will start to feel anxious.
Since we’re talking about anxiety, you may also notice that you’re experiencing a lot of moodiness and irritability. Now, I’m going to tell you that a lot of that is hormonal. And a lot of it is also stress related. Which I’m going to talk about in the third part of this series. However, again, going back to having a poor quality diet, it’s possible that you’re experiencing moodiness and irritability because of that same inflammation that’s happening in your diet.
So, in order to get around that, one of the things that we want to do is of course, eat more vegetables. And we have a few more biomarkers here.
Now, what about sleep? What’s the connection between sleep and eating? You might be surprised, but there’s a huge connection between sleep and eating. So first, if you’re having insomnia, it’s possible that you might be eating too many starches, too close to bed. Now, this one is highly individual.
For many of my clients, I will find that they need to cut out starch before bed. For other clients, we’ll notice that they have to add starches. So, it’s really one of those things that you have to play with and figure out. Start to keep notes on how your sleep quality is and what you’re doing before bedtime. And when you can connect the dots between what you’re eating and how you’re sleeping, then you can make better decisions.
So, if you’re experiencing poor sleep, it’s possible that you’re eating too many starches too close to bed. Or that you’re just eating too close to bed. Because what happens then is when our body is trying to digest food and all of the blood is near our digestion, our body isn’t relaxing and recharging. So, if you eat too much or too close to bed, what we’ll find that it’s possible that it’s keeping you up at night. And you might be experiencing acid reflux or GERD.
Of course, if you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure that you’re not consuming too much caffeine. Or you may again, want to start to note when you’re having your last serving of caffeine and when you’re going to bed to see if there’s a relationship between those two things. It’s possible that you might want to cut out caffeine altogether and see if that helps for a period of time.
And then, finally one of the last things that I want to talk about is headaches. So, headaches can be pretty common as menopausal symptoms. And just notice again, it could be poor diet. Again, going back to the inflammation in your body. If you’re not getting enough nutrients, if you’re not getting enough vegetables, if you’re dehydrated, if you’re hungry, I know that that happens to me. But also, notice if alcohol is to play there.
Now, the last thing I just want to talk about is bloating. And bloating can actually happen because of your cycle. So, many women feel bloated around their cycle. It’s totally normal. It doesn’t feel great, but it is totally normal.
But some other things that can cause bloating are carbonated beverages. I know that I love sparkling water. But I notice that it also can cause me to feel a little bloated and thick around my belly. I try to limit my sparkling water content to just about one per day. On the weekends, I might have a little bit more. I know, I go a little crazy there.
And then, also noticing, if you’re chewing gum because that will allow you to swallow air. And then, also not taking in enough fiber. And things that are great for fiber are vegetables, obviously. But then also beans. I love beans. And beans and avocados all have just a ton of fiber in them. And what that will do is it’ll also help you to stay regular. And so, that’s all good for making sure things are moving throughout your body.
So, if you’ve been listening to my podcast for a while or if you know my stuff, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of listening to your body and learning what it is that your body likes and what your body doesn’t like.
I think that it’s a huge difference between following a diet and doing things on the diet because the diet tells you to and doing things that make you feel good. So, an example of that is we talked about how alcohol can influence your sleep.
If you were to come to me and I told you, you cannot drink alcohol for the period of time that we are working together. And let’s say that you do drink alcohol. You would go out to dinner, and you would be with your partner, or your family, or whoever, your girlfriends. They might all be drinking alcohol, and you might be thinking to yourself, Elizabeth’s not here. She’s not the boss of me. I’m going to have a drink.
And then, what’s going to happen is you don’t feel good because you go to bed that night, you don’t sleep well. And then, when we don’t sleep well, our body’s cells don’t regenerate properly. And when our body’s cells don’t regenerate properly, what happens is we start to crave food that’s going to give us energy. And that food that’s going to give us energy is usually the stuff that’s not too great for us.
So, then all of a sudden, we’ve gone quote unquote off of our diet. And we feel terrible about ourselves, and we feel just terrible in general. Mentally and physically because we didn’t sleep well, we were drinking, and all of that great stuff.
It’s a completely different experience. If I tell you what to do, than if you notice and make decisions for yourself. So, through this process that I’ve been talking about today, you notice when I drink alcohol, I don’t sleep well. It’s a completely different experience than when you’re out to dinner with your friends, or your girlfriends, or whoever. And you decide to have a glass of wine, or you decide to have more than one glass of wine. And you don’t sleep well. You know that that’s the consequence of making that decision to have alcohol.
But here’s the thing. You are way more empowered. And that is what I want you to start noticing here. When we can start looking at food and what we drink and what we consume from the standpoint of how do I make myself feel better. Then, what happens is we can drop all of the food rules. When we look at food and figure out what’s my bare minimum of treats that I can eat and still feel good, and still fit into my jeans, and still be able to sleep, and not have hot flashes, and not feel bloated.
Then, what happens is we are more likely to do what’s good for us versus doing something because the diet says. We’re more likely to have a better relationship with food, we’re more likely to have a better relationship with our body. We’re more likely to stay on the diet or be consistent with our eating patterns because we want to feel good. And when we can create our own guidelines for what makes us feel good and what doesn’t make us feel good. Well, then we don’t need anyone to tell us what we should be eating or what we shouldn’t be.
Today’s episode was all about how food impacts your menopausal symptoms, and I also sprinkled in there a few points of how menopause is going to impact you’re eating choices. Because they’re all kind of tied together.
One thing that I really want to stress as a closing remark. Far too often, I see women who are in our stage of life who become resentful because they can’t eat the way that they used to. And I get it. I do. But at the same time, it’s not worth being upset about. Because this is your body that we’re talking about. And when we get resentful, what we’re doing is we’re fighting reality. We’re saying, I wish things were different.
Now, if you want to live your life that way, that’s totally fine. You can 100% be resentful of having to eat responsibly. But I really want you to think about that. Is that really where you want to spend your emotional time?
Instead, what I want to do is I want to encourage you to say, you know what? My body is my responsibility. It’s not my fault that this is the way things are. But it is my responsibility to my body and to my health to take care of myself. Because when you can have that thought process about the things that you do, you will no longer need to go on another diet.
All right. That is all I have for you today. If you want to work on this one-on-one or in the group setting, I’m going to encourage you to reach out to me, my team at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about my group coaching program, which is the Feel Good Sisterhood. It’s an amazing group of women and we just have such a great time together. We’re learning about how to get rid of diet culture, how to create our own authority in our lives through the lens of our health. And really grow into this next version of ourselves.
And if you’re not interested in a group, you can check out my private coaching. In either of those, you can go to elizabethsherman.com and up at the top of the menu, there’s a ‘Work with Me’ menu and you can just click on that. And go to either the private coaching page or take a look at the Feel Good Sisterhood and what you get in either of those.
That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week, everyone. And I will talk to you next time. Bye-bye.
Hey, if you enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out the Feel Good Sisterhood. It’s my small group coaching program where we take all this material, and we apply it. We figure out what works for us, and we don’t ever look at another diet ever again.
Join me over at elizabethsherman.com/groupcoaching. I’d love to have you join me in the Feel Good Sisterhood. See you there.