Intermittent Fasting and Menopause

Is Intermittent Fasting the answer for Menopausal Weight Gain?

Have you noticed a difference in your body as you enter menopause?

As our bodies age, progressive changes to our metabolism and hormones can lead to natural and normal changes like weight gain and other less than welcome symptoms (hot flushes, poor sleep, etc.).

Even though weight gain during menopause is a well-known phenomenon, experiencing it for yourself may still come as an often negative and undesired surprise.

Looking for ways to avoid experiencing hormone-associated weight gain, it is common for women to explore many different nutritional fads and diets, including current trends like intermittent fasting.

Because every woman’s body is unique, there is no universal approach, or pill, to figure out how to lose weight during menopause.

Why do women experience weight gain during menopause

As a time of adjustment and change, it is common for women to notice various changes in their bodies as they enter into menopause.

From hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and possible weight gain, it comes as no surprise that many women may not be looking forward to entering this next chapter of their life. 

Interested in finding out what they can do to prevent menopause-associated weight gain, many women turn to their primary care provider for answers. But, because this symptom of menopause comes from a mix of different factors, it can be hard to pinpoint the specific cause for each woman.

Some of the most common reasons why weight gain occurs around the time of menopause include:

  • Lower estrogen levels — While we still do not know the full extent of estrogen’s role in weight maintenance, research has shown that decreased hormone levels play a role in weight gain. As one of the primary physiological changes experienced during menopause, it makes sense that this might be one of the primary causes of weight gain for women entering this phase of their life.
  • Loss of muscle mass — As we age, it is common for both men and women to lose pre-existing muscle mass, especially if they are not actively working to maintain it. When this occurs, the body’s metabolism slows, leading to weight gain.
  • Increased sedentary lifestyles — If you are not staying on top of your physical health, it is very easy to slip into a more sedentary lifestyle as you age. A fitness tracker can be a great way to check in on yourself, as it is easy to convince yourself that you are doing more activity than you are, and the data doesn’t lie! The less exercise a person does, the fewer calories they burn throughout the day, which is one way that women begin to gain weight in this stage of their lives.
  • Decreased overall metabolism — Our energy metabolism slows every year as a natural part of the human aging process. While this process is inevitable, it almost plays a small role in menopausal weight gain.

What is intermittent fasting?

Instead of being hyper-focused on what types of food you eat, intermittent is a currently popular dieting trend that prioritizes restricting when a person eats. Based on the perceived health benefits of fasting (a prolonged period where you purposefully do not eat), this diet aims to encourage your body to dip into its sugar and fat reserves during the periods of fasting in a phenomenon called metabolic switching

Depending on a person’s lifestyle and routine, the duration of time that they choose to fast and the length of their eating windows can dramatically differ from person to person. As a good rule of thumb, it is essential for anyone new to intermittent fasting to start slow, with shorter fasting windows that can be extended as they listen to what is comfortable and safe for their body.

Intermittent fasting and menopause — what you need to know

Whether you are looking for a way to control your weight better or are interested in introducing more mindful eating practices into your daily routine, intermittent fasting may be a good fit for your needs. There are a few safety precautions that we recommend every woman follow as they explore intermittent fasting:

  • Speak with your primary care provider — If you are entirely new to any fasting, we highly recommend speaking with your healthcare provider before starting. Because fasting can induce physiological stress that your body may not be used to, getting professional advice about your options is one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t overwhelm yourself.
  • Make a plan — While it is tempting to jump into fasting right away, we highly suggest taking the time to plan out your eating windows. Using a calendar, piece of paper, or phone app, having a written schedule and plan can be very helpful in ensuring that you stay on track.
  • Listen to your body — Just because a particular length of fasting works for another person doesn’t mean that it will work for you. If you notice that you are incredibly hungry, have low energy, or are not feeling well with your current intermittent fasting set-up, it may not be best suited for your needs.
  • Start slow and build — When it comes to losing weight, it is common to rush the experience by pushing our limits with how little we can eat or how long we can fast. Do your best to fight this urge and start slow, as sustained and consistent change is the best way to make significant changes in your overall health.

Explore your options for menopause-related weight gain

Just because weight gain during menopause is a common experience doesn’t mean it is inevitable. While it is important to practice self-compassion while your body evolves and changes during this next chapter of your life, there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of gaining weight during menopause. Whether you decide to increase your daily exercise, cut out certain foods, or try intermittent fasting to manage your weight during your transition into menopause, as long as you feel well and have the support of your primary care provider, you are doing the right thing for your unique body.

At Fit4100, we believe that all women should have access to high-quality educational resources that explain the shared experiences of menopause, aging, and everything in between. We hope this article can be a helpful guide and resource for any woman interested in making dietary changes to manage their menopausal symptoms better.

Learn more about other age and menopause-related topics by reading our other available articles on our website blog today.

The Five Worst Foods for Joint Pain

A few careful decisions at the dining table can make a world of difference for frustrating and exhausting joint pain.

It starts at about the age of 30 – that’s when we all begin to hear the warnings. We’re told that our mornings will soon be full of aches and pains and that our bodies will seize up.

This dire outlook doesn’t always come true, but for many people it does. Often, as we age, pain increases. One of the main culprits is arthritis and joint pain – in Australia about one in six people have arthritis and in America the figure is more like one in four.

But these changes aren’t just an inevitable part of getting older – research shows a strong link between joint pain and chronic inflammation.

The good news is that studies have found that the choices we make about food can affect inflammation and have an impact on how much joint pain we feel.

It’s useful to include foods that are actively anti-inflammatory in your diet if you have joint pain, but it’s equally important to avoid the foods that can make inflammation worse. These are the five foods to avoid if you want to say goodbye to knee pain, hip pain, and arthritic joint pain and get on with life.

#1 – The Effects of Red meat and Joint Pain

Red meats like lamb and beef are triple threats when it comes to joint pain-inducing inflammation. Firstly, digestion of meat, particularly if it has been cooked at high heat, ultimately results in the increased bodily presence of two molecules associated with inflammation – trimethlyamine oxide and advanced glycation end products. Meat is also high in saturated fat and studies show high-fat meals can cause an immediate increase in inflammation.

#2 – Processed and Fried Foods and Joint Pain

While not always the case, most processed and fried foods are high in partially hydrogenated oils, which are also known as trans fats. These are created when hydrogen is added to unsaturated fat to give it more stability – a process that can extend shelf life and boost flavour. Lots of research, including this 2011 study examining the effect of trans fats on cells, has shown that trans fats contribute to systemic inflammation, which underlies conditions like arthritis and joint pain.

#3 – The impact of White bread and other refined grains on Ageing and Joint Pain

While whole grains can have an anti-inflammatory effect, refined grains like those found in white flour, pastry, and white bread can increase inflammation – likely by encouraging the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria. Joint pain is only one of the consequences linked to the inflammation associated with refined grains – this 2010 study also suggests diets high in refined grains could be connected with early death.

#4 – Vegetable and seed oils

When it comes to oils and inflammation, there’s good oils and bad oils. Good oils, like olive oil, are high in omega-3 fatty acids while bad oils, like corn oil and other vegetable oils, are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Both omega-3 and omega-6 are necessary to be healthy, but modern diets tend to provide us with far more omega-6 than we need, and this can cause increased inflammation that leads to joint pain. Replacing oils high in omega-6 with olive oil could produce an anti-inflammatory effect and a reduction in pain.

#5 – High-sugar foods and the negative implications on Ageing

Sugar has found its way into all kinds of products – from breakfast cereals to canned sauces – but a diet high in sugar can be incredibly harmful. It increases the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and – because the consumption of sugar triggers the release of inflammatory bodies called cytokines – it also has a negative effect on joint pain. In 2014, a study looking at the links between arthritis and soft drinks sweetened with sugar established a firm association between the two.

The Five Best Foods for Joint Pain

Proteolytic enzymes for knee pain

These readily-available foods are the natural secret to combatting debilitating joint conditions like knee pain and hip pain.

Pain is one of the most difficult side effects of arthritis – it can stop you from living to your full potential and it can be frustratingly difficult to treat.

Whether your joint pain is connected to rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, studies show a link between the severe discomfort associated with the condition and chronic inflammation. While acute inflammation is a naturally occurring immune response that helps protect the body from infection, injury, and disease, chronic and ongoing inflammation causes more harm than good.

Medicines can help with pain and chronic inflammation, but many medical practitioners are increasingly recommending lifestyle changes like eating differently as an effective method to reduce joint pain without unhelpful side effects.

These are five foods proven to fight inflammation and reduce joint pain.

#1 – Papaya and Pineapple

Fresh papaya and pineapple contain high levels of proteolytic enzymes. A 2008 study on proteolytic enzymes showed they could be more effective in reducing inflammation than aspirin. Another study on bromelain – a specific proteolytic enzyme found in pineapple – proved that it reduced pain in people with osteoarthritis.

While pineapple and papaya are particularly abundant sources of proteolytic enzymes, other foods like kiwifruit, ginger, sauerkraut, and kimchi also contain high levels of this joint pain fighter.

#2 – Fish and nuts

Salmon, tuna, sardines, and nuts are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies measuring the effects of Omega-3 have shown it to be effective in lowering inflammation and reducing joint pain, including stiffness, swelling, and tenderness. Salmon, tuna, and sardines aren’t the only fish high in Omega-3 – mackerel and herring are also good sources, but for those who don’t like fish or nuts, supplements are available instead.

#3 – Olive oil

Olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthanl, which is naturally occurring but has many of the same health benefits as anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen. A paper summarising the benefits of oleocanthal reported that it is effective in tackling degenerative joint diseases like arthritis. Some experts hypothesise that the anti-inflammatory properties of oleocanthal is one reason the Mediterranean Diet – which includes lots of olive oil – is so effective.  

#4 – Leafy Greens

Green vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage are packed full of an antioxidant called sulforaphane. In 2018, a study considering sulforaphane’s effect on rheumatoid arthritis found it was an effective alternative treatment and research in 2017 showed sulforaphane could improve mobility for people with osteoarthritis. To add more sulforaphane to your everyday diet, try eating more of the vegetables mentioned above as well as adding produce like kale and cauliflower to meals.

#5 – Berries

Like leafy greens, fruits including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are rich in antioxidants that can help fight knee pain, hip pain, and other joint pain. These berries also contain anthocyanins – another compound that has been shown to reduce inflammation – meaning they pack a double punch when it comes to providing nutritional support for arthritis.

What is Mediterranean Food?

mediterranean diet foods

It’s more than fish, nuts, and olive oil and it’s proven to help you live a longer and healthier life.

The Mediterranean Diet: More Than a Food Prescription

It was after WWII that American physiologist Ancel Keys launched his landmark Seven Countries Study. This wide ranging and ambitious project examined the lifestyle of select populations around the world over decades – evaluating how key aspects of their lives correlated with heart disease.

One of the most resonant ideas to come out of the Study was what Keys called the Mediterranean Diet – an eating pattern observed in communities near the Mediterranean Sea, including Southern Italy, Greece, and the Middle East. 

Subsequent research has proven that this eating pattern is not only associated with better heart health, but also metabolic and cognitive improvements and higher quality of life, including into older age.

While the Mediterranean Diet is now hugely popular and is prescribed by medical professionals around the world to help tackle and prevent chronic life-shortening diseases, it has one major drawback – it can be difficult to fully understand.

In part, this is because a Mediterranean Diet menu – unlike other meal plans – is not proscriptive. Instead of employing strict measures like counting calories or forbidding certain foods, the Diet is based around a series of guidelines that are more like a lifestyle than a nutrition intervention.

It’s important to understand the Mediterranean Diet fully because researchers have found that it is an example of ‘food synergy’ – where benefits result from holistically adopting an eating pattern.

Simply cherry-picking an element – for example, by adding olive oil to your food – won’t result in the same protective health boost as embracing the full Mediterranean Diet.

Making a Mediterranean Diet Menu

Explanatory tools like the Mediterranean Diet pyramid can help you develop your own Mediterranean Diet recipes. They make it clear that legumes, whole grains, and vegetables should form the bulk of your meals, while seafood and dairy can be added regularly and red meats should only be eaten rarely.

But, that guidance still leaves room for confusion. At Fit4100, we have developed three golden rules that make sticking to the Mediterranean Diet easy.

1. Add Vegetables and Variety to your Mediterranean Food

Vegetables and fruits should make up at least half of your meals, while whole grains should be another quarter. The final quarter should be healthy proteins – things like beans, nuts, or fish, and occasionally poultry.

This sounds easy, but in practice it can feel repetitious sticking to these proportions by cooking the same Mediterranean Diet recipes over and over again. Introduce variety by exploring meal ideas from Mediterranean countries other than Greece and Italy – perhaps make falafel or consider a Moroccan tagine for an interesting mid-week meal.

2. Not All Fats are Equal

A Mediterranean Diet meal plan often includes a relatively large amount of fat – up to 42 per cent of daily caloric intake can come from fat, but almost all of this is from “good” fat sources like olives, olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fish.

These foods contain unsaturated fat while produce like dairy, red meat, and many processed foods tend to be high in saturated fat, which should be avoided when following the Mediterranean Diet

3. The Mediterranean Diet is more than a Lifestyle

While using Mediterranean Diet recipes that are built around vegetables, whole grains, good fats, and fruit is the first step, it’s equally important to make good lifestyle choices.

The Mediterranean Diet is often called a lifestyle intervention because it’s not just about what you eat.

Alongside eating well, staying active through regular exercise and fostering strong social networks by spending time with friends and family are key aspects of the Mediterranean Diet.  

Mindful Eating: A Fit4100 Beginner’s Guide

how to practice mindful eating

Mindfulness and eating might seem like a strange pairing, but changing the way you experience food doesn’t just make eating more enjoyable – it can also result in surprising health benefits and better lifestyle choices.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is a simple adjustment that can revolutionise the way you eat and think about food. It draws on the traditions of mindfulness to help you more fully experience each mouthful and scientific study has shown this change can improve health and foster better eating habits. 

Practicing mindful eating is about using the basic skills of mindfulness every time you eat. It involves placing your full attention on the experience of eating without self judgement or criticism.

How to practice Mindful Eating

Creating a mindful diet does not mean choosing particular foods and rejecting others. Instead, the emphasis is on how you think and feel while eating.

Building a non-judgmental and healthy relationship with food is the heart of the mindful eating diet’s success. Many people find that once conscious eating becomes routine, they naturally make different choices about what, why, and how often they eat.

The first step in creating a mindful eating program is practicing basic mindfulness skills. Use the Fit4100 Mindfulness Guide and spend two minutes each day developing your ability to be present and self-aware in the moment. Once you feel comfortable, extend your practice to eating using these tips on how to do mindful eating –  

1) Start small

Begin by choosing only one meal each day or one meal each week as your ‘mindful meal’. Allow yourself time to develop the habit of mindful eating, rather than pressuring yourself and becoming frustrated.

2) Set a time goal

Try to extend the time you spend eating. Instead of eating quickly in front of the computer, your phone, or the TV, set a goal to take 15 or 20 minutes to finish the meal. Use the time to chew every mouthful thoroughly, experience how the flavours develop, and pause between bites to check-in on your thoughts.

3) Use all your senses

 Flavour is only one part of the experience of eating. Engage all of your senses in your meal by concentrating individually on the colours, textures, aromas, and even the sounds that are connected with your food.

4) Think about your food more holistically

Another key part of the mindfulness-based eating solution is gaining a deeper understanding of food. Use the time you are preparing and eating your meal to think about how your food was grown – the labour, water, sunshine, and soil that supported it – and how the cooking has transformed its form and flavour.

What are the benefits of Mindful Eating?

There are two ways mindful eating improves health.

The first is the direct physiological benefits that come from eating more slowly. The process of digestion relies on hormonal signals sent between the gut and the brain. Research on Mindful eating shows that it takes an average of twenty minutes for the brain to identify that enough food has been eaten. Practicing mindful and intuitive eating allows time for this signal to be received, helping you to better judge when you are full and avoid over-eating, which can lead to a series of digestive problems.

The second group of benefits arising from mindful eating stem from changes in behavior and are proven to have a significant impact on health. Experts like psychologist Jean Kristeller say this is because mindful eating creates a “moment of choice” between the urge to eat and the act of eating, which allows people to cut down on instances of emotional eating and to make better choices about what they eat.

This idea is backed by research – including this 2013 study on Mindful Eating that found mindful eaters chose smaller portion sizes and this 2011 study that indicated mindful eating techniques could decreases instances of binging. 

While eating in this way is not intended as a method of mindfulness for weight loss, there is strong evidence of a connection between mindful eating and shedding kilos. Sustainable maintenance of a healthy weight is a key factor in better aging.