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.