The dreaded menopause belly? As menopause approaches most of us start to gain weight or gain weight easier and faster than before. “But I am eating the same and I am gaining weight.” This is a very common experience among women approaching menopause or right after this. That was my case and intermittent fasting was a big part of my solution. Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose hormonal weight during menopause and perimenopause.
The most disturbing thing when we gain weight in perimenopause or menopause is the changes in our body’s shape. The good news is that it is possible to lose weight during this time and you don’t have to follow a strict diet or become a gym rat, intermittent fasting can help you.
My weight loss story
Let me tell you a little bit of my weight story. I was skinny and started to gain a little bit of weight in my forties, some weight accumulated, but I was still skinny. As I was closer to 50 the weight and the tummy skyrocketed, and for first time in my life I was very close to the overweight level. My clothes didn’t fit and the type of clothes I used to wear were not flattering for my body anymore, because the tummy was growing very fast.
I tried to lose weight by cutting calories and working out more, but the weight continued to go up. After trying a couple of diets I was frustrated because the result was that I gained less weight than without the diet, but I still gained weight.
Suspecting that I may have hormonal problems I went to the doctor and he told me everything was fine. My hormones and health were fine, and that it was normal to gain weight at my age. I was not happy with the answer and I did a lot of research and even got certifications.
How I lost the weight during perimenopause?
Since the low calorie and low fat diet was not working I needed to change something else. So, I tried intermittent fasting and I started to eat more fats, and added more flavor and proteins. I was already eating a lot of vegetables and consumed low sugar. Now (and during my weight loss period) I eat more calories and more fat than before. How is that possible? Two words “Intermittent Fasting” or three “Time Restricted Feeding (TRF);” if you want you can also say time restrictive eating (I think it sounds better, but TRF is more common). TRF is a form of intermittent fasting (IF). There are more strict and complicated forms of intermittent fasting such as the 5:2 diet or the 800 calorie diet.
I do TRF 6 times a week; Saturday I don’t follow it. Time restrictive feeding or eating have worked for me and for my clients. Many people love intermittent fasting because it isn’t a diet, they have freedom to eat their favorite foods, and they can eat bread, pasta, pizza, ice cream and desserts.
Why intermittent fasting (or TRF) works?
- Time restricted feeding helps to balance our hormones and accelerates our metabolism.
- By only eating in a shorter time window, we allow our internal organs to do their job more efficiently. This is especially true for the liver, kidneys, pancreas and adrenal glands.
- Energy levels go up
- It reduces hunger. This doesn’t happen immediately, but after a couple of months your hunger level goes down.
- Cravings go down. Especially craving for sweets.
- It may produce autophagy. Autophagy is a Nobel Prize winning discovery about cell regeneration. Some people will tell you “it will” produce autophagy I am saying “it may” because the scientists are still trying to prove this. If this holds true, TRF may also help to keep us healthier and younger.
How do you do time restrictive eating during peri menopause?
For intermittent fasting to be effective during perimenopause and around menopause we need to start slow. TRF simply means that you eat in a specific time window.
That eating time window can be anywhere from 14 to 7 hours even 6. Some people do it in a shorter window, but I don’t recommend that during peri and menopause. Let’s say that you start with a 12 hour time window. That means that you can eat your breakfast at 7 AM and your last bite or drink of food will end at 7 PM. After 7 PM you will not eat or drink anything with calories until the next day at 7 AM.
The ideal time window should be 8-7 hours. But during perimenopause / menopause or if the person has prediabetes it is better to start with 12 to 10 hour window. For example you can eat your breakfast at 7 AM, have your lunch at your convenience and dinner or after dinner snack at 7 PM for a 12 hours fasting, or at 5 PM for an 8 hours fasting.
Every week or every two weeks, you will reduce the window by 15 or 30 minutes to reach 8 to 6 hours. That will mean that you can have a very late breakfast or skip it as most people on this diet do, or have a very early dinner or skip it. For me and my clients the easiest way is to skip breakfast.
Wait, isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Considering the source of that statement no, it isn’t. It was created by Dr. Kellogg (yes, the one from the cereal company). There have been many studies proving that Dr. Kellogg was right, but at a closer look those studies don’t compare apples to apples so their findings are wrong. The studies compare people who eat breakfast to people who don’t (the ones who rush in the morning) but then they drink sugary, creamy coffee, and right after, go and eat a snack.
In TRF we consciously don’t eat breakfast, but we have proper meals. During fasting time anything with calories will break the fast and it isn’t allowed. Diet soda although doesn’t have calories is also not recommended.
There is some debate as to whether black coffee/tea without sugar is acceptable, and while some strict believers drink only water and nothing else, a large number of people, including myself, do have a small cup of black coffee without sugar in the morning. It is said that if you want autophagy only drink water.
The weight comes down slowly
Unless in addition to the TRF you also follow a healthier lifestyle or another diet the weight will come down slowly. This is usually not a big problem for most people. One of the most popular combinations is intermittent fasting and Ketogenic diet; with this combination the weight comes down super-fast.
What can you eat?
In theory you can eat what you eat normally. However, during perimenopause and menopause I recommend that you lower your sugar consumption, watch for sugary drinks and breads. Try to eat natural foods preferably made at home. Include veggies in your food because we need those nutrients and drink plenty of water or herbal or green teas.
To get the maximum benefits of TRF and balance the hormones at the same time, we need to follow a healthy lifestyle, something similar to the Mediterrean way of eating, meaning lots of vegetables and smaller quantities of high quality animal products.
Other benefits of TRF
I believe not all diets and lifestyles are for everybody, so TRF or intermittent fasting may not be the best for some people. The reasons I picked TRF for myself and for most of my clients are that it is easy, effective and healthy.
In addition to weight management Time Restrictive Feeding has other benefits such as:
- Intermittent fasting helps to management blood sugar levels.
- It helps to eliminate toxins from the body (this makes estrogen more available)
- Intermittent fasting helps to control leptin and ghrelin (these hormones control hunger levels)
- It promotes heart health
- TRF and IT lowers inflammation levels
- It promotes lean muscle
In addition to those benefits some of my clients report better sleep, more energy and more concentration. To my clients I also recommend supplements and the diet includes nutrient rich foods, so the effects maybe the results of everything combined.
And working out?
What we eat will have a larger effect on weight than working out, but working out is super important for our health. I do 45 minutes 5 times a week. I recommend my clients to do at least 30 minutes 4 times a week. It doesn’t need to be heavy exercise. It can be walking, trampoline (I do this), yoga etc. The best would be 3 a week or more heavy weight training and 3 days some light aerobic with some flexibility exercises (to keep nimble and avoid falling down). It is also very important to move during the day. If you are already in menopause you need to recover your metabolic rate and for that you need to build muscle, resistant training will help you and also eating enough and enough protein.
Should you try Intermittent Fasting with Time Restrictive Feeding?
If you don’t have any medical conditions to preclude you from it, it is super easy; it’s a well-studied diet with lots of research and it has worked for a lot of us. You can start doing it 3 times a week and increase it to 4 or 5.
I will try to publish a free ebook or mini-course in the next few weeks; if you are interested please join the mailing list and get my free menopause symptoms tracker. If you have questions comment below. You may read the first part of this series: Why do we gain weight during menopause