Insatiable with Ali Shapiro, MSOD, CHHC

264. Top 3 Menopause Weight Loss Myths Debunked

January 10, 2024 Ali Shapiro, MSOD, CHHC Season 14 Episode 4
Insatiable with Ali Shapiro, MSOD, CHHC
264. Top 3 Menopause Weight Loss Myths Debunked
Show Notes Transcript

In this fourth episode of season 14, I'll help you filter through the perimenopause and menopause nutrition noise by busting 3 top myths. Why? Because most of the common advice out there is recycled diet culture heavily rooted in restriction and one-size-fits-all recommendations (at a time in our life when we require a more individualized approach). 

Most women will gain weight at midlife, which makes us more susceptible to overblown weight loss and health promises. When I surveyed my list, weight gain was a top concern. Was mine as well as it felt like overnight, I had gained 30 pounds.  In this episode, I share a few lessons I've learned along the way from my own experience and my work with clients.

Topics Covered:

  • 2:28: Myth #1 Weight Gain is a Given in Perimenopause and Menopause because of Hormone Imbalances 
  • 17:52: Myth #2 and Myth #2.5: Eating the right foods will cure my perimenopause and menopause symptoms OR my diet has nothing to do with these symptoms.
  • 32:46: Myth #3 The only way to lose weight in peri/menopause is to eat a lot less and exercise a lot more. Maybe intermittent fasting is the answer?

Mentioned in this episode:

Transcript & Show Notes: alishapiro.com/menopause-weight-loss-myths

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 00:05

Ali Shapiro
Welcome to a solo episode today on the three menopause nutrition myths. My goal in this episode is to help you filter through the nutrition noise at this time, because honestly, it's mostly recycled diet culture. Most of it meaning it's heavily rooted in friction. And I still see people making one size fits all recommendations when we actually become more unique as we age, requiring a more individualized approach, especially because menopause is such an individual experience. And I'm able to do this because of my nutrition background, my own menopause experience, and what I've seen work with my clients. So today we're going to get into some common myths because nutrition is so important at this time, not just for weight, but also for health. And where these overlap, I cannot emphasize enough how important taking care of your health at midlife is. 


 01:06

Ali Shapiro
It will determine how long you live and how well you age. 


 01:10

Ali Shapiro
Right? 


 01:11

Ali Shapiro
It's like a truce with aging. And because most women will gain weight at this time, it makes us very susceptible to overblown weight loss and health promises. When I surveyed my list, weight gain was a top concern, and it was mine as well. As it felt like overnight, I had gained 30 pounds. Now, of course, it wasn't overnight, but it was definitely faster than I would gain weight in my teens and did an episode titled over 40 what works now? Perimenopause and menopause food and exercise 101 back in May, I will put a link in the show notes. 


 01:51

Ali Shapiro
I want you to listen to that one because I spend a lot of time on the physiology of what's happening to our bodies and why our health and weight can go south at this time if we try to keep doing what worked when were in our also give concrete protein, fat, and carb numbers as a starting point for figuring out what works best for you. But that information is outside the scope of this episode. So in today's episode, I want to filter through the noise by providing nuance and context and giving you actionable takeaways so you can ground yourself in your next steps. All right, on to myth number one, weight gain is a given in perimenopause and menopause because of hormone imbalances. Okay, where to start with this one? First of all, in perimenopause and menopause, your hormones aren't imbalanced. 


 02:46

Ali Shapiro
They are decreasing dramatically. So anyone telling you to balance your hormones at this time, I'm suspect if the person even knows what's happening. Because by the end of perimenopause and in menopause, there's actually not much to balance. And you can't balance your hormones in perimenopause. They're all over the place. That's the point of them. But what we can do is eat, in a way to work with these dramatic changes. Everyone's menopause again is so different. We can never say blatantly that weight gain is a given. It is for many people because many of us aren't prepared for the physiological changes. I know I wasn't. And whatever overall imbalances you have going into perimenopause will be aggravated at this time, especially if these imbalances are causing inflammation. 


 03:41

Ali Shapiro
For example, my client Laura Jacobs, who was featured in Prevention magazine, and I'm not saying anything that she didn't share publicly in the magazine article about losing the weight her way with truce with food. She lost 60 pounds with truce with food when she was 60 years old and postmenopausal. What they didn't really originally include in the article, and I had them include, was that she was able to get off her antidepressants because we healed her gut, which reduced her inflammation. Now, not everyone's depression is inflammatory driven, but hers was. And by working on inflammation, were able to clear that up. And then the weight loss, that was a side effect of that. That inflammation was contributing to her depression, and it probably accelerated in menopause. 


 04:30

Ali Shapiro
Again, I wasn't working with her then, but we become in a more naturally inflammatory state in perimenopause and menopause especially. However, were able to reverse all of that inflammation and work. The inflammation that was causing the imbalance of depression, not the inflammation that's caused by a decrease in hormones. But were able to do that with nutrition and work on the story that was making her depressed and turned to food to soothe. We took a holistic view of her health that enabled her inflammation to go down, which facilitated weight loss, not weight gain. And if you're curious about her full story, I'll include that link to the prevention article in the show notes. Now sometimes people hear metabolism slows as you age, and clearly related to this inevitable weight gain myth is a widespread misinformation about our metabolisms. 


 05:22

Ali Shapiro
You can go to just about any website on this topic, and the common knowledge is that your metabolism decreases with age, starting as young as 30, with women's decreasing about ten years before men. But the current truth that we have with the current science is that actually your metabolism, which again, is the rate your body burns calories for energy to use in your body, it's not just calories to be calories. You're using that nutrition for something. But the rate that your body burns calories remains pretty stable in your adult years, until your study in science identified the breaking point at around age 63, actually. So at this age, your metabolism does begin to decline, and your body requires fewer calories to keep it working. Again, these calories are burnt to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing. 


 06:20

Ali Shapiro
What happens are the physiological changes of menopause do make weight management and loss much harder at this time. This is true, but it's not because your metabolism is decreasing. Again, I go into much more detail in the episode I mentioned in the beginning of this episode, what works over 40 about what's happening that can accelerate weight gain. But the TLDR is that when we lose estrogen, especially estradiol, there's different kinds of estrogens. And again, we're going to keep this more on the myths. But when you lose, especially estradiol, a bunch of things happen because your entire body has estrogen receptors, including your brain, and what registers is satiety. So first, you feel hungrier as estradiol, which you're losing a lot of it helps you feel more satiated. 


 07:16

Ali Shapiro
If you think back to when you were menstruating regularly two weeks after your period, known as the follicular phase, we tend to have less cravings and hunger because estradiol rises until ovulation. But in perimenopause, losing estrogen, especially estradiol, you won't feel as satisfied from your food. And I can tell you personally, since starting HRT, which is commonly known as hormone replacement therapy, in which I'm using bioidentical estradiol, my appetite is down. It's just easier to feel more satisfied. Now. I went on HRT in part to help with sleep. I'm sleeping more and deeply, and that also affects satiety. But it's also having more estradiol in my system, which is also helping my sleep. And the progesterone was helping my sleep. 


 08:12

Ali Shapiro
It's pretty wild to me, as once I figured out how to balance my blood sugar and gut health in my never someone who struggled with hunger or cravings. But again, this huge drop in estradiol affects how satisfied we feel from our food. The other thing that we have to be really careful and really mindful of is insulin resistance. Second, because of this loss of estrogen and resulting muscle mass, if you aren't eating enough protein and lifting to maintain your muscle mass, you become more insulin resistant. This means the food that breaks down into your body has a harder time getting into your cells to use again. Calories. Food is calories and nutrition, which helps your body do everything it does to keep you alive. And that all is predicated on glucose. 


 09:04

Ali Shapiro
Everything in your body breaks down into glucose getting into your cells, where your cells can then use that. As we go through perimenopause and menopause, it gets a lot harder to get that food into our. Into our cells. And what doesn't get used is stored as fat. And I used to describe this to clients as thinking about trying to unlock a lock. But there's gum in the lock. When you try to put a key in a lock with gum, you won't get it unlocked. And the same thing happens with trying to get glucose into your cells. You'll have a harder time getting the glucose into the cells. One, the less metabolic healthy you are going into perimenopause and in menopause. So back to our metaphor. The more unhealthy you are, the more gum is already in that lock. 


 09:53

Ali Shapiro
Your body's already struggling, even with regular hormones amounts to get glucose into your system. And that is what we think of as unhealthy metabolic health. 


 10:04

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 10:05

Ali Shapiro
And so it's already really hard to get that key into the lock to get the food into your cells. And then here comes perimenopause. And without as much estrogen in your system, now that gum starts to accumulate more easily, making it even harder to get glucose into the cells, which feels like satiety and fullness and a lack of fat storage. So you have less room for error in how you're eating because your blood sugar isn't as flexible as it once was in your didn't get hot flashes during menopause. And part of that was because I had really strong blood sugar health going into it. Part of it was also, my doctor told me, the earlier you go into it seems to be the less symptoms you have. So it's a bunch of things, right? 


 10:54

Ali Shapiro
But I remember for my 44th birthday this past October, my mom made me a gluten free cookie cake. That's always the type of cake I ask for. I love it. And she makes it pretty low sugar because I can't tolerate a lot of sugar because I don't eat it a lot. So I had one piece, and I was fine. Thought nothing of it. And then I was helping clean up, and I had another bite or two. I can't even remember how much, but what I remember is getting really warm and this was, again, a relatively low sugar cookie cake. But that extra bit of cookie cake, which would have never bothered me before menopause and perimenopause made me really warm because my system couldn't suck up all that extra glucose. 


 11:36

Ali Shapiro
So there was more inflammation, more stress on my system, and because I don't have as much estrogen anymore, this all inflamed me. And that's why I was literally feeling the heat, like the instant effects of increased inflammation. And I have had that happen to me a couple of times where I got really warm, and it was because my blood sugar is just so much more sensitive. So this drop in estrogen affects satiety and it also affects our ability to maintain muscle. And muscle seeps up glucose into your system very easily. So that's why we want to maintain muscle. And we're going to talk more about that in the upcoming episode with Dr. Stacey Sims in a few weeks. 


 12:18

Ali Shapiro
But those combinations together as well as all the stress women are under when they are going through menopause, and that increases cortisol, which increases inflammation, which adds belly fat, means weight gain is much easier, but it doesn't have to be inevitable. I also want to say that gaining around five pounds in menopause is thought to have health benefits because fat produces estrogen. So the thought is that body fat, that adding some fat to your system helps to make up for the loss of estrogen. And estrogen has so many health benefits in the right amounts, from bone building to keeping your heart healthy. Right? So that's important to realize, like, your fat isn't just sitting there, it's metabolically active. And that loss of estrogen, again, this is one theory. Your body, a healthy weight gain is around five pounds. 


 13:14

Ali Shapiro
So you can minimize the loss of estrogen because your fat will produce estrogen. So all of this is to say is weight gain isn't inevitable. A lot is probably unhealthy, a little may help you a little bit, but especially if you're coming into menopause overweight, as was the case with my client Laura, you can definitely still lose weight. I shared on the opening episode, and I'll share it again here, that I've lost 25 pounds of fat since being in menopause, and 20 pounds total because I put on five pounds of muscle. My gym has one of those in bothering machines, so I've just been measuring it that way. And I know it's not perfectly accurate, but I'm taking from the time I started to current day, although I haven't been on it in like six months. 


 14:03

Ali Shapiro
It's measuring my system and I trust those five pounds added of muscle. And I'm much stronger in the gym and I'm not in pain. So I needed a break from tracking. And so I've taken a break around my weight loss goals and tracking since September. But once I feel like it again, I do think I can get another at least five pounds off as I still have too much weight around my middle, which again, is that visceral fat and that really unhealthy metabolic fat. That visceral fat is what fills in around your organs and what you don't want. So that's the dangerous kind of fat. And that is really critical for heart health. And I feel like heart health is my main focus for aging, given the chemo and chest radiation didn't do me any favors. 


 14:49

Ali Shapiro
I share this because I think body composition and lab work. So body composition is how much muscle you have, not just your overall weight and lab work, like fasting insulin, fasting glucose, a one c, which measures your blood sugar over six weeks, not just over one night. And triglycerides. And measuring cholesterol. If you're measuring your ldl particle size, there's more nuance there than just overall cholesterol. These are just as important in evaluating your health as your weight at this stage. Okay, so remember, because of physiological changes, it's easier to gain weight and the kind of weight that leads to more inflammation, which leads to more weight gain. So I continue to recommend focusing on health metrics, or what I call them, physical safety signals. So you get the health benefits and the weight loss that is necessary for health improvement. 


 15:44

Ali Shapiro
That way, instead of just trying to lose weight at all costs and then, say, losing a bunch of muscle, which means you'll gain the weight back and be more insulin resistant than before, because muscle is amazing at supporting insulin sensitivity, or what we think of as strong blood sugar control. Also, I don't want you to be eating a bunch of small meals a day that doesn't help with blood sugar resilience. If you need to snack, you're not eating the right foods or enough for your body. We're going to address more about that in myth number three. So I know I've connected a lot of dots here in dissecting this myth that weight gain is given in perimenopause and menopause because of hormonal imbalance. 


 16:26

Ali Shapiro
So here's a quick recap before I give you an actionable next step to take in perimenopause and menopause, there is no longer trying to balance hormones. Instead, you want to work with the changes from the dramatic decrease in hormones. This most likely means if you want to lose weight, it's still totally doable, and it's going to take a bit more time because of the physiological changes. Specifically, we have less estrogen, which means we are less insulin sensitive. It's harder to get the glucose into our cells. There's more gum in the lock to unlock the energy. All right, meaning, right. But if you learn to balance your blood sugar and put on muscle, you can still lose weight, especially given the current science tells us our metabolisms don't slow until we're 63. So takeaway. Learn what foods, specifically macros, work best for your blood sugar. 


 17:24

Ali Shapiro
And we do this in truce with food. And I also am going to provide a starting place to figure out what best foods work for your blood sugar control in today's find your flow salon. If you're listening to this before 12:00 p.m. Eastern standard time, you can still sign up today@alyssapiro.com. Flow and if you are listening to this afterwards, still sign up and you'll get the recording. Okay, on to myth two and myth 2.5. Eating the right foods will cure my perimenopause and menopause symptoms, or my diet has nothing to do with these symptoms. Welcome to a culture that doesn't think holistically and thinks in all or nothing. The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle. First, diet most definitely can support your symptoms, and that includes even if you're in menopause and your symptoms are still ongoing. 


 18:22

Ali Shapiro
A lot of times, these things don't just clear up on their own. Symptoms don't necessarily go away if you haven't supported the imbalances that have caused them. Like my insomnia was an alert that I wasn't eating the right foods for me and my stress was out of control. I noticed in some menopause books no one wants touch food, but it has an important role in symptoms, and it's one of the things we can control. And when it comes to health in midlife, we can't just cherry pick anymore, meaning we need to do the nutrition plus exercise, sleep, sunlight, and stress management. And that can sound like a lot, but there can actually be a lot of simplicity in this. And this is what we work on. Intrusive with food. 


 19:09

Ali Shapiro
Because the same stress that's causing you to fall off track with your eating and prioritizing your health, that's the same thing, causing a lot of the issues of why you're stressed all the time and can't heal. So we address all of that. So you have the time, energy, and space to be healthy, and then that you're consistent enough to get the results. So diet alone can really, quote, cure your symptoms. You need to do all the things, and you don't have to do them all at the same time. This is another tenet of truce with food, we focus on momentum. So, yes, we'll focus on your food, but as you start to feel better, then you have more energy, right, to start moving your body, or then you're getting better sleep, which then gives you more energy, right? 


 19:51

Ali Shapiro
You don't have to do all of things at the same time. That stress from drastic changes can be counterproductive. I'm just saying that nutrition, to work its best, needs to be in conjunction with other lifestyle changes. And it's, I think, a wonderful place to start. Individual foods rarely are going to be all you need to focus on to support yourself. Instead, you want to focus on what reduces inflammation, per myth number one, which is getting your blood sugar under control, supporting your gut health and stress management. Your health entering into this stage of life will determine how much inflammation you have to manage. So what can we do nutritionally to support our three major systems in the body? A best place to start is to get clear on your protein needs. 


 20:39

Ali Shapiro
This will help with satiety, which, again, we've lost some of that satiety when we lose estradiol. And protein helps with satiety because it helps with blood sugar control and adrenal support. 


 20:51

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 20:51

Ali Shapiro
We want to support our adrenals here as well, because the more our adrenals are supported, the more they can produce progesterone and estrogen to help, again, make up with some of that decline. But if we are constantly stressed, they're going to be switched into cortisol mode, okay? Which just contributes to more inflammation. So many of my clients tell me they notice such a difference when they're eating the right kinds of protein for them. Start to aim for 25 to 35 to 40 grams at each meal. And I just recommend tracking for a few days just to be aware of how much protein you're actually getting. You're tracking not to just lose weight. You're tracking for awareness. 


 21:32

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 21:33

Ali Shapiro
Like, I thought I was getting a lot of protein with my eggs and kale breakfast. That's what I had eaten for basically ten years. And, oh, my God, I wasn't getting nearly enough protein. I had a ton of fat, but not enough carbs or protein. And if you are at a place where you're eating mostly a whole foods diet, I really find unless you're concentrating on it, you're probably not getting enough protein. I recently resumed work with a client after a few years. She was postpartum and she's in perimenopause, and she was eating really healthy, but having some issues. And when I had her just track for a couple of days, the same thing came back with her. She was eating about 60% fat and about 20% carbs, 20% protein. So we really had to work on upping her protein and carbs. 


 22:22

Ali Shapiro
But when you can't do all the things at once, which most of us can't, we just started on protein because that's going to help the other carbs and fat get fall into place more easily. So we focused on getting her 30% to 40%, and she felt so much more satisfied, she didn't need to snack anymore. At 10:00 now, what type of protein? Okay, animal, plant. A combination. In my work in truce with food, I use a nervous system framework to determine what type of protein will best for you as a starting point. And again, you will learn more about that as a starting point in the find your flow series. And more about carbon fat amounts are in the previous podcast episode, I mentioned about what works over 40. 


 23:08

Ali Shapiro
And we also want to add in a lot of fiber to help with that microbiome, which is going to be shifting because of the lack of estrogen. So a lot of fiber, including from complex carbs, really what we know about a healthy gut these days is that you get a lot of variety. Even some of the microbiome research shows if you eat meat, it doesn't matter in terms of compromising your health, if it comes with a ton of vegetables, okay. Yet the way that I would say functional medicine has intertwined with diet culture is everyone thinks they need to be on an elimination diet and eliminating all these foods. And if you have to eliminate so many foods, that means your gut isn't resilient. That's not a good sign. All the research shows, again, that we want a lot of variety. 


 23:57

Ali Shapiro
Eating seasonally can help. Getting a bunch of different spices in counts as variety. But the healthiest guts have a ton of fiber and a ton of variety. So we want to focus on that as well. 


 24:09

Ali Shapiro
Right? 


 24:09

Ali Shapiro
That's lots of veggies, your fruits. Now that's what's to add in balanced blood sugar. Focus on protein. Also lots of fiber. What to cut out now? I don't normally like telling people to cut things out without doing the emotional work that we do in truce with food, because otherwise people feel really restricted around. It's another thing to cut out in truce with food. I offer experiments so you come to your own conclusions about what foods work for you so you don't feel deprived and you don't have me to rebel against, because adults need to come to even obvious conclusions on their own. Otherwise, we will rebel or not trust the results for ourselves. I had another client, in truth, with food after she did some of the vegetable experiments. She's like, I've been hearing this for years. You need to eat more vegetables. 


 24:57

Ali Shapiro
But these experiments help me connect it to less sugar cravings and just feeling more satisfied. Right? So she came to that knowledge. She can feel it now instead of just intellectually hearing it. However, if you have really intense symptoms, that can be really great motivation to cut this stuff out and can provide some quick wins. Okay, so the big thing is alcohol, right? So many people feel like their hot flashes are cut in half or decreased totally once they cut out alcohol. Alcohol is highly inflammatory. It requires a lot of nutrition to process. So it pulls a lot of nutrients from you. It deregulates your blood sugar. It interferes with sleep. Listen to my episode with Laura McGowan, episode two of the season, where we talk about more of the effects of alcohol. Seed oils. Okay, these are another big one. 


 25:51

Ali Shapiro
These are hydrogenated oils, and they cause unnatural inflammation in your body. So even a lot of the healthy dressing at whole foods are made from seed oils like canola, soy, or if you see hydrogenated, anything. 


 26:05

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 26:06

Ali Shapiro
And let me tell you, guys and gals, dressings are some of the easiest things to make for yourself. Right? What I always do. This is kind of a non sequitur. Well, no, it's not a non sequitur tangent. I'm getting very granular. Three tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar, and then one tablespoon of honey. Okay, so you can do three tablespoons of a healthy oil, two tablespoons of something like raw apple cider vinegar. You might want to do lemon juice, and then one tablespoon of something sweet, right? Could be maple syrup, could be honey. That's what I do for dressing. I don't have to think about it. I can stir it up. And I always have that stuff on hand. Now you can get fancier for sure, but I'm a basics kind of get it done. 


 26:49

Ali Shapiro
The other thing you want to cut out are refined sugars and white flour. 


 26:52

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 26:53

Ali Shapiro
Those are highly inflammatory. Now, most of my clients come to me because they are all or nothing, right? And I want you to realize you don't have to be perfect with any of this stuff. We do takeout, usually once, maybe twice a week. 


 27:07

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 27:08

Ali Shapiro
And I know restaurants are using seed oils, even the fancy schmancy ones, I promise you, to cut costs. They're probably using seed oils. But because I've done the work to make my blood sugar and gut health relatively healthy, once or twice a week doesn't affect me. 


 27:24

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 27:24

Ali Shapiro
And it's probably not going to affect you the healthier you get. Or even now, perhaps your system should be resilient enough to handle a little imperfection. If it's not, that's a bigger issue. 


 27:37

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 27:38

Ali Shapiro
I also want to repeat this. You don't have to eliminate all carbohydrates. They aren't the devil. When you eat complex carbohydrates, and complex just means they still have nutrition with them. With the right amounts of protein and fat, so it's paired with protein and fat, complex carbs are really supportive. For example, after working out, that's a great time to eat carbs. So you aren't craving sugar a few hours later. Your muscles need it, your brain need it, your whole body needs to replenish what you just burn off. I also like clients to have some complex carbs, like rice or polenta or sweet potatoes. At night, that blood sugar spike, right. And this is where there's nuance. We always hear you don't want to spike your blood sugar. 


 28:21

Ali Shapiro
But in perimenopause and menopause before bed, if you spike your blood sugar in a gradual form, that's going to help you sleep better. This makes your blood sugar elevated so cortisol isn't dominant. And when cortisol becomes dominant, usually around three or four in the morning, that's when you wake up with all the racing thoughts, right. And you don't sleep well. I always make sure to have carbs with my dinner. I do notice if I do something too sweet, like if we're out at a restaurant and we all split a dessert, I don't sleep as well. If it's the weekend, I don't care. I'm probably going to do it, but I won't do it during the weeknight. Just, I don't want to be tired like that. 


 28:59

Ali Shapiro
One thing I have found, if you like daily harvest, which I do, and I'll put a link to daily harvest in the show notes because I think we'll both get some money. Their we call them banana bites because that's what Essa calls, but they have these bites. They are low sugar enough and they're sweet enough. We get the chocolate ones and then also the vanilla and cacao and then the ones that are actually made with bananas because what four year old does not love bananas? I don't get it, but I can have one of those, and it's sweet enough that it doesn't interrupt my sleep, but it also gives me a healthy amount of carbs. And if you don't get enough complex carbs, your body will start to break down protein to get more fuel. 


 29:40

Ali Shapiro
And you don't want to be taking from Peter to pay Paul. I don't know where that came from, that expression, but you know what I mean. You don't want to be dipping into your protein because that will break down muscle. So these nutrition tips will help with your symptoms and improve your health and weight. And it's a wonderful place to start with supporting your holistic health in midlife. It'll help your skin. It'll help everything. It's that time of year again. Truce with food trust in satisfaction, not restriction my six month group program is open for registration through January 31, 2024. I only run truce once a year and I keep it small so that you get the best of both worlds, my individualized group, individualized attention, and the benefits of an intimate, supportive group. So spots do tend to fill up pretty quickly. 


 30:39

Ali Shapiro
We begin February 1, 2024. Perhaps you've struggled with food for years and suspect that the solution isn't somewhere out there in some passing fad or yet another restrictive diet. You sense that a deeper change is necessary, and midlife is a great time to address this deeper change. Over the years, I've guided hundreds of satisfied participants through this program, so you get the benefit of a refined curriculum that not only meets you where you are, but guides you to where you'd like to be. We cover a lot of ground in this comprehensive six month program from learning what foods are best for you now, not when you were 20 or last time something worked for a short time, to discovering the root cause of why you fall off track with your healthy eating. And this includes why falling off track makes sense. 


 31:32

Ali Shapiro
Not that it's the problem, but it's the thing to understand and work through. These are results that will last and require no white knuckling. No one's got energy or time for that in midlife especially if this sounds like it might be a good fit for you. Join me for a completely free, no strings attached sneak peek in my find your flow when it's all in flux Salon series on Wednesday, December 27, January 10 and January 24 from twelve to 12:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. And bring any burning questions from this season so that you can get them answered on this call. Sign up for free@allyshapiro.com hello and no worries if you're listening to this after the three part series has already started. Once you sign up, you'll receive access to a limited replay of what you missed. 


 32:28

Ali Shapiro
I hope to connect with as many of you who listen to this show as possible at this series. Once again, visit alyshapiro.com flow for more details. Now back to the show. Okay, on to our third and final myth. The only way to lose weight in perimenopause and menopause is to eat a lot less and exercise a lot more. Maybe intermittent fasting is the answer. Question mark okay, this sort of stress on your butt is the type of stress on your body that will backfire. We're going to go a lot more into the exercise stuff with Dr. Stacey Sims because she's amazing. And we're going to talk about why you actually probably need less cardio but more small amounts of intense cardio at this time and not the recommended zone two training, which is your average eighty s, ninety s aerobics class. 


 33:23

Ali Shapiro
That is still often the recommendation, but Dr. Sims will get into why that backfires. Now, on the food front, we have to consider a few things. 


 33:33

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 33:34

Ali Shapiro
One, many women are undereating. You will be surprised if you are eating under 1500 calories when you're quote unquote good. That's probably the bare minimum you should be eating. Cutting down to 1200 calories a day is going to be hard to get the proper nutrition you need to build muscle, maintain immunity, all the things your body does with those calories. And it's also difficult to maintain weight loss at that low calories. Your body actually thinks you're in starvation mode. So if you are eating this little, you need to spend some time healing your metabolism to get what's called basic metabolic rate up. This is what your metabolism needs. 


 34:17

Ali Shapiro
If you were to stay in bed all day, just to keep the lights on, just to keep you breathing, your heart beating, maintaining muscle, and I would start by adding about 100 extra calories a day for about a month and then increasing your walking by 20 minutes. So what you're doing there is you're not going to gain weight, but you're going to have your body adapt to being able to eat more calories. And I would do that until you get to about 1500 calories and I would do it slow. And now if you are an on and off track person, you do need to develop some consistency. That consistency of calories makes your body feel safe with the amount you're eating. So to give you an example, I ate consistently, healthfully for the last twelve years before menopause. 


 35:04

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 35:04

Ali Shapiro
Even in pregnancy I wasn't eating for two. I ate really well. So afterwards, I don't know, I was probably eating around 2000 calories. I don't really know because I hadn't tracked my food for twelve years. But I started tracking when I wanted to lose weight. So when I lost the first ten pounds, I was probably eating between 18 and 1900 calories a day. 


 35:25

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 35:26

Ali Shapiro
I decreased my calories by only a few hundred every day and I went slow so I didn't lose a ton of muscle and I could actually build muscle. Okay, we're playing with the long game here. And my hormones were so depleted and I had so much trouble sleeping that actually cutting too many calories made me wake up and starving in the middle of the night. 


 35:51

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 35:52

Ali Shapiro
So I lost about ten pounds in six months around eating around 18 to 1900 calories and I was working out three to four times a week. And what was interesting about that is as I lost those ten pounds, I actually increased my basic metabolic rate because I added a lot of muscle during that time, my basic metabolic rate or calorie needs actually increased. 


 36:17

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 36:17

Ali Shapiro
Not by a lot, but I think by like about 100 calories, which again is like my, I don't know, that's a nice little snack, nice little sweet treat. Then the second ten pounds, I was eating between like 17 to 1800 calories, again just dropping by one to 200 calories. Now, I lost another ten pounds in about a year. And you may think that's super slow, but I'm playing the long game here, folks. 


 36:45

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 36:46

Ali Shapiro
I am not doing this quick to only regain weight. When we lose weight too quickly, the body does not like fast moves, okay? It likes slow and steady. Now I am sleeping so much better. I'm probably going to start tracking and feel like I want to try to lose again, maybe five more pounds, maybe ten, who knows? But I'm going to start with five and I'm probably going to aim for around 1700 calories and expect to lose a few pounds a month. 


 37:13

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 37:14

Ali Shapiro
So some people, when you listen to the podcast from over 40, I did it as a community gathering. Some people were like, I'm so short. Oh my God. If I eat 1700 calories, that's actually so much more weight than I would gain because I'm only eating 1200. Everyone is different. It depends on how you're entering into this. But again, I really think anything under 1500 calories is going to be really hard to build the muscle and maintain your health. 


 37:43

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 37:43

Ali Shapiro
So you may have to first get your metabolism healed, which you can do in around three to six months. It depends on how consistent you are, how much muscle you're building, all that stuff. But give yourself some time to eat a consistent amount of calories, okay? Because I want you to get enough nutrition to build up your body, support your immunity, do all those things, okay? So again, to heal your metabolism, you can add about 100 calories a day, and then make sure to get 20 extra minutes so you don't gain weight from those calories, okay. And then after about a month, see if you've stabilized, and then you can add another 100 calories. Right. And then you can experiment with the 20 minutes. Right. 


 38:24

Ali Shapiro
You might just need the 20 minutes because your metabolism has healed enough that it can tolerate the increased calories. And that's what it's expecting. Our bodies are highly adaptable. That's the good news. No matter how we've treated ourselves, what we're doing, we can repair, right. It will obviously take longer the more that we haven't been treating ourselves well. But there's always repair possible. But if you cut calories too much or are undereating, your cortisol is going to shoot through the roof and make it really challenging to lose weight. Now let's talk about intermittent fasting. Now what about it? I personally am a little biased. I'm still convinced this is just dieting. But it's called intermittent fasting because men are doing it. So it gets called biohacking instead of dieting. 


 39:13

Ali Shapiro
In general, what the accumulated research, not just one study here, one study there, but the accumulated research shows that it's not intermittent fasting that causes weight loss, it's the calorie reduction that comes from eating in a smaller window. Also, fasting doesn't work for everyone in truce with food. We look at what type of nervous system you have, people like me who are parasympathetic dominant, which means that the parasympathetic side of my autonomic nervous system is more dominant, have a harder time skipping meals. I remember wanting to try intermittent fasting back in 2017 because I thought I could get away without preparing breakfast and I was lazy. I mean, I'm still kind of lazy around cooking for food. I'm working on that because I want essa to have lovely home cooked meals. 


 40:03

Ali Shapiro
But before it was just me, I was like, oh, I can get away without the 20 minutes it takes to eat breakfast. I didn't realize I was in perimenopause at the time, but I was. But I was getting hot flashes from skipping breakfast. I mean, it was wild, so it was just too stressful for me and the way that my system is built, no big deal. So I stopped. So what can you try? If you are still interested and maybe intuitively feel like it may be good for you? Start with fasting between meals. 


 40:33

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 40:34

Ali Shapiro
That's a really great place to start. I was reading this article about how snacks are trending this year. Five to six mini meals? No. Pretty universally, no. 


 40:45

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 40:45

Ali Shapiro
If you need to snack, you are not eating the right foods for your body or you're not eating enough. Again, I can't tell you how many of my clients just aren't eating enough and that's why they end up binging at night or on the weekends, or can be quote unquote good for weeks and then their body is just like, enough. I can't handle this. Go find food. But you should be able to go three to 5 hours from meal to meal without snacking. In truce with food, we experiment, for example, with two different lunches. One has animal protein, one has plant protein, and we connect this to your hunger, your cravings, but also your energy, moods, ability to concentrate. Most people will have a strong reaction to one of those meals. One will make them feel good, one will make them feel like shit. 


 41:30

Ali Shapiro
And some people can do both. And their nervous system is more balanced. But the key is to see what meal carries you into the next meal versus feeling like your blood sugar is crashing and you need a snack. Again. You should be able to go three to 5 hours after each meal if you're eating the right foods for your body. And in that you're fasting. Right. And you can get some of the benefits of fasting by doing that. Once you work up to that, then do a twelve hour fast overnight from the stop eating around six or seven and then don't eat again until six or seven in the morning and you're doing fasting. 


 42:07

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 42:09

Ali Shapiro
And I want to make a note of this because there are some health benefits that we think are associated with fasting, but I want to kind of debunk that, too. So some of the main benefits of intermittent fasting has been what's documented to call autophagy and its brain derived neurotropic factor, which is abbreviated BDNF. So what are these things? Autophagy is basically a cellular cleanup. It breaks down unnecessary parts of your cells and recycles them. But this happens on your own. On its own in your body. Your body does this. It's like detoxing. Yeah. You can get in a sauna and you can exercise and sweat more to detox, but your body's going to detox on its own. 


 42:58

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 42:58

Ali Shapiro
And yes, again, ways we can support it, but autophagy, which again, is what is some of the highly touted health benefits. A lot of the research had shown it isn't the fasting, but the calorie reduction that enables autophagy. 


 43:16

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 43:17

Ali Shapiro
And the thing that promotes autophagy. I hope I'm pronouncing autophagy. Right. I have trouble with pronunciations, but we know that staying lean is actually the biggest endpoint to autophagy happening. So in other words, you need great muscle mass and less body fat. That will be the biggest promotion, not intermittent fasting. 


 43:38

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 43:39

Ali Shapiro
So again, it's the calorie reduction that is often giving us those benefits. And your body will do this on its own. If you don't eat in between meals, if you give yourself 12 hours overnight, it will do it. Even if you don't give yourself a full 12 hours, you'll just get more of that benefit. But it's really about the calorie reduction, okay? So don't think you're missing out on that. And also, if you are going to be doing calorie restriction to lose weight, which again, weight loss is a little bit more complicated than that, but you will probably need to restrict some of your calories. You don't want to always be restricting your calories continuously, okay? Because that will break down your body and you have to work harder to build muscle in midlife and beyond. 


 44:24

Ali Shapiro
So even though I chastise myself for like, oh, my God, this weight loss in midlife is taking me so long, the truth is that sometimes I just intuitively don't feel like tracking anymore and I maintain and I let my body adjust to that, but that's also a time that I'm building muscle more easily. 


 44:41

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 44:42

Ali Shapiro
So you want to cycle in and out with that. But if, again, intermittent fasting doesn't currently work for you don't even feel interested in trying it. You're not missing out on some crazy health or weight benefits. Another intermittent fasting health claim is around brain health. So brain derived neurotropic factor, basically we want to stimulate that because estrogen helps our brain health and we're losing that. And bdNs, as it's abbreviated, it helps with neuron survival and growth, meaning keeps your brain cells alive. And it helps participate in neuronal plasticity, which is essential for learning and memory. 


 45:25

Ali Shapiro
Okay. 


 45:27

Ali Shapiro
The brain health is really important because estrogen protects the brain and we are losing a lot of that protection. And we're even starting to see in some of the research that night, hot flashes could potentially be connected to early dementia and Alzheimer's. 


 45:44

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 45:45

Ali Shapiro
However, I just learned from Selena Yanger, who is Dr. Stacy Sims, co writer on the next level book is that in the Journal of Physiology, it showed that 6 minutes of high intensity intervals, so you do 40 seconds as fast as you can on like a bike or a rower or running. If you ran regularly and maybe won't get sore. I tried doing it running one day, 40 seconds because my gym was closed. I was sore for two weeks. I don't think I'll do that again. But if you do 6 minutes of high intensity intervals, which you do 40 seconds full on, as fast as you can go, and then 20 seconds off, this is actually a more efficient way to increase your BDNF than fasting. 


 46:28

Ali Shapiro
So again, I'm still hard pressed to believe, based on the accumulative research, that there's exclusive benefits to intermittent fasting when you can get those same type of benefits from high intensity training and a slight caloric deficiency, which comes from having a smaller window of eating. Also, you have to be really honest here about your relationship with food. If intermittent fasting feels restrictive, it's going to backfire. If it triggers your perfectionism, it's going to backfire, especially with less satiety from your food. 


 47:05

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 47:06

Ali Shapiro
It's not necessary. And I would really caution against an extreme calorie reduction like you used to do in your calories a day that just seems too much. Burn some of that off through walking or strength training and then take some of it off from food. You want low and slow to keep it off. 


 47:27

Ali Shapiro
Okay? 


 47:28

Ali Shapiro
If you want to lose more than, say, a half a pound a week, increase your steps. That will also lower cortisol. That will help with your sleep and stress management. So everything you do now, you have to think holistically how this will affect your new system, because your new system is much more sensitive to stress. And stress is just not mental and emotional. It's physical stress, like inflammation, like calorie reduction, like infections, right? All of this stuff you're going to be more sensitive to because you've lost the protective benefits of your hormones in perimenopause and menopause. Again, as a recap, if you want to start with fasting, don't eat between meals. Start there. Figure out what foods will satisfy your cravings and hunger for three to 5 hours. 


 48:17

Ali Shapiro
And once you get through knowing what foods work best for your body, which balance your blood sugar, then you can work up to twelve, maybe 14 hours overnight. But also and we'll talk about this in Dr. Stacy Sims episode. If you are training, meaning if you're lifting or working out, you do not want to work out fasted in perimenopause and menopause. So consider that. We'll get more into that in her episode. So one final summary. Weight gain isn't inevitable. There's a lot you can do to support your health and weight and where they overlap, but you do have to understand the physiological changes and really nail your blood sugar, gut health and stress management. Nutrition can support perimenopause and menopause, and it's not a magic bullet. 


 49:05

Ali Shapiro
The more you support antiinflammatory changes and we are all entering perimenopause with different degrees of inflammation, the more your symptoms should go down. For some people that might be just giving up alcohol, for others, it's going to have to be seed oils, refound sugar and flour or some combination. Did I mention menopause is really unique to each individual? And lastly, number three, you don't have to intermittent, fast or dramatically undereat for sustainable weight loss. Focus on slow and low calorie reduction from about one to 200 calories under your resting metabolic rate. 


 49:41

Ali Shapiro
But if it isn't wise to dip below 1500 calories for most people, if you feel you gain weight eating anything over 1200, slowly add in 100 extra calories a day and 20 minutes of steps to increase your metabolism and provide your body with the nutrition it needs to keep you alive and age you well. All right, thanks for tuning in today. I really want nutrition to support, not sabotage you. And if you want support with that, remember my once a year flagship program, truce with food is now open for registration through January 31. You can save $500 when you register by January 26. Enter the coupon code early bird or early bird PP if you're using the payment plan because, yes, we have payment plans upon registration to save. 

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