Is there such a thing as the best diet for menopause?
If searching for menopause and diet related stuff has led you here, let me first introduce myself. I’m Laura, a registered dietitian. I work with women to help them find clarity and nourishment in what can often be a confusing nutrition landscape. I also happen to be in my 40’s which means the days of running weaning workshops are far behind me and menopause is around the corner.
All of the women I work with, have things in common. Many are in their fourth or fifth decades, juggling the many and diverse challenges life throws at them as part of being a proper grown-up. It’s exhausting and symptoms of peri-menopause can add to the challenge.
What I also notice, is women are keen to take control of their health. They want to feel empowered to eat in a way that supports them to be the best version of themselves. Unfortunately, there’s just one problem. Diet culture. We’re surrounded by it, we take it as the norm, when in fact it is often responsible for many damaging core beliefs we have held onto throughout our adult life. To feel judged by our outward appearance, to feel less worthy if we live in a larger body size, to have never been given the opportunity to figure out where our genetically predetermined weight was supposed to sit, before we got dragged to Weight Watchers as a teenager.
Most of the women I work with have a few decades of dieting behind them. They have had some success with weight loss, but overall, what and how they eat has taken up a lot of head space over the years. They feel dissatisfied with their bodies, often completely disconnected from them.
Enter the perimenopause with a vast array of symptoms including weight gain. Diet culture circles, sizing up its prey, ready to pounce with the latest regime that promises belly fat can be got rid of for good. But can it? Am I just being a party pooper… here’s what I think and what more than 20 years of clinical practice has taught me.
What you need to be clear on to define the best diet for menopause for you:
We can apply the calories out, calories in equation to a certain extent and it works, but it will never address the complexities of the human body, especially one that has endured multiple calorie restricted diets in the past. The body loves equilibrium and there are metabolic consequences to putting the body under strain. This is one of the many reasons why diets that create weight loss very rarely sustain it for life.
A body during peri-menopause is meant to change. Hormonal changes will cause fat to distribute differently. This will occur in most women, irrespective of body size, but it can feel most traumatic for those already feeling at war with their body.
So, from my perspective the best diet for menopause is one that feels gentle and sustainable. Diet and nutrition have so much potential to support us with peri-menopausal symptoms such as bone health, heart health, mood swings and hot flushes. If we are constantly putting ourselves on the dieting treadmill, cutting out food groups, sticking to punishing exercise regimes, weighing out portions or tracking our every mouthful, we can lose sight of what a nourishing diet actually looks like, not to mention the side effects of a broken food relationship.
Menopause is a life stage that calls for reflection. Alongside medical intervention from a menopause specialist, looking at your diet for menopause is key and can help to lay solid foundations from which the rest of your well-being can flourish.
If you’d like to explore what a menopause nutrition support session could look like for you get in touch. You may also like to give me a follow @menopause.dietitian on Instagram.