intuitive eating in menopause
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Menopause and Intuitive Eating

Perhaps you’re like me and you’re a lifelong dieter. Trying to get to that elusive magical weight by continually restricting and depriving yourself.

Choosing instead to eat intuitively during midlife and changing hormones can be a real gift.

Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to changing your eating habits by trusting your body to make choices around food that feel good to you. This approach allows you to create space for you to tap into what you truly need and want at this stage in your life.

If you’re a woman in midlife going through peri-menopause or menopause, you’re probably spending a lot of time trying to manage your unpleasant symptoms. You may also feel uncomfortable and frustrated with how your body is changing. Spending way too much time critiquing your eating habits.

How freeing would it be to manage your night sweats, hot flashes, moodiness, and decreasing libido and also stop yo-yo dieting and food restriction? What if you permitted yourself to eat what you truly desire?

This may seem scary and maybe a bit insane if you’re someone who has always followed rigid diets. But remember, if the diets worked, we wouldn’t need to go back on one continually.

Giving Up Dieting and Restrictive Eating

giving up dieting and the scale

As someone who dieted most of her life, I get it! Giving up dieting and restrictive eating can feel like being pushed off a cliff. Many of my clients ask, “What rules would I follow without a diet?”

What if there are no rules when it comes to what you eat? Isn’t it time for you to take control, slow down, and give yourself what you truly desire – even if that means dessert every evening after dinner?

It’s important to mention that eating intuitively doesn’t mean anti-weight loss. It means getting in touch with the feeling of hunger and being full, not focusing on the number on the scale.

Scary! I know.

Rejecting the diet mentality, honoring your hunger, and making peace with food is where you start when it comes to intuitive eating. When you notice your changing hormones and weight distributed differently, accepting this stage and making space for enjoying all foods can be quite liberating as you embrace mindful eating.

As your hormones are changing, it’s not time to restrict calories. Focus on the foods that help you feel energized for the long haul to help you manage your menopause symptoms.

Menopause And The Changing Body

Personally, when my menopause symptoms ramped up, I put on over 20 pounds because I honestly (even as a nurse) didn’t know how to feel better. I fell into a routine of relying on red wine and lots of simple carbohydrates (aka sugar) to numb the discomfort of changing hormones. This was my way of taking care of myself. Read more about alcohol in menopause at my blog post Menopause Alcohol Intolerance.

Too much sugar caused me to have large blood sugar spikes and dips. I was exhausted and bloated each morning due to overconsumption of sugar and not getting proper nutrition. I knew there had to be a better way.

The next approach I tried was restricting what I ate and drank (no surprise). This was my usual course of action when I put on some weight. It worked for a while, but ultimately I would feel deprived and binge on the foods I had restricted. The pendulum swung far left and right for much of my life. I needed to live in the gray area and finally stop dieting.

Woman Walking On Fence balancing hormones and pendulum

After learning about intuitive eating, I turned my back on the diet mentality and embraced my true hunger cues. I took a completely different approach from what I was accustomed to. I promised to care for myself in a healthy way while my body inevitably changed.

Honestly, it took me several months to get used to the idea that there were no foods off-limits. I could have cookies, candy, bread, broccoli, rice, or ice cream today, tomorrow, and the day after if I wanted.

Over time, I’m happy to say most of the ‘unhealthy’ foods lost their power and I can eat them in moderation. If I gravitate towards over-consuming non-nutritious foods, it usually means I’m not meeting my needs in other ways.

I knew it was essential to accept my changing body and set myself free from food rules and the imaginary list of ‘good and bad’ foods! It took some time to feel safe knowing that my body would tell me what I needed regarding nutrition. But it did.

Through my changing hormones, I realize I feel my best by managing my menopause symptoms as I embrace healthy lifestyle choices – nutrition, movement, sleep, stress management, and connecting with others regularly. I don’t expect perfection, just progress.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is when you approach food by listening to your body’s internal cues, such as fullness and hunger. This may be difficult if you haven’t practiced this in a long time. I see my three-year-old grandson practice this innately each day. Reach out to me if you feel you need additional support.

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, both dieticians, came up with the principles in ‘Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach.

Intuitive eating has 10 principles:

  1. Reject the diet mentality: Get angry at the diet culture that promotes weight loss and the lies that have made you feel like a failure every time you have gained the weight back.
  2. Honor your hunger: Allow your body to tell you when you are hungry and need to be fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates.
  3. Make peace with food: Give yourself unconditional permission to eat rather than allowing for intense feelings of deprivation from restricting certain foods.
  4. Challenge the food police: Tell yourself to stop when you are declaring that you’re ‘good’ for restricting calories or ‘bad’ because you ate dessert.
  5. Discover the satisfaction factor: Follow what the Japanese do where they have the wisdom to keep pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. We should find pleasure and satisfaction in our eating experience.
  6. Feel Your Fullness: You need to trust that you will give yourself foods that you desire and listen to your body’s signals that you are no longer hungry.
  7. Cope with your emotions with kindness: Emotional eating can happen when you restrict foods and then have a feeling of loss of control when you soothe yourself with food. Find ways to care for yourself by distracting or resolving issues.
  8. Respect your body: Accept the genes you’ve been given. Don’t be unrealistic about how you should look even at a healthy weight.
  9. Movement – feel the difference: Get active and choose an exercise you enjoy! Focus on how good it feels to be energized by movement.
  10. Honor your health – gentle nutrition: Don’t strive to eat perfectly. Progress, not perfection, is what counts!

How Does Intuitive Eating Help Women in Menopause?

menopause coach to support women eat intuitively

Intuitive eating is beneficial at all times but especially during times of changing hormones. This approach will allow you to let go of the rules and restrictions surrounding food. You can get honest about what you truly need regarding nutrition and self-care to feel your best.

If you have always been someone who ‘runs’ away from your body and how you’re feeling, it will take time to get comfortable with this non-diet approach.

Once I got honest that what I was using to ‘feel better’ wasn’t working, it became such a gift. I did have to spend time seeing what I truly needed since I had to kick my over-consumption of sugar and alcohol to the curb. I still enjoy dessert but recognize that too much sugar leaves me feeling temporarily energized and then exhausted. As a nurse, I also know that it contributes to inflammation. I choose to eat it when it’s truly worth it and thoroughly enjoy it!

After several months of eating intuitively, I noticed that my weight returned to a ‘normal’ range for me. More importantly, I’m managing my menopausal symptoms and feel healthy both physically and mentally.

Choose to thrive and not just survive in midlife! Reach out to me if you would like to learn how I can help you reach your goals.

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