Why 6 Meals a Day is a Bad Idea
Have you heard “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” or “eat six small meals a day for weight loss”? These myths of conventional “wisdom” hold very little to no truth. By the time most women reach midlife and approach menopause, we’ve tried dozens of dieting attempts to find the answer. Often, these attempts leave us feeling defeated and let down.
Most of these diets focus solely on the types of foods consumed or not consumed. Whether it’s a low-fat diet or a calorie-counting diet, the primary focus is all on what you eat and does not include when you eat it. Fasting time matters a great deal more than counting calories! When you eat a meal is just as important as what you eat!
Weight loss is more than just calories in, and calories out. There are several hormonal factors that weigh into your ability to lose weight. One of these factors to consider is meal timing.
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of meal timing for women in perimenopause and menopause. Changing the timing of your meals can help you balance hormones and promote weight loss. Let’s dive in!
Why You Gain Weight During Menopause
During menopause, our bodies experience a natural decline of sex hormones (estrogen,, progesterone and testosterone) as we enter our 40’s and 50s. As the ovaries produce less of female sex hormones, changes to your metabolism can often occur.
The decrease in estrogen plays a factor in this weight loss, in combination with less sensitivity to insulin (insulin resistance). Some women also experience an increase in ghrelin (a hormone responsible for hunger.) This results in increased appetite and trouble losing weight or sometimes even gaining weight during menopause.
These changes in hormones, insulin sensitivity, and other lifestyle factors can cause weight to creep up on you. This, in combination with the other uncomfortable symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, anxiety, night sweats) can seriously affect your quality of life.
Intermittent Fasting for Menopause
Think of intermittent fasting as a tool you can use to help you eat within a specific time window. While there are many varieties of intermittent fasting, the most popular version is often called “16/8” or sometimes “8/16”. The premise of this eating pattern is easy to understand.
All of your food consumption takes place within an 8-hour period, followed by 16 hours of fasting. Within your “eating” window, this does not mean you eat for 8 hours straight! It simply means any of your meals (whether 1, 2, or 3 per day) take place within that 8-hour period.
For example, many people choose to skip breakfast, allowing their bodies to tap into stored body fat during the fasting period. You could eat at 12 p.m, consuming all of your food before 8 p.m. After the 8 p.m. time period, you’ll go into a 16-hour fast until you eat again at noon the next day. I typically eat breakfast at 10 am then eat my dinner at 4 pm and do not eat until I break my fast (breakfast ) the next day. So, that gives me an 18-hour fast and a 6-hour eating window. During this 6-hour window, I eat 2 meals with no snacks in between. This is called an “18/6”.
What is the Best Fasting Time?
16:8 is one of the most popular fasting time options, however, it is just one of the many patterns you can use when intermittent fasting. I recommend 16:8 as the best plan to start with in menopause, as it is most sustainable for many women on a daily basis. However, as you get adjusted to this plan, you may wish to try other fasting patterns.
At first, it can be helpful to keep similar meal times, as your body adjusts to fasting. Soon, you’ll find the best fasting time for your body.
What Can You Consume During the Fast?
In general, the fasting window should not include anything with calories. This means you can have plain water, electrolytes (without sugar), black coffee, or tea during your fast. Some people allow bone broth in the beginning while adjusting to fasting as well.
Start slowly and gradually work up to a 16-8. That means if you need to start with a 12-hour fast, slowly add one hour of fasting per day. Remember, as you get hunger cues, your body is not “starving”. These hunger cues will pass, and fasting will eventually become easier.
While you may fast every day, some people choose to fast every other day or a few times a week. You can make fasting work around your schedule.
Why 6 Meals a Day Doesn’t Always Work
Many menopausal women feel frustrated when they find their doctor’s recommendation for weight loss simply doesn’t work. When you eat six meals a day, your body is constantly working to burn off the food you’ve consumed. Each time you eat, your body’s insulin rises, blocking your ability to access and burn your body’s stored fat.
Not only does intermittent fasting help your body to regulate blood sugar and insulin, but it also keeps you from over-eating. Many people find that the quantity of food condensed into a specific time window helps them manage hunger easier.
Getting Started with 16:8 Fasting Time
To optimize your success, use the primal diet in conjunction with intermittent fasting.
Want to learn more about starting intermittent fasting? Follow me on Instagram at @menopausetheprimalway and on Facebook too.
You’ll find daily expert tips on all things primal, paleo, and intermittent fasting to help you navigate menopause. You’ll also get first-hand updates on the release of free resources and hands-on guidance on how to navigate menopause.