Intermittent Fasting has been all the rage over recent years and has been hitting the headlines again recently after some new research demonstrated that if you stopped eating after 3pm you could lose weight.<1>. However, for those of us who are busy, have hormone imbalances or going through the menopause, it may not be the best thing to do to achieve weight loss.
Intermittent fasting is essentially where you do not eat any food (calories) for extended periods of time within a given day or week. It is popular as the rules appear quite straightforward, and there are different ways to fast such as:
· 16:8 diet – eat all your calories within an 8-hour window (e.g., 11am-7pm) and then ‘fast’ for 16 hours
· 5:2 diet – you eat 500 calories two days a week and then eat what you like the other five days
· Fasting Mimicking Diet – eat about 750 calories for five days every 4-6 weeks
Regarding the recent research: the research group of 90 overweight individuals had expert guidance on what to eat, had to stick to the ‘diet’ for six days a week and do between 75-150 minutes of exercise a week. Essentially, this equated to a reduction of just over 200 calories a day across 14 weeks
Now this all sounds feasible, and perhaps you have even tried it at some point, BUT intermittent fasting is not for everyone, and is not always great for us midlife women.
Reasons why Intermittent Fasting may not be great in midlife
Weight loss is more than calories in versus calories out – there are so many other factors that affect our weight, especially as we age, such as hormone health, stress levels, gut health, sleep, muscle mass and more. You can read more about weight loss here in our post, “Are you eating enough?”
What you eat within those eating windows is just as important as the fast – it is no good fasting and then filling up on junk food and sugar, even if it is within the calorie count. This is often where I see people fall down, as overall nutrition is poor and then this begins to exacerbate health issues including inflammation, gut dysbiosis and hormone imbalance.
As yet, there is no research that demonstrates intermittent fasting keeps weight off long-term (unless you potentially stay on a fasting diet forever!), and this kind of diet is often not sustainable especially when we are stressed.
Intermittent fasting may decrease oestrogen levels which for women in perimenopause or menopause is not a good thing, as our oestrogen levels are already declining naturally so this could exacerbate a hormone imbalance.
If you have a history of disordered eating, then intermittent fasting could exacerbate this or lead to more binge-eating or comfort eating
Intermittent fasting may also trigger disordered eating or anxiety for some, as you navigate living life but not being able to go out for breakfast with friends, or have dinner with your family, for example, because of the time restricted window you are supposed to eat within.
In short, intermittent fasting is another way to reduce calorie intake in a day (so it is still a diet) which is why it may help with weight loss. Most of our clients at Urban Wellness are busy midlife women who have neglected their health and diet for many years and intermittent fasting may make matters worse for them because at this life stage weight is often more than just food-related and so we start by helping them focus on what they should be eating, balancing their hormones and stress levels, and providing them with balanced nutrition throughout the day to keep energy levels stable and ensure their blood sugar levels are balanced, whilst ensuring they are not overeating.
Our philosophy here at Urban Wellness is that food is to be enjoyed, and that when you eat the right foods for you and create balance – physically and mentally - there is no need to fast or diet. The body will take care of itself for you, and you don’t have to remember which days you were supposed to be fasting or what time your fasting window started. We already have enough things on our to-do list!
If you are struggling with your relationship with food, or to lose weight in midlife then simply hit the button below and book a session with one of the team today.