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  • Writer's pictureJo Leccacorvi

Why Restrictive Diets Are a No-No During Perimenopause

Perimenopause, the transitional phase before menopause, brings about significant hormonal changes that can affect your body in various ways. It’s a time when you may experience symptoms like anxiety, hot flushes, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and weight gain. If you find that you are gaining weight it can be tempting to follow a strict diet or seek a quick fix solution to control your weight and symptoms. However, the perimenopause is not a time for miserable dietary restriction, your body is going through a big change and restrictive diets may do more harm than good.


Restrictive Diets May Impact Bone Density and Muscle Mass

During perimenopause, oestrogen levels start to decline, which can negatively affect bone density and muscle mass. Oestrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health by supporting bone remodelling and preventing bone loss. When you embark on a restrictive diet, especially one low in essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, you may inadvertently accelerate bone loss, increasing your risk of osteoporosis. Muscle mass also tends to decrease with age, and this process can be exacerbated by inadequate protein intake often associated with restrictive diets. Muscle mass is not just important for strength and mobility but also for metabolic health. Losing muscle mass can slow down your metabolism, making it even harder to manage your weight.


They Can Increase Your Food Cravings and Potentially Lead to Overeating

Restrictive diets often involve cutting out entire food groups or significantly reducing calorie intake. While this might lead to initial weight loss, it’s typically not sustainable. Your body’s natural response to calorie restriction is to increase hunger and food cravings. This is a survival mechanism designed to protect you from starvation. During perimenopause, when hormonal fluctuations are already causing mood swings and changes in appetite, adding a restrictive diet can make these cravings more intense. The result can be a cycle of yo-yo dieting where periods of strict dieting are followed by overeating, leading to weight regain and further frustration.


It Is a Miserable Existence That Can Leave You Feeling Mentally and Physically Exhausted 

Living on a restrictive diet can be mentally and physically exhausting. Constantly worrying about what you can or cannot eat, counting calories, and depriving yourself of foods you enjoy can take a significant toll on your mental health. This stress can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, which are already more common during perimenopause due to hormonal changes. Physically, inadequate nutrient intake can leave you feeling tired and weak. Essential nutrients like iron, magnesium, and B vitamins are crucial for energy production. When your diet lacks these nutrients, your energy levels can plummet, making it difficult to keep up with daily activities and responsibilities.


Dietary Restriction May Impact Your Feel-Good Hormones Such as Serotonin

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood regulation. It’s often referred to as the “feel-good” hormone because it contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Carbohydrates are essential for the production of serotonin, and restrictive diets that cut out or severely limit carbohydrate intake can disrupt this process. Low levels of serotonin are associated with mood swings, anxiety, and depression—all of which can be exacerbated during perimenopause. Ensuring a balanced diet that includes healthy carbohydrates can help support serotonin production and improve your mood.


Restrictive Diets Are Not Sustainable, Do You Really Want to Eat This Way for the Rest of Your Life?

One of the biggest problems with restrictive diets is their lack of sustainability. They are often too rigid to maintain over the long term, leading to feelings of deprivation and frustration. The question to ask yourself is: Do you really want to eat this way for the rest of your life? Sustainable eating habits are those that you can maintain for years without feeling deprived or stressed. A balanced, nutritious diet that includes a variety of foods is more likely to provide all the nutrients your body needs and is easier to stick to. Making small, gradual changes to your eating habits is a more effective approach than drastic, short-term diets.


They Leave You Feeling Low on Energy Making Exercise Tricky

Exercise is crucial during perimenopause for maintaining muscle mass, bone density, and overall health. However, restrictive diets can leave you feeling low on energy, making it difficult to stay active. Without sufficient energy and nutrients, your body may struggle to recover from workouts, and you may find it harder to build and maintain muscle. A well-balanced diet that provides adequate carbohydrates, protein, and fats is essential for fuelling your workouts and supporting recovery. By eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, you’ll have the energy you need to stay active and feel your best.


Embracing a Balanced Approach

Rather than resorting to restrictive diets, it’s essential to adopt a balanced approach to nutrition during perimenopause. Here are some tips to help you eat well and feel your best:

1. Prioritise Nutrient-Dense Foods:

Focus on whole, unprocessed foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet.


2. Stay Hydrated:

Drinking enough water is vital for overall health and can help manage some perimenopausal symptoms like bloating and dry skin.


3. Practice Mindful Eating:

Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues and try to eat in response to your body’s needs rather than external cues or emotions. Mindful eating can help you enjoy your food more and prevent overeating.


4. Include Phytoestrogens:

Some plant-based foods, like soy products, flaxseeds, and legumes, contain phytoestrogens, which can mimic oestrogen in the body and may help alleviate some perimenopausal symptoms.


5. Get Enough Protein:

Ensure you’re consuming enough protein to support muscle mass and overall health. Good sources of protein include lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, and nuts.


6. Don’t Skip Meals:

Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar levels, increased cravings, and overeating later on. Aim to eat regular, balanced meals to keep your energy levels stable.


7. Enjoy Your Food:

Food is not just fuel; it’s also a source of pleasure and social connection. Allow yourself to enjoy your favourite foods in moderation and savour the experience of eating.


The Bottom Line

Perimenopause is a challenging time, and it’s important to treat your body with kindness and care. Restrictive diets may seem like a quick fix, but they can have detrimental effects on your physical and mental health. Instead, focus on a balanced, nutritious diet that supports your overall well-being. By making sustainable changes to your eating habits, you can manage perimenopausal symptoms more effectively and enjoy a healthier, happier life. If you are unsure how to make a start with this, book in for a free, no obligation chat with me. Click here to book.

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