Read on my ravenous friend we are going to learn how to control menopause hunger easily. Menopause hunger is the type of intense hunger that hits hot and hard and short of unburdening the fridge of that delicious looking whole chicken it seems impossible to get under control.
I struggle to call it menopause cravings because that implies that it is one particular food that you need. All it would take would be to eat the damned Snickers bar and it would be gone.
Nope. It’s pretty much all food. And you are sensible enough to know you can’t eat all the food.
Have you been wondering “Why am I always hungry?” now you’re in menopause? It’s like that premenstrual hunger but it…
And you want to know what you can do about it because you actually like those new jeans you bought last season but if you keep eating like this you’ll have to hand them over to your teenage daughter who’s been eyeing them up.
You just finished a nutritious, healthy lunch. You’re back at your desk and the thought of something sweet and sticky pricks the edge of your conscience.
You’ve just eaten, how can food be filling your thoughts again?
Now that you’re in midlife and grappling with perimenopause or menopause, why does your appetite resemble that of a teenage track star about to try out for the Olympics?
Does perimenopause and menopause make you hungry?
There are a few things to consider here and the research is thin so if there are changes you are concerned about I urge you to consult a doctor to check that there is nothing else going on for you.
First things first,
When did you last eat?
Don’t wait until the tank is completely empty to eat again. It’s a fine line between being slightly hungry and ‘hangry’ or the extreme hunger of perimenopause and menopause when all rational thinking completely deserts us.
This is when you are likely to find yourself, fork in hand, demolishing the second half of a cheesecake that you forgot was in the back of the fridge.
And what’s that on your other hand? Is that a bottle of Hershey’s Chocolate Sauce your squidging all over your next bite?
If you plan and prepare something to eat before hunger has completely taken over then you are ready and waiting with something healthy that will provide the nutrition and energy you need until your next meal.
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Why am I always hungry after eating in perimenopause?
You could say that hormones made you eat it.
When you go into perimenopause, our levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin increase, which is the reason why many women often feel hungry during this time. Levels of the hormone leptin signal that feeling of being full, reduce throughout peri- and postmenopause
The odds are against us controlling menopause hunger right from the start.
Like leptin, estradiol, a form of estrogen has been helping to keep a lid on our appetite. As the hormone estrogen is on the downward slide through perimenopause so is estradiol along with its ability to help keep a leash on the hungry bear in you.
This same hormone craziness that descends during perimenopause can also impact your sleep thanks to the night sweats, hot flushes, anxiety, mood swings and a whole host of other symptoms that this time of life throws our way.
When we don’t sleep the hormone cortisol makes an appearance. Cortisol will cause your insulin to rise which then lowers your blood sugar levels and boom your feeling hungry again!
Cravings. Menopause hunger. Munchies. Whatever you want to label it.
Have you been feeling stressed a lot lately?
There is a reason for that. When estrogen decreases it struggles to keep cortisol under control and the effect is the same as getting no sleep.
Watch out for the no sleep, more stress vicious cycle.
With bad sleep comes stress and with more stress comes bad sleep. I urge you to see your doctor if you are struggling with either. Going down the no sleep high-stress path can lead to other more serious health issues such as coronary disease and diabetes.
Muscle mass is declining at a rate of 0.5-1% per year once you hit menopause at around the age of 50. This might not be a significant number but together with the fall off of physical activity that is common at this age, and that many women will eat less protein this shrinkage of brawn is accelerated.
Our muscles may be withering away but our hunger definitely is not.
And the calories have to go somewhere. Welcome to middle-aged spread.
For more on how to win that battle go to How To Win The Battle Of Your Middle-Aged Spread
But menopause and hunger don’t always go hand in hand. There are of course other reasons for being hungry.
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When the extreme hunger in menopause is psychological
This type of hunger doesn’t come from our stomachs telling us it is time to eat. It is born from emotion.
Where physical hunger is usually a slow build and we can feel it coming on, a hunger that happens due to an emotional trigger is usually fairly sudden and may even come immediately after eating.
Psychological hunger is usually connected to certain events or triggers. Feeling sad, happy, grief, anxious even bored can all trigger feeling hunger.
You may have had an extra-long and busy day, or some major event took place. You arrive home and your mind plays tricks and whispers in your ear that you absolutely deserve to eat a huge slice of chocolate cake after the day you’ve had.
It will definitely be a tastier compensation than the emotion you’re suppressing with it.
This sort of hunger can also be about replacing something that you feel is missing in your life. In the search for something you can’t quite put your finger on you found the chocolate cake. The feeling of seventh heaven it puts you in is fleeting so you find yourself craving something similar again and again.
The reward centre of the brain takes over. If it sends out certain emotional signals you will reward it with chocolate cake! It’s like the little child that gets a lolly to quiet it.
When you reach for the chocolate
What were you feeling at the time? Had something just happened? There should be absolutely no judgement. You are just looking to answer questions that will help you see a connection or pattern?
Slightly separate from psychological hunger in menopause is addiction based on habit
Dinner’s over. You settle in front of the T.V. and that’s when the snacks, chocolate, chips, soda or whatever come out.
You can’t remember a time when you didn’t have a snack at this time. We are now in the realms of habit. Breaking a habit such as this is not easy.
How do you maintain a healthy weight in menopause when your feeling hungry all the time?
There is a staggeringly huge hot mess of advice out there. I recommend that you do your research and speak to your doctor. Be kind to yourself. It is not easy to maintain a healthy weight in midlife and you may have to try various strategies before you see success.
My healthy weight strategy
Include plenty of fibre in your diet
It makes you feel fuller for longer, helps carry toxins away and will keep the midlife-evil of constipation at bay.
Eat plenty of good protein
Protein is good for keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Good protein doesn’t have to come from animals. Eggs, nuts seeds and legumes are all good sources.
The last three on this list also contain plenty of fibre so you’d be killing two birds with one stone.
Pack in the veggies
High in fibre, vitamins and minerals, they fill you up with far fewer calories. And your gut is going to thank you by making your digestion run like clockwork.
Think lots of leafy greens and rainbow colours.
When your mind turns to food,
And you know for certain that you’re not going to die from hunger anytime soon then think about taking your mind elsewhere.
Go for a walk in the park, do some yoga or meditation, phone a friend, journal, have a cup of tea. Anything that moves you away from the feeling. Coffee is a great appetite suppressant but remembers not after 1 or 2 in the afternoon and no more than 2 cups a day.
A combination of aerobic activity and strength training.
The aerobic part can be as easy as a bike ride or walk. Challenge yourself a bit and walk up a hill.
Strength training works to replace the muscle that you are losing. Muscle burns more energy than fat so you’re doing double duty and keeping on top of the weight gain that comes at this time.
The bonus is you’ll look toned and your friends will want to know what your secret is.
Another super benefit is you’ll be adding bone mass. Bones become brittle as we age and strength training helps to counteract that.
Put in place some good habits to help yourself.
Switch off screens at least an hour before bed.
- dim lights – consider using something like these floor lamps or this table top lamp to create a nice atmosphere that signals it’s nearly time for bed.
- journal – who can resist a gorgeous journal like this one for recording your thoughts and getting stuff out of your head
- do an easy yoga routine – I got a new mat last Christmas which I love
- practise some breathing techniques
- have a cup of caffeine free tea. Organic cammomile is my go to. Or check out this post for some other caffeine-free recipes.
Make some or all of these things routine so your brain equates them as a time to start feeling sleepy and ready for bed.
Drink plenty of water
Often thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Have a glass of water before you eat and give it a few minutes then see how you feel.
Water will also help with digestion by keeping our gut healthy and flushing through toxins.
Constant stress is the big boss of bad health and feeling hungry in menopause. So many health issues can be traced back to stress. Do what you can to lose the stress. Everything that I have mentioned in the previous 7 points will help with this.
My own personal holy trinity of destressing is to use breathing techniques, practice meditation and GET ENOUGH SLEEP.
Related Post:How To Lose The Weight You Gain In Menopause
Putting on a little weight in midlife does not exclude you from some sort of elite group. Your aim is to be as healthy as you can without turning it into a crusade to live up to some sort of unrealistic expectation of what women should look like as we see in so much of the media today.
Feeling hungry in menopause is natural. How to stop menopause hunger is not some hidden piece of information. Put some easy strategies in place and you can easily control the weight gain that often comes with the changes you go through at this time of life.
Enjoy the process and feeling you get from eating well, exercising and being mindful. And don’t forget to treat yourself from time to time.
If you would like to see a video all about this hunger I found this for you to take a look at. Does menopause make you eat more?
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I feel hungry all the time in menopause even after eating?
As you age and move into menopause the hunger-stimulating hormone Ghrelin increases causing many women to constantly feel hungry. Levels of Leptin the hormone that makes us feel satisfied, decrease. With more stress at this time, levels of the hormone cortisol increase. The cortisol managing hormone, estrogen levels decrease. This leads to increased hunger of the kind that triggers bad food choices.
How can I control my hunger in menopause?
The following healthy foods will help with menopause hunger:
- Good quality lean meats, poultry, fish and seafood.
- Nuts and seeds
- Dairy , especially Greek yoghurt
- Beans, lentils, chickpeas.
- Fill up on fiber rich foods such as kale and spinach.
- Drink plenty of water.
Be mindful when eating. Chew each mouthful well and take your time. Give time for you tummy to signal it is full.
What foods stop menopause hunger?
- Good quality lean proteins such as grass fe meats, poultry, fish and seafood, nuts, chia, linseed.
- Dairy , especially Greek yoghurt
- Beans, lentils, chickpeas
- Fill up on fiber rich foods such as kale and spinach
- Drink plenty of water
- Add healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, avocado to your diet.
What hormone makes you hungry in menopause?
Ghrelin is the hormone that increases as we age and estrogen decreases. Ghrelin stimulates appetite. Leptin and estrogen serve to dampen appetite. As estrogen lowers in perimenopause so does leptin, amplifying your hunger.
For more on controlling your menopause health check out this post: 7 Ways to Conquer Midlife Food Cravings