Emotional Eating and Menopause - A Perfect Storm!

As a Therapist or Health / Nutrition Coach you might come across women who find that having menopausal symptoms finally tips them over the edge in their long standing battle with food and their weight.  Up to peri-menopause or menopause, they’ve managed their emotional/binge eating through yo-yo dieting. 

Other women may be triggered into emotional/binge eating for the first time during their menopause – due to the significant impact it has on their self-concept, their body and their sleep.

In this blog today, I will be talking about the impact menopause can have on a woman with a history of emotional or binge eating disorder and how this time of life can be a “perfect storm” for some women.

Menopause can Trigger Binge Eating Disorder

Hormonal changes, combined with social pressures, can create a “perfect storm,” for an eating disorder to develop. Not only are women dealing with tremendous hormonal changes, but they might find themselves strugglling with other life transitions such as adult children leaving home, looking after elderly parents, or even marital breakdown.

This list (not comprehensive) of life events can be triggers for a new or long-standing issue of emotional eating and binge eating:

  • Divorce
  • Aging process
  • Death of a friend or spouse
  • Children moving out (or moving back in)
  • Aging parents
  • Children getting married
  • Becoming a grandparent
  • Changes in work – redundancy, role changes

Equally women in their 40’s and early 50’s might have struggled with yo-yo dieting for years, knowing that they are emotional or binge eaters. They know that the cycle of Quick Fix dieting is no longer working to manage their weight, and they may also have reached a time when are finally able to be open about their disordered eating, and their past – and finally ask for help from a health professional.

What are the common symptoms of menopause?

Every woman’s menopause experience is unique and feels different for everyone, a woman can have a number of symptoms or none.

Menopause and perimenopause symptoms can have a big impact on women’s daily life, including relationships, family, work, and social life. Some of these symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • poor sleep
  • hot flashes
  • night sweats
  • irritability
  • lack of motivation
  • lack of libido
  • inability to concentrate
  • sometimes high anxiety, which many people do not realize, is a common and serious side effect of menopause.
  • Constant itching or unexplained. This itching could be for no particular reason; certain parts of your body need it all the time.
  • changes in bladder control

Plus, you put all of this on top of a long-standing emotional eating or binge eating disorder, and you have a woman who is literally at the end of her tether!

Menopause and Binge Eating Disorder

A recent study has shown that up to 25% of women will leave work due to the consequences of menopause on their ability to do their job! All of the above life experiences that can happen during menopause can be significant sources of stress. That will be incredibly challenging for a woman who  uses food to self-regulate in times of stress.

As an Emotional Eating Specialist, if you are looking at a client who is perimenopausal or menopausal with a long-standing history of emotional eating or binge eating and yo-yo dieting, and they’re struggling with one or more of these life stages at this particular time in their lives, that is the ‘perfect storm’ that I am referring to.

The idea of the self-concept and so self-worth is fundamental here because changes in women’s body as a result of menopause can impact how they see themselves as a woman, as a sexual being, as somebody who is to reproduce or be able to get pregnant. If their relationship is also breaking down – they’re no longer a wife or a partner.

Subconsciously and unconsciously, these events can really impact that part of yourself that is carrying past trauma. You may think “no wonder everybody leaves me” or feeling that you are being abandoned. 

All sorts of conscious, subconscious, and unconscious factors play out with menopausal women, depending on how many of these circumstances they have in their lives – past and present.

As a client, it is really important to be very honest with your practitioner and let them know exactly what’s going on.  When you are honest about all the different challenges that you are juggling, your specialist can ensure that you’re getting the correct health that you need and doing it in the right order. If you are looking for support with the changes you are experiencing due to menopause, and are already struggling with emotional eating, please be honest with your health practitioner!  When we don’t know what we don’t know it is really hard for us to get the protocol right for you.

Helping a client in menopause

If you’re a coach or a nutritional therapist, and clients present with menopause symptoms and/or side effects of emotional eating or binge eating, working just on food and lifestyle changes is not going to work for these clients. There are a whole host of other things that need to be dealt with also. 

So it’s essential to understand where you’re sitting on the spectrum of where you can help, what exactly the client needs, and who else you might need to bring in for that client. 

If you are a professional looking for more support around working with emotional eating or binge eating disorder in clients – whether they are also experiencing menopause or not, you can register for one of my 1 Day Workshops “Working with Emotional Eating & Binge Eating Disorder”.  

Online, 6 CE credits, practical and packed full of information, plus you’ll take away several helpful tools and resources that you use use in practice straight away.

Register here: 1-Day CE/CPD Workshop for Health Professionals

Menopause and Binge Eating Professionals

I’ve been very fortunate to work with outstanding menopause specialists, document my own experience in menopause, and look for the help I needed with the symptoms I was experiencing.  I have since collaborated with Dr Wendy Sweet, PhD, a superb, internationally recognised Menopause Specialist to develop professional training in this area. So I now have a network of menopause specialists that I can refer people to and my own network of emotional and binge eating specialists who I have trained, and some of them are also menopause specialist certified.

Whether you’re a professional and you are looking for professional training in either of these areas, or whether you’re a woman looking for support with menopause symptoms or emotional and binge eating disorder, please always feel free to reach out and ask for more information.