It’s no secret that women in middle age are the new target of the wellness and diet industries, and as a dietitian, I’ve had just about enough of it. No more shady menopause diets!

With more disposable income, higher stress levels, and a sense of urgency and anxiety around their changing bodies, we’re the perfect demographic to buy into the narrative that menopause is something to be ‘fixed,’ and the shame that we’re sold around our evolving appearance.

I’m consistently hearing a lot of myths about menopause and women’s bodies that are being told in order to sell products and services. Here are some of the most common ones, why they’re wrong, and the truth that women need to know.

Menopause Myth #1: menopause is a hormone deficiency. All menopausal women should be on hormones.

Let’s tackle this one right away, because I know of at least one well-known menopause ‘expert’ who is insisting that this is the case.

Menopause is a very normal physiological state that results from the decrease of hormone production by the body. 

A ‘deficiency’ of anything in our bodies tends to mean that we require treatment – usually replacement or supplementation – of whatever it is we’re deficient in. It implies that menopause is a disease or an abnormal state, which is inaccurate. Do pre-pubescent girls have a hormone deficiency, too? How about pregnant women? Are they suffering from an estrogen overload?

A recent editorial in The Lancet describes how companies (and I’m going to add, certain menopause doctors who have popular books and large followings) co-opt feminist narratives and the concept of ‘empowerment’ to sell products, all the while convincing women that menopause is a disease.

The framing of this natural period of transition as a disease of oestrogen deficiency that can be eased only by replacing the missing hormones fuels negative attitudes to menopause and exacerbates stigma. Furthermore, appropriation of feminist narratives by commercial organisations, which position use of menopausal hormonal therapy (MHT) as a way to empower women to regain control of their bodies, while downplaying risks, further endorses the framing of menopause as a disease.

I’ve said this many, many times in the comment section of social media posts by certain ‘menopause gurus’ selling misinformation and this ‘empowerment’ agenda to peddle their latest diet book, but I’ll say it again:

MISINFORMATION DOES NOT EMPOWER WOMEN. IT IN FACT, DOES THE OPPOSITE. 

While menopausal hormone therapy is beneficial to many women, other women either don’t find benefit or can’t take hormones at all.

This 2022 joint position statement by the British Menopause Society, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Society for Endocrinology describes best practices for the management of menopausal symptoms. As a dietitian (and a woman in menopause), I think one of the most important statements in the entire document is this one:

All women should be able to access advice on how they can optimise their menopause transition and the years beyond. There should be an individualised approach in assessing women experiencing the menopause, with particular reference to lifestyle advice, diet modification as well as discussion of the role of interventions including HRT.

The management of our bodies is up to each of us, and should include a two-sided discussion with our healthcare providers. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to menopausal symptoms, and we aren’t all the same!

Menopause Myth #2: Pellets/natural hormone therapies are better than ‘synthetic’ ones.

The Appeal to Nature fallacy is everywhere in the Wellness industry, and it does a full-court press to convince menopausal women that ‘Big Pharma’ is all bad and that pharmaceuticals like MHT are ‘harmful.’ This narrative often accompanies content pushing ‘natural’ alternatives like hormone pellets, herbal supplements, and alternative therapies (coffee enema, anyone?)

Amanda Thebe, fitness expert, speaker, and author of Menopocalypse (I highly recommend this book! You can buy it here), says, ‘compounded hormones may be mixed with sawdust and mouse sh*t.’

She’s right, but that isn’t stopping women from using them. She explains the reasoning here:

The term bioidentical has been sold to women as a more natural way of taking hormones for their menopausal symptoms, when in fact this is just marketing jargon. Bioidentical means that the hormones are similar to those that the body produces, and can be either regulated or unregulated. 

When a hormone is compounded, it is often upsold as being personalized for the individual or more natural than “Big Pharma” manufactured hormones. The statement is pretty ironic considering all the hormones are from the same manufactured source and are in fact regulated.  

The drugs are then mixed by compounding pharmacies, or used by pellet companies like BioTe to create new formulas. By doing this the dosage, safety and efficacy of the preparations cannot be guaranteed and actually pose a public health concern, according to National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine.

If you’re considering hormones, please use only approved brands prescribed by legitimate health professionals.

Menopause Myth #3: fasting is the only way for women in menopause to lose weight.

I know that this may come as a surprise, but there is no specific menopause diet. 

We do need to pay particular attention to certain nutrients in midlife, such as protein and fibre, but as far as weight loss, there’s no magic bullet.

There are, however, a lot of people (including licensed physicians) who are selling diet programs and books aimed at helping menopausal women lose weight. What I’ve seen from most of them is that they’re usually some sort of mix of low-carb eating and intermittent fasting. 

The sales pitch almost always involves claims that the regimen is an ‘easy’ solution to all of our hormone and body issues, but this is a huge red flag.

First of all, for a lot of women, a low-carb diet is tough to sustain simply because it’s restrictive. Combining it with a fasting regimen is even more complicated, and I believe lowers the probability for long-term adherence. Above all else, it seems excessive and punishing to use two methods of food restriction to meet a weight loss goal.

While fasting can result in weight loss, it’s merely a method of cutting calories. Going for extended periods without food has no health benefits on its own; improvements in metabolic health may be a result of weight loss due to fasting, not fasting itself.

As a dietitian, I take major issue with the messaging that a specific diet is the only way for anyone to lose weight, or that it’s something of a holy grail for weight loss. It’s not. Some women can’t fast, and some don’t want to. For some women, it’s downright dangerous. 

Mary Claire Haver’s Galveston Diet (read my Galveston diet review here) and Mindy Pelz’s Fast Like a Girl (read my Fast Like a Girl review here) are both plans that honestly, I think convey the wrong message to women about how they should be eating and treating their bodies.

I also want to caution you about any weight loss plan that’s touted as being ‘easy.’ Why we weigh what we weigh is often very complex and multifactorial. A plan to lose weight needs to acknowledge and address those complexities, which can be different for everyone. It should also tackle the emotional side of our relationship with food and our bodies, but that rarely happens with commercial diets/weight loss plans.

Tell people that a plan is ‘easy’ only sets them up for shame if they find the plan too difficult to maintain and/or don’t lose the weight they’re expecting. 

Menopause Myth #4: Middle-aged women can ‘get their body back.’ 

Nature dictates that bodies change throughout the life cycle. We don’t expect to look 16 when we’re 30, so why would we believe that it’s possible – and desirable – to look 30 when we’re 50?

The entire concept of maintaining a youthful, fresh body throughout our lives not only flies in the face of physiology; it’s also patriarchal. 

Thanks, but no thanks. Why are women in Western societies subject to the shaming around our aging bodies, but in other parts of the world, menopause is considered to be a rebirth, or time of power and freedom?

How did we go so wrong? 

Oh yeah. The historically male-dominated medical profession, coupled with our culture’s fear of death, and the perception that aging females are no longer ‘useful’ or attractive. 

No wonder so many of us see our aging bodies as something to ‘fix’ or hide. 

The sales pitches that prey on the messed up expectations for women’s bodies are on full display with ‘hormone diets’ like Metabolic Renewal (read my Metabolic Renewal review here) and the Fast Metabolism Diet. (Read my Fast Metabolism Diet review here)

There are completely unproven supplements from companies like Better Body Co. (they sell Provitalize) or Happy Mammoth, whose entire sales plan depend on womens’ anxieties and discomfort with their changing bodies.

Read my Provitalize review here, and my Happy Mammoth review here.

I feel like (another) dishonourable mention should go to Mary Claire Haver’s The Galveston Diet, Mindy Pelz’s Fast Like a Girl, and basically anything by Sara Gottfried, for implying that women’s bodies should look young forever, and that it’s okay to suffer to achieve that.

Read my Hormone Reset diet review here.

Menopause can be a time of great strength and exploration. We do not have to minimize ourselves physically or emotionally to meet someone else’s idea of what we should look like or how we should ‘be.’

If you have menopause-related symptoms that are interfering with your life and well-being, please see your doctor. Not satisfied with the care you’re getting? The North American Menopause Society has a ‘find a menopause practitioner’ search on their site, as does the Menopause Foundation of Canada.

Here are some of my favorite Instagram accounts and books for accurate menopause information:

Dr. Jen Gunter @drjengunter The Menopause Manifesto

Amanda Thebe @amanda.thebe Menopocalypse

Dr. Annice Mukherjee @the.hormone.doc The Complete Guide to the Menopause

Elizabeth Ward, RD and Hillary Wright, RD @menopausedietplan The Menopause Diet Plan

Dr. Jen Huber, ND, RD @menopause.nutritionist

Dr. Amy Louis-Bayliss, Dr. Woganee Filate, Dr. Sarah Shaw @itsourtimecanada

Also look forward to these two online menopause and health sites:

Pauz Health @pauzhealth

Nyah Health @nyahhealth