Why do people gain weight during menopause? What is intuitive eating and how can you use it as a non-diet approach? How can you care for your body and mind during this transformative period? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks with Erica Leon about a non-diet approach to menopause and everything you need to know to get through this very normal time of your life.


Erica Leon, MS, RD, CEDRD, runs a weight-inclusive, non-diet outpatient group nutrition practice in White Plains, NY. With more than 30 years of experience, she and her team help individuals with eating disorders and disordered eating to develop a positive relationship with food, weight, and body image. Erica is certified as an eating disorder dietitian with The International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals, and as an Intuitive Eating Counselor. Erica is also certified as a Body Positive Facilitator with The Body Positive Organization. Erica has written many professional articles on nutrition, is a frequent speaker on topics such as eating disorder treatment and prevention, and belongs to many professional organizations including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, and the Academy of Eating Disorders Visit her website, connect on Facebook and Instagram.


  • Menopause and weight gain
  • Intuitive eating as a non-diet approach
  • Care for yourself in other ways besides diets

Menopause and weight gain

Menopause is a completely natural and normal phenomenon that happens to all people with ovaries in the second half of their lives. A factor of menopause that can be difficult to manage at the beginning, which is frustrating when you have not made any change to your diet or exercise, is weight-gain. Most people experience weight gain around the middle part of their bodies.
This weight and middle-expand is really very normal and common as we get older, and it has to do with, believe it or not, when our estrogen levels decrease because our ovaries don’t make them anymore, our body fat actually produces a form of estrogen. In essence, it’s there to help us. (Erica Leon)
This increased weight gain is a strategic plot of the body. In order to combat the reduced production of estrogen by the ovaries, body fat will step in to create it because we need estrogen in order to ensure heart health and good bone density, as well as other benefits. The weight-gain is therefore due to the shifting hormone levels. It is natural and has nothing to do with what you may or may not be doing in your daily lifestyle.
There are things that we can do that can be helpful, and there are lifestyle changes, there are some dietary changes we could make and I’d like to focus on those instead of focusing on our midlife bellies and losing weight.  I wish that every doctor would help and provide a roadmap of some behaviors that would be helpful for us instead of just focusing on weight. (Erica Leon)
These are not dietary changes that pertain to going on a specific diet. These are dietary changes that are choices you make to nourish and feed your body in the way it is asking to be fed.

Intuitive eating as a non-diet approach

Intuitive eating is having food that nourishes you when your body is asking for that food. With this mindset, it is adding and not subtracting to your plate. Symptom management can be encouraged with this mindset because it focuses on what can you add or change on your plate instead of focusing on what you should avoid or take off your plate. Having a balanced way of eating overall is best for helping menopause. Restricting often in this case does more damage than good. Including vitamin D, calcium, nutrients from seeds, nuts, and legumes, dietary oils and dietary fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all necessary, helpful, and beneficial for your changing body.
People really do come in all sizes and shapes. We have diversity, there is size diversity in the world, there’s color diversity, height diversity: we’re all meant to be different and if someone has been restricting their foods … suppressing their weight below what their body is meant to be … when you start to eat in a way that is satisfying and nourishing it’s possible you’re going to gain some weight and that’s really normal and natural. I think we need to stop focusing on weight and really look at behaviors … that are within our control. (Erica Leon)

Care for yourself in other ways besides diets

Think about how you can encourage wellness and health in your body besides only focusing on food. Can you try some stress management techniques? Can you try mediating and mindfulness? Encourage self-compassion and listen to your body and yourself instead of always listening to what others say you should do. Your body will tell you what it needs once you learn how to listen to it best.



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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