In this episode, I am speaking with Dr. Becky Gillaspy – a health and weight loss expert helping people achieve their weight loss goals. We will talk about how to make weight loss easier after menopause.
In this podcast, Dr. Becky will cover:
- The role of carbohydrates in weight loss
- The most effective strategies for post-menopause weight loss
- The biggest problem with most modern-day weight loss protocols
- Is fasting good or bad for women
- Her take on hormone replacement therapy
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Ari Whitten: Hey there. This is Ari Whitten and welcome to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. Today, I have with me, Dr. Becky Gillaspy, who graduated summa cum laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991. She has worked as an on-air health consultant for a local ABC TV affiliate and spent most of her professional career teaching a range of college courses from anatomy to nutrition. She now works full time helping people reach their health and weight loss goals through her website and YouTube channel that has a following of over 250,000 people. Welcome, Dr. Becky or Dr. Gillaspy? What do you prefer to be called?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Dr. Becky is usually how people refer to me, so that works just fine for me. Becky is perfectly fine too, Ari.
Ari Whitten: Okay, great. Obviously, you are by education a chiropractor, a doctor of chiropractic. I’m just curious, how did you transition from that to– it sounds really, more than anything, weight loss is your focus now. I’m just curious about the background there.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: I started in practice, I graduated in ’91, practiced for quite a few years. My daughter was born, it took my life on a different trajectory. I wanted a little bit more steady hours and I had always enjoyed teaching, so I had started teaching. Actually, my first teaching job was teaching medical assistance and teaching them a range of different courses, anatomy, physiology, all the way to nutrition, and everything in between. I found that I really enjoyed that. As online education started to come into play, I moved and shifted to online education and really just, it all blossomed out from that. I then started my blog.
Actually, one of interim jobs when you’re getting your life in order was as a science writer. I would write online articles that were then turned into videos, and they were on a range of topics. There here, again, anything from anatomy to nutrition. It really just developed from that. Then when I started my blog, I would talk about these types of topics and it would always come down to, “Can you help me with my diet because I’m struggling with weight loss?” That is really how it evolved. It really became, this is the need that is out there. That became my focus and that really became my focus of research.
Ari Whitten: As more and more people were coming just with this problem of weight loss, it led you very naturally just to focus more and more on that piece of the puzzle?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Yes, absolutely.
The biggest problems with most modern day weight loss protocols
Ari Whitten: Got it. Let’s talk about weight loss. I guess to start with, how do you conceptualize the problem of more broadly, the obesity epidemics that have occurred in most western countries and really the problem of fat gain. What are the factors that drive fat gain in the first place?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: What it comes down to is for the past 60 years, we were always on this calorie model. Calories in, calories out. It was a very simple model that really made sense in our heads because if you are putting on some weight, well, you’re probably taking in more calories than your body needs and your body has to store them and therefore, you gain weight. You want to do that in reverse. Well, you take in fewer calories than you’re eating. It was a very logical system. Unfortunately, something it didn’t take into account was that our body is always striving for homeostasis, which is a fancy way of saying balance.
Think about your body temperature, 98.6, and it doesn’t vary too much from that point. Maybe a little bit up, a little bit down, but for the most part, 98.6. There’s homeostatic mechanisms inside of our body that make sure that we stay in that very narrow range. Our metabolism is very similar. Our metabolism wants homeostasis. It wants a balance, so if we are taking in fewer calories, it says, “Okay, we don’t have as much energy coming in. Let’s cut down on the amount of energy that we’re burning.” That’s actually what we saw with The Biggest Loser study that was out just a few years ago, where they looked at participants that had taken part in The Biggest Loser program.
If there’s somebody who doesn’t know what that was or maybe in a different country watching this, the basic premise of the show was get these people who have been overweight for many years on this show, cut their calories a lot, have them exercise a lot, and it’s a race to see who can lose the most weight. It worked, right? Most of them lost weight. However, this Biggest Loser study that is now become iconic, showed that their metabolism searched for and found this new low level of homeostasis. Now, even six years after they were on the show, their metabolisms have dropped to the point where they can’t eat the same amount of calories without gaining weight.
We needed to look for a different model than the calorie model. It was effective, but as far as long term, it’s going to be challenging if weight loss is your goal. What we were overlooking was hormones. One hormone, in particular, insulin, is extremely important to our body’s ability to lose weight. Insulin is what we would call an anabolic hormone. That means that it builds up. If you have a type-one diabetic, they can’t make insulin and they can’t thrive. They can’t live it unless they have an artificial form of insulin. We want insulin in our bodies. The challenge for us is that in our modern-day society, we take in a lot of energy from our foods and we are more sedentary than we used to be.
We’re having excess energy. Well, that excess energy has to go somewhere, and that goes into storage. Some of it can go into our muscles, glycogen, so we have a quick energy source that we can pull from, but there’s more. It gets parked in the places on our body that are a ever expanding area of storage, and that is our fat cells. We found that the old ways of looking at calories had some limitations. Now we’ve come to this place in the past really, decade that it’s really taken off that weight loss, weight gain, those are hormonally-driven processes. If we can eat in a way that keeps insulin low and our blood sugar steady, so insulin stays low, then we can make some inroads into weight loss.
Ari Whitten: Got you. Let’s dig into some of the details here. In particular, going back to The Biggest Loser. You did know that people who just followed this simple calories in, calories out approach who were just put on a low-calorie diet, did in fact, lose lots of weight. The issue is the regaining. Let me put it this way. If it’s more about hormones than less about calories, why is it that the people who were in The Biggest Loser lost weight at all and why is it that in studies, we know that if you put people on low-calorie diets, they do lose weight very predictably and reliably?
I guess you’re saying calories are not that important. There’s other factors that are important too, but we do have to acknowledge that calories are at least a factor that has a large impact on body fat mass. What is the role of calories versus hormones?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Calories are important. I will get to that, but let me address what you were talking about with the study. The Biggest Loser participants did lose weight. They ate a low-calorie diet. Low-calorie diets in the research show that it’s good for longevity. There are some benefits to low-calorie diets, but the problem was that the body adapted to that. At that point, then you have to stay low-calorie or you’re going to regain weight. That was the challenge. Yes, low calorie will work, it’ll get your weight down, but your metabolism will find that new level of balance. Now you’re struggling because you don’t want to stay as low calorie, and it’s easier to gain weight. What is the role of calories? There’s a lot of people that will argue that if you get this hormone balance right, that calories don’t matter, eat to satiety.
I think there are some people that that will work for, but those people are young haven’t collected any metabolic effects that are now challenging to them. A lot of my audience is over the age of 15. We’ve been challenged by weight through these decades. Now we have some metabolic, I’ll call it metabolic debt that we’ve carried. To tell somebody who has been overweight for 30 years that they can just lose weight by eating as many calories as they want, I don’t think that they’re going to be as happy with their results. I do find that there is a balance with calories.
When I coach somebody on finding that balance, I will be the biggest one to say, counting calories is such an imperfect system. To try and get that right by just– if you’re not in the lab, how many calories exactly you need to run your body. It’s an imperfect science, but we can get closer. One thing that I like to do is figure out a person’s lean mass. Then adjust the calories so that they are eating to support their lean mass. We find that number so that they never fall below that because you want to eat enough calories to support your muscle, but you don’t necessarily have to eat that many calories to support your fat, fat is not metabolically active.
That’s one of the little tweaks that I like to look at, setting calories finding that area where your lean mass, how many calories would it take for supporting your lean mass?
Ari Whitten: Got you. I think with the idea of fat mass being regulated, there’s definitely lots of evidence to support that, but my understanding around insulin and carbs is that most of the evidence that has tested that the carbohydrate theory of obesity has really found that insulin while it is one of many different things that plays a role in fat storage, it is not the thing that regulates fat storage. For example, there’s been metabolic ward studies where they’ve put people on low fat and low carb diets, even ketogenic diets of equal calories. Despite differences in insulin, they lose the exact same amount of fat.
There’s also overfeeding studies where they put people on low fat versus low carb, high-fat studies of equal calories where you’re eating in a caloric surplus and they gain the same amounts of fat. From what I’ve seen, insulin is not a really compelling mechanism of regulating this fat thermostat that this lipostat, our body fatness. I would have no disagreements with the conclusion that refined sugar and refined carbohydrates are one of the key factors that do drive chronic overconsumption of calories and lead to fat gain, and that removing those things can absolutely drive fat loss.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Yes. Carbohydrates run the gamut. We have sugar and spinach are both what we would classify as carbohydrates. Now, I would say, there’s a difference in the way that those two foods will affect the body. Certainly, you take in sugar, it’s in its most refined form. It takes nothing for your digestive system to allow it to be absorbed into the blood and then there goes your blood sugar. Spinach, on the other hand, that is going to have to be processed, it’s got a lot of nutrients, phytonutrients things that are going to slow down the digestion. It’s got the volume to it, probably because you’re eating a good amount.
All of these things are going to help to slow the digestion. Also, it’s just not refined, it’s not going to be sugar, so you’re not going to have an influx of sugar. When we have an influx of sugar, we do get the insulin driving up at the same time and when we have all of that energy, all of that blood sugar in our system, it has to be put into storage. High blood sugar is a very inflammatory state for the body to be in. It’s not comfortable to have that high blood sugar. We do need to move that into storage as quickly as possible.
Ari Whitten: Just to play devil’s advocate, where does the fat go if you eat a bunch of fat in a meal, what happens to that?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Well, it will be broken down much slower. Insulin is a nutrient-storing hormone so it can put it into fats storage. What I have found with working with people, it seemed to be such slow digestion, that our bodies are able to run on it longer before putting it into storage. Whereas if we have a lot of sugar– and of course obviously I think any person who talks about a healthy diet are going to talk about a lack of sugar. Sugar is the diet destroyer for everyone, but when we have that, then we have to get rid of that because that is such an inflammatory state.
Ari Whitten: Got you. Okay, so certainly refined carbohydrates, refined sugars are a big problem that is driving people to gain fat and is a factor that prevents people from losing fat effectively. Is that the only factor? Is the solution just as simple as, “Go on a low carb ketogenic diet,” or is there more to the story?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Yes, keto diets have come into popularity. I do see some benefits to keto diet, but does everybody need to go into a keto diet? I don’t think so. I’ve seen it. I don’t need a ketogenic diet, but I do keep a fairly low intake of carbohydrates. Where’s the aligning there just if people are interested? There’s no overall consensus on what makes a diet low carb what makes it a diet keto, but generally what we’ll say is if you keep below 125 grams of carbs a day, you’re in the low carb range. If you go up below 50 you’re going to be putting your body in a point to where it will produce ketones because it’s not getting the glucose that it would normally use.
You were talking about low carb and is sugar the only thing? No. Anything that’s going to keep our blood sugar stabilized is what I find to be really beneficial, and for a number of reasons. You’re not going to be having to quickly get rid of that blood sugar and push it into storage. Also, it keeps your hunger and cravings under control. Anytime we can eat in a way that prevents spikes in sugar because then that’s going to drop us and that’s going to cause cravings and things of that sort, we’re going to be beneficial. What kinds of foods do that? Obviously eating a low sugar diet. Eating whole carbs that have a good fiber-to-carb ratio is important.
If we’re looking at like leafy greens, for instance, the amount of fiber that they have compared to carbohydrates oftentimes will come almost like a one to one ratio. Fiber is going to slow the digestion, it’s going to slow the rate that the food is getting broken down and going into our system that’s going to give us nice sustained energy for a long time and that’s going to be beneficial. Healthy fats, I would also include them and they wouldn’t be your whole fats. Raw nuts seeds, not ones that are cooked in our vegetable oils, which we can get into some unhealthy fats as well.
Avocados, fatty fish that’s wild-caught so we don’t have the contaminants as much to worry about. Those types of foods are going to help also because they’re not going to cause that spike in blood sugar that causes that spike in insulin and they’re going to keep our blood sugar steady. They’re going to keep us feeling satisfied for much longer. That also plays into intermittent fasting, which maybe is something that we can jump into at some point too.
Ari Whitten: Let’s go there right now. Obviously the types of food that we’re choosing, correct me if I’m wrong, you’re of the opinion that the macronutrient, the carb-to-fat ratio matters quite a bit as well as the quality of the food. Whether it’s whole food, unprocessed food versus processed food matters and the timing of the food matters. Before we get to the timing, let’s just one more layer on whole food versus processed food. What is it about whole food versus processed food that is the key factor that makes processed food more fattening than whole food?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Well, there’s many things and maybe not all of them on just fattening, but on just not being good for us. A whole food is going to have everything intact. It’s going to take a lot for our bodies to process that. When we start to refine things, we start to process them, a lot of times we’ll do things that will increase their shelf life so that they can be packaged and stay on the shelf. Things that increase shelf life or getting rid of the things that will rot. When we refine foods, we take away the parts of the grain, for instance, that will cause the food to spoil.
Unfortunately, when we do that, then that is also removing the nutrients, so we have this product that will stay on the shelf longer. It’s a processed snack or something of that sort, but it’s basically void of the nutrients that it had before. Processed foods, we’re not doing our bodies any good by eating them, they’re also going to have possibly some artificial sweeteners in them. My husband and I have done some tests on artificial sweeteners to see what they do to our blood glucose, see what they do to ketones. There are some of them that will raise our glucose.
Maltitol is a sugar alcohol and it’s used a lot of times to sweeten things up, insulin index I think is like 27. It’s glycaemic index is like 35, and what that means is that when you are ingesting it, even though it really doesn’t have any calories, it is impacting your body. It is raising blood glucose. It is raising insulin. These processed foods contain substances that are affecting us in ways that we don’t think they are but in reality they are not doing us any good.
Ari Whitten: Got you. You mentioned intermittent fasting, the timing of food. Why does that matter? Let’s answer the why first and then I want to get to what specific recommendations do you have around food timing.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Why? Here again, so I’m going to come back to the insulin, which I don’t know that we’re eye to eye on insulin. One of the things that I teach– I have this zero one, two, three strategy. The three of it stands for three hours before bed, stop eating. This kind of lends its way into intermittent fasting. Let me start with intermittent fasting. Maybe people don’t understand what it is. It’s really just a way of dividing your day between a period of eating and a period of not eating a period of fasting. Starting with this three-hour before bed rule. Well, there’s a couple of things that that will do for us.
One of the main things is that when we stop eating three hours before bed, it gives our bodies time to digest the food that is in our system. If we don’t allow for that, we have a lot of blood flow and warmth going to our core and that will interfere with our ability to sleep. Right off the bat, we’re going to be getting better sleep which is going to help with just about everything. Now intermittent fasting then if we’re going to take that a little bit further, we would postpone breakfast for a few hours of the day. One of the more popular ways to do intermittent fasting is 16/8. I actually tell people to start with 12/12. What that means is 12 hours of eating 12 hours of fasting.
Start with that, get comfortable. It’s like if you ever had a blood test and your doctor said, “Stop eating after dinner and don’t eat until you come into the office and have the blood test.” It really is not more complicated than that. Then 16/8 would be consuming all of your calories within an eight-hour window. Dr. Satchin Panda has done a lot of research in this area. He actually does a lot of mouse studies, but he’s also done some human studies. One of the most interesting ones that he has put out there, he developed a smartphone app so that he could have people very easily record how much they eat and how often they eat.
What he found was that over 50% of us are all-day grazers. Really the only time we take a break is the time we go to sleep and the time that we wake up. We also eat differently on the weekends and we get this effect of almost like traveling across time zones. Then what he did was he took eight members out of that study and he asked them to simply shorten their eating window. Now these were eight men and women that were over overweight. They were also shown from their phone app that they were eating for more than 14 hours a day.
They asked them to simply shorten their eating window to 10 to 12 hours and they followed them for 16 more weeks. They found that they lost weight. I think the average was about just over seven pounds, and they didn’t change their diet in any way. This gave some life to this idea of shortening our eating window. What we find is that it just allows us to work with our normal daily circadian rhythm, our normal metabolic rhythm. We have this circadian rhythm that’s an area in our brain that’s triggered by light. The circadian rhythm is what we give credit to for waking us up and keeping us active and then at nighttime allowing us to go back to sleep.
We also have peripheral clocks and we have these clocks inside of our organs, liver. Metabolically very important organs have these similar types of clocks. They are not triggered by light. They are triggered by our food intake. When we can shorten our number of hours that we eat in a day, we are really feeding our bodies at times when they are most able to metabolically handle that food.
Ari Whitten: Yes, absolutely. I often cite that same study as well, the one you mentioned from Satchin Panda and I think it’s a great study. They actually not only showed weight loss from shortening the feeding window, but the subjects reported improved sleep and increased energy levels at the same time. It’s pretty unusual for a weight loss intervention, something that’s effective for driving weight loss to simultaneously be improving energy levels. Oftentimes the things that drive weight loss are lower food intake diets where somebody during that weight loss phase is feeling actually more fatigued. I’m a big fan of time-restricted feeding in that way as well.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: I would say, just to add onto what you were saying. Another interesting thing of that study was that those eight that were in the intervention study, they voluntarily opted to stay on the program for another 36 weeks, I think it was, so that they could get a full year. How often do you have that? You’re asking people to make a change to their lifestyle and at the end of the study they go, “Yes, I think I’d like to keep doing that.” It really does bode well to the power of time-restricted eating which we changed to intermittent fasting.
The most effective strategies for post-menopause weight loss
Ari Whitten: The distinction between those two is somewhat blurry and debated. Sometimes people will refer to 16/8 as time-restricted feeding others as intermittent fasting. To some extent they’re interchangeable but then there’s also debate over where we should cut off that line of what constitutes time-restricted feeding versus intermittent fasting. I want to get into menopause and women post-menopause. This is a common thing where a lot of women after they go through menopause, put on weight or struggle to lose weight and the things that maybe help them stay lean in the past don’t work as well anymore.
There’s been some hormonal shifts that just tend to make fat storage a little bit easier for the body not in a good way. First of all, do you want to explain why that happens? What is the hormonal milieu of the body that’s driving fat storage? Then I would love to talk about if you have any specific strategies that you’ve found uniquely effective for helping women post-menopause.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: It’s a great question. What brings on the menopause belly fat is really where a lot of women struggle and that is after we have a drop in estrogen, we do see that it is easier to put on weight in the abdomen. A woman who might’ve been pear-shaped all her life may notice now that it’s easier to put weight on in the belly. Why is that? At least I have not come across it in the research yet. They do not know why exactly that is, but they do relate it to the drop in estrogen. Some of the things that we do see with the drop of estrogen is that when we have a suppression of the female sex hormones we have a drop in the resting energy expenditure or REE.
What that means is that when we have that drop in estrogen, it shows also that we cannot utilize as many calories as we used to. That in itself is going to cause some weight gain as well. See now I would go in the direction of also saying that as we get older, our cells become less sensitive to insulin, insulin resistance. Since insulin is that anabolic hormone that’s trying to get energy, nutrients into the cells, when we become resistant the cells don’t want to take in that energy, they’re resisting it and so we have a harder time getting that cleared out of the system, we have a higher insulin.
What’s that going to do, well, one of the things it’s going to drive cravings because our cells aren’t really getting that. The nutrients might be there, but they’re not able to see them so we can start to see that some women complain about cravings being higher at menopause. I always talk about it as we developed this perfect storm when we come to menopause as far as it creating weight gain. We have the changes in our resting energy expenditure and we have the increase in belly fat. That alone is going to contribute to insulin resistance, but just simply being of that age is also going to increase that. That can lead to weight gain and cravings.
Now we might be eating a little bit more and so we’re bringing that back around and then we have things like sleep disruption and hot flashes for women at menopause is a huge issue and we can get into that too. It might be something that’s of interest to your followers because I know a lot of women at that age group are in there and it’s a struggle for 80% of the women. That decrease in sleep is also going to make it harder for our bodies to lose weight and then we might have some poor diet issues. The fact that we just don’t exercise like we used to. We get this perfect storm.
What we have happen to lose weight then is that we have to find a way to disrupt that perfect storm and we do that by controlling the things that we can control. Really that comes down to some of the things that we’ve already talked about, your diet, intermittent fasting. Those are two areas that we do have some control over.
Ari Whitten: Got you. There’s a bunch of things I want to go into here. One, maybe I should have brought this up before around the topic of intermittent fasting, but there are some people out there and I haven’t seen any real data to support this, but there there’s a number of people out there making the claim that intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding like for example, the 16/8 pattern is not appropriate for women specifically. Some people saying that it’s okay maybe men can do this and get benefits, but for women it’s harmful. What’s your take on that?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: I’m glad you bring that up because I looked into this because I’d heard that too. There was a study in 2015. Possibly, it was fairly recent, that was published in the Journal of Mid-Life Health, I believe it was. I have this study if you want me to send it to you. It was a systematic review study and what those studies do is they look at all of the research out there and then they compile it and they have a certain question. By compiling that, then they have like all of this research to look at. They’re good studies and it was specifically looking at women, weight gain, intermittent fasting, and aging.
It was looking at all of those elements and from looking at all these studies, they found that it was across the board. It was good for intermittent fasting for women of all ages. It was good for weight loss. It was good for reduction of belly fat. There was some other elements as well and if I could remember, but I’m thinking that there was health benefits, specifically, it was possibly with cardiovascular health improvements as well. Of course, this is an unbiased study, so they’re going to be looking for the cons as well. They really couldn’t find any from the review of the literature.
Ari Whitten: In other words, it sounds like some people just made up this idea or speculated that intermittent fasting could be harmful to women and then it spread. If you think about it, you could think of a very rational reason that someone might conjure up this speculation, which is whenever you do any kind of prolonged fasting or even intermittent fasting, there’s a sizable segment of the population that is not used to that, that is metabolically unhealthy people where they’re metabolically inflexible. They can’t shift between burning carbs and fats very easily, they’re prone to hypoglycemia if they have a prolonged period without eating.
There’s going to be a sizeable segment of people that basically have a very negative reaction to fasting. I think that’s true of both men and women whether it’s the case that you could splice out some gender difference where maybe that occurs in 34% of men and 36% of women or something like that, maybe that would occur. I think it’s easy if somebody specializing in women and they’re seeing a lot of that portion of their audience, of all women reporting this effect and then say, “Well, maybe it’s, this is unique to women.” Maybe, yes, there are studies on men getting benefits from intermittent fasting.
I’m seeing so many women in my practice that are experiencing fatigue and hypoglycemia and are reporting all these negative effects from it. Maybe this is harmful. I think it’s rational that you could see that kind of speculation emerging.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: I think your use of the word speculation is it seems to be what it is. I think anytime that you have that, you do have to take it seriously and, but you do have to also turn to the research and say, “Is there something out there that’s proving that women specifically should not be doing intermittent fasting?” I haven’t come across it.
Ari Whitten: Yes, neither have I.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Yes. At this point, I feel it is safe now. There are like anything, intermittent fasting has become very well-known. A lot of people talking about it on YouTube and things of that sort. Anytime we have something like that we have people that just go all in, but there are some things that we do have to be cautious about. One thing in particular, if you’ve got a chronic disorder, a known disease, and you’re on medications that are going to influence your blood sugar, are going to influence your blood pressure you have to keep your doctor in the loop, that this is what you’re going to be doing. It is human nature; weight loss is one of those things that so many of us want to do. We hear about this being effective, and then we jump right into it, and we don’t take into account our own personal health history. We do have to have some caution there.
Hormone replacement therapy yes or no?
Ari Whitten: I want to go back to women post-menopause trying to lose weight. You’ve got this perfect storm that you explained, and interrupting that perfect storm is a key part of stimulating some fat loss. How do you do that? Do you recommend taking hormonal replacement therapy? Do you recommend herbal botanicals to optimize hormones? What’s your approach there for women on a very practical level? What do you recommend to them?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: I don’t recommend hormone replacement therapy, but I’m not against it. I think that’s a decision between the woman and her doctor. I can talk about some supplements then also. I approach it mostly from diet. I’ve actually thrown this out to the forum where I interact with a lot of women that are in menopause. Actually, I had done a video on, actually, this was for women over 60. I asked for their input because I’m 52, so I didn’t feel like well let me get their input. Their reports back to me were that keeping the healthy fats in their diet or putting them in, and that’s important for a number of reasons. Let me go off on a tangent for just a little bit.
All of our cells are surrounded by fat. Every single of the billions of cells in our body has a fatty cell membrane. That membrane needs to stay healthy, because that is how hormones are transported. They go across the cell membrane. In order to get the hormones that we need into ourselves, we have to have healthy cell membranes and that starts with good fats and getting rid of the bad fats. Just to come back on again, keeping their carbs lower. Here too, do we need to go the entire way to keto? No, I don’t find that to be the case at all.
You do need to keep healthy carbohydrates in your diet. These are your whole foods as well, nuts, seeds, avocados, greens. For me one of the things that I teach a lot is combining those healthy fats and good carbs in one particular meal a day, and that is a high fat salad. This is a central thing to my approach to dieting. I always tell people, if you don’t like salad, you just haven’t learned how to make a really good salad. A nice big bowl, I encourage women to eat a bowl that probably they would have served to their family before, but put things on there that are going to be hunger satiating, and keep your blood sugar steady so that your insulin stays steady.
Avocados, raw sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, walnuts. I will utilize a full-fat dressing fat when you’re with vegetables are going to also help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Some minerals that are that are going to be dependent on that. That’s one little trick, just a good high-fat salad. Another thing that the women in that over 60 that I found was intermittent fasting.
Ari Whitten: Got you. Just real quick, are you a fan of omnivorous diets or vegan vegetarian diets? Do you have any preference on that? For example, in that salad that you’re just describing. Do you also have a serving of a lot of protein or are you more on the low protein side?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Low protein, now a moderate protein, but I will utilize animal and plant sources.
Ari Whitten: Got you.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: I brought that up. The quality of meats runs the gamut as well. We look at certain meats that are especially are grain fed meats, they have a higher occurrence of inflammation, and that is a lot of times due to just their balance of omega-3s and omega-6s. It throws that balance out of whack where we get more of the Omega-6 and that creates inflammation. We probably don’t have time to go into inflammation, but inflammation in the body is the root of so many of our chronic problems. That goes back to our processed foods creating inflammation in the body, and that chronic state of inflammation is really the– If we’re going to cut down to the bare essence of what causes us to be unhealthy having a lot of inflammation in our body is right up there.
Ari Whitten: I want to go back to the menopause thing. You mentioned the salads, intermittent fasting, not a huge fan of hormonal replacement therapy. Are there any botanicals, herbs, things like that, that you found to help improve hormones in women post-menopause or anything that can even just mitigate symptoms like hot flashes that might disturb sleep?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Yes. I will preface this by saying that I am a supplement minimalist as much as I possibly can, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some really great supplements out there. I’m not one to jump on the bandwagon of everything. There’s got to be some evidence that it works, and some of that evidence has to be clinical. Being a woman of this age that clinical sometimes has to meet me. Let’s go down a path of hot slash supplements, and that will encompass some of the things with menopause weight gain and things of that sort.
One thing that is very easy to get, I should say is Maca powder. It’s a proven herb and it has been shown there’s research into that for a lot of the problems that women experience associated with menopause. One of them being hot flash relief. When I first started getting hot flashes that was one of the first things that I tried. I did find it to be a good level of help. The plus sides of Maca powder with hot flashes is that it’s relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to find. You can find it on Amazon. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to find it in your health food– It might depend if your grocery store would carry that or not, but it would be available online.
The challenge with it is that it’s not super effective if we’re talking just about hot flashes. It might be more for some women than others. I think it’s worth a shot, but it’s also a little bit difficult to take. It has a very unique nutty flavor and it doesn’t mix real well. I’ve found putting it into a nut milk or a cream or something like that and blending it that will help, sprinkling it on food. It does have that nutty flavor. Really to be at a therapeutic range, I believe there’s something like 3 grams per day which is not a real small amount. You have that challenge.
Then if we go to what I would say is the next step we have DHEA. DHEA is a hormone that is naturally produced in our bodies. When we have DHEA is able to then turn into estrogens and testosterone. Supplementing with that, for some women can be beneficial. Now I’ve tried DHEA before too. I would put it on this maybe a little bit more effective for reducing hormones. There’s some challenges with it. On the plus side, it’s the mill of the road. Cost-wise from the three, I’m going to be sharing here, easy to take. It’s just a tablet right in there, a pill.
The challenge with it is that dumping too much DHEA into our system, we’re dumping it at a place that can muck up the system, so to speak. So DHEA can go to testosterone or to estrogen. I question sometimes if it’s really that beneficial to be dumping it, at that place to be taking DHEA. The better option is to go upstream a little bit, and so give our body something that it can make its own natural DHEA, and that seems to work better. For me, what that has been is Tribulus. Tribulus, I believe it’s considered a weed in many places, and I have found this to be extremely effective for hot flashes, and so that’s definitely the plus side. The definite minus side of it is much more expensive. I sold on Amazon the other day for $100 for a bottle. It’s an expensive-
Ari Whitten: Really? That seems a little excessive to me.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: I think it was Amazon. I saw it on Amazon and I thought, wow, that’s very expensive. I’ll put another caveat on Tribulus, and it does grow in different places all over the world, but in order to be effective for hot flashes, it has to have Protodioscin in it and that is a very select small amounts. I think you can find Tribulus and maybe find cheaper, but it has to have Protodioscin.
Ari Whitten: So, the one that’s specifically standardized for that phytochemical is more expensive?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Well that’s my assumption, but that is the one that is going to be the most effective for hot flashes.
Ari Whitten: Got you. Anything else you want to mention here for hot flashes or that pretty much covers?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: There actually has been research on diet as well. If I can think that through. There was a study, I think it was the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, I think it was just a few years back, but they were looking at hot flashes and seeing if they could draw some conclusions with diet. What they looked at specifically where the hormones that are produced from the fat cells. We have like leptin and adiponectin, and they were looking at different levels of that, and they were looking at the severity of hot flashes in women.
They found that had the worst hot flashes, the most severe actually had higher levels of leptin and lower levels of adiponectin. I’m getting into the weeds here a little bit, but I’ll just try and do it quickly. Leptin is a hormone. I always say Leptin’s the one we like because when we have a lot of Leptin we’re not as hungry, it takes away hunger. The challenge though with Leptin is that we can become Leptin resistant, so higher levels of Leptin in your blood is not necessarily a good thing. It probably means that you’re not utilizing Leptin that well.
Ari Whitten: The other challenge is Leptin is produced by fat cells, so you got to be careful if you just say, “Hey, more is better.” The best way to get more is to have more fat.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Yes, that’s a good point. There’s definitely drawbacks there. Adiponectin is associated with low inflammation, so we want to keep that. I’m backward here. We, we want to keep that up. This study found that more severe hot flashes were associated with higher Leptin and lower Adiponectin, and they were drawing the conclusion also with insulin resistance. Their conclusion was that the more insulin resistant a woman was, the more severe their hot flashes were. There again, eating in a way– what I would say is eating in a way that’s going to keep that insulin low so that your body’s not needing to utilize that as much as is going to be beneficial.
Ari Whitten: Yes, absolutely. The last thing I want to ask you about is sugar and taste buds. I know this is potentially a big topic that you could go very in depth on, but maybe we could do just a short version of how consumption of refined sugar and processed foods trains the taste buds in a negative way, and your key tip or key tips to retrain your taste buds.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: It’s an interesting thing, but sugar is such an intense flavor that it dulls the taste buds. That’s not just something that you say. There was a study that looked to prove this connection, and what they did was that they put one group on a low sugar diet for I believe, it was three months and then they had a control group. At the end of three months after being on low sugar diet, as the study was going on, they brought these participants in every month, and they gave them sweetened pudding. After a month of being low sugar, no difference.
They both rated it the same sweetness level. At the start of the second month, the people that had been on the low sugar diet, rated the pudding much sweeter than those that were just controls. They were just eating it. What that study showed is that when we get off of sugar, we become more sensitive to sugar, and then we don’t need as much, we don’t want as much. It’s an interesting thing that the takeaway is that you can train your taste buds to not like the taste of sugar as much, but you got to hang in there for at least a month. That’s the takeaway with that we can do from that study. That is actually really a big part of my approach, and that is my zero one, two, three strategy, which your followers can certainly go get from my channel, but it’s basic-
Ari Whitten: I would love to actually wrap up with that. Like your top three strategies that you want to leave with people or four, if its zero, one, two, three. You can do a surface treatment of this if you want to send people back to your website where they can download PDF or something like that, or a video training or something that takes them through this process more in depth, feel free. But what would be your top three or four simple strategies that you want to leave people with?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: That’s zero, one, two, three, right? Four habits and it really stands, it’s a way of thinking of four habits that you can do on a daily basis, that will really take care of a lot of the core problems of a diet. Real quickly, and they can go over to Dr. Beckyfitness.com. It’s DRBECKY, just the abbreviation Dr. Beckyfitness.com, and they’ll see the free button. They can download a PDF that has these four habits on it, and then there’s also a free video series that explains how to get the most out of it. But real quickly, what the zero, one two, three stands for is zero sugar, one large salad like I mentioned earlier, two cups of cooked non-starchy vegetables, and three hours before bed stop eating.
By doing those four things, you’ve taken away the worst diet destroyer, sugar, but you’re also giving your body just an influx of volume because you’re eating a lot of vegetables and nutrients. That’s going to help with everything from getting the sugar cravings, getting the withdrawal symptoms, over with keeping you satisfied, and then three hours before bed, you stop eating. That lends itself so nicely into the beginnings of intermittent fasting. It’s a really great place to start.
I think some people it’s challenging to think, zero sugar, do I have to do that the rest of my life? I talk about that in the series and how to handle it, and how to set up short term goals. It’s a scary thing to hear, but I’ve coached many, many people to a sugar free life. I was a sugar addict, and what I like to say is I have the cavities to prove it. I live a sugar free life now. It is possible and the life on the other side of sugar is so much better.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Becky, thank you so much for your time. This was great. I really, really enjoyed it. Again, for people listening, they can go to drbeckyfitness.com and what can they get on your site? There’s some kind of free download?
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Yes, just go to the top of the website and you’ll see the word, ‘Free’. If you click on that, you’ll be able to put your name and email and you can get my download that has a nice little PDF that has the zero, one, two, three on it. You can copy it off and put it on your refrigerator, and then it has four videos too that explains how to get the most out of that strategy.
Ari Whitten: Excellent. Becky, thank you so much. Really, really enjoyed this and look forward to connecting again in the future.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy: Right. Love to. Thanks
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