How to Love Yourself – and Your Changing Body – During Perimenopause and Menopause

How to Love Yourself – and Your Changing Body – During Perimenopause and Menopause

Our midlife bodies are going through as many changes as they did during puberty. Here’s how to give yourself – and your midlife body – all the love you need as you go through the changes of perimenopause and menopause.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

I thought I was going to sail through menopause. I had zero perimenopause symptoms and it wasn’t until a full year after menopause that I began having issues. And then, 2014 happened. I put on ten pounds in two months and I couldn’t lose it. I was always the slowest runner ever and then suddenly, I couldn’t run at all without feeling like I was running through mud and my heart rate skyrocketing up to dangerous levels. My teeth hurt. I couldn’t sleep. And, finally — a full year after menopause — I started having hot flashes. I really thought that I, alone, would miss out on those.

Perimenopause and menopause can be a traumatic time for women. We can start to feel betrayed by the body that we thought we knew so well after all these years. It’s normal and natural to feel frustrated and even a little angry. I know I did. But if we can remember to show ourselves – and our changing bodies – some love, we’ll feel happier and calmer and have an easier transition during menopause.

Here are some things to remember and some things you can be doing as you go through the transition of menopause.

Accept that your body is changing and that you need to get to know it again

I never really did well on formal “diets” in my former life. If I needed to lose weight, I increased my running – a lot – and just generally cut back on what I ate. Suddenly, that wasn’t working.

It took me a while, but I eventually found a way of eating and working out that helped me maintain my body weight. (More about that in an upcoming post.) It also took me a while to overcome the frustration and impatience I felt with my body. I kept plugging away, but I wasn’t kind to myself. I should have cut myself some slack and if you’re going through this, you should do the same.

Listen to Your Body

During the peak of my menopausal symptoms, I woke up every morning feeling like I’d been hit by a bus and like I’d gotten only 20 minutes of sleep and yet I still felt like I had failed because I hadn’t gotten up at 5:00 a.m. exercise.

My body was telling me quite clearly that it needed some extra rest at the moment and here I was trying to force it to forego sleep to exercise. My mood – and my energy levels – improved considerably once I started giving my body the rest it needed at that moment.

Stunning woman in Moroccan swimming pool

Buy Pretty Clothes in Your Size

I waited far too long to do this because I was always so sure that I’d be back to my “real weight” in a month or two. I finally gave in and bought a few outfits that actually fit and found that my self-esteem and happiness improved immensely when the tight waistband on my pants wasn’t constantly reminding me that I’d put on weight.

You can still feel pretty and look attractive even if you’ve put on a few extra pounds. What’s more, you deserve to feel good about yourself. Dress yourself like you love yourself!

Focus on Nutrition, not Calories

My body is telling me quite clearly I can no longer get by on coffee and cookies as I did in my 20s. It wants food – real food – and it gets quite grumpy without it.

I’ve learned to listen to my body and what it’s been telling me is that high calorie, sugary foods make me feel bloated and a little sick 30 minutes later, but really healthy foods, like a salad with oil and vinegar and some protein, can give me increased energy. It’s really important to me to get a lot of fiber these days so I’ve been eating – and enjoying – a ton of beans.

I see so many women at my office making meals out cereal bars and it makes me sad. If a cereal bar does it for you, that’s great, but if you’re going to be hungry an hour later, then feed your body something that satisfies it and tells it thanks for being there for you.

Which brings me to my ultimate piece of advice:

Be Patient and Kind to Yourself

When things are changing, it’s time to hold on, I think, and not put yourself under additional stress. This may be the time for you to focus on self-care and self-love and to learn how to handle your most annoying menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and decreased sleep rather than trying to lose some weight just now.

Just as in previous changes: puberty, pregnancy, etc., things will settle down and that’s the time to assess and move on. If you feel like your body is doing something new every day, this might be the time to rest and relax and let it get used to your new normal.

Reach out to your doctor for advice on handling your menopausal symptoms and give yourself a little bit of self-care. Your body is working hard these days!

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21 Comments

  1. March 14, 2016 / 11:28 am

    You speak loads of truth in this post!!
    And especially don’t wait to buy clothes….they CAN make you feel better about yourself!! My pet peeve is hearing, I’m not going shopping until I lose (this much) weight! Why….no one else knows what size you’re wearing? It’s crazy thinking and I’m glad to hear you tell your side! jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Katy
      March 14, 2016 / 11:31 am

      I did that way too long Jodie and you’re so right, it makes me feel so much better about myself to see myself in pretty clothes.

  2. March 14, 2016 / 12:52 pm

    It’s great to have you back, Katy! You impart some great advice…I was one of the relatively lucky ones in terms of hot flashes (they subsided after just a few years, and were always fairly intermittent). The weight gain and inability to lose it easily really is frustrating, but we really do need to cut ourselves some slack. As long as we eat healthfully, keep moving and treat our bodies with love and care, well, isn’t that what it’s all about? We’ve come too far in this life to live in deprivation!

    • Katy
      March 14, 2016 / 12:58 pm

      So true, Roxanne. I look at those Oprah Weight Watchers commercials and wish she would just cut herself a break and enjoy life.

  3. March 14, 2016 / 1:24 pm

    Yes, lots of unexpected changes during menopause. I’ve been lucky with the hot flashes, but not so much in other areas. I think menopause kicked my thyroid to the curb. But it’s better now. I am a big believer in supplements too….and B-12 supplements help me with energy. Fruit has been helping me too.

    • Katy
      March 14, 2016 / 3:48 pm

      I’ve heard great things about b12 supplements. I’ll have to give them a try!

  4. March 14, 2016 / 5:29 pm

    I think I had hot flashes for 10 years… and I always could lose a couple pounds by just eating better for a few days…I can eat better, exercise, walk a few miles and actually put on weight now…but I keep doing all of it anyway…I am embracing my new 60something body, but its a little harder to embrace these days…good luck!

  5. March 15, 2016 / 10:38 am

    Oh my gosh, that’s so true. Yes, mine have lasted for ages it seems. I love all of your bullet points. Accepting things you really cannot change is so very important. Fortunately, there are some things we can do to help us along this road. I really appreciate posts like yours that continue to bring us awareness.

    • Katy
      March 15, 2016 / 12:13 pm

      Thanks Carolann!

  6. March 16, 2016 / 10:54 am

    Love what you said about buying clothes, Katy. I started doing that and feel much better about myself, rather than waiting to lose the weight I’ve put on.
    Sharing your post. So many women need to read this.

    • Katy
      March 17, 2016 / 11:08 am

      Thanks Corinne! You’re so right – we all deserve pretty clothes!

  7. Laura
    March 19, 2016 / 10:08 am

    It is so great to read your posts-they provide extra affirmation or confirmation that the thoughts, fears, and changes I am going through at my age are shared by others. Thanks Katy!
    My self image has been tied to the way I look for most of my life, but I am finally understanding there is way more to me than my extra pounds. I have decided to eat healthy, but eat what I want, stop when I get full, and exercise every day. I will not go on a formal diet an longer!
    I still have hot flashes, and unfortunately they usually occur at work at the most inopportune times. I still get embarrassed, but I am learning to just say something funny instead of trying to ignore the fact that an intense red flush is creeping up my neck and face.

  8. March 21, 2016 / 1:05 am

    Great points, especially to be kind and gentle to yourself. I’m not there yet but the ever growing menopot across my middle is increasing. And the whole no sleep thing. I’m trying not to beat myself up!

  9. Jenny
    December 21, 2016 / 7:11 pm

    Thank you!!!

  10. February 17, 2017 / 9:04 pm

    Of all the changes, being kind to myself has been the toughest… or the no sleep thing. No maybe its the spreading middle. No, definitively being kind.

    • Katy
      February 18, 2017 / 12:34 am

      Being kind to ourselves seems to be something we all struggle with! Although the no sleep thing is definitely a challenge. I’m writing this in the middle of the night right now! Thank God for the internet!

  11. April 21, 2017 / 6:16 am

    Thank you! All of this! Safety in numbers – thank you for making me stop feeling like it is only happening to me. I too sailed through menopause but now have to work very hard to stay on top of the late symptoms I am getting at 61. Exercise and lots of raw fresh vegetable juice helps me.

    • Katy
      April 21, 2017 / 8:35 am

      Thanks for commenting Gilly!

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