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. But, then 2014 was a year of physical change for me. 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.
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I was lucky. Did you see the recent New York Times article about how hot flashes can last as long as 14 years? For two-thirds of women, hot flashes begin in perimenopause. And the earlier they start, the longer they can last. Figures.
All my symptoms are distressingly common among women my age. I wish I had prepared for them, instead of just hoping it wouldn’t happen to me. It’s so much more helpful that come up with a strategy to handle problems in advance. Here are a few things that I wish I had started doing sooner:
- Accept that your body has changed and 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. All of the sudden, that wasn’t working. And neither was low carb, intermittent fasting, strict calorie counting, you name it. I kept plugging away, but I wasn’t patient or kind with myself. I should have cut myself some slack and if you’re going through this, you should be too.
- Accept that change is stressful. I’m waking up every morning feeling like I’ve been run over by a bus and like I got 20 minutes of sleep and I’m still beating myself up because I didn’t get up early to exercise? I should have just accepted that I needed to be gentle with my body and dealt with one problem at a time.
- Buy pretty clothes in your size. I waited too long to do this. I don’t care if you do spend $200 on clothes “you will only wear for a month”. You deserve to feel pretty for that month. I’ve felt so much better about myself when I finally accepted that this was my size and I could still wear pretty clothes.
- Eat good food that’s nutritious and tastes good. And enjoy what you eat! It seems more important than ever to put good food in my body and that means not getting by on coffee and cookies like I did in my 20s, but it also means actually feeding my body and not starving it. 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. People always talk about how it only takes 200 extra calories a day and at the end of the year you’ve gained an extra 10 pounds or something. But that works in reverse as well – just cutting down a barely noticeable bit or moving just a little bit more can also add up.
Which brings me to my ultimate piece of advice:
Be Kind to Yourself. When things are changing, it’s time to hold on, I think, and not put yourself under additional stress. Just as in previous changes: puberty, pregnancy, etc., things will settle down and that’s the time to assess and move on. While the changes are happening, let’s all just be good to ourselves and get plenty of rest.
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