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.
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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.
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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