Our menopausal bodies are going through almost as many changes now as they did during puberty. Here’s how to love your body during menopause and give yourself – and your body – all the support you need as you go through the changes of perimenopause and menopause.
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This is part of an on-going series on Midlife Rambler, Real Talk about Menopause. Too many of us (including myself) don’t fully understand what’s happening and don’t know where to go to for accurate information. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice but I’m hoping to provide some of the information I wish I had known when I went through menopause and give you some resources to check out if you want to learn more.
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, boom.
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 my last period — 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.
What Does it Mean to Love Your Body During Menopause?
You don’t have to wake up in the morning, admire yourself in the mirror and give yourself a thumbs up before heading out the door. Loving your body during menopause just means treating yourself gently and avoiding any negative self-talk you may be find yourself being tempted to engage in.
Here are some other ways to show your body a bit of love during this time.
Understand That Your Body is Changing
Your body is changing, just as it did during puberty, and you need to get to know it again.
For example, my weight pretty much stayed the same during my adult life. If it did creep up, I increased my running and just generally cut back on what I ate. Suddenly, I’m gaining a pound or two every time I go on vacation and I can’t lose it when I come home. Over a two year period, I put on 20 pounds to go along with the 10 pounds that originally caused me so much distress.
It took me a while, but I eventually found a way of eating and working out that helped me maintain my body weight. It also took me a while to overcome the frustration and impatience I felt with my body. I think it’s interesting to note that I didn’t start losing weight until I finally started accepting my situation and started exercising for fun and health as opposed to strictly weight loss.
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!