Before I hit my late forties, I hadn’t really given the menopause a second thought. Well, why should I have? Like most of us, I’d been dealing with fluctuating hormones throughout my life – mostly making their mark during adolescence and pregnancy – spots, weight-gain, crazy PMT and haywire hair. That was just a few of the symptoms – annoying – yes – but dealable? I’d say so. Hormonal hiccups in my health – physical and mental. But not major problems, so I wasn’t expecting anything untoward from the menopause. Haha – cue bellowing laugh from Mother Nature who cruelly raised an eyebrow and said, “Hormonal hiccup? Ok, Little Miss Sunshine, let’s see how you fare with a hormonal hurricane!”
And that’s when I realised that the menopause was something bigger than I’d ever had to deal with when it came to how I felt – and to some extent – how I looked. I had to stop sticking my fingers in my ears, shaking my head shouting blah blah blah at symptoms that were coming thick and fast and finally own up to it. Things were about to change and I was going to have to face it. Seeing that I’m a lover not a fighter, I didn’t want to get involved in any violence with Mother Nature (or Mother F**k*r as I felt she really should be termed) even though her behaviour was quite deplorable. Instead, I set about calming things down. Here’s what I discovered…
We are all in the is together. So, don’t be fooled – nobody is immune to the ravages of the menopause – even if you’re lucky enough to have mild symptoms, there WILL be some symptoms. So, when you’re among a group of friends who are discussing their experiences with the big M, please don’t be the kind of woman who smiles and says, “I hardly noticed it. It was just how I found giving birth really – quite simple if you took a few deep breaths every now and then and chanted OMM NOMM MAAAA a few times.” NO! Have a little sympathy for those beetroot faced women around you who are dripping buckets and stripping off mid-winter and panting ‘ooh, mild for this time of year isn’t it’ . Discuss, offer suggestions, sympathise and share. We can help each other more than you know!
You are not going mad – even though it feels like it. Have you ever looked up the symptoms of menopause. It’s long. And I didn’t realise until I started becoming embarrassingly forgetful and anxious, that menopause affects your mental and emotional wellbeing as well as your physical wellbeing. Don’t be ashamed or worried about going to your doctor if you feel that things are a bit out of synch – even if you can’t quite put your finger on what it is that feels out of kilter. Just having an understanding ear to listen to you can make you feel better. And if your doctor isn’t very clued up on the menopause, start searching the internet and book shelves at the library or on Amazon – there is a lot of help out there. I will list some great reads at the end of this post that are a great source of advice and menopause knowledge. Also, don’t be fobbed off with a GP that isn’t really interested and insists you’re just ‘a bit depressed’ if you don’t think that’s it. Get some blood tests done and see where you’re at with those levels and push for the help you need – you are not a nuisance you are deserving of help if you need it.
Your body shape may suddenly change. I noticed that even though I have a wide trunk (and tree trunk legs too – I am a tree!) No, seriously, even though my legs could hardly be called thin – my shape seems to have changed and my legs are actually looking slimmer than they did (it’s a bit of a lucky illusion) as most of my fat has collected around the middle. Even though I’ve never had much of a waist, a decline in oestrogen has just helped to add more bulges to my barrel as it causes cells in the stomach area to hang on to fat. Cruelly, it also reduces the body’s ability to burn fat and it is said that most women can expect to gain between 5 to 10 pounds during menopause. Fun. So, prepare for those body changes!
You can still feel good about yourself! I know the above may make if seem as if it’s all doom and gloom once you hit hormone hell but it really isn’t – well, it doesn’t have to be. You see, once you make a concerted effort to try and deal with how you are looking and feeling, you will start to feel better just by making inroads into looking after yourself. There are a lot of women out there of 40, 50 and beyond who are regulars at the gym and will pooh pooh the idea that menopause means weight gain – and I bow down to their determination, I really do. If hitting the gym a zillion times a week works for you and your body and wellbeing then go for it! It’s great and a real inspiration (I’m looking at you, fabulous Tracey at FaceUpBeauty) If you’re on Instagram, please head over to @FaceUpFitness and check out Tracey’s amazing workouts. I don’t choose to go mad at the gym but I really do know that keeping on top of my wellbeing, is more essential than ever. So do what I try to do and incorporate exercise into your life – whether walking, running, swimming, joining the gym or dancing. Do whatever activity you love as often as you can and it will help boost your mood, clear your mind and it’ll also go a long way to preventing brittle bones and osteoporosis – which menopause makes us more prone to. And if you find you love working out, who knows, you could get into better shape than you’ve ever been – it isn’t impossible. Have you seen the amount of strong, flexible over 50 bodies there are over on Instagram. Wow. Don’t let those images make you feel bad about yourself – you don’t have to look like that or want to look like that, but getting older is never an excuse to let yourself go. Just go for moderation in all things as much as you can 🙂
Talking of an expanding waist line, we’ve all heard the term ‘wine belt’ – that roll of fat around the middle that might just be caused by what you’ve been drinking as well as eating, If you’re a pint of Pinot girl (and I can’t lie, I’m with you on that one) then you might want to listen to some great advice from fellow ‘menopause and mid-life doesn’t have to suck’ supporter, Dr Louise Wiseman. Louise and I often banter back and forth on social media, offering our thoughts and advice about what can make us feel and look great as we age and I have been watching her progress as she vociferously researches some amazing health, beauty and wellbeing information for her upcoming book – so excited to read it! Louise believes if we really want to see improvements in the size of our stomachs, then we really need to think about cutting out – or drastically cutting down – on our alcohol intake (stop crying and grow up!). She says,
“Although alcohol speeds up metabolism of some enzymes in the liver, it can generally downgrade the metabolism in the days that follow a drinking session, so it is no good for weight loss and your general feeling of wellbeing.”
Louise also believes that apart from greatly contributing to weight gain, alcohol can increase many menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and anxiety as a result of vitamin and mineral deficiency that can arise indirectly from excess alcohol intake, and from its detrimental effect on sleep patterns and temperature regulation, recommending we cut out alcohol for 3-4 days a week to start seeing overall body and wellbeing improvements. Follow Louise on Instagram at @drlouisewrites and Twitter @drlouisewriting for amazing tips and informative health/beauty advice.
It’s a natural beginning in your life. Just as one part of your life might be coming to end with menopause – the childbirth years are over – now can be liberating and it is a brilliant time to start thinking of the future and what you want to do with all the vital years still ahead of you! Foggy brain, wobbly belly and hot flushes, mood swings etc…can be really scary when you’re not sure what exactly is happening with your body. But once you get informed, start researching ways you can help yourself – and there really are loads – then it can be exciting. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be middle aged and even though I wouldn’t say no to wrinkle free skin and a firm, taut bum and thighs, I’m looking forward to the next 50 years!
As promised, click on the links below for information on menopause health, beauty and emotional and physical wellbeing. And let me know if there’s any brilliant tips you’ve come across too!
- Julie Dennis – The Menopause Coach
- Hot Flush – Love this fab blog!
- The Good Menopause Guide by Liz Earle – great insightful guide to keeping us naturally healthy
- My Menopause Doctor
- Meg’s Menopause – Meg Matthew’s fabulously frank account of her own menopause experience and lots of interesting features and research.