Raise your hand if you feel me, sisters! I’m only 46, but my doctor told me I would go through “THE Change” early and, low and behold, I did. Man oh man, it’s a real thing and I have tried to rebel against it, but dang it if those hormonal changes just get the better of me. I can go from freezing cold to soaked with sweat faster than a hot knife through butter. I can look at a slice of bread and literally see it gravitate to my thighs like a long, lost lover. That tight, supple skin I used to have is as pliable as playdough and saggier than a deflated balloon. WTH?!! Collagen, how I miss you. I remember in my 20s when we used to pass around those “what is your favorite” lists via email and I would boldly pronounce that my favorite foods were cheese, bread, and pasta. Ahhhhh! I just broke out in hives typing that! Oh, and my coffee. How I ADORED my coffee with one and a half teaspoons of raw sugar and enough creamer to make my status as a true coffee drinker questionable. Those days had to go too. Oh, the simple pleasures that pre-menopause metabolism, estrogen, and a greater muscle mass allowed . . . Those were good times.
Whether you are already here in this lovely phase of life with me, in the perimenopause stage of prepping for the fun times ahead, still enjoying the premenopausal life of luxury, or the significant other of a woman on the menopausal struggle bus, you need to know what it’s like for us menopausal peeps. I’m a fitness trainer and I will have to admit that I feel even more of a need to be on my game and “together” when it comes to leading a healthy, balanced, active lifestyle. But, good grief, it is SO MUCH HARDER than it used to be. That is just the hard, cold truth. It SUCKS!
What I realized after a while was that I took my fitness and health for granted. It actually was kind of easy for me. As a fitness instructor and avid runner, I taught a bunch of classes, ran a bunch of miles, ate fairly healthy, and could easily keep my weight in check. Easy, right? Eat right and exercise and you are golden. Well . . . until menopause that is. It’s not enough. Well, it’s not enough to maintain exactly where you were pre-menopause. So, there’s that. Dang it! But, I WANT to be the pre-menopausal version of myself—with svelte arms, tight legs, 20 pounds lighter and my froo froo coffee in hand. WAAAAH! But, with the hormonal changes of estrogen, collagen, and cortisol and the depletion of muscle mass, it’s just not realistic no matter how I long for the “good ole’ days.” My body’s composition has changed. There are hormonal changes that affect fat distribution, sleep, skin elasticity, concentration, mood, libido and so much more. It is part of the aging process and unavoidable. And for the umpteenth time, it SUCKS!
So, do we throw up our hands and surrender? Hell no! Do we revamp our strategies for fighting this uphill battle? Hell yes! Do we wish for the younger version of ourselves? Well… you may have heard this before: “You can wish in one hand and pee in the other and see which one fills up first.” Our brain-space can be better used thinking about how we plan to wage war on the loss of muscle and gain of fat. Digging our heels in and burying our head in the sand to reality will just make us miserable. We can fight the good fight and still face reality. As I enter (because “embrace” would be pushing it) this next phase of life, here’s my battle plan:
- I will continue to build a healthy relationship with food appropriate for my age. That means: a) I have to eat less than I used to eat. b) I will not eat air only. c) I will treat “TREATS” as treats and not fuel. (Yes, that does include wine. “sniff sniff”) d) I will not DIET but I will continue to evolve the way I fuel as I learn more about what is appropriate for my age, body, and activity level. e) I will take full responsibility when I don’t do the above and recognize that the negative effects will take longer to overcome than “back in the day” when I could ramp it up for a few weeks and drop those pounds faster than a speeding ticket.
- I will never stop strength training. After the age of 50, we typically lose 5 to 10 pounds of muscle tissue every decade. This muscle loss is associated with bone loss, physical dysfunction, slower metabolism, and fat gain. YIKES! I’m not letting that happen if I can reverse these degenerative processes by pumping some iron. I had a client who REVERSED her osteoporosis when she started strength training. For real! Her doctors were amazed!
- I will keep my focus on holistic health rather than one tiny piece of the equation. Balance is the name of the game. Honing in on weight loss, exercise, mental health, or spiritual health each alone will not make me the best version of myself. They are all crucial pieces of the equation and together will move me past the frustration that I know will continue to creep in, if allowed. I will listen to the perspectives of those around me who can see me where I cannot see myself. We need those other view-points, you know—especially when feeling alone in this new phase of life and maybe even a bit washed up and shriveled dry.
So, listen up all you young whippersnappers. It’s never too soon to start the prep for battle! I suggest now rather than later! To our support personnel: We need your cheers and encouragement and mostly your understanding. And to all my sisters in this menopausal suckfest, WE’VE GOT THIS!
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