I have lots of really cute clothes. They used to live in my closet, hanging prettily on their hangers, inspiring guilty self confidence (as in, “I shouldn’t find my sense of self worth in my wardrobe, but my god, I look great in that dress!”). Unfortunately, my closet is a little bare right now. Most of my most beloved outfits are now packed away in plastic bins in hopes that I will one day fit into them again.
I’ve struggled with weight all my life. I essentially starved my way to a 45 pound weight loss in my junior year of high school, in an effort to support my growing interest in dance (and boys). I didn’t go about it in a healthy way, but I got thin and I danced through high school and college, went on to teach aerobics (it was the ’80s, so lycra and leg warmers were HOT), and eventually became a trainer. With regular exercise and fairly good nutrition (on weekdays anyway), I was able to keep my weight in check. Even after three pregnancies, gaining 45 pounds with each one (45 seems to be my magic number …), I was able to get back to a size I felt happy with. Until I hit the age of 48. That’s when I started having to buy those plastic bins …
Along with my thickening waistline and the menopot that seemed to appear overnight, I “enjoyed” hot flashes, night sweats and middle age acne. My periods became irregular and my breasts felt sore during PMS, just like they did when I was a teenager. Yup. Menopause. Or perimenopause, to be precise. That’s cool! I can accept getting older, and I actually celebrate losing my fertility (3 kids are ENOUGH). But I cannot (will not) accept losing all those fabulous dresses and butt-enhancing jeans to imbalanced hormones. Not without a fight, anyway. And this time, the fight must be won with an educated, healthy, sustainable strategy.
The first step to weight control during perimenopause is an understanding of what it is exactly. Perimenopause is the stage in which a woman’s body starts closing up shop in the reproduction department. Our ovaries start producing less and less estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, causing hormonal imbalance, which in turn causes mood swings, hot flashes, acne, night sweats, weight gain (particularly around the midsection), irregular periods, brain fog, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, low libido, and a host of other perimenopausal symptoms. Oh it’s a party all right!
Perimenopause can begin as early as 38 years old and as late as 60. It can last a year to a decade (ugh!) in length, and the symptoms can increase and decrease depending on all kinds of factors, including stress level, nutrition, general fitness, sleep habits, etc. You hit menopause when you’ve gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
So back to my shrinking wardrobe (ha!) … Look, it’s perfectly normal to gain a little weight as you get older. As long as you eat healthfully, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and manage your stress, you have a good chance at maintaining good health – just in bigger pants. And those pants can be fabulous, by the way!
If you’re like me though, pining for the clothes in the plastic bins, we have some adjustments to make. We just do. Small, consistent, do-able modifications that add up to significant change. We’ll look at nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management. You may be surprised at some of the recommendations. Stay tuned for specifics!