Yesterday I shared a personal social media post about my experience managing the symptoms of premenopausal, peri-menopause and menopause. What at times has felt like ‘surviving menopause’. I was motivated to share these experiences because I’m finally able to share my successes and what feels like ‘almost through’ this journey, this change of life for a woman. Frankly, it is finally feeling liberating. But I am mostly motivated to share to raise awareness that symptoms can begin as early (for some) as age 35 and if I had a better understanding 4 years ago, my journey would have been easier.
Warning: this article is intended for the 40+ women – guys stop reading now unless you’re wanting a better understanding for yourself.
Please note, I am not a medical profession. I am simply sharing my personal experience through these events. Please make sure you consult your trusted medical professional before adopting any strategies I share here.
I am celebrating at age 49 finally returning to the body weight and shape I was at 45. This photo was taken around the time of my 45th birthday:
I have been fortunate to have always enjoyed being active with fitness being an important value for me; something I have always been conscious of and an active participant. However, the only time I have really had any real weight gain issues or frustrations was after giving birth to my son, and that was to be expected.
Although I had been warned that during menopause for women, it can lead to weight gain issues, I never expected to experience any menopause symptoms until well into my 50s. But, shortly after my 45th birthday, I began putting on unexplained weight gain around my waistline as I had never experienced before. In addition, I had crazy, grumpy moods where they felt like an out of body experience, I could see myself reacting but it was like I couldn’t control them. Really awful. Fortunately, in the last couple of years my son has graciously said to me: ‘Mum as I’m going through a hormonal change in adolescence, you’re experiencing the same but at the other end of life’. Love it, from the mouth of babes.
Self Conscious Body Image
Since my 20s, I have prided myself in being fit and feeling confident enough to wear a bikini but it was the summer I was 46, 47 and 48 where I became far more self-conscious and less confident wearing a bikini, it was like returning to the days of poor body image in my teens. Spraining my ankle in 2017 didn’t help matters either and that experience too shocked me of how much confidence I lost from not being able to exercise regularly for 2 months. It really is important to stay active and keep moving the body, it affects your mind and soul.
In 2016 I was continually blaming my small business stress for my moods and feelings of not coping, but this reason didn’t really explain the unexpected and specific weight gain, vaginal dryness and changes in my breasts. Plus initially, instead of hot flushes, I began feeling faint, like I was going to collapse whenever I was in a cocktail style function situation. This was incredibly stressful because I ran a networking business at the time. It’s amazing how rapidly you can lose your confidence if you don’t believe you will continue to remain standing in a networking room!
“Menopause, after all, is not a disease’. It goes onto observe that ‘Women in many other cultures appear to make this transition without all the problems.’
But at the time when I first read this book, I didn’t think I was anywhere near menopause. My doctor suggested I read it in case I was experiencing premenopause. She also understood that I was not interested in chemicals or synthetic hormones to treat the symptoms if and when they happened.
But before continuing, here are some helpful definitions:
“You will know that the menopause has taken place if you have not had any menstrual bleeding for 12 months.” https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/menopause
PeriMenopause the phase leading into menopause “when hormones and brains signals to the ovaries are fluctuating” https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/difference-perimenopause
“During perimenopause, you will start to experience symptoms of menopause (for example, changes in period cycle, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, or mood swings)”: https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/difference-perimenopause
Premenopause “is when you have no symptoms of going through perimenopause or menopause.” https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/difference-perimenopause
My experience Surviving Menopause
Although I read the majority of the book, I still didn’t think it really applied to me, I was too young, I was 46! But what did sink in, after doing some research, as I needed to make some BIG changes to my lifestyle? I needed to reduce stress immediately and focus on increasing my health, fitness and overall wellbeing. This lead to a very difficult decision to close my business at the end of 2017.
During the same year, a close friend of mine suggested I go get my hormones levels checked again. My body was pretty much no longer producing progesterone, this then leads to me using a natural Progesterone creme prescribed from my doctor. Plus continuing (and improving) my commitment to a better lifestyle.
Much of what I will share in the remainder of this article will focus on the latter, what worked for me. However, we are all unique and I encourage you to simply use my story as a guide, as motivation to find what will support and assist you to ease through this ‘change of life’.
I used the creme from my doctor for about 6 months, and initially, it helped a great deal. However, when it ran out I preferred to keep working on what was helping with my lifestyle choices. This was my personal decision and therefore please discuss this with your own health professional to decide what is right for you.
So what is working for me?
How have I been able to lose 7.5kgs since August 2018? When since March 2014 I had been putting on weight no matter what I did, even regular exercise!
- Learnt to be much more gentle on me mentally, emotionally and physically. This has been much easier since moving house to an area that is ‘much more me’. I know that may sound funny in the context of this article but I am simply much happier overall and therefore everything is easier.
- Manage my stress levels. Mainly by focusing on my sleep patterns. Making sure I get enough sleep. Sleep often undervalued in today’s fast-paced world.
- I adopted a low carb diet but committed to it. This also means a low sugar and low alcohol diet too. I follow a version that works for my body. I have followed ‘set menus’ but often put on even more weight. Instead, I have researched some of the basic principles and I use what feels right for my body.
- I meditate every day. Sometimes this may be for only 5 or 10 minutes but even this makes a difference.
- I practice yoga at home for between 20 to 30minutes about 3 times per week. My body isn’t 20 anymore so I don’t work out as I did in my 20s. I follow routines by a female yogi that understands the needs of a woman’s body at different stages of life by setting different levels for most of her poses. And you know you can be on the lowest level if your body is just feeling at that level for a day. Work at where you are at, not where you think you should be. Every bit counts. Since adopting this approach, my body shape has changed greatly in a positive way.
- I walk and swim for fitness as much as my work/life routine allows. This normally is about 3 to 5 times per week.
- I have regular alcohol free days. At one point, I reduced how much alcohol I was drinking overall but was having a few alcohol free days. My body seems to really thrive on no alcohol for several days in a row. Like it needs that time to get rid of the toxins and sugar in my body.
Pretty much that is it. That is what is working for me. It has been a journey that has evolved over the past 4 years. I am delighted I’m 2.5 kgs now off my ideal weight (much closer than 10 kgs at the beginning of 2018) and I almost fit into this dress again. At least I can get the zip up halfway now rather than not at all!!
Please do share your own experiences and successes in the comments below.
Because the more we as women share our experiences on topics such as these, the more we can support and make it easier for other women when they too experience this right of passage of the change of life. Into now, what feels like for me, a much more Wonder Woman stage of life:
“Wonder Woman is not a fictional character. It is a Mindset” Author unknown
(I am researching the author and also permission to use a great image for this quote)