Turning 52 has hit me hard! Up until February I’ve been transitioning through my menopause fairly well. There have been the hot flushes, a few sleepless nights, a little weight gain… but nothing I haven’t been able to handle with the help of my trusted herbal allies, teas, infusions, tinctures, daily meditation, walking and yoga – my menopause bible, Susun Weed’s “New Menopausal Years” book… “I’ve got this” I thought… and figured I was through the worst of it – then my 52nd birthday arrived and BAM!! Weight I can’t shift, gone up a size! The first grey hairs!!! A little stiffer, a little grumpier, less patient of things, not so comfortable in my own skin… and it’s like it’s happened overnight! Where I thought I had all of this under my control, I realise I don’t. And I guess this is now the lesson! I need to follow my own advice and “own this”, allow this, surrender to this new way of being.
Weight Gain Through the Menopause
Society puts so much pressure on women to look a certain way, we expect to hang on to the shape we had in our 30’s, even our 40’s (I know I did!)… but as we move through our 50’s things change radically and they are meant to! When thin and young are the standard of beauty, any menopausal woman might find it difficult to maintain a positive self-image as she sees herself becoming a thick waisted, silver haired Crone!*
The weight gain has been the hardest for me to reconcile! Despite knowing that we are supposed to gain weight through the menopause, according to studies most healthy women gain 10 to 15 pounds during their menopausal years, seeing and feeling my body morph into something that I feel isn’t me is hard, I didn’t think it would happen to me! I exercise, I eat healthily, yet still it creeps on… actually it feels not so much of a creep as a torrent!
Every time I look in the mirror, I hear the voice of my culture in my head telling me I am fat, I need to lose weight! Fortunately I have my “menopause arsenal” of books, and I know that dieting will not help me, will not improve my health… in fact dieting at this age could even harm me! We need to lay down that 10 to 15 lbs of healthy fat, supported by healthy muscle and bone slowly, at a pound or two a year during menopause*. This is part of the next transition, of preparing your body for the next few years, and it is important that we love ourselves as our shape changes.
I’m not one for having my photo taken, and am totally guilty of putting myself down, so in the spirit of practicing what I preach, I have included a photo of me that was taken (professionally) at a witchy retreat I went on. We focused heavily on self care, and owning our power as we transitioned through life.
Why Do We Gain Weight During The Menopause?
Fat cells convert androstenedione, a substance produced by the adrenals and the ovaries, into estrone, the primary postmenopausal estrogen. Also, the aging process, as muscle mass diminishes, and is replaced with fat – genetic factors, as well as the lifestyle changes associated with this phase of life, extra demands of work, family, possibly aging parents to look after, the myriad of things that we call life that begin to pile up, added to the lack of sleep, and the emotional fluctuations that roar in as they did when we entered puberty, but somehow seem harder to deal with now we are supposed to be “grown up”!
Not every woman will gain weight, and I think this is what makes the transition harder, as we compare ourselves to others. Social media bombards us with glamourous images of those women who always look incredible and seem to have sailed through looking gorgeous! (Thank goodness for Celeste Barber for giving us a bit of reality!)
However, its not all doom and gloom! According to research, women who gain a little weight during menopause can have less severe hot flashes, an easier transition, and denser bones! Despite being told that extra fat is a health risk, weight gain during the menopausal years is not associated with any increase in mortality risk (ref;1), and losing it will not improve your health* (ref; 2 & 3)
In fact, yoyo dieting and weight loss during the menopausal years can lead to thyroid malfunction, gall bladder problems, increased insulin resistance and weakening of the cardiovascular and immune systems. I remember hearing that possibly one of the contributing factors of the actress Carrie Fisher’s heart attack was the diet that she had been following due to the pressure of trying to get slim for her last Star Wars film.
Not that I am advocating weight gain!! As with all things, balance is the key!
What Can You Do To Keep Healthy During The Menopause?
Give Up Dieting!
Eat the widest variety of wholefoods possible. Stop putting guilt trips onto yourself and beating yourself up about what you’ve eaten, don’t make any foods “bad”, or you will just crave them, and then feel guilty when you eat them. I love cake!…and wine! But I try to have days where I don’t have them, and I make my own wherever possible. Cook with as many fresh vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, herbs and spices as you can, have meat free days, try not to buy or make the bulk of your diet processed food. Eat lots of greens!
To ensure you add hormonally helpful, bone strengthening empowering fat include one serving of a high calorie phytoestrogen rich food and three servings of mineral rich foods in your daily diet;
High calorie hormone rich foods; include olives, olive oil, organic butter, freshly ground flax seeds, nuts and fresh nut butters.
Super mineral rich foods; nourishing herbal infusions of nettle, oatstraw, red clover, cooked greens such as kale, spinach, spring greens, seaweeds, whole grains including oats, millet, wheat, brown rice and dark chocolate*!
You don’t need to bust a blood vessel at the gym, but moving, and stretching your body to keep it supple and free flowing is the key. Walk in nature. Do gardening. Do weight baring strength exercises, (yoga, squats and lunges keep the joints moving and the muscles strong), lift weights (it can be tins of beans or bottles of water in your kitchen!)
Take time to go within, listen to your inner voice, learn to make friends with this emerging “baby crone”, listen to what she has to say, make time for her.
Learn To Love Yourself
Practice lots of self-care, whether that is just taking some time out for yourself with a bath, walks alone in nature, getting a massage, reading a book, taking that yoga class, learning a new skill or hobby, just do something and make time for YOU! Make sure you take time for solitude, start a journal and record how you are feeling.
Not just fiction, but books about the menopause, Susun Weed was my saviour, but also anything by Dr Christiane Northrup is amazing! (“Goddesses Never Age” and “The Wisdom of the Menopause”) Books that encourage positive self image and development.
Relax With A Treatment
There are lots of things that I can do at AuroraStar Holistic Therapies & Training to help support you through your journey through the menopause. All the holistic therapies I offer are stress relieving and help the body to heal itself gently, and there are plenty to choose from – such as a delicious hormone balancing aromatherapy massage, with or without hot stones ( which are perfect for releasing deep seated tension), reflexology and Reiki are both incredibly healing, emotionally and physically, and then there are the facials!
The Natural Lift Facial is one of the most incredible facials, that uses minimal products, although can be combined with the holistic facial and I will mix you up a personal aromatherapy blend, you will leave feeling and looking amazing, your skin rejuvenated and your lymphatic system boosted! I offer personalised combination treatments that will soothe your spirit, relax your body and calm your mind.
Using Herbal Tinctures & Infusions
I am also a hedgerow herbalist, which means I work with the plants and herbs found on our doorsteps and in the hedgerows to make nourishing and healing herbal tinctures and infusions, so I can offer much guidance and advice on finding the right things that will support you gently through the menopausal transition, and that will work for you to fit into your lifestyle.
Learn A New Skill
If its expanding your knowledge you’re after and feel you want to learn a new skill, just for fun or even want to have a career change, I offer 1 to 1 and small group training in all the holistic therapies that I do – you don’t even have to be a therapist for many of my courses, and they make a really fun day if you want to share the learning with friends or family, for example hen do’s or birthday celebrations.
If you want to develop your spiritual side, I teach Reiki up to level 3 Master teacher, as well as running meditation classes, which will help you connect with your inner self and bring about a sense of calm and balance to your life.
The menopause need not be the awful thing that society and the media have pushed us into fearing. It is a time when we can take back our power, when we can have the confidence to really know who we are, and if we don’t, then we should be allowed to explore that. In other cultures, the wise women, the crones, were honoured and venerated, the knowledge that they had amassed over the years was respected. Through a patriarchal system, we have lost that respect and power, yet that wise woman crone goddess is there within us all, waiting to be discovered, reborn. It would be an honour for me to accompany you on your journey, and walk the path to self-discovery and empowerment together! (did I mention I like cake!? 😉 )
Love and blessings,
*taken from Susun Weed “The New Menopausal Years”
Ref;1 – Wing, R.R., et al. “Weight gain at menopause” Arch Int Med. 151:97-102, 1991
Ref;2 – McCabe, Randi et al. “The Myth of Dieting: Confronting Weight Gain in Menopausal Years.” A Friend Indeed Volume XVI/2, May, 1999
Ref;3 – Ernsberger,P. “Exploding the myth: Weight loss makes you healthier” Healthy Wt J.13:4-6, 1999