Over the past year, I feel as if my metabolism has ground to a halt. I’ve been in relative denial for awhile, but I think that as I approach my 49th birthday, it’s safe to say that I have entered menopause.
According to this article:
Menopause occurs when a woman stops having menstrual periods. This is caused by a decrease in the production of hormones, resulting in fewer periods. Many women have irregular periods before completely stopping menstruation. For most, menopause occurs during the 40s to 50s, with the average age being 51. In addition to the end of menstruation, menopause can cause symptoms of hot flashes, fatigue, depression and irritability, weight gain, a decrease in sexual interest, night sweats and insomnia.
The years preceding menopause show a decline in metabolism, often resulting in weight gain. Women gain approximately one pound per year during this time. The distribution of weight changes for a woman during menopause as well, accumulating around the abdomen as belly fat, as opposed to the hips and thighs. This leads to a body figure that is more of an apple shape, compared to the pear shape of some younger women.
My symptoms pretty much check out. I haven’t had a period since January. I realize that it’s not over officially until a year has gone by, but nine months of no period (and no baby) has made me fairly confident that it’s over. I’m experiencing moments through the day when I spontaneously heat up from the inside and break into a sweat. I’m not more tired than usual, but I’m not in a happy place and I feel pretty irritable (what about weepy? does that happen too?).
Though I don’t weigh myself, judging by the way my clothes feel, I’m either the same (with some redistribution) or a bit heavier than I was in January. It’s gathering around the middle a bit more than in the past. I won’t comment on my level of sexual interest other than to say I’ve lost my usual mojo over the past little while. I thought it was just that I’ve got a thousand things on my plate right now (that’s my hope). Night sweats and insomnia: check, check.
So what to do? I’ve had people suggest hormone treatments to deal with the hot flashes and night sweats. I’ve been loathe to mess with my hormones up until now. But when I see my doctor in October I may have a chat about options.
I’ve read the standard fare recommendation of eating less and moving more. The article ended with this pep talk:
Remember, successful weight loss at any stage of life requires permanent changes in diet and exercise habits. Take a brisk walk every day. Try a yoga class. Swap cookies for fresh fruit. Split restaurant meals with a friend. Commit to the changes and enjoy a healthier you!
And it just made me sad.
I’ve probably never had a healthier lifestyle than I do now. Our “fittest by fifty” project has really helped me develop new healthy habits. If I was any more active I’d have to cut corners on sleep, work, or family time. Every day I run or walk or swim or ride my bike or some combination of those things. I train with weights twice a week — heavy weights. I do yoga at least 3 times a week most weeks.
If I was doing all these things to lose weight, I’d have quit by now.
The other day there was that Matt Stone post, “Never Exercise to Lose Weight.” He says:
Exercise is great. It’s probably the single best quality of life enhancer, especially for older people, of any health practice. Do it for fun. Do it because a day that includes a hike, a swim, some hoops, some Frisbee, or some weightlifting is always better than a day of complete and total couch surfing. Do it to master new skills. Do it so you can walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air. Do it so you can play sports and have fun. Do it, ultimately, because it makes your life better and fuller. You will do a lot more of it if it’s recreational. No motivation required.
I like this. I like how he adds that “especially for older people,” being active is an excellent quality of life enhancer. Since it looks, from all that I’ve read, that a slower metabolism is an inevitable part of menopause, I’m relieved and pleased that I’ve found other reasons to be active.
And all those things I’m doing really are improving my quality of life as I enter into those crucial decades where you can’t get by on the luck of youth anymore. Apparently, women who reach menopause tend to exercise less than other women. That’s is consistent with what Sam talked about in her post about aging as a lifestyle choice. There, she drew attention to research that said that recent research shows that we age because we slow down, not the other way around.
So even though my metabolism has decided to retire early, I don’t have slow down along with it. I had a great time at the gym this morning, working up a sweat in the weight room and then going for probably my last swim before the triathlon on Sunday. Now I need to hop on my bike and ride up to campus.