Perched on my doctor’s table, I mumble something about ovaries.
“Yes, you get them from your ovaries, your adrenal system and fats. So, when your hormones drop during menopause and maybe there is an imbalance in your adrenals, your body starts storing fat trying to balance things out. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Anyhow, you are not menopausal yet so let’s talk about what you can do in the meantime”.
At 51, I have reached the median age when women enter menopause, and I am approaching this milestone with a mixture of dread, denial and compulsive research.
My ob-gyn, much less patient and indulgent than my GP, when I asked her what I should do once I entered menopause, looked at me with surprise in her eyes and said “As I am not recommending Hormone Replacement Therapy, you will have to deal”. Well, yes, thank you, I get it, like the millions of women before me, since the beginning of time. But I like to feel in control.
For someone who never wanted children, I am surprisingly attached to that time of the month. From the Sunday afternoon, age 13, when my mother handed me a wad of cotton wool as all the pharmacies were closed and she didn’t think I could handle a tampon, I have always taken it in my stride, never ashamed of it: it marked the passage of time nicely, every 28 days; it let me know everything was working fine and reminded me I was, indeed, a woman of childbearing age. Mostly, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of not bleeding anymore because of the horror stories I have heard from other women: my mother still has hot flushes at age 76; tales of permanent insomnia; dried up skin and other body parts; loss of libido; mood swings etc etc. Sofagirl would tell me there is a drug for everything but I don’t do drugs, I would rather grin and bear it, happy to indulge my need for a natural approach.
So, while I wait for the time to come, I arm myself with research from reputable sources, to understand what I have coming.
Among the body changes most women lament is a widening girth, an unwanted muffin top that makes its appearance even on skinny bodies. Why is that?
Different reasons come into play:
- As we age, our muscle mass diminishes while fat increases;
- Our metabolism slows down – whatever calories we needed daily in our 30’s, in our 50’s we typically need 200 to 300 less.
- Hormone levels fall and our bodies, especially female ones, start storing fat around our bellies, as a protective measure.
- Stress often leads us to eat more.
Unfortunately, the risks associated with abdomen fat (technically called visceral fat) include the usual suspects: increased heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
All the experts, including my doctor, fall back on the same advice:
- Eat a bit less and make sure to include some of the good fats, such as nuts, avocado and olive oil.
- Exercise. Regularly.
- Check your adrenal system for imbalances.
- Try and control stress which, translated, means “Enjoy life”.
“I did notice that, on the days leading to my period, I enter a state of anxiety unusually high even for my standards” I volunteer to my doctor.
Well versed with my anxiety standards, he reassures me it’s not my imagination, he knows I am probably emotionally brittle in those 48 hours when my hormones drop.
“If it spirals out of control and you start lashing out like a dragon, come back and I will give you something for it. For now, just observe and try to be happy”.
I go home partly cheered up. I peer in the mirror. The loss of collagen on my face, a by-product of aging, is showing. Those Lauren Hutton-like cheekbones I always wanted are making an appearance. Frankly, they don’t look that flattering now. A bit of weight around the middle and on my face might be what the doctor ordered after all.
Photos found in the public domain and C&S copyright