As women, eventually we will have to face the time in our lives when we go through this DREADED stage of life. I know many of you (and myself included!) probably haven’t even thought about menopause! However, there have been many instances recently of close friends of mine in their 30s and early 40s (for real!) being unexpectedly forced into menopause due to cancer and other health issues. They are suddenly faced with the harsh reality this brings to their lives and have no knowledge of what their body is actually going through or what they can expect to experience. I found myself in a place where I was uneducated and truly wanted to learn more about menopause since I haven’t personally lived through it! I want to share all the good information with you, too, so YOU can be better prepared for when you reach this stage in life…which is hopefully later than sooner!
Let’s be honest: Every single one of us women will either go through menopause, are currently experiencing menopause, or know someone going through menopause. As I mentioned above, some of us will go through “instant” menopause unexpectedly due to a hysterectomy, or breast cancer, or other female issues. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to deal with menopause issues on top of cancer treatments! My heart aches for anyone dealing with any of this, so that’s why I felt a post dedicated to all things menopause, and specifically how to stay on track transformation-wise during menopause, would be so helpful and informative for all of us. This post is FULL of lots of information, facts, and details, so grab a cup of coffee and read on!
I get many questions from women about menopause and thought this would be a great place to start.
Questions about Menopause
“Heidi, I’m going through menopause and the pounds keep piling on no matter what I do. Help!”
“Heidi, I’m trying really hard to lose weight, but I’m also going through menopause, and I’m really struggling. What can I do?”
“I’m suddenly without hormones and have to adjust my whole lifestyle. Any recommendations for meals or workouts?”
Even though I haven’t been in your shoes, I can sympathize with your struggles and frustrations every time I read one of these questions. So let’s dive into menopause and get some information that will hopefully answer your questions!
First, here are a couple of expert definitions about menopause in general so we’re all on the same page:
Menopause is defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period and marks the end of menstrual cycles. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51 in the United States, and it can last for several years.
Perimenopause, or menopause transition, begins several years before menopause. It’s the time when the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but can start in her 30s or even earlier. The average length of perimenopause is 4 years, but for some women this stage may last only a few months or continue for 10 years. Perimenopause ends when a woman has gone 12 months without having her period.
Since perimenopause and menopause can be very similar, I’m going to group them together from here on out as menopause to keep things simple.
Besides going into menopause naturally, menopause can also begin in other ways: a hysterectomy, premature ovarian failure, or cancer and/or radiation therapy, and each one of these causes can come with its own set of issues.
- Increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease
- Slower metabolism
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased sex drive
- Bladder issues
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood changes
- Increased stress
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Decreased muscle mass
- Increased body fat
- Weight gain due to lifestyle, genetic factors, aging, and others listed above
That list kind of makes you want to burrow under the covers for about 10 years, right? It’s almost like experiencing puberty…again. 😟 Menopause can be made even more difficult because it often occurs during a major transition period in a woman’s life: the end of the childbearing season, children leaving for college, kids getting married, the start of empty nesting, and job statuses and other things in life changing, all of which can intensify these symptoms and issues.
Since taking a 10-year vacation probably isn’t a possibility (dangit!), I’ve come up with some tips that can help you prepare for and better deal with many of the menopause-related symptoms and issues I shared above. Hopefully these ideas will help your menopause experience be a bit more pleasant. If you’re not going through menopause yourself but know someone who is, please feel free to share! Note: There are medical and holistic options available for helping with menopause, so it’s always best to discuss these with your healthcare team to figure out what will work best for you.
Top 10 Tips for Menopause Survival
2. Exercise regularly, and include both cardio and strength training in your routine.
What do I mean by regularly? The American Heart Association recommends between 75 and 150 minutes of cardio exercise per week (depending on intensity), and try and get in 2-3 strength training sessions a week also. Here’s why you need both cardio and strength training:
- Cardio can boost your metabolism, strengthen your heart and muscles, protect you against osteoporosis, and burn calories. New to cardio? Take a walk! That’s an awesome way to start, and it can be done pretty much anywhere.
- Strength training can strengthen your bones, increase muscle mass (important for bone support and calorie burn), protect you against future weight gain, and tone up that amazing body of yours.
And let’s be honest, working out can decrease stress and make you feel better all around, which really helps combat those menopausal mood changes!
3. Limit alcohol. Alcohol = extra calories, and it can take away from the calories you could be getting from nutritious foods.
4. Get enough sleep. Sleep is so important for so many reasons, but for weight control and being able to better enjoy life, it should be a priority!
5. Drink plenty of water. Water is important for so many reasons!
We recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces every. single. day. (200 lbs = 100 ounces a day).
6. Find ways to relieve your stress and relax. Stress can literally be a killer, and it’s definitely an enemy to weight loss, so find things that will help you relax and take a breather, even if it’s only for a few minutes. One of my fave ways to relax? Yoga! Other things you can do: read a book, take a walk, or whatever you like to do that makes you feel good. And don’t forget about your fave Daily Hugs…these can be life savers!
7. Limit those sweets. Not only are they pretty much loaded with empty calories, but those calories can add up quickly and cause other problems too (like extra lbs!).
I’m all about enjoying the foods you love—just do it in moderation according to your plan. And don’t forget about our 80/20 rule: Eat healthy, nutritious foods 80% of the time, and fill the other 20% (if you want to!) with those foods you love that might not be quite as healthy.
8. If you get those lovely hot flashes, try and figure out if there are specific things that cause them, and then make a plan to help you either deal with them or get rid of them, which is even better! Layering your clothing, keeping a fan or cool cloth handy, and other things can help too. And remember to chat with your doc about any other remedies that might work for you. Don’t forget to check out the hot flash-helping products I found below!
9. Be aware of emotional eating. This, alone, can be a huge roadblock to menopause weight control because so many menopause symptoms can lead to emotional eating. Learn what triggers your emotional eating (keeping a journal can really help—and the cuter the better!), and then put a plan in place (or several plans) that you can turn to when the temptation to eat off-plan happens.
10. Remember—it’s all about taking those baby steps. Choose one of these tips you’re struggling with (only one!), and make and keep a small promise to yourself that will help you overcome this struggle. I promise you—this one small little thing can change your life!
Products to Help with Menopause
Here are some awesome products that can help make menopause—and those super annoying (from what I’ve been told) hot flashes—more manageable:
Are you currently in any stage of menopause or post menopausal? Please feel free to share what works for you in a comment below. After all, sharing is caring, and this is a topic where we all could use a little extra TLC. 😘
For more menopause-related info, check out these sources: