Menopause marks the end of fertility, and at almost 49 years old, I am entering this daunting period (or lack thereof!).
My sister, who is 10 years older than I am, started telling me about some changes that she had experienced. I listened while thinking that it sounded awful but that I probably would not have to contend.
Why did I think I would be immune?
There is no solid reason except that I’m an avid exerciser, a fairly clean eater, and am well-educated on the body. I thought that these things would minimize, if not negate, any or all symptoms that I might be faced with. I was definitely wrong about that, but that it is possible to use nutrition to help navigate the changes you are bound to experience.
Learn to navigate your own nutrition by registering for the next Nutritious Life Certification class, now!
My Changing Body
Last summer, my reality shifted. I started having all kinds of health issues I had never experienced. I got a raging UTI. Then, I have never had a problem with constipation, but I was having trouble going to bathroom. I was also experiencing mysterious weight gain.
I decided I better seek help from a professional. I went to a gastroenterologist, and she said that in all likelihood, it was perimenopause (the period before menopause when the ovaries gradually make less estrogen).
My diet is comprised of a ton of fresh vegetables, along with lots of protein and some carbs and fats. She recommended I increase my fiber and water intake. I was not drinking enough water, so that was something I could improve upon right away.
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I thought that once I got my system working again, the mysterious weight gain would go away. But while following the same diet and working out religiously six days a week, I still put on ten pounds in the span of a year.
Diving into Nutrition and Wellness
I was frustrated, to say the least, so I decided to get more informed about nutrition. I signed up for The Nutritious Life Studio’s Nutritious Life Certification course.
One thing I learned is that as our cells age, they aren’t as efficient at getting glucose out of our bloodstream as they once were. Excess glucose then converts to fat. I am not suggesting that we don’t need glucose, because we do. It provides us with a lot of our nutrients and energy, but we need less of it as we age. The type of fats you consume also makes a difference. For example, avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds help build up aging cell walls, which can prevent hair and nails from drying out.
I also discovered that antioxidant-rich foods are very important to combat free radicals that can damage cells and lead to disease. And my doctor was right: It’s super important to stay properly hydrated.
The other major element is that changing estrogen levels impact the body in major ways. The body puts the brakes on estrogen production because it’s not needed for childbearing and breastfeeding anymore. The change in hormones means that now fat moves from being deposited in the breasts, hips, and butt to the abdomen. (Which might explain why my pants are too tight. Not only was I gaining weight, my shape was changing also.)
I’ve been using all of this information to modify my diet and other health habits. The most significant change has been reducing my cardio and adding strength training to my workout. If you’re able to change your body composition to include more lean muscle mass, that muscle will help you burn more calories and rev up your metabolism to counter the slowdown that menopause is causing.
Mentally, this has all been very hard to accept, but understanding the reasons behind the changes does make them more palatable.
I had an exchange with Keri on a Facebook live, and she made such a valid point. She reminded me that I am not going to look like I did at 13 or 25, and this is the natural process of life—but that doesn’t mean I can’t look (and feel!) great.
My plan is to continue to strive to eat a healthy, balanced, nutrient-dense diet that fuels me and allows me to feel like my best self. I will continue to exercise and drink tons of water. I am grateful that I am limber and feel well. I do think proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise all play a role in aging gracefully, and we’ll all be better off the more informed we are.
Want to get informed? Become Nutritious Life Certified… Apply now to join the fall 2018 class!
Laurie Condon is the director of new business for a publishing and media company. In addition to being Nutritious Life Certified, she’s a certified personal trainer and barre instructor and has been published in several fitness journals. She’s also on the board of the Long Island Coalition of the Homeless and is married with a 13-year-old son.
(Featured Photo: Shutterstock)