Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pause for Thought

Where to start with this post. I suppose I should begin with the requisite "this piece will be all over the map" proviso. I also want to suggest, though it goes without saying, that I'm only positing ideas on the basis of my current perspective and experience at this time. Oh, and I'm sorry if this topic causes anxiety for anyone in the prime of life who hasn't hit the perimenopause roller coaster as yet. I just need to vent.

And with that, holy cow people, what the fuck is going on with me right now?

I'm not going to complain about the litany of things you've heard about in the past, namely the migraines. I don't want to be too optimistic on that front but my cocktail of supplements and (carefully monitored) phytoestrogens/hormonal precursors has taken the edge off. The headaches come and go, more unknowably than ever and they seem to last longer when they come before they go. Mind you, they're somewhat less extreme and less frequent, so I'm taking that as progress.

No, I'm talking about nausea. Absurdly, that nausea I've referred to in the past is - no joke - a fucking symptom of hormonal change. Think about this: I frequently encounter morning-sickness-esque symptoms (something I am ALL to familiar with having vomited daily for 7 months while actually pregnant) for no good reason - except that my fucking hormones are in chaos. Furthermore, I cannot stand the taste of certain food and drink which I used to enjoy.

Oh, and now's a good time to turn away if you're squeamish, but I'm also talking about managing the effects of a (perimenopausally-induced) endometrial polyp, discovered (after careful testing) on account of semi-regular hemorrhaging I have experienced. On the plus side, my iron and B12 are stellar, which is all but unbelievable under the circumstances. Apparently, I'm a star when it comes to iron and B12. Note: My daily endocrine-support yoga practice and acupuncture have been instrumental in ameliorating this challenging situation. Which is good because that was some scary shit.   

But never mind that. 

What I really want to talk about is the hit to my ego.

Let me start by saying this: I know I am a youthful individual. My nature is sparky and enthusiastic. I dye my hair. I look much younger than I am - as do all the women on my mother's side of the family. People tell me constantly that I look young. My doctor, last week - when I went for my shots - told me I look 22. (That's just not true, but you get my point.)

I dress stylishly in clothing that fits very well. I have an interesting face with a couple of good features. I'm not obese. I'm not unfit. I eat well (generally). I sleep 8 hours a night. I take vitamins to help me manage life stress - of which there is a reasonable (if "regular") amount. FWIW, prime, daily stressors for me are work, though I enjoy it, and parenting my kid. (Not to dwell, but the parenting is exceedingly stressful and demoralizing much of the time.)

Having said all of this, my body is changing, despite status quo external factors, and I am not pleased.

Look, I know exactly what's happening: my ovaries are conking out and my homeostasis-bound body is doing what it must to keep order. It's producing estrone via abdominal fat. (According to all accounts, it's not even producing a ton of estrone. I mean, I'm keeping it together according to the peeps who work with the women having estrogen-dominance.) The net result of this loop, alas, is a firm abdomen (thanks yoga!) under a layer of bloat and adipose tissue. Worse still, that tissue is NOT toned. It's a (less serious) version of the kind you may have experienced, and begrudged, 2 months after having had a baby. It's, frankly, much less attractive than my midsection of yore. Furthermore, my former midsection was always flat above the navel and in no way crept towards my waist or upper hips.

I realize that this is an entirely first-world problem, but it's fucking with my identity as a sexy hourglass and I do not appreciate it. Seriously, if there are two things I was confident about until quite recently it was that I was a) sexy as hell and b) an hourglass.*

This cannot persist.

Which brings me to the part of the post where I discuss the profiles of the Menopausal Woman, Kristin-style, which is to remind you that it's not worth the ether its written in:

A) First off, there's the slender woman who's always been slender in the midsection and who will continue to be slender until, realistically, death. Let's call her genetically lucky.

B) Then there's the woman - and I hesitate to say this, but I feel she's in the majority - who starts to put on the midsection pounds in her 40s, slowly but surely. First it's the boobs that gain a couple of sizes (in addition to a couple of inches in band size), then it's the abdomen, finally the hips and upper ass. By 50, she's a much squatter version of her former self, whatever that was. Alas, this shape speaks for itself and, sassy personality of its victim notwithstanding, it's not a hot look. I continually debate the preordinance of this scenario and I truly hope that I'm correct in my assertion that, while this may be the only path for some women, it's not the only way for most.

C) Finally, there's the woman who sees the writing on the wall and fights tooth and nail to retain the pre-menopausal shape she's was born with. Cue movie stars and people who live in NYC, Paris or North Toronto. Fighting may take the form of serious diet modification (for life), surgical modification or extreme fitness modification - perhaps even all three! Sure, eventually her face will give her away, but this lady's body's gonna look 35 for a long time.

Here's my dilemma.

I DO NOT LIKE ANY OF THESE OPTIONS.

The lanky-frame, genetic lottery ship sailed approximately 43 years ago. The slow train to boxy-ville is too depressing to consider. And the militaristic approach to, well, anything, is really not my way.

But, it seems, that the woman who eats and drinks a moderate amount (OK, in full disclosure, things are getting less moderate due to the ice age in which I currently find myself), exercises a moderate amount and makes sure she goes for a massage every once in a while, is not pleasing the menopause goddess. I mean Menopause Bitch.

This post is not about presenting solutions. I'm done with solutions for this week. This week, I'm in full wallow mode. (Happily, my current bout of PMS assists me in this respect.) Sure, I've got some tricks up my sleeve, don't I always? But I'm wearing thin, pun intended.

I'll close with a few general questions and I really would love your feedback: Do you think there's a menopause profile that I've neglected? If yes, could you make it one that will appeal to me? If you've gone through this life-stage, would you provide some optimism for those of us on the cusp? If you're on the cusp, would you at least pretend to be having a miserable time, like I am, just in the interests of commiseration? Presuming my perspective is correct, if you had to go through "the change" via Profile B or C, which would you opt for? Think about it carefully: Option B is frumpy - but fun, just like your life has been so far. Option C is attractive but soul-sucking. Let's talk.

*Now's a good time to mention that my husband, while he has no doubt observed these changes - cuz I never fucking shut up about them - would like you to know that he still finds me sexy as hell. And this is not a sponsored post.

27 comments:

  1. I have come to the other side of the menopause divide and, unfortunately, it is not rosy. I am between the naturally slim and the dumpy matron. I have modified it somewhat due to diet, but the middle is just not as tight as it used to be. The thing is that one in this age group becomes invisible so no one but me notices!

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    1. Oh V - that is HILARIOUS (in the most terrible way). Invisibility solves everything :-) Thank you for your honest comment. I am confident, just from knowing you in comments for so long, that you are gorgeous on the other side.

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  2. How about a Mirena IUD? I had one for 5 years and it was a godsend. I was long past any fear of pregnancy but it 100% eliminated every single freaking change o life issue I had and I had ALL of the ones you mention. Yes it's intended as birth control but plenty of docs prescribe it to moderate regular and peri-menopause symptoms.

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    1. This is a terrific idea which would be my plan of action if I didn't have the migraines with aura (higher rate of stroke) given the hormones in that version of the IUD. Moreover, while I'm going all TMI, I tried to get an IUD (non hormone) about 12 years ago, and discovered that I have scarring on my cervix (thanks scary childbirth) so they couldn't get it in (without general anesthetic) and they were worried about what would happen if they tried to get it out after the fact. Alas, it's not in the cards for me. However, I'm so thrilled it worked for you.

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  3. Well, I've got no personal experience (YET!) to share... but here are my thoughts none the less!
    1. Let's face it, I'm a category B kind of woman. Always have been, perfectly fine if I always am. Being happy is the most important thing for me, and so I choose not to stress about my body. It's a mostly zen way to be.
    2. My Mom was similarly shaped to the way I am now, then changed her diet to a low GI way of eat (high fibre, relatively high fat, lots of veggies, low on processed carbs) and dropped 20lbs. She looks great ,feels great, and stays active with her hobbies. Maybe that's the missing option?

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    1. Gillian: I love you! You have the most zen view and it adds to your already prolific gorgeousness. Let me try to clarify where I'm at, just to seem a vague amount less vain :-) My body doesn't feel like it belongs to me at the moment. It's like I'm hanging out in someone else's skin - skin I'm not nuts about - and it's disorienting.

      BTW, I suspect, my next plan is to cut out the booze. I've already started with the no drinks from Mon. - Thurs. Can't currently bring myself to go through fun meals on weekends without some lovely wine, but I know this is the "unnecessary food group" I should give up first. More on this to follow. And thank you for your excellent suggestions.

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  4. I'm pretty sure you won't like this option and I would never have picked it if I had a choice, but after breast cancer (twice) and a bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, I actually feel far more slender and at home in my body than I ever did either pre or post menopause (which happened right around the cancer diagnosis so chemo made that all happen really fast). Now, thanks to giving up six pounds of breast tissue (my former 36D or DD breasts), I find my stomach may not be totally flat, but my posture is much improved, my clothing hangs better and looks better (now that I've learned to make a small bust--or no bust--adjustment when sewing), and my actual form is probably more congruent with my internal body image in some ways than it ever was before. Not that I ever had the body confidence you seem to have (which I celebrate for you), nor the commitment to yoga (which I admire tremendously), but somehow I've come through it all okay. I don't think there are any words of wisdom in there, except that maybe something that seems really bad might turn out to be tolerable . . . but only when you are completely on the other side of it.

    Thanks for sharing your struggles on this (as well as in the sewing and knitting arenas) and I'm wishing you all the best with all of it.

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    1. Elizabeth: For starters - I am so, SO sorry that you have had to go through cancer twice but very happy to see that you have overcome it. I hope you are feeling very well now! And I totally understand what you're saying. No doubt, proportionately large breasts add visual weight like nothing else, which is one of the reasons I don't have a ton of wiggle room and maintaining my proportions is key.

      I will say, your story puts it all into perspective. Worrying about my mushball stomach is very low on the list compared with the concerns I'm sure you experienced during your chemical menopause. Thank you so much for your comment.

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  5. this is my advice: we need to hang out together and drink. BECAUSE YOU'RE FUCKING AWESOME.

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  6. So, I'm not that the menopausal change yet, but I am at the early-30s-oh, I can't just eat everything and do nothing anymore stage. Which is frustrating since this is also the first time in my life I haven't been able to engineer regular, albeit low impact, excercise (walking) into my daily life. Yes, the two may be related...

    Anyway, I've watched my mom (who is in your "Group B"), rage against her body that doesn't feel like her, for, um, well, I don't really have any memories of before that. I've watched her gain weight, and lose it again, and gain it back. (Rinse, repeat) And as I understand it that kind of cycling is probably even worse on your health than simple weight gain is. So, um, what was my point? Ah, I'm aiming for acceptance, myself. I want to be healthy---physically active, physically fit, eating well---and I want my weight to be relatively stable, if only so my clothes still fit, but beyond that, I don't want to spend my life hating myself, or fighting with my body.

    But then, my best points have always been my legs... and I'm fairly confident that those will last into my 60s... ;)

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    1. Your attitude is excellent T. I too aim for acceptance. Apparently, I'm not quite there :-) And I know your legs will be awesome till you're in your 90s!

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  7. I will turn 60 years old this year. I have some adipose tissue on what used to be a rectangular shaped body. I refuse to consider myself 'frumpy'

    If you have an hourglass figure, try to think of yourself as voluptuous rather than frumpy. It's all a state of mind and attitude. I realize that state of mind is not always an easy thing to achieve an the various stages of menopause but coming to peace with your body and even loving it will make you a much happier camper.

    I've lost some weight recently, but there is still some padding around the middle. I just refuse to let it affect how I see myself or how I dress.

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    1. Thanks so much for this comment! You provide a welcome voice from the other side and I will aim to feel voluptuous at all times!

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  8. I didn't have anywhere near the roller-coaster ride your peri- phase is proving to be, and my periods were regular until mid-50s. No question my midsection thickened through about 45-60, although I was always quite fit and managed to stop weight gain at about 10-15 pounds above my ideal (which is a reasonable mid-range healthy BMI, I'd say). But that momentum finally got out of my control last year, and I found I was complaining about myself (like yours, my husband still found/finds me sexy, if only I could stop the whining) -- I finally got so tired of hearing myself, of dressing to disguise, etc. that I did a WW stint which has worked for me. Now I'd say I'm somewhere between your Option B and your Option C (really resenting those Option As and I'm calling dibs for next lifetime). Unless you think that marathon training at 60 qualifies me for Option C. I'd love to be secure enough to just embrace B, and I keep hoping that at some age I'll just find myself there, but so far, the unhappiness with the mirror interferes too much with self-esteem despite the fact that I'm otherwise pretty well-adjusted and even some days, dare I say, wise, about this stuff. I mean, it's programmed into us pretty early, no?
    But jump over all that babbling I just babbled and get to the sympathy. You're having a shitty, shitty go of the hormone thing and I think you need to wallow and drink and eat all the good stuff and listen to your man tell you just how hot you are, even while you're whining. Leave the problem-solving for next week or the week after. . .
    And I agree with oonaballoona above, and I'm hoping that might happen as I'm putting To. on my travel plans for the spring and crossing my fingers. . .

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    1. You know the most hilarious thing? I ovulate every fucking month. So it's not like I can revel in my infertility?!! I have followed your tune-up with interest and I will certainly keep all the options open. Except running. That ain't happening :-)

      BTW, I have to say you most definitely lean in the C category (from the exercise perspective anyway!). Regular marathons and running 20 kms, like, whenever, does not qualify you for the B :-)

      You must visit with me when you are in town! Keep me posted. xo

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  9. The woman I call mom is of the first variety--I think it must be her Norwegian heritage. I was teased mercilessly in high school about how hot my mom is. Traumatic, since we don't actually share any genes. :-( However, the woman that is technically my mother is of the second variety--but her mom is 72(? 73?) and still looks like an hourglassy 50, so I'm hoping that I won't end up being dumpy forever. My paternal grandma though was a short stout woman with the voice of an angel and who could outwork any man (and regularly did)--my grandpa thought she was the sexiest woman alive and wasn't ever the same after we lost her. So I look at it this way--if your husband finds you to be sexy and still adores you, that's all that really matters. You can pull through as long as that holds true, even if you don't like it. And as always, this too, shall pass (even if it doesn't seem like it right now). :-)

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    1. I can only imagine that it's challenging having a mother figure of Profile A when you don't feel that you share that genetic good fortune (and I mean good fortune simply from the stay thin after menopause perspective). And I hear what you're saying about good fortune being in the gaze of one's partner. In that way, I am very lucky.

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  10. When I first started reacting to carrots I had 8 weeks of hives before I figured out the problem. The really strange part was that it was usually 2-3 hives every day on my breasts. I remember looking in the mirror and crying because I just wanted my breasts to look pretty again.

    We all have our own body identity, parts we love, parts we would change, parts we're just comfortable with. It's hard when that shifts and you aren't sure where you stand. I think that is some of what I haven't liked as my weight increased, not the weight exactly, but the widening distance between how I think of myself and what I look like.

    I hope the wallow made you feel better and sort out the aspects you can do something about and the parts you might just have to be patient with. Didn't you say you had a yoga teacher that had a belly but later in life it became toned again? Maybe that is option D.

    Part of what makes you sexy as hell is that you believe it. Keep that attitude and you will stay sexy as hell.

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    1. You're so right about identity, C! It's about how I see myself diverging from how I actually am. And I did say I had the yoga teacher who evened out in the course of time. And while I think of that OFTEN, I want someone from the future to assure me of the same outcome :-) I would like that to be Option D! Thanks for your comment xo

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    2. I'm not sure why crystal balls need to be so cloudy. It sure would be nice to have future you say "hey, it's okay" sometimes.

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  11. My comment keeps getting eaten!

    Wallow away; pouty can be very sexy.

    I didn't inherit my mom's A genetics, I'm a bit vain for B and C, well, is a life without brownies worth living? I am doubtful. I have a few years, but I am hoping to eventually follow in - D - your yogini's footsteps (that my lifelong good habits of moderation will prevail after a temporary blip). And if that fails - E - corsetry. Imagine the sewing possibilities.

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    1. OK, Option E has some serious potential! I can see you're going to be just fine :-) xo

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  12. There's a song in one of the programmes that my kids used to watch all about different shapes. It appears that "I am a square"!
    Menopause sucks. I'm like a prize ham at the moment and hot as Hades all the time. Throw in the recurring chest infection of doom, creaky knees and acute back spasms that have now called a halt to the bootcamp activity and it ain't looking rosy at all.
    More wine is the only anwer ;-)

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    1. Ha! And honey, I feel very prize ham in my own right! We will get through this and then help the young ladies when it's their turn.

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  13. I'm incredibly late commenting but couldn't help adding my 2 cents :). The pounds go on but can also come back off. I'm closer to my weight goal than I've ever been. I'm not sure there's a magic formula for anyone but for me it comes down to strict calorie counting and regular exercise. Any deviations on either front and the pounds creep back. I keep an eye on it and make adjustments. I still enjoy wine. Wearing flattering clothes, stylish shoes, a cute hair cut and some kick ass WB jewelry works wonders. xoxo

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    1. WB jewelry always works wonders.

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