Before I hit 50, I never thought about weight. I had trouble gaining weight and ate whatever I wanted, though I tried to maintain a fairly healthy diet. In 2013 I was at an all-time low and wanted to gain seven or eight pounds because aging is not kind to skinny skin. Vanity.
In 2015, just two years later, I began to gain weight. I had begun hormone replacement therapy and assumed that was the issue, so I stopped after six months, but I never lost the weight. In fact, I continued to gain. Since 2013, I’ve gained about 15 pounds despite being an active woman and paying attention to my diet. Worst of all, my breasts went from a C cup to a DD cup in one year.
I fight depression over my body and rage over the lack of solid studies and information that might help me. My doctors have said, ‘oh yes. Menopause and weight gain,’ but have nothing tangible to offer as if this is just the way it is and will be. And perhaps they are correct.
In January, I went to a surgeon to see about breast reduction and was told that I did not qualify unless she brought me to an A cup which is a pretty drastic reduction. This was an insurance requirement and she commented that I would not be happy with those results. She was cold and not at all sympathetic, and in many ways, I think what I most wanted was a compassionate, problem-solving ear as well as medical insights.
Through tears, I told my husband that if the issues I was struggling with affected men and their penises, there would be a plethora of solutions and insurance would certainly cover them.
I was only slightly joking.
Menopause and weight gain are a common issue and though I live in Boulder, the land of the slim, countless women are struggling, and struggling in shame.
I think the shame comes from two places, the feeling we have lost control over our bodies, and our societies’ views about women and weight. By no stretch of the imagination would someone look at me and say, ‘she’s overweight’ (though if it’s someone I haven’t seen since 2015, they might be taken aback by my new figure). But it doesn’t matter, because I feel I have a runaway train inside my skin that has begun the descent into…. I’m not sure what.
I hike, cycle, ski, take yoga and walk. My work as a merchandising consultant keeps me on my feet for up to 8 hours a day and is very physical. But my body has a mind of its own.
There is absolutely a physical l concern with continued weight gain, but what frustrates me even more is the lack of attention paid to the emotional health of menopausal women who are gaining this weight. We are offered Prozac for hot flashes, doctors shrug when we worry about weight or vaginal dryness, we are told that even if we take Hormone Replacement Therapy, we must stop it at 65 due to heightened health risks.
If that wasn’t bad enough, we are told we should stop drinking wine.
This stage of life does include a deeper spiritual space that has many of us looking inside ourselves more than at our external body, but the feeling of being alone can be overwhelming and add to menopausal depression. Personally, I’d prefer some solid and caring attention to women’s issues as well as research over a pill for depression.
I know I’m not alone because I hear from women all over the country either directly or while eavesdropping in a coffee shop or while out shopping.
The challenging part about weight gain for me was that the extra pounds didn’t budge. More exercise, fewer calories, nothing. I thought, something must be wrong with me. I must be doing something wrong.
After hours of research, blood tests to check my thyroid, and I won’t lie, lots of tears, I discovered that my body was normal. My body was aging. The belly that stretched to accommodate two pregnancies was not going to turn into six pack abs. I realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working on weight loss.
I decided to focus on health. Emotional health and physical health. I stopped jumping on the scale trying to attain a random number that could bring me happiness. I focused on physical activity that makes me happy. Things like yoga, hiking, bike rides on our tandem. I began meditating regularly, writing, reading calling my daughters and got lots of solitude.
I let go. I let in.