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“Pack your bags for the trip,” gently advises Grandma Groei. “Your Change may be rough in places, so beat yourself up. Your Change may have some hard edges, so let your contours be rounded. Your wise blood stirs and you learn to let it move without fear of clinging to its meanders. In the same way, you can gracefully allow your natural weight gain. Struggling with your weight or diet is bad medicine for you now, only results in thin bones that break easily, extreme hormone shifts that will keep you from sleeping and thinking, and an inner fire reduced to ashes or burning out of control. Pack your bags, slowly, dear one. There is no rush,” sighs Grandma Growth, closing her eyes and sinking into a nap.
The best ally you can have on your menopausal journey is ten “extra” pounds. I know you don’t want to hear this. I understand how difficult it is to wish ten extra kilos (or accept that it happens to you, as it does to most women in menopause). You may have spent much of your life trying to lose ten extra pounds. The ultimate failure as a woman today is not to be barren, but to gain weight.
When thin and young is the standard of beauty, any menopausal woman may find it difficult to maintain a positive self-image as she sees herself becoming a fat-waisted, silver-haired Crone.
I had some killer hot flashes, but the hardest part of menopause for me was weight gain. I knew it would happen; I knew it would happen. But I never thought it would happen. I read the studies; I knew that most healthy women, thin or fat or in between, gained ten to fifteen pounds during their menopausal years. But not me, I thought. I eat superbly. I practice: an hour and a half of yoga every week, tai chi, and my usual farm chores (moving and splitting firewood, throwing hay bales, fetching water, chasing goats). I don’t.
Yes, me. I saw my image in the mirror take on a form that more and more approached the Venus figures of prehistory. And my modern prejudices stepped forward: “Yuck. You look disgusting. You’re overweight. It’s unhealthy. Lose weight!” I knew it wasn’t true. But despite years of feminism and consciousness-raising on every -ism, from ageism to weightism, there was my culture calling me to my own mind every time I looked in the mirror.
Now I looked like my aunts. Now I looked like a woman. It was as strange and unfamiliar as the sprouting of my breasts and pubic hair at puberty. I remember standing in my closet at the age of thirteen, cruelly and resentfully removing my favorite little girls’ dresses, none of which fit.
Not looking in the mirror didn’t help. (I couldn’t resist looking at the scale. I don’t have one.) My clothes didn’t fit. First it was my blouses: my buttons gaped and my t-shirts strained. Then it was my pants: tight waistbands became absolutely impossible. My size fluctuated widely from morning to night, growing larger as the day went on. For several months I walked around the house with my pants untied from dinner until bedtime, a menopausal symptom of which my lover took full advantage.
Fortunately, I knew that the diet would not improve my health and could easily harm me. But without the loving acceptance I felt from my beloved, I might have wavered and given in to the desire to resist this change with all my might. I might have given up being proud to look like a postmenopausal woman: like Margaret Mead, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony.
I wish for every menopausal woman to tell her every night when she gets undressed, how goddess-like, how voluptuous, how attractive and desirable she is, and to say to her: “The best ally I could have on my menopausal journey is ten extra kilos”.
Of course, I don’t mean ten kilos of just fat. You want ten pounds of healthy fat supported by healthy muscles and bones. And you want to gain that weight very, very slowly. Ideally about a pound or two a year during menopause. Remember to kiss yourself on the journey. Love yourself when you get “in shape” for a change.
Step 1. Gather information
- Fat cells convert androstenedione, a substance produced by the adrenals and ovaries, into estrone, the primary postmenopausal estrogen. Women who gain weight during menopause have less severe hot flashes, an easier transition, and denser bones, according to menopause advocate, and longtime editor of A friend indeed, the menopause newsletterJeanine O’Leary Cobb.
- Despite statements that extra fat is a health risk, weight gained during the menopausal years is not associated with an increase in mortality risk.
- And losing it will not improve your health.
- In fact, weight loss can lead to thyroid malfunction, severe gallbladder problems, increased insulin resistance, and weakening of the cardiovascular and immune systems.
- If you don’t have a loved one to tell you that your bigger body is bodacious, read:
Radiance: The magazine for plus size women; PO Box 30246, Oakland, CA 94604.
Healthy Weight Journal; PO Box 620, LCD1, Hamilton, ON; L8N 3K7, Canada. 1-800-568-7281.
You count, calories don’t, Linda Omichinski. Box 102A, RR #3, Portage La Prairie, MN; R1N 3A3, Canada. 1-800-565-4847.
Loving Your Midlife BodyLinda Moore Browning, Health Forum for Older Women, Winter 1999.
Step 2. Engage the energy
“The first time I saw pictures of my postmenopausal self, I was scared of my size!”
- Give yourself permission to take up more space. Let your needs come first. Increase your view of yourself. Expand your world.
- If you don’t already do an hour or more of yoga, tai chi, or some other meditative physical exercise weekly, start…
- Go to an art gallery, or get a book from your library, and find a picture of an attractive woman with a round proud belly. Meditate with them. Be her for a moment. Feel the energy in your belly. Feel the wise blood stirring in your belly. Stirring and simmering and sending its heat along your body’s energy pathways. Be proud of yourself and your belly.
- Say a short prayer of thanks, or sing a song, or light a candle, or observe a moment of silence before you eat. Affirm that the food will bring you health and happiness.
Step 3. Nourish & Tonify
- Give up the diet. Eat the widest variety of whole foods possible. Do not make food absolutely forbidden. What you eat every day has the most effect. The best way to stop worrying about weight gain is to eat ten or more servings of fruits and vegetables, three or more servings of whole grains, and a cup of yogurt daily.
- To make sure you’re adding hormonally-helpful, bone-strengthening, empowering fat, include one serving of a high-calorie phytoestrogen-rich food and three servings of super mineral-rich food in your daily diet.
High-calorie hormone-rich foods include olives, olive oil, organic butter, freshly ground flax seeds, homemade beer, alcohol-free beer, fresh peanut butter.
Super mineral-rich foods include nourishing herbal infusions of nettle, oatstraw, red clover, or comfrey leaf; cooked greens such as kale, collards, lamb quarter, amaranth, mustard; seaweed; road; whole grains including oats, millet, wheat, and brown rice; bittersweet chocolate.
- Beer is traditionally brewed from hops and germinated whole grains. The fermentation makes easily assimilated B vitamins and frees minerals. One beer a week will slowly increase your weight, improve your memory, calm your nerves and improve your immune system. A cup of hop tea with a spoonful of barley-malt-sugar is an alcohol-free alternative.
Step 4. Stimulate/Sedate
- Most herbal remedies sold for weight loss include stimulants that can disrupt heart function, and diuretic and laxative herbs that can cause excessive fluid loss and disrupt electrolyte balance. This can lead to life-threatening events in the menopausal years, when cardiac and adrenal functions are unstable. Avoid all “weight loss” herbs.
- If you are determined to lose weight in your menopausal years, here are some safe strategies:
Eat a substantial breakfast and a large lunch and save on food. Absolutely avoid midnight snacks.
Eat a cup/250 ml of fresh chickweed daily or take a drop of the fresh plant tincture in some water during or after each meal (at least four times a day).
Gently simmer a handful of dried or fresh bladderwrack (fucus) seaweed for 15 minutes in enough water to cover. Strain. Drink a cup before every meal for no more than three months.
Eat a bowl of warm soup at the beginning of the meal. You will feel fuller and eat less. Cold juices and drinks do not have the same effect.
- Stay active. But you don’t have to buy spandex. Five minute periods of exercise, done several times a day, every day, are better than one long session once a week. Weight lost as a result of increased physical activity is safer than weight lost through dietary manipulation. Weight lifting.
- Depression can be associated with intense cravings for starchy foods. If we satisfy these cravings with mineral-rich foods (including chocolate), the depression will be “treated” and disappear. If we try to satisfy these cravings with mineral-deprived white flour and white sugar, the depression will deepen.
Step 5b. Use drugs
Appetite-suppressing drugs disrupt your metabolic rate and make it harder and harder for you to maintain a normal weight with a normal diet. Avoid all medications and herbs and supplements of any kind that claim to suppress your appetite.
Step 6. Break and enter
Science is ready to help you deny your growing wisdom and power by liposuctioning the fat from your derrière and adding it to your face to plump out wrinkles.
Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and any herbs mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personalized directions and usage should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified health care practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material on this website/email is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable health care practitioner if you need medical care. Exercise self-affirmation by seeking a second opinion.
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