Embracing your body during and after menopause

May 28, 2015

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Any woman could tell you about the woes of hormone changes throughout life, from puberty to PMS to pregnancy to menopause.  Hormones control so many things in our bodies, thus fluctuations in hormone levels produce all sorts of symptoms in the body.

The period of time from when menopause begins until it ends is called perimenopause, and it can last years.  One of the most common symptoms is weight gain and changes in the way the body distributes weight.  This can be quite distressing for women in terms of body image.  Society currently tells us that the "ideal" figure for a woman of any age is thin, flat stomach, large breasts, toned muscles, etc.  Ironically, changes in the body during menopause go against this ideal, creating an adversarial relationship between a woman and her body.

However, there are many reasons to embrace these body changes during and after menopause.  First of all, they take place for a biologically advantageous reason, otherwise the body wouldn't promote it.  The shift of adipose tissue from hips/thighs to abdomen happens because of the decrease in estrogen when the ovaries stop ovulating.  The reason the ovaries stop is so the woman can't get pregnant when the body is no longer able to sustain a healthy pregnancy.  The drop in estrogen results in increased risk for bone demineralization and cardiac issues, so to protect the bones and heart the body finds a way to generate some extra estrogen.  The "belly fat" actually secretes hormones, including estrogen, and thus protects a woman's health after menopause.  Pretty amazing.

Studies also show that elderly adults at higher weights live longer than those who weigh less and are frail.  In fact, life expectancy is longer for those with an "overweight" BMI (I hate the BMI, but I'm making a point here) than for those with a "normal" BMI.  In fact, when I worked as a hospital RD a BMI of 21 or lower (18-24.9 technically considered normal range) would trigger a nutrition consult, as the data shows that those with lower BMI's are at significantly higher nutritional risk and tend to have longer hospital stays w/ poorer outcomes.  Thus, the weight gain that naturally happens in menopause is beneficial to the body.

Rather than fighting an uphill battle against the body, how about welcoming the changes as a natural part of life?  Acknowledge that your body is doing a great job taking care of itself and so what if society doesn't agree.  Your quality of life will be so much greater if you are focusing your energy on life-enhancing ventures instead of trying to control your weight.  Take some time to reflect on what you'd spend your days doing if you weren't worried about your weight, and start connecting with these values.  Menopause is a beautiful thing, embrace it.

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