10 Things You Need To Know Before Menopause

The more I learn about menopause, the more I wish I had known earlier in life so that I could have been more prepared. Our 50s can feel such a long way away when we are in our 30s, but in the blink of an eye we have teenage children and are having our first hot flush. I realise that talking about the menopause is less than ‘sexy’, but it is so fundamentally important to the wellness of all women that I cannot let this lie with the dusk behind the fridge. Women NEED to be talking about menopause and they need to be receiving the right information so that they are empowered to make better decisions for themselves and their health.

1. [meno- + pause] The period that marks the permanent cessation of menstrual activity, normally occurring in the U.S. between the ages of 40 and 58. Menopause is said to have occurred once the woman has experienced 12 full months without any menstrual bleeding. Prior to this point in time, women experience hormonal changes that are commonly referred to a perimenopause. Perimenopause can begin as early as our mid 30s and into our 40s.

2. Weight gain at menopause can be very difficult to manage. Weight gain associated with hormonal changes through perimenopause and into menopause can leave women feeling drained as they exercise and diet harder than they have ever before in their life. As a result of hormonal changes, women begin to store body fat more efficiently and more often in their abdomen. This is time to hone in on your diet and clean up those bad habits.

3. Osteoperosis becomes a greater risk. Women can lose 1/3 of their bone mass in the first 5 years after menopause (Dr Stacy Sims). Without thoughtful intervention and preventative measures, women can find themselves more prone to hip fractures and early death. Strength training, running, jumping, skipping and appropriate high impact activities need to be regularly incorporated into our lives. This should start way before we go into menopause, so girls if you are not doing this stuff already, this is your wake-up call!

4. Exercising and dieting harder to lose weight is no longer an option. When we are young and fancy free, it is easy to eat all the things and drink all the drinks without thinking about our waistline. Things change considerably during the peri to post menopause years, leaving us in a state of exhaustion with more belly fat than we know what to do with. Rather than exercising and dieting harder and harder, this is the time when we need to learn how to rest and recover more effectively and eat in a way that supports our hormonal health.

5. Sleep needs to be prioritised. If you are a night owl and pride yourself on your ability to survive on 5 hours sleep a night, now is time to change your mind. Sleep is where the magic happens during the peri to post-menopause years. Make friends with sleep hygiene and turn your bedroom into a rest and recovery sanctuary where your stressed-out body can fully recover from daily life. Less stress hormone = less belly fat storage so it is pretty imperative if you want to keep your weight in check.

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

6. Muscles lose strength and size and are harder to build. As we age, we lose strength due to a natural loss of muscle mass. Hormonal changes during the peri and post-menopause phase of life can speed up this process unless we actively choose to build muscle through the use of strength-building exercise. Your best defence against muscle loss is strength training with weights or bodyweight. Getting into a habit of incorporating strength training into your exercises routine so that you have a good base of muscle mass before you enter perimenopause.

7. Pay attention to your pelvic floor. You will hear all about women peeing their pants when running or jumping, but this is no laughing matter. Pelvic floor issues like pelvic organ prolapse and stress incontinence are conditions that we need to take seriously and address well before menopause arrives. The loss of estrogen during menopause can make these conditions worsen, so addressing them early is your best strategy.

8. STOP DIETING!!!!! What will the money-making machine come up with next as a way to herd people down the ‘fad diet’ highway? Extreme dieting leads to extreme hormonal stress and weight gain around your belly! This is the time in your life to get off the highway to hell and take a more sustainable and supportive path. Low-calorie diets often lead to women missing out on the macronutrients (protein, fat & carbs) and the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and fibre) that they need to feel good and function well.

9. Seek out the things that you love to do and do them often. Women often get caught in a trap of serving the needs of others and forgetting about themselves and their own needs. Down the track, this can lead do feelings of loss and dissatisfaction. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to have our own pursuits that are not connected to our children or our partner that we do just for ourselves because it fills our soul with joy.

10. You are enough! As a woman, I know how hard it can feel when no matter what you do it feels like it is never enough. This is the time to put the weight of expectation to one side and look after yourself just for you! No more dieting and exercising to live up to our perceived expectations. Stuff that! The most important reason for you to eat well and to move well is because your health and your future self are relying on the decisions that you make today. This is no longer about perfecting yourself to fit in, this is about respecting yourself for the sake of your health!

This is just a small fraction of the things I have to share with you about menopause, but for now, this is a good place to begin. If you are already in full swing of perimenopause or already post-menopause, this list still applies to you and will support you to look and feel your best at any age. I know you don’t want to think about menopause in your 30s, but I hope this list inspires you to think about self-care in a different way. Women are strong and powerful, but we need to rest and recover well to make the most of our strength, otherwise we end up burned out in a hot hormonal mess. Women are not smaller versions of men, in order to thrive, we must honour our unique physiology so that we can perform better and live stronger throughout our entire life. What do you say?

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