It started with the night sweats. Sudden and total soakings leaving me with claggy clothes and wet hair, not to mention feeling completely knackered when trying to get up a few hours later to see early morning personal training clients. Then came the mood swings, again sudden and extreme. I was a placid yoga teacher one minute then a swearing maniac the next, threatening serious harm to my piece of s**t laptop.
But did you know that the onset of perimenopause, the years leading up to full menopause and cessation of menstruation, can also bring on panic attacks, heart palpitations, violent nightmares & severe sleep disturbance, as well as memory loss? I thought I was descending back into the horror of my twenty-something depression, becoming obsessive over sleep, feeling angry at the world and increasingly wanting to ditch my healthy diet for alcohol and all the yummy refined carbs I could get my sweaty little hands on. But no. A visit to the GP confirmed that this litany of symptoms was all within the realms of normal for perimenopause, if a little early. I was offered anti-depressants and declined (I am not going back down that path) but accepted a Pill with a higher dose of oestrogen, which seems to have balanced things out in the short term and made me feel more human.
It’s a funny state of affairs. I look and feel far too young to accept that I’m entering this phase in my adult life and yet, as someone who never felt the urge to have kids, it’s a bit of a relief that I can let that side of things slide. And yes, I do actually feel like a human being achieving their full potential without becoming a parent, so please don’t bother with any patronising comments on this. I will delete you or maim you, depending on my hormones. Some of us just don’t want to be a mum.
My main concern was how these changes would affect my work and my love of training. Having done weight bearing exercise for ten years, my bones should have pretty good density to take me forward. I get calcium because I love cheese and yogurt, and I get plenty of protein for the collagen matrix that keeps bones bendy from meat, fish and eggs. I eat a mainly healthy and balanced diet based on fresh produce, minimal alcohol and a few treats to keep me sane.
The main challenge has been my body’s traitorous encouragement to lay down extra fat stores all of a sudden. While what I need to do is create a bit more of a calorie deficit to keep things under control (extra body fat, especially around the belly, is not healthy, and no one hires a trainer who looks like they might need one themselves) my body is constantly asking me to eat, especially the kind of carbs I know I should limit, so I’m fighting a constant battle of wills. My strategy, as it is for so many of my clients who need to watch their calorie intake, is to plan and prep and carry food with me. I now spend more of my time between clients sitting at the gym instead of in one of Bristol’s many fab cafes where there are far too many sweet temptations. Saves me a bundle of cash each week, too.
So, if you’re in this with me, a few tips:
– make time for self-care. Meditation and yoga stops me killing people. Long hot baths are also one of the most calming things I can do for myself.
– I don’t demonise sugar, but cutting back can reduce the blood sugar fluctuations that aggravate hormonal symptoms.
– establish sleep rituals to help you nod off. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Read something calming instead of trawling through Netflix, realise that it’s midnight and panic that you’re not asleep already.
– eat well. That means meals made from real ingredients most of the time. Make your plates up of healthy fats, lots of veggies and lean proteins. Don’t cut out carbs but eat small portions of unrefined grains to fuel your exercise and avoid cravings for toast and doughnuts.
– Move! Exercise is one of the best anti-depressants out there as well as helping to offset the belly fat, so find something you like and keep at it.
Need help? Get in touch with me at http://www.brainboxcoaching.co.uk and I’ll do my best not to swear at you/sweat on you/smash your laptop. I’m a total professional, right?