The Big M (aka Menopause)


If you follow my Blog you will soon realise that I always allocate a visual to my blogs and my posts all thanks to my best friend Shutterstock. I thought about going with the quintessential one that we all know; you know the one? The one with a woman looking hot and fanning herself in a sad attempt to keep cool. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s exactly what it can feel like. But I decided to go a more positive way to visualise that Menopause, or the Big M as I like to call it in polite company, doesn’t have to be or isn’t always that bad. I am writing this blog in the hope that it can help, and inform other women out there who are about to embark or who are already on the journey within this major hormonal milestone in a woman’s life.

Some background to give you a bit of context, a kind of “control group” so you can see how fantastic and possible what I discovered so far can be. I have always been committed to my health and fitness. Well, since my 20s anyway. Before that, I was a teenage girl that did not like to get sweaty. I was always unable to do Sport or PE because I was always declaring to my Phys Ed teacher, “Sorry Miss, but I am on my you know whats“. It got so prolific that they started marking the roll to check it was legitimate. I actually had a 3-week cycle, not so great on so many levels but a gem when it came to getting out of physical activity at school.

When I hit my 20s, I started to be sportier and embrace exercise. I played Softball and my position on the field was short-stop; perfect since I am only 5″2. I started going to the gym and getting caught up in the 90s group fitness revolution and ended up teaching Aerobics which got me through my Bachelor’s degree and where I met my husband. He was a gym instructor. We celebrate 25 years of marriage this year. I know! The Big Silver.

I have embraced fitness and health all my life. I have competed in triathlons, I do fun runs and continue to run … well jog and I have now swapped high intensity for heated yoga and pilate Fusion classes with some Kettle Bell and Soin classes to mix it up. I am also about to learn to Row so I can do early morning rows on the Brisbane River. I am very fortune that Total Fusion, an amazing contemporary gym, opened up in my area last year. I use to work out at an extremely high intensity and often. You could say I was addicted … a gym junkie … a gym freak. I also spent my 30s and 20s inadvertently starving myself by eating a low fat (yet secretly high sugar) diet and counting calories … all the time! It was obsessive and so, so tiring.

Eating healthy food fills your body with energy and nutrients. Imagine your cells smiling back at you saying โ€œThank you!โ€ – Karen Salmansohn

This all changed when I hit 49 and started menopause. I know young, right! In three years I put on 15 kilograms. I had a thick middle where my waist was and an extra “tyre’ under my boobs. And talking about boobs, well they just exploded and not in a good way especially when you add the layer of fat that was appearing on my back. Now I have never been svelte and thin but I went from being from a well-balanced hourglass shape to a bulk resembling Sponge Bob. The more I gained the more exercise I did, the more I gained and the more exercise I did. It was a vicious cycle. The more I gained the more restrictive my eating became. I tried intermittent fasting, which slowed it down but did not stop the weight gain. I was getting very unhappy, confused and starting to feel frightened that this was my lot in life. But something inside me was relentless, I did not, would not, believe that because I was going through menopause, I should finish like this.

I started to read as much as I could, I worked with my Naturopath who confirmed it was the hormones and cortisol levels. I joined Blogs and read everything. The one I liked was Deborah Hutton’s Balance by Deborah Hutton. While reading her blog I came across a program called My Menopause Transformation, MyMt for short. This program has opened my eyes about what is happening and why it is happening and what I needed to do to get through this final hormonal transition in my life and continue onto a fabulous, fun and fit life beyond. Wendy Sweet who founded the program has a PhD in Menopause and Fitness. The one thing that resonated with me and made so much sense to what was happening to me was that women in their 50s (ahem that’s me) is that we are the first generation of women to go through menopause after embracing the group fitness, high-intensity revolution that was born in the 1990s. The more I was stacking on the weight, the more I exercised, the harder I exercised, the more I restricted my diet, the more I counted calories, the more I continued to put on. Now I had an answer as to why that was not working anymore.

Julie Walters, actress
“If you deal with it in a healthy fashion then I think you come out the other side a better person. I’ve got so much more energy now than I ever had in my early 50s before the menopause.”

To help me manage my menopause so that I come out the other end healthy and happy I work on employing the following:

  • Get plenty of sleep and work on developing strategies to ensure you sleep for 6-8 hours and deeply with no waking in the middle of the night; not even to go to the bathroom
  • Reduce stress to help reduce your cortisol levels. Mediate, practice mindfulness, practice deep breathing such as Butekyo Breathing regularly. Do one thing each day that unloads any stress of the day: a bath/shower, a walk, reading, gardening, have a quiet moment with a cup of tea.
  • Eat a light meal before 6pm with no protein at night. In fact, I eat my dinner at lunch and I eat a whole food plant-based diet. Eat lots of vegetables especially leafy greens and more legumes. Eliminate refined processed foods that contain trans fats, high sugar and salt. In fact, eat food in its natural state.
  • Move more but reduce the intensity. Do more incidental activity. I have now switched to Yoga and Pilates and I do this in a heated room. I get cardiovascular benefits as well as strength development by using my own body weight.
  • Drink lots of water

I know it’s a lot to take in, and read, but I have found that this has worked for me. I have lost 6kgs of the 15kgs I put on. I am sleeping through the night and I feel calmer and more grounded. You could say that I am stopping to smell the roses more.

Smiling Woman in Sun Hat eating a watermelon during Summer
Stop and Smell the Roses

I am happy and my moods are less frequent and severe and that’s something my family are happy about too. And my waist is back! Yeh! I am doing this so that my life post menopause can be just as rich and rewarding as it was in my 20s. 30s and 40s. And so I leave you with this wonderful quote from the author Florence King,

โ€œA woman must wait for her ovaries to die before she can get her rightful personality back. Post-menstrual is the same as pre-menstrual; I am once again what I was before the age of twelve: a female human being who knows that a month has thirty day, not twenty-five, and who can spend every one of them free of the shackles of that defect of body and mind known as femininity.โ€ 

What relaxing, healthy or fun activity do you do to give yourself more balance in your life?

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