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Help, My Body is Under Attack!

My doctor said the weight gain was a result of my metabolism slowing down. She said it was one of the symptoms of perimenopause and part of the aging process. But there was good news according to her. “Just cut back on your calorie intake, Beverly, and exercise,” she said. “That will keep your weight under control.” Oh, that’s just great. Not only do I have to eat like a bird but then I have to sweat like a pig in the gym!

Weight gain and hot flashes were my introduction into the world of menopause. As soon as I knew what I was experiencing had a name attached to it other than “lunatic”, I started doing research because I wanted to know more about what I could expect physically and even mentally. I discovered weight gain begins primarily during perimenopause. It is estimated that a woman may gain a pound a year during this time.

It is believed that hormone levels associated with menopause are not the sole cause of weight gain. However, aging and lifestyle does play a major role in how your body changes over the course of time. The reasons are that menopausal women tend to exercise less; eat more; and burn fewer calories. The result is a shift in the composition of your body which results in more fat and less muscle as your metabolism slows down. It is no surprise that genetics most definitely contribute to weight gain. If your parents are on the heavy side, chances are you or one of your siblings will inherit that particular body type as well.

While we all know that weight gain can cause health problems, excess weight gain during menopause increases the chance of developing serious conditions. Studies have shown that women who gain in excess of 20 pounds after menopause increase their breast cancer risk by nearly 20 percent. On the other hand, women who lose weight after menopause can reduce their risk of breast cancer by that much and more. It is estimated that women who lose 20 pounds after menopause reduce their breast cancer risk by as much as 23 percent.

In order to maintain a healthy body and reduce the risk of weight gain after menopause, a proper diet regimen combined with exercise is the answer. Exercise increases the metabolism, which allows you to burn fat. In addition, strength training exercises increase muscle mass, which not only boost your metabolism but strengthens your bones as well. Anyone who is on a diet and exercise program knows this to be true.

We all have to deal with the changes in our bodies; there is no escaping that fact. The ugly truth is as we get older; parts of our body will sag; shrink, and expand. Perhaps the trick is to not worry about what you can’t control, but to control the things you can.

One more thing…..my doctor said during menopause I could even lose my desire for sex. Loss of libido is what she called it. Well, I don’t know about you, but I sure hope it doesn’t happen to me because I’d hate to think I wasted the best years of my sex life on my ex!

Portions of this blog are a part of my book "Whatever! A Baby Boomer's Journey Into Middle Age. It is available on Amazon.com

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