"Pack your bags for the journey," Grandmother Growth advises softly. "Your Change may be rough in places, so cushion yourself. Your Change may have some hard edges, so let your contours round. Your wise blood is stirring and you are learning to let it move without attaching fear to its meanderings. In the same way, you can gracefully allow your natural weight gain. Struggling with your weight or dieting is bad medicine for you now, resulting only in thin bones that break easily, extreme hormone shifts that will keep you from sleeping and thinking, and an inner fire reduced to ashes or burning out of control. Pack your bags, slowly, dear one. There is no rush," sighs Grandmother Growth, closing her eyes and sinking into a nap.
The best ally you can have on your menopausal journey is ten "extra" pounds. I know you don't want to hear this. I understand how difficult it is to desire ten extra pounds (or accept it happening to you, as it does to most menopausal women). You may have spent much of your life trying to get rid of ten extra pounds. The ultimate failure as a woman nowadays is not to be infertile, but to gain weight.
When thin and young is the standard of beauty, any menopausal woman might find it difficult to maintain a positive self image as she sees herself becoming a thick-waisted, silver-haired Crone.
I had some killer hot flashes, but the most difficult part of menopause for me was gaining weight. I knew it was going to happen; I knew it was supposed to happen. But I never thought it would happen. I read the studies; I knew that most healthy women, thin or thick or in between, gained ten to fifteen pounds during their menopausal years. But not me, I thought. I eat superbly. I exercise: an hour and a half of yoga every week, tai chi, and my ordinary farm chores (moving and splitting firewood, throwing bales of hay, hauling water, chasing goats). Not me.
Yes, me. I watched my image in the mirror take on a shape more and more closely approximating the Venus figurines of pre-history. And my modern prejudices surged to the fore: "Yuck. You look disgusting. You're overweight. It isn't healthy. Lose weight!" I knew it wasn't true. But despite years of feminism and consciousness-raising on every -ism, from ageism to weightism, there was my culture yelling at me in my own mind every time I looked in the mirror.
Now I looked like my aunts. Now I looked like a woman. It was as strange and unfamiliar as the sprouting of my breasts and pubic hair at puberty. I remember standing in my clothes closet at the age of thirteen, wistfully and resentfully removing my favorite little-girl dresses, none of which fit.
Not looking in the mirror didn't help. (I didn't have to resist looking at the scale. I don't own one.) My clothes didn't fit. First it was my blouses: my buttons gaping and my t-shirts straining. Then it was my pants: Tight waistbands became absolutely impossible. My size fluctuated widely from morning to night, growing bigger as the day went on. For several months, I walked around the house with my pants unfastened from dinner until bedtime, a menopausal symptom my sweetheart was completely in favor of.
Fortunately, I knew that dieting would not improve my health, and could easily harm me. But without the loving acceptance I felt from my lover, I might have faltered and given in to the desire to resist this change with all my might. I might have given up on being proud to look like a postmenopausal woman: like Margaret Mead, Eleanor Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony.
I wish for every menopausal woman someone to tell her each evening when she disrobes, how goddess-like, how voluptuous, how attractive and desirable she is, and to say with her: "The best ally I can have on my menopausal journey is ten extra pounds" Of course, I don't mean ten pounds of ordinary fat. You want ten pounds of healthy fat supported by healthy muscle and bone And you want to gain that weight very, very slowly. Ideally about a pound or two a year during menopause. Remember, you are cushioning yourself for the journey. Love yourself as you get "in shape" for Change.
Step 1. Collect information . . . o Fat cells convert androstenedione, a substance produced by the adrenals and the ovaries, into estrone, the primary postmenopausal estrogen. Women who gain weight during menopause have less severe hot flashes, an easier Change, and denser bones, according to menopause advocate, and long-time editor of A Friend Indeed, the Newsletter of Menopause, Jeanine O'Leary Cobb. o Despite pronouncements that extra fat is a health risk, weight gained during the menopausal years is not associated with any increase in mortality risk.1 o And losing it will not improve your health.2,3 o In fact, weight loss can lead to thyroid malfunction, severe gall bladder problems, increased insulin-resistance, and weakening of the cardiovascular and immune systems.4 o If you don't have a sweetie to tell you your bigger body is bodacious, read: + Radiance: The Magazine for Large Women; POBox 30246, Oakland, CA 94604. + Healthy Weight Journal; PO Box 620, LCD1, Hamilton, ON; L8N 3K7, Canada. 1-800-568-7281. + You Count, Calories Don't, Linda Omichinski. Box 102A, RR#3, Portage La Prairie, MN; R1N 3A3, Canada. 1-800-565-4847. + Loving Your Midlife Body, Linda Moore Browning, Health Forum for Older Women, Winter 1999.
Step 2. Engage the energy . . . "The first time I saw pictures of my postmenopausal self I was frightened by my size!" o Give yourself permission to take up more space. Allow your needs to be uppermost. Enlarge your view of yourself. Enlarge your world. o If you don't already do an hour or more of yoga, tai chi, or some other meditative physical exercise weekly, begin . . . now. o Go to an art gallery, or get a book from your library, and find a picture of an attractive woman with a round proud belly. Meditate with her. Become her for a moment. Feel the energy in your belly. Feel the wise blood stirring within your belly. Stirring and simmering and sending its heat up along the energy pathways of your body. Be proud of yourself and your belly. o Say a short prayer of thanksgiving, or sing a song, or light a candle, or observe a moment of silence before you eat. Affirm that the food will bring you health and pleasure.
Step 3. Nourish and tonify . . . o Give up dieting. Eat the widest variety of whole foods possible. Don't make any foods absolutely forbidden. What you eat everyday has the most effect. The best way to stop worrying about weight gain is to eat ten or more servings of fruit and vegetables, three or more servings of whole grains, and a cup of yogurt daily. o To insure that you add hormonally-helpful, bone-strengthening, empowering fat, include one serving of a high calorie phytoestrogen-rich food and three servings of super mineral-rich foods in your daily diet. + High-calorie hormone-rich foods include olives, olive oil, organic butter, freshly ground flax seeds, homemade beer, alcohol-free beer, fresh peanut butter. + Super mineral-rich foods include nourishing herbal infusions of nettle, oatstraw, red clover, or comfrey leaf; cooked greens such as kale, collards, lamb's quarter, amaranth, mustard; seaweeds; whey; whole grains including oats, millet, wheat, and brown rice; bittersweet chocolate. o Beer is traditionally brewed from hops and sprouted whole grains. The fermentation creates easily assimilated B vitamins and liberates minerals. One beer a week will slowly increase your weight, improve your memory, soothe your nerves, and improve your immune system. A cup of hops tea with a spoonful of barley-malt sweetener is an alcohol-free alternative.
Step 4. Stimulate/Sedate . . . o Most herbal remedies sold for weight loss include stimulants which can disturb heart function, and diuretic and laxative herbs which can cause excessive fluid loss and disrupt electrolyte balance. This may lead to life-threatening events during the menopausal years, when heart and adrenal functions are unstable. Avoid all "weight-loss" herbs. o If you are determined to lose weight during your menopausal years, here are some safe strategies. + Eat a substantial breakfast and a large lunch and skimp on dinner. Absolutely avoid midnight snacks. + Eat a cup/250 ml of fresh chickweed daily or take a dropperful of the fresh plant tincture in some water during or after every meal (at least four times a day). + Gently simmer a handful of dried or fresh bladderwrack (fucus) seaweed for 15 minutes in enough water to cover. Strain. Drink a cup before each meal for no more than three months. + Eat a bowl of hot soup at the beginning of the meal. You will feel more sated and eat less. Cold soups and drinks do not have the same effect. . o Keep active. But you don't have to buy any spandex. Five-minute periods of exercise, done several times a day, every day, are better than one long session once a week. Weight lost as a result of increased physical activity is safer than weight lost through diet manipulation. Lift weights. o Depression can be associated with intense cravings for starchy foods. If we satisfy these cravings with mineral-rich foods (including chocolate), the depression will be "treated" and will dissipate. If we attempt to satisfy these cravings with mineral-deprived white flour and white sugar, the depression will deepen. (Also, see depression, pages XXXX.)
Step 5b. Use drugs . . . o Appetite-suppressant drugs upset your metabolic rate and make it harder and harder for you to maintain a normal weight with a normal diet. Avoid all drugs and herbs and supplements of any kind that claim to suppress your appetite.
Step 6. Break and enter . . . o Science is ready to help you deny your increasing wisdom and power by liposuctioning fat from your derrière and adding it to your face to plump out wrinkles.
You all have been very responsive to me and thank you!
I am 52.5 and still have periods every month. I have painful bloating PMS that lasts for almost the entire month. I've gained weight quickly and really need to shed it as I cannot afford new clothes. I take a endocrine ticture mixed made up by Kathleen Gould here in Mesa, AZ. I have tinctures of St. John's wort, Valarian, Skullcap and motherwart curing on my counter. I have trouble sleeping. Sometimes falling asleep and always staying asleep. I work full time and have a high pressure job. I need sleep. I've also read recently that skullcap can cause liver damage. I currently make up a tea every night with hops, valarian, skullcap and passion flower. I feel relaxed but.....
I drink infusions of oatstraw and nettle. I also make up a sinus and allergy tea (mix by Kathleen Gould) and add dandellion to it.
Please help me.....I need to get 10 pounds off and sleep and sleep all night!
Thanks again for your quick responses to me!
Sounds like much you are doing is right on line. It is hard especially in our day and age, but are you able to devote any time to yourself? A block of time (even if small) to relax, perhaps catnap during the day...
Weight gain and sleep disturbances are a part of the process as we begin the journey to menopause so, it's not surprising that you are having these issues.
The tinctures sound great. Certainly these are all herbs that can help with fatigue and nerves. Have you had a chance to use them yet? If you keep waking up in the night, keep a glass of water by your bed and the motherwort tincture. When you wake up take 10-20 drops of it and a drink of water. Do that everytime you wake up, even if it is several times an hour....
Do you have a nightime ritual - can you meditate, decompress a little b/f bed. Are you sleeping in the dark without a lot of electronic devices around - perhaps put alarm clock in other room if you are using one and make sure you don't have cell phones, etc. by bed.
Another tincture that is recommended is vervain (verbena officinalis) 20-40 drops in water before bedtime.
Sleep disturbances can come about from calcium depletetion - something that the motherwort helps with. How is your diet? Hopefully, you are able to avoid stimulants such as coffee and black tea. Some other ways to get calcium is through whole-fat milk and yogurt, dandelion greens and lamb's quarters - also good to incorporate seaweed into your diet. If you feel you want to go the route of supplements, Susun recommends a bedtime dose of 500mg calcium.
Lavender is good for sleep as well - I have a spritz I use and I have seen sleep balms so that may be an option. Also perhaps lavender and hops in a dreams pillow... Do keep up with the oatstraw and nettle infusions - helpful with nourishing your body and nerves.
As for the weight, how was your weight before? If it was average or even underweight, according to Susun your weight gain is normal and helps to cushion your body for all the changes of menopause. If you want to lose the weight, you can use chickweed tincture - a dropperful in water during or after a meal (Needs to be done at least 4 times a day and over a long period of time).... You could also start drinking some chickweed infusions as well. You can also drink a cup of bladderwrack seaweed tea before meals. Make sure you are able to stay active.
Thanks for responding. I'm so tired I'm sick to my stomach and completely exhausted. I just cry. I'm not having trouble even falling asleep. I do the motherwort tincture when I wake up. I use all the tinctures.....I take 2000 mg of calcium a day and transdermal magnesium especially at night. I do detoxified iodine every morning. Nope, can't sleep until night time. No clock in my room. Room is dark and I lay there sometimes for a few hours and then it's like I'm in between two worlds
I am sorry to hear about what you are going through... How long have you been dealing with this? Perhaps there is more going on than just the physical aspects you write about. Can you explore any healing modalities such as reiki, etc.? Can you possibly schedule a consultation with Susun? 30 minutes is $50 and she is given details b/f your call so she is familiar with what is happening .... blessings, Kim www.wisewomanuniversity.org www.wisewomanbookshop.com
20 months. I've done it all. Energy work. Naturopaths, acupuncture, real drugs. I'm so broke from trying things.
Well you certainly are trying - no question about that. I can only imagine the level of frustration you are feeling and along with the stress from your job... That is more than enough to put us down about as low as we can go. If you cannot afford the paid consultation, I would try to reach Susun during her Tuesday free hotline that I wrote about earlier - I will also cc to Justine in case she has something else to offer....
Q. Dear Wise Woman, I am going thought menopausal for about 10 years and I cant lost weight tell me how to loss weight. I starting gain weight when I stop smoking and can not not gain weight. I need your help. Bonnie
A. Hello Bonnie, thank you for writing. This is a concern for some as they go through menopause. It is my understanding that gaining weight during this time is a normal and healthy way for us women to be. Of course you can best tell the health of your situation, but I would encourage you to focus on your health rather than your weight being as it once was.
As well, we have an online forum where people around the world have come to share topics of like interest, and I know this is one! You are welcome to join and post your query, www.herbshealing.com/wisewomanforum.htm, we would be happy to have you :)