Let's Talk: Perimenopause
Years ago in my mid 30's I was up at my children's school volunteering with a group of moms. Some moms that were in their 40's at the time told me "Just WAIT until you hit your 40's. Everything changes and you can't do anything about it."
I remember thinking that would never happen to me because I was really health conscious and worked out.
Then I hit 40 and I fully understood the omen.
And I know I'm not alone. I've had dozens of conversations with women and we are all perplexed by this perimenopausal phase. It is different for us all, we don't know how long it will last but it leaves us all scratching our heads and saying a giant "WTF?!".
You get so used to your cycles and the rhythm and stability it provides. Then perimenopause starts (or does it? Who knows? That's the thing- how do you know?) and regular and standard goes out the window.
And can I just say one more thing? Spell check thinks I spelled perimenopause wrong and every time I try to correct it it suggests "menopause". This is how much we AREN'T talking about it.
I've been getting my hormones tested since I hit 40 and have been on a bio-identical progesterone for the last few years, although I've gone through phases where I wasn't regular about taking it. I knew my hormones were wavering and teetering but in addition to that, here are my main symptoms.
Irregular cycles after always being regular. Sometimes I would skip a cycle and I've also had 2 cycles in a month. Then a few months of regular. Just very up and down the last few years.
Weight gain- I didn't own a scale but things fit differently. Belly fat for sure, but also a layer of cellulite over my whole body.
Extreme, painful bloating- Especially on the months where I wouldn't have a period the bloating just would get worse and worse. It was so extreme that I was getting actual back pains like my back was about to go out. Sometimes I wouldn't even eat anything and I would start to bloat.
Exercise didn't 'work' anymore- The exercises I've always done- hot pilates, hot yoga, and strength training- just didn't seem to have the same affect. I would start going even more or training longer and my body wasn't changing or reflecting that hard work.
I'm not trying to reverse my aging but I believe it's possible to feel great and that age doesn't' mean I have to sacrifice my health. I also didn't want to get into the pattern of feeling something was wrong with me or that my hormones or body were failing me. I wanted to honor my changes and support my body.
So I did a ton of research and here's what I discovered and what changes I've made. I'll tell you all the things I'm doing and using. Spoiler alert- I feel FABULOUS.
Intermittent Fasting According To My Cycle
You may have fasted before. You may have negative thoughts about it or think 'it doesn't work for me'. Or maybe you perceive fasting to be about weight only. Just disregard all those things because this is fasting for women based on their cycle. I started following Dr. Mindy Pelz and she has been my guide and source for most of the changes I've made. Get her book, Fast Like a Girl, When I read about the incredible things that fasting can do for your body and how it can lead to autophagy and cellular regeneration, I knew that this was one of the ways I could come together with my body and really love and take care of it. In my first month of following the Fast Like a Girl fasting method, my period came right on the dot. Not only that, my mental clarity is so sharp when I fast. I feel energetic and alive.
I DO drink coffee with my non-dairy creamer and I also drink my greens. So don't think you have to eliminate those things.
Eat Foods That Love Me Back
I have been going to my nutritionist for 15 years and that's where I started a deep dive into my health journey. But I think the last few years, especially during Covid, I let a lot of things slip because I wanted to 'treat myself' since the world was burning. I also felt this sort of entitlement like "I've been so strict for so many years and I'm ready to let some of those things go and just eat what I want". I think some of that mindset is good, but ultimately I wasn't feeling great so I knew it was time to make some changes. I read Gut Feelings by Dr. Will Cole and it really resonated with me. I started to think deeply about my brain and body connection and just reset and recalibrate. Fast Like a Girl has many diet related suggestions for the different phases of fasting which is helpful but here's the major diet changes that I've personally made:
Switched to Laird's Superfood Adaptogen creamer in my coffee instead of half and half which was bloating me in the morning. Super clean and great taste.
Have a shot of Wise Goat gut tonic in the morning.
Started Drink AG1 after coffee. I really love this green drink. What I've noticed is the clarity and focus it gives me. It also has gut-heeling properties and my digestion is massively improved.
Adding gut-healing foods especially when I break my fast. I always add a Wise Goat sauerkraut to my first meal. I try to add half an avocado and some great olive oil. Intuitively, I knew my body was asking me for more fat and specifically, more fish. I love eating Fish Wife or Wild Planet seafood for lunch. I also love making a great pot of soup and eating that for my first meal.
I went gluten free 15 years ago to heal my gut inflammation. Currently, I don't eat gluten at home but if we go out I'm more lenient with it.
Afternoon matcha is a ritual that supports my mental and physical health. I do an iced match with maple syrup and cashew milk and it's so calming.
Break Up With Toxic Gut Inflammatories
If I could say what has made the largest difference in my body, it would be this. Over the years I've let things creep into my pantry and home that I thought, "Just a little of this is fine". But, I've realized that all those things have really added up and added to a toxin overload.
Got rid of all plastic I was eating/drinking out of
Got hyper conscious about seed oils. There was some snacks I had let creep in that had toxic seed oils. I also got much more conscious about where I was eating out and what I could do to not consume seed oils, like asking for olive oil and lemon on the side instead of dressing. I got to say, after doing this and now eating something that I'm sure has a seed oil in it, I feel like CRAP. It affects my body so much and I instantly bloat.
Replaced some of my 'non-toxic' household cleansers with better, cleaner ones.
Internal Gut Support
Here are a few things I've added to my supplements that my body is responding really well to.
Nurture a Healthy Support System
If I want to be well, I need continual support to do that. I like to listen to a health related podcast every day to remind me of why I'm doing what I'm doing. I follow people on Instagram who support the life I'm trying to live and give good ideas and insights. All of these things help me reinforce the changes I'm making so I set myself up for success.
How I'm Feeling
The bloat is gone. I have only been getting bloated if I eat something inflammatory. My cycle has been regular (although given perimenopause I don't expect that to be permanent). I'm sleeping SO well and deeply. I'm alert with no brain fog during the day. I don't know if I've lost weight because I don't weigh myself but my clothes are fitting great and when I look at my body I am really happy with it. Overall what I'm feeling is empowered, energized, healthy and deeply connected to my body. I haven't felt this peaceful and excited about my health in long time. And another thing I've learned in my health journey is that our wellness journey will need continual re-evaultion.
This isn't a fix or a solution, it's an evolution.
If you're in the perimenopausal years or you think maybe you are, you're not alone. There are SO many women around you going through this, we just don't talk about it because we don't take the time to get in tuned enough to check in. Take the time to check in.