For a girl who had horrific PMS, I'd have welcomed menopause. At least, that's what you might think. But being fully menopausal by age 47 ... well, I honestly wasn't ready to experience it so young. Plus, going through it at 47, after I'd learned that a family member who was closing in on 60 had just stopped menstruating, made me think, "What the heck is wrong with me?"
Although I had all of the theoretical knowledge about hormone balance and how hormones shift over time, and I knew that normal menopause could happen anywhere between ages 45-55, I still wasn't ready to personally experience it so young. And naturally, I thought, "Am I aging prematurely?"
It's not surprising then that I had some anxiety around menopause and aging. Especially when the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines aging as a "declining phase of life." Not very encouraging or positive, is it? If you're like me and struggling to view all of this as a positive, I want you to know that it might not be all in your own head. Take our culture for instance.
For most women, menopause doesn't happen in a supportive, nurturing environment, and because of our obsession with youth and pop culture, few women escape contemptuous attitudes toward aging. So I knew I had to make a choice--adapt or decline.
I'm a big believer of not obsessing over things that I can't control. So after I had my little pity party, I quickly set out to look at the positives and fully embrace this phase of life--a post-menopausal, 47-year old feminine woman.
I decided to reframe menopause as a wake-up call and an invitation to take better care of myself than ever before. As a health coach who has trained with Sara Gottfried, MD, I feel that in order to help women balance their hormones, I must be aware that the first decade after menopause is critical in setting the tone for the rest of a woman's life.
So while I've always taken care of myself, I've made the following five things my daily non-negotiables for a happy, healthy post-menopausal life.
1) I don't ascribe to precise dietary dogma; instead, I favor the pithy advice of Michael Pollan, "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much." In addition to this, I avoid eating lots of starchy carbs to avoid insulin resistance and unnecessary weight gain.
2) I reject the dietary nonsense of low-fat eating, and instead I eat a lot of fat. Although sex hormones decline in menopause, we still make them and we need healthy fat sources in order to build hormones. Having delicious, unctuous fatty foods such as avocado, ghee, coconut oil walnuts, wild salmon and grass fed organic beef does a lot to keep every system of my body healthy.
3) I jump rope for bone health. Ladies, did you know that your bones will begin to decline after the first five years of menopause? To build up your bones, you'll need to be a bit aggressive and add some force to your exercises--walking is great for the spirit, but it's not going to get it done for the bones. That's why I jump rope.
4) I guard my sleep and know that nothing that I'm doing to enhance this phase of my life will work without sleep. Sleep is the underpinning of hormone resiliency for me.
5) I take time out for fun. As a certified health coach with advanced training in functional medicine lab work, I work with lots of women who are really struggling. I delve deep into why they're not getting better. And while I love what I do and feel it's more a calling than a job, it can still be draining. That's why taking time out for fun is crucial to my sense of balance and joy.
I've learned that menopause can be an ageless experience. You can go through it at a young age even if you're in the best health, and that's okay. It's the understanding that it's okay that needs to happen. And it's the adding of positive action that will lead you to have a happy, healthy post-menopausal life.
Have questions on menopause? Have a daily non-negotiable you practice? Please share your comments below.