Thursday, March 29, 2012

Perimenopause and Weight Gain

Today I feel like I am hanging by a thread with the healthy eating, but I have a plan and am going to stick to it. I had my usual breakfast (2 free range eggs, 1 slice bacon, 1/2 navel orange, 2 c coffee w/half and half = 228 calories). I am having some trouble with that tooth I chipped last month that needs a crown soon, so am leaning towards softer/more liquid meals until dinnertime, such as yogurt/fruit smoothies and Medifast shakes. I need to dig through the freezer and find something for dinner, but the plan is to aim for 450 calories or so at dinner and allotting 100 calories for an evening snack. My total should be around 1200 for the day.

I am finding that things have changed regarding my weight loss over the past year. Talking to some friends about my symptoms and difficulty losing, it was suggested that it could be perimenopause. And I think that could be what's going on here. I will be 43 years old this summer and that is prime time for perimenopause. I've had many of the symptoms I have read about on the Web MD website and the Mayo Clinic website, such as hot flashes, erratic sleep, headaches, worsening PMS, and very weird cycles. Another symptom of perimenopause is weight gain. And I found this info on Women to Women very enlightening:

"Women carrying extra burdens tend to have more extreme hormonal imbalance. And in my experience, the greatest burdens to your health relate to chronic stress and emotional issues. If we describe our life as a journey, I think perimenopause is like standing at the baggage claim. Chronic stress and unresolved emotions are like baggage that we need to handle now, or it just keeps on circling around.... Also high on the list of burdens are spotty nutrition, inadequate sleep, and sedentary lifestyle. These factors can escalate symptoms in perimenopause because they reduce your body’s natural ability to detoxify and maintain balance."

Interesting, isn't it?

Anyway, this month I have been focused on getting referrals and appointments for all the medical stuff I have been putting off. I have to do it in stages; even with insurance, there is a $30-50 copay per visit and it *really* adds up. I don't have dental coverage so that will have to come last; I just had a crown done earlier this year and need another soon, thanks to having a mouth full of metal fillings by the time I was 14. So I went to my primary doctor and got all that bloodwork done, I have my allergy shot appointments set up (I have a life-threatening allergy so this comes first), all my kids are set up for dental and eye and specialist appointments, and in just a few weeks I will be seeing my 'girly stuff' doctor to recheck for precancerous cervical cells, recheck the status of my uterine fibroid and ovarian cyst, and get a mammogram to recheck the spots they found 2 or 3 years ago. I will be asking about possible perimenopause and maybe they can do some kind of hormone check to see what's going on. In the meanwhile, I am trying to counter what I suspect is a slowed metabolism with more activity.

If any of you have gone through perimenopause (or menopause itself) I would love to hear your experiences with it. What kinds of symptoms did you have, and did you find anything that worked to help alleviate them?

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lyn, I hit menopause at 48 and indeed, I experienced some of the symptoms you mention, including difficulty with wt. loss and maintenance, doing the same things I had done previously.
I am going out on a limb here and I hope you know me at least well enough by now, to recognize that what I say is out of sincere affection and gratitude for what your blog has done for me.
I am a proponent of one eliminating any and all medical reasons for any and all symptoms. I believe you are doing the right thing in making sure that you know exactly what is happening with your body.

On the other hand, and this is where I fear you may hear my words as implying criticism, when in fact it is a suggestion at finding a solution. I am not sure if you have given any sustainable "program" whatsoever, a real chance. When I say "program" I mean whatever you decide to follow. I am having as much difficulty with the word nazis as I have with the diet nazis. A "diet" or "program" used in this context, assumes the definition re. nutrition based on a particular set of rules (yours) and schedule (if you have one). I believe that your recent struggles MAY have been exacerbated by the fact that your choices where not sustainable, therefore you were unable to follow anything consistent for more than a few days at a time.
When I tried to figure out what it takes for me to lose a pound a week, I invested more than a month, kept food similar in choices and the activity was pretty much consistent. I spent two weeks EACH at 1800, 1700, 1600 and 1500 calories. I chose an activity in which I could engage every single day, rain or shine. This kept things consistent. At the end of that period, I determined that I lose 1 pound a week at 1650 calories and the amount of exercise that I could maintain. At this rate I went from 192 in Sept. of 2011 to 159, currently. This included some weeks of maintenance, during the Holidays and some special events, when I kept things at 1800 calories (maintenance for me), sometimes for an entire month (Dec.).
All I am saying is that it seems difficult to make a decision when/if you ricochet all over the place with your "plan". You truly have little opportunity to establish what, if anything, works for you. In order to truly be able to answer your own questions, it is my opinion, that you need to collect your data in the manner in which you would if your research were serious and you were looking for valid answers. Dedication and honesty (which you need to share with anyone) are imperative but so is a reasonable period of time that will be likely to give you accurate information. Sustainability is also key, otherwise you will find yourself in the same boat in which you have been for the last 2 years or so.
Incidentally, for somebody who seems as much affected by the numbers on the scale as I was, I will add that I did not not weight myself except at the start and end of each 2 week period, in order to be able to assess that calories level. I knew that I could not stick with anything I planned, if I judged each day by the morning's numbers.
As always, I wish you success and I sincerely hope that I have not written anything that sounds preachy or alienating. Whatever you do that works to your satisfaction is wonderful and is worthy of support. All of the above is just one caring person's observations of your patterns, as well as my own, limited experience with success in a new (for me) way of doing things. All my previous losses were achieved by starving and exercising in a manner that made it impossible to sustain. Through your blog I found a new approach. Slowly and steadily has never been my intervention of choice in the past but it will probably not need to be repeated until the day I die.
m/b

Leslie said...

I sailed through peri and full on menopause with very little trouble and few symptoms. I can honestly say that weight I gained during periemenopause was gained the old-fashioned way - by overeating... not because of hormonal shifts. Luckily I've always managed to stay pretty active, and I played a lot of competitive tennis all through my 40s, so that probably helped.

One thing that has definitely changed that I know is hormonal is how my body distributes and holds weight. I used to be a sort of classic pear, and now my middle is much thicker, even when I'm down 20 pounds from where I am now.

Honestly, I think getting/staying more physically active is going to be the best thing for you regarding age-related changes. Burns calories, keeps joints more limber and functional, and strength training is key to limiting bone loss.

Don't expect trouble where it hasn't yet appeared. I know I'm lucky when it comes to female issues, but I never expected it to be awful. It's great that you're getting all the checkups so you know where you stand. But nothing is a substitute for physical activity.

Kara said...

I'm thinking that part of the reason you are finding your plan so unsustainable is that you're not eating enough.

1200 cals at 200 lbs is simply not enough fuel for your body. When you were eating less than that on Medifast you were getting nutritionally suplemented foods, plus you weren't trying to add in so much exercise.

The tired, edgy, inability to sustain is going to come from not eating enough. I guarantee it.

Anonymous said...

Lyn, this is meant to be useful advice. I think you are looking for reasons why you have gained weight - medical reasons etc. and are not taking a good hard look at your eating and exercise. You yourself have said that you have not been exercising and I really think that eating the artificial food on Medifast has not done your metabolism any favours. Since switching from Medifast to whole foods you have gained weight but you have also in some cases doubled what you would normally eat in a day. YOu were not losing weight on Medifast and the transition is no doubt meant to stall weight loss in those who have achieved their goal. I think you need to just eat good healthy food (and not all "whole" food counts as healthy or weight-loss friendly) and give your metabolism time to recover. THere are no quick answers and I think you just have to wait this one out.

Carol

violinista said...

I hate to sound preachy, so please don't take this the wrong way either--but I have to agree with the last comment and opine that exercise needs to come into the picture at some point. My mother has yo-yo dieted pretty much my whole life, but never seemed interested in incorporating any physical activity, claiming she didn't like "being out of breath", and will resort to extreme measures to lose weight (only drinking lemonade with cayenne pepper for 10 days at a time, nothing else). She loses the weight, but will gain it back again months later. She doesn't like to listen to me when I talk bout exercise. I run a lot now and I feel pretty energetic and healthy for the most part. I will admit I've never had a weight problem, and am a pretty petite person, but I also know that just because something new seems hard at first, doesn't mean that you can get better at it. E.G. I couldn't run a whole mile 3 years ago without losing my breath. But I tried again and again, and gradually built up my distance and speed. Obviously, running isn't for everyone...but any kind of movement will do! And then pushing yourself even more when that gets boring or static, is even better!
I know you've talked about having joint problems, and I do realize that someone like me has an easier time moving around...but starting somewhere is the key, I think. Not giving up early, too. I wish you the very, very best, Lyn:)

Princess Dieter said...

My perimenpausal period, which began around age 42, 43 and lasted until I was almost 49, sucked many, many rotten eggs. I had horrible hot flashes and night sweats. I had 21 day long periods some months. 21 days of what seemed like hemorrahging, requiring Plus size tampons with an overnight pad, cause I had to change every 30 to 40 minutes or leak like a mother. Gross, right?

I had skipped periods. Crampy periods. Long periods.

I had to carry Spanish fans and paper towels to mop up if I got a hot flash in public. My sister and I invested in electric fans to keep at relative's homes that we could share to keep cool. We stayed indoors most summertimes.

Awful. Glad that crap is over.

Now, I just hate the super dry, thinner, less plump skin of post-menopause and the, yes, shifting body. I've always been appley/avocadoey, but the middle fat is just really stubborn.

I prefer menopause to perimenopause, hella yeah. :D

Invest in cool clothes that you can layer as needed. Sis and I invested in dozens of camisoles and tanks to wear under button shirts so we could strip down during hot flashes. Scrunchies and octopus clips became staples in my purse to put my hair up....Spanish fans in my purse. Frozen water bottles for car trips to use as "neck coolers" when frozen, and drinnk when melted. :D

And get ready to wash the sheets way more often...cause you wake up in a pool of sweat.

Lyn said...

Re: exercise~

Maybe you missed the posts where I share that I have been biking daily, walking daily, and doing physical therapy (strength building) exercises 3x/week? It might not seem like much, but for me it is a big step from being sedentary most of the winter. I am building up time and distance and am doing the max amount I can do without damaging my joints or hurting myself, but it is increasing slowly as I get stronger.

swimmermom said...

I never had trouble maintaining my weight until I turned 40. I didn't realize it, but perimenopause was just beginning. It felt like my body changed the rules without telling me! All of a sudden (it seemed) I found myself not being able to lose a few lbs with the approach that had always worked for me in the past. I have to pay attention a lot more now just to maintain, and if I do gain a couple of pounds, I have to work a lot harder to lose them.

Like Leslie, I've found that my body wants to hold onto weight in my midsection. Battle of the bulge, indeed.

I do best when I get enough sleep, keep my stress levels in check, and keep up with my workouts. I use an herbal tincture called Wise Changes when hot flashes and/or insomnia are hurting the quality of my sleep -- so several days a month, on average.

At 45 and well into perimenopause, I seem to be permanently holding onto a few more lbs than I used to, but my body strongly resists my efforts to lose any of them! BMI is still in the normal range so I can't complain, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I will be 43 this year too. I haven´t noticed any changes in weight lost yet. But I guess it really varies between each person. My older relative ladies keep telling me that loosing weight is a lot harder for them than it used to be earlier.

Marilyn said...

The one thing that helped me most thru perimenopause and beyond is flaxseeds. Every day. 2 TB ground up and mixed into juice, water, yogurt, smoothie, whatever. I'm 60 now and I still take 'em!

Another thing that helped is SAM-e. First thing in the morning, an hour before any food, but with a lot of water. Lifts mood and detoxes the liver. Expensive but worth it, at least to me.

Hang in there, Lyn! You ARE escaping obesity, no matter what it seems like, day to day!

XO - M

Karin said...

You may want to consider looking into having an ablation procedure. I just had it done, and already I'm feeling better. Ask your doctor about it. I wish you well. It's no fun going through all this crazy woman stuff. I would also encourage you to stop counting calories, eat paleo, and that too will help. I've preached it before so I won't go into it. You know where the information is.

Taryl said...

I hadn't thought of perimenopause as a possible exacerbating factor for you, but that would make so much sense! Let us know if you learn more about what's going on that could have the scale acting so wacky.

Hugs!

Anonymous said...

As to why you aren't losing weight: I don't mean this in a bad way. But are you being completely honest (with yourself) when tracking your calorie intake?

I was rereading some of your old blog posts and was struck by the "Food Amnesia" one where you completely forgot about eating Big Mac meals and cake.

I know that probably nothing to that degree is going on, but are you being completely strict and accurate when calculating and tracking your calories? Just something to consider.

As for the menopause issue, it is good to know if that is going on. But remember, even if that is the case, there is no magic solution. The course of action you need to take to get the weight off is the same, regardless of whether perimenopause is making it more difficult or not. Everyone's metabolism slows in their 40's and we just need to work that much harder to lose weight. Whoever said it was right--getting older isn't for sissies.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a lot of wisdom in m/b's comment at the top of this page.

Kristi said...

Just ask your ob/gyn for a saliva test. I had to do those a few times after having pelvic surgery to make my hormones were in line. They can tell what levels each are and that can tell them what stage you are in.

Jac said...

Have you had a chance to see Hungry For Change? It's free to watch online until tomorrow - http://www.hungryforchange.tv/online-premiere

Kristi said...

I'm going give you something else to think about. I really think it has something to do with medifast. I went on it for about 8 months when you first started. I lost 70 pounds, then cheated could never get back on the wagon. I tried so long and then finally started weight watchers, juice, you name it. When I gained back 50 of those 70 pounds, my body finally started calming down and gaining when I was eating less than 1400 calories a day. I finally started losing again. I've come to the conclusion that my body was really screwed up when eating medifast and it just didn't know what to do with more food. It took almost 8 months before it stopped gaining with 1400 calories. Interesting number since that is the same amount of time I was one the diet. I was completely depressed, hating my body for gaining, it was awful. Now, I am back to losing naturally, eating about 1400 calories. I wanted to tell you this so that you aren't so flabbergasted as I was. You arent alone. I am not sure there is a magic pill and I can't remember at what weight you were when u started medifast. Hoping it is getting back to where u were and not how long you were on it. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

It is a time of life issue, but could it just be the kids? You seem immersed in food. When my youngest went off to college, there was suddenly less food in the house, all of it grownup whole foods, and I had more time to exercise. My substantial weight loss (60 lbs) began with 1400 calories and walking 5 miles every day; I lost at least 2 lbs a week. I had to step away from food-is-love routine where I hosted big family meals. This was hard, but I decided my health was worth it. I always admired women who could feed their kids and wait to eat dinner later with husband. I would eat twice. I also really dislike liquid meal replacement, they imply I am sick, unable to make normal choices and they are boring and unsatisfying. I think a limited selection of whole foods keeps me ticking along. Light breakfast, big salad with protein for lunch, lean protein and veggie for dinner and yogurt in evening is what I do every single day. I use free Fitday to plan and keep carbs/fats/protein in a balance that works for me. If I eat an avocado one day I won't have eggs so the fat isn't too much on that day. That is the level of planning; nothing more. I love your writing and wish you the best. Mary in Maryland

Karen said...

I've gone completely through myself. Yes, your body changes and you eat fewer calories to maintain.

That's one of the many benefits of eating a primal/ paleo diet. I can still eat in that lower calorie range, but its the quality of the food that allows me to eat well, feel satiated and maintain my weight. I'm healthier in my mid 40's and post menopause than I ever was in my 20's and 30's.

Way fewer migraines in menopause for me. That's been a real treat. not many other side effects. Few hot flashes and night sweats. A little bit of forgetfulness, from time to time.

Really happy that I can spend my vacation money and time on myself and my family and not on chronic health conditions in the second half of my life.

Reaching my mid 40's caused me to finally draw that line and decide to live a better, richer life. It became crystal clear to me and I didn't look back.

Amy said...

They make over-the-counter menopause tests too, I'm not sure how accurate they are, but they are usually by the pregnancy test section.
I know it must be so frustrating for you because you seem to be doing everything right. I hope you get to the bottom of it, but keep up the good fight until then!

Lyn said...

Thanks all for your thoughts and experiences! It's good to know I am not alone and hear about what has worked for you. I am hanging in there :)

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:44PM, I am BLUSHING! Thank you. I actually went back to see what I wrote and I have to blush again and exercise my ocd tendencies: I meant to write that Lyn need NOT share with anyone hmmm "variations" from her program, she only needs to be honest with herself, in order for her assessment to be accurate.

I just love it that I am compulsive enough to reread my post but not do not do so before "publishing". Yep, edit after the fact. That always works great! DARN!
m/b

PaulaMP said...

I started having hot flashes about 15 years ago, several times a day. I finally went through menopause at 55 and sad to say I'm still having terrible hot flashes, waking me up several times a night. I too found that once I got to this point it became much harder to lose weight and even though I've been heavy for a long time now, I developed fat in my belly area that I never had before. I work out for two hours at least four times a week, treadmill, weights, swimming laps and Zumba classes. I look a lot "tighter" now but I losing very very slowly. You definitely have to eat less calories at this time of life, but I'm hoping the extra muscle will take up some of the slack. Your doctor can take a blood test and you'll know if you're starting all this fun ...

Anonymous said...

I started with perimenopause at 44.All the same symptoms you are having and awful hot flahes even during the day. My MD put me on hormone replacement...birth control pills at first and the later at 50 I started HRT with Prempro. Prempro made me feel great again. PS Blood hormone levels for perimenopause very frequently are not good or true indicators..MD treats symptoms not hormone levels.

Anonymous said...

Just be sure not to use the potential perimenopause as a reason to not do the things you know you should. I know how frustrating it is, believe me.

I am on a medication that makes it nearly impossible to lose weight. In fact, almost everyone gains while on it. But I decided I am still going to work out six or seven days a week (around 15 hours total) and eat 1200-1400 calories per day.

Due to this medication's effects on metabolism I am only losing a few pounds a month. As in, 2-3. It's difficult. It's easy to get discouraged. But I am not giving up.

I just tell myself if I keep doing the right things the weight HAS to come off eventually. I highly doubt I'm the one person in the universe whose body will defy the laws of physics. :)

So regardless of what the hormonal test says, hang in there and keep up the exercise and healthy eating. I know you realize that pays all sorts of rewards in addition to weight management.

Take care!
Christine

me said...

I am forty and noticing some changes as well~especially sleeping. Getting in my workouts is helping A LOT!!!! Otherwise I have nights I sleep four hours and am just up after that. Stress has a different affect on my body as well~I have had a bout or two with anxiety. I'm talking the kind where I just never got hungry~yeah, ME! LOL! I can ALWAYS eat! That too is better already after less than a month of trying to take better care of my physical health.

Anonymous said...

Just a gentle comment from a doc: there is no "hormone test" for menopause. Your hormone levels will shift in your 40s as you transition into menopause, but they are essentially meaningless. There is a wide range of levels and they can be different for each person. Elevated FSH levels mean you are starting to transition, but that's all. The process could take years.

I would recommend not trying to blame your weight gain (or lack of loss) on a normal female process. Instead I would concentrate on eating well, increasing your exercise, getting off sugar and refined carbs, and being completely honest about what you are eating.

Lyn said...

Just wanted to add...

I am a thinker. An overthinker, probably. But my thoughts and exploring different aspects of weight loss and health is in no way looking for a reason/excuse not to eat healthy and exercise. I am doing that regardless! I just like to read, think, write and learn about various health topics that may be affecting me and others.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty...Good or Bad that's why I love your blog. We all have our own issues and you are dealing with a lot.
No excuses here, just reality. Some people are great t starting a diet/program and completing it. Good for them!
I struggle day by day and it sounds easy but we all have are own demons to handle.

You keep going. I am proud that you are still trying, you inspire me to try again. You'll never achieve your dreams if you don't continue to try. Keep doing it...you'll make it there in YOUR time.

Steelers6 said...

I was a little younger than you when I began to realize peri was starting too. It is still going on for me. (Would have been nice to have a Mother who could possibly have alerted me that that was what was going on...my Mom is gone too.)

I remember reading about perimenopause, maybe talking with my Dr too, [after I figured out wth was going on with me]. How often do we hear "well, you can help by eating healthy choices, lose weight, & exercise". Huh. I feel like I had heard that recommendation for cramps,& various things over the years...blah blah blah, it will fix whatever ails ya...

WELL.

Guess what. 5 years ago now I DID make the change to do all those things, and lo, my perimenopause symptoms have improved! Yahooo..some of them I don't even have anymore, and of course I feel better all around.

Interesting.

Best, Chrissy

Anonymous said...

I am 52 and have been having peri-menopause since about age 42. When it is around my period time I have scarey heart palpitations and I wake up in a pool of sweat at 2 am and never get back to sleep till 6:00 am (half an hour before I have to get up for work.)Yes, I am still getting a regular period. It comes anywhere between 15 to 35 days apart. And it is heavy. I see no end in sight. I have never skipped a period.
I have had the hardest time with my weight since peri began. I can lose it, but I cannot keep it off. Twice in the last ten years I have lost and regained 70 pounds. It's like something possesses me and won't let me stop until I reach the weight it wants (240 in my case.) I just feel driven to eat things like peanut butter and sweets. Once I get to 240 I am able to diet again. What the heck is going on with me?
I am trying really hard to get the weight off again. I am not giving up and like you, I keep searching for answers. We cannot give up. I believe that somehow I will find my balance again. I hope we both do. Your blog is excellent.

Tammy said...

I will be 43 at the end of the summer...I have had a couple of hot flashes..have decided that I don't like them. My PMS is much worse than it was before. My periods...I had a really heavy one in January..then for February and March..barely anything and it lasted only a few days. Some crazy things going on...

Yovi Miami said...

I've gain 80lbs in a span of 31/2 yrs, its horrible ai m trying to stay away from bad carbs bc they really take a toll on me when I eat them not only physically but emotionally it is horrible. I am depressed because of all the weight gain, I feel like I lost myself 3yrs ago when this started because I just don't feel like happy go lucky me anymore :( . I am going to the Dr. to check my levels again and see what we can do. When I went last time to Doc. they wanted to put me on the pill but I refuse thinking I was going to gain weight well guess what I gained weight anyways and lots of it! and Fast too! If he puts me on BCP I will take hopefully it will help balance hormones and body wont hold on to fat due to lack of estrogen hormones my body is not producing as it should during this transition. I am really hoping Doc. Can pay more attention to this and help me bc I can't handle it anymore ;(

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