How do you know if you’re in menopause? If you’re asking this question, this episode is for you. Today we’re discussing all the burning questions that you have about menopause – including what are the symptoms, and what to do about them.
In this episode, we’re talking about what happens to a woman’s body when she goes through menopause, and how she can manage her symptoms without medical intervention. Managing symptoms of menopause and perimenopause through lifestyle behaviors might not get rid of all symptoms for everyone, however it can make a huge improvement in your symptoms.
Do you have questions about menopause? Maybe you’re not sure. Am I in it or am I not? Is what I’m experiencing part of menopause or is it something that I should go get checked out by my doctor?
Whatever your questions are, we’re going to be addressing them today and in some future episodes. So, get ready because we’re covering a lot.
You are listening to the done with dieting podcast. The podcast for women in midlife, who are done with dieting, but still want to lose weight and feel good in your clothes.
You know that diets don’t work long term. But you feel like there’s this secret that everyone else knows that you just haven’t figured it out yet.
I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman. And I’ve helped hundreds of women get off the diet roller coaster, change their relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies.
Through this podcast, my goal is to help you too.
Welcome. Let’s get started.
Hi everyone, welcome to our podcast today. Today, we are talking about menopause. Something that I’ve been talking a lot about well, since the beginning of my podcast because most of the women who come to me are women in midlife. And we are all experiencing this perimenopause, menopause shift. This time in our lives when our hormones change. And quite frankly, it’s catching a lot of us off guard. Right?
And there’s still a lot of shame around the word menopause. I don’t like saying it. I don’t like saying that I’m a coach for women in menopause or women in perimenopause. And instead, I really use the word midlife. But you’re going to be seeing some changes around that because menopause is not a shameful thing. It’s something that we need to be talking more about because it’s not serving people to keep it hidden.
When we think that menopause is something that other people don’t want to hear about. Well, quite frankly, that’s just their problem. And I mean that seriously. Half of our population will go through menopause or has already gone through menopause. And so, to talk about our cycles and a woman’s body like it is shameful is perpetuating these myths that we shouldn’t be talking about women’s health.
You are going to see some changes in my podcast because I’m going to be talking about menopause a lot more, symptoms, and how we deal with them. I have a ton of stuff to talk about today. And quite frankly, there’s so much. I may have to break it out into a couple different episodes, but we’re going to see where this goes.
So, in today’s podcast, what we’re going to be talking about are some of the symptoms of menopause. Some of the questions that you have around menopause, like what’s the average age, how long does it last. Definitely, we’re going to be talking about the symptoms and how to get relief out of them. What are the effects of menopause on a woman’s body and how to deal with hot flashes?
Also, we will be talking in future episodes about some of the treatments, how to maintain good health in menopause, and then also all of the other things. Most of which many of you come to me for which is the midlife weight gain. So, we’re going to be dealing with all of those topics, not just today but through future episodes as well.
So, let’s get started.
Recently, I was on Facebook and a friend of mine was having a party for herself, basically because she had reached a certain milestone. She wasn’t married, and she said something about normalizing having parties for big celebrations that women have in our lives or that people have in our lives. Like starting a business, or sending your last kid off to school, or any of those big milestones that we have. And someone suggested having a menopause party and I was like, hell yes! This is something that we should be celebrating.
And what I see, out on the interwebs and through my clients is that so many women hold the belief that menopause is something to be feared, that menopause is something that is terrible, that menopause is just awful in general. And I have not had that experience. I have actually felt way more liberated in my life since I have experienced menopause.
And what I love about the idea, going back to the party for just a second. Imagine, having this menopause party where you give away all of your menstrual aids and you burn your period panties and all of those other things that go along with menses, right? That go along with having your cycle every single month. Not having your cycle every single month is so freaking liberating. It takes so much pressure off of us.
But what happens, the ‘negative’ quote unquote negative parts of that are that our body is changing. And one, many of the women who came before us didn’t really prepare us very well for what those changes would be and normalized it. Because menopause is such a shameful topic that men don’t want to hear about it, right? That men don’t want to hear about cycles. Men don’t want to hear about periods. Men don’t want to hear about all of this stuff.
So, what that does is it keeps us from sharing it. We find it to be shameful. We find it to be something that we don’t really want to talk about very much. And so, we don’t talk about it with our partners. We don’t talk about it with our sons. We barely talk about it with our mothers, sisters, and daughters. What happens is we perpetuate this shame that goes along with having a female body.
I find a lot of women on the internet saying like, oh, menopause is the worst. And all of these things, all of these negative symptoms that go along with menopause that really can be managed. A lot of this can be managed with lifestyle. Not all of it. I want to be very clear here that not everyone is going to have the same amounts of success with managing their hormonal cycle, their hormones through lifestyle behavior change.
However, I will tell you that lifestyle and behavior change can help us to manage the symptoms where medical intervention then can take over. So, just be aware that I do not hold the belief that all you have to do is take some vitamins. Kind of like Tom Cruise. What we can do is we can do many things through managing our eating habits, through managing our physical activity habits, through our sleep, and managing our stress. And then, whatever is left over, then we can go to our doctor and say, hey, I’m having this problem still. What can we do about it medically?
My goal for today is to educate you on what menopause is, what to expect, and provide you with a few tools to help you deal with the symptoms and the treatments.
So, let’s start with the definition of what is menopause. Oftentimes, when we talk about menopause, we’ll ask, are you in menopause? And technically, menopause is a date. It is a point in time. And so, you are either premenopausal or you are postmenopausal. So, that date and time, many of us will know when we’ve crossed that date and time because we will not have had a cycle for a period of 12 months. And once we cross that date, then we are what’s called menopausal.
Now, menopause being in menopause, there are actually two different phases. There’s the close menopause, which can usually last anywhere from the date that we cross over to about six years. And then, there’s the far menopause, which is like the time after that. Those first six years though, you can still experience symptoms. And those symptoms will range, where I’m going to talk about that in just a little bit.
Now, before we hit that date and time, we have two different phases. We have our reproductive years, and then we also have as we get closer, we start to move out of those reproductive years, we have what’s called the perimenopausal years. And that’s when we’ll start to experience some hormonal fluctuations. It’s going to be different for everybody and that’s true for all of menopause.
There are something like 34 different symptoms of menopause. Some women will experience some of them, others will experience others, and some may have barely any. And so, what I’ve noticed with my clients is that your experience of menopause really has a correlation to how you experienced PMS when you were having cycles.
So, what I find, for example, that many women who had really painful PMS growing up. That they also experience painful and large fluctuations of menopause symptoms. And those women that really didn’t experience a lot of PMS symptoms generally get off a little bit easier. That’s all genetics.
Again, there are some things that we can do lifestyle wise. However, not everything is going to be able to be fixed through eating vegetables and going for a walk.
Now, I like to think about perimenopause and menopause as being kind of like reverse puberty. When we’re children, we don’t have the hormones that would allow us to reproduce. And so, what happens then is as we get into our teen years and our body is capable of carrying a baby. We go in through puberty and our hormones are fluctuating and we become emotional and all of those things that go along with being a teen girl.
As we age, our body stabilizes, right? And then, as we move into menopause, and I don’t really know what the evolutionary reason for going through menopause is other than it’s a different phase of life. That maybe it’s just not intended that we reproduce throughout our entire lives. What’s happening is that our bodies are changing the hormones again so that we aren’t reproducing again. And so, what’s happening is our bodies are changing estrogen and progesterone and testosterone.
And if you are interested in that, I have a really good podcast with a naturopath, my mentor, Jade Teta. And I will put the link to that in the show notes. I think it’s episode number 57. And he does a great job of explaining what the hormonal fluctuations are in our bodies during that time.
Now, what happens is when we’re going through those hormonal fluctuations, you’ve heard me say this before and I’ll say it again over and over and over again. That our bodies become way more sensitive to stress, and they also become reactive to insulin in our bodies. So, it becomes really super important that we manage the amount of glucose that we take in or the amount of starch that we take into our bodies as we eat. And we also need to manage our stress way more.
What happens then is we really need to make sure that we’re not using exercise as a way of burning calories anymore. And the reason for this is because exercise is actually a stress. And so, by using exercise in this way, what we’re doing is we are working against ourselves instead of with our body. And that’s actually a lot of what I do within my private practice with my clients is I help you to work with your body instead of fighting against it. I help you to listen to the signals that your body is sending, be able to interpret them so that you can give your body what it needs. Instead of trying to make your body act a certain way.
And I think that that’s actually really important here because when we go through the different symptoms of menopause, I think that a lot of that is our body speaking to us and telling us what it needs. And a lot of that is stress management and eating properly. Not eating like a 13 year old boy, which so many of us were able to get away with when we were in our twenties and our thirties. And then, exercise as a way to work that off. But that doesn’t work anymore because of the insulin and stress management components of how our body changes.
Now, menopause or the symptoms of perimenopause can start as early as 35. And they can go for years. And so, all of this is actually pretty much a range. And right now, in this episode, I’m talking about women who are going through perimenopause and menopause naturally. Meaning that there are surgical reasons why a woman would go through menopause early. Not talking about that, I’m talking about women who are going through menopause naturally.
So, perimenopause symptoms can start as early as 35. And menopause can actually start as early as in your forties. But going through menopause can actually go through like your mid to late fifties. I have clients right now who are 55 and still getting their cycles. And I have women who are younger than that. Who are in their late forties, who are not getting their cycles. So, it really depends on you and your body as to when you’re going to go through that.
Now, one of the best ways to find out what’s happening to you or what to expect is actually to talk to your mother, your aunts, your grandmother, your sisters, if you have them. Because a lot of this is genetic. So, being able to talk with other women about it.
And there’s actually just a really interesting anecdote that women who live in cultures where they’re living with their grandmothers and their mothers. So, where the generations all live together under one roof. That those women are more able to deal with the change of menopause because they’ve seen their mothers and their grandmothers, and their family members go through it.
It’s really just an interesting cultural dynamic that those women who live in the United States who aren’t part of a family unit like that, most of us, right? We don’t want to live with our mothers, and our sisters, and all of those people. And so, therefore, what we’re finding is that women who are not experiencing watching other women go through that process are more surprised at what’s happening to them and their bodies.
Now, statistics show that about 20% of women will not have any menopausal symptoms. About 60% will experience mild to moderate menopause symptoms. And then, an additional 20% will experience severe menopause symptoms that really impact their daily life. So, think about where you fall within those parameters.
And again, some of these will be able to mitigate through lifestyle and some we won’t. But let’s get into what those symptoms of menopause are. So, there are three different symptom groups related to menopause. And so, the first one is vasomotor symptoms. These are symptoms that relate to the constriction or dilation of blood vessels.
Second is dryness or painful sex symptoms. And that’s because estrogen generally helps to maintain your vaginal lubrication and elasticity.
And then, the third one is difficulty sleeping or insomnia symptoms. And again, changing estrogen levels are thought to be at the center of these types of symptoms. So, we’re going to go through many of these and see how they interact with one another.
The most common symptoms of menopause are having first of all irregular periods. So, that’s what you would experience in perimenopause. When you’re experiencing irregular periods, that’s probably a really good indication that you are moving into perimenopause. We also have hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and weight gain.
Now, most of these symptoms can actually be controlled to a certain degree through your nutrition as well as through your physical activity and your sleep. It’s kind of interesting there because I said insomnia was a symptom, however sleep is actually one of the things that we need to be doing. So, it’s kind of like a chicken and egg, thing there, right?
We know that our health habits are all going to impact one another. So, when we eat poorly, we’re not going to feel like moving. We’re not going to sleep well. And we generally don’t manage our stress very well. And the same thing happens with the other ones.
If you’re having any of these symptoms, I am going to suggest that you start to pay really close attention to your diet. Really start exercising, not because exercise is something that you have to do but rather because it’s good for you and it helps you to manage your stress. I’m never going to tell you that you should not exercise. However, if you have the ability, if you have the time in your schedule, it’s really going to be helpful for you.
Now, as far as stress management goes, one of the things that many of us do is we’ve grown up believing that we have to do everything, and we have to do everything for everyone else. When I said you need to exercise if you’re like, I don’t have time. What we can do is we can start to look at where are you spending your time that you don’t have time for this. And it’s really something to think about.
This week alone, I was coaching two different clients who have come to me about health, who have come to me about their weight. One of them was talking to them about their parenting. And the other, I was talking to about time management. Because when we don’t manage our time well, we don’t have time to fix our meals, right? We don’t have time to go to the grocery store. We don’t have time to meal plan.
And so, by teaching her a method called ‘Time Blocking,’ she automatically had more time in her day. Instead of the task switching between what she was doing and checking email, and what she was doing and putting out fires. What she was doing answering phone calls. We put all of that on hold. And she was able to get her projects done and therefore have more time.
So, when we talk about stress management, we really want to focus on what are you doing? Where are you spending your time? How do you think about your problems?
Now, the next symptoms are mostly psychological. So, having memory lapses, experiencing depression and anxiety. Experiencing panic and irritability. Some of that is definitely hormonal. Some of those things that we experience, those feelings that we experience are definitely hormonal. It’s happening in our body, and it feels really uncomfortable.
What I notice with many of my clients is that when it comes to anxiety, and depression, irritability, and panic, a lot of that is us believing that we should not feel anxious. That we shouldn’t feel depressed. That we start to worry about other things that are happening in our lives.
Now, through doing thought work, we can get rid of the things that are occupying our minds that are making us feel anxious. And then, sometimes our bodies just feel anxious and it’s 100% okay. It doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong. It might not feel good. But it doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong.
And when we talk about panic, generally what happens is when we’re telling ourselves that we shouldn’t feel anxious. Then, at night when we’re slowing ourselves down and we’re relaxing our body is like, oh, my God. Now is the time to feel anxious. So, if you’re having panic attacks when you’re feeling relaxed, that is exactly why. And if that’s happening to you, I am for sure going to suggest that you reach out to me to talk about how coaching can help you. So, you can either do that through one-on-one coaching or you can join my group coaching program, the Feel Good Sisterhood.
Now, two psychological symptoms that I accidentally left out were fatigue and brain fog. And so, be aware that if you are experiencing fatigue or brain fog, those are very natural things to be experiencing. About 60% of women report experiencing brain fog which is when you just can’t think properly. You’re like, I know that the words are in here, but I just can’t get them out. I just can’t think properly.
And be aware that some of that could have to do with your sleep. It could also have something to do with the quality of your nutrition. Or it could just be what’s happening in your body. So, be aware that brain fog and fatigue are for sure something that you may experience. However, there may be things that you can do lifestyle wise with your habits that can alleviate that.
The next set of symptoms are just other physical symptoms like tingling or pins and needles. Increased heart rate, burning mouth, feeling itchiness or joint pain, muscle tension and aches, breast tenderness, headaches. Those are all things that could be a factor of diet and nutrition. I know that for joint pain and joint aches and things like that. There are certain foods that are inflammatory and if we can identify if those foods are causing the shift in our body, then we can eliminate them and feel a little bit better. Same thing for headaches.
So, just be aware that even though you aren’t doing anything different in your daily life, you’re eating the same foods, you’re doing the same workouts, you’re doing everything the same. Your body is changing. And therefore, things that you weren’t experiencing before because of these changes. Your body is suddenly changing, and your body is having a different reaction to them than before.
And so, to go along with that, you may notice that the way that you digest food is also changing. You might notice that all of a sudden, you have food sensitivities, or you have IBS. All of a sudden, you’re getting food cravings. Your tastes in food have changed or you’re experiencing bloating.
All of these things we can address through making nutritional changes in your diet. Potentially, managing your stress through what’s called cognitive behavior therapy. Thinking about your problems a little bit differently so that it doesn’t make them so severe.
And then, finally you’ll experience some physical changes. So, you’ll notice that you have thinning hair, maybe you have brittle nails. And so, all of these things actually kind of go along with the changes in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in our bodies. All of these things can happen to any one of us. It’s really important for you to realize that if any of these things are happening to you, nothing has gone wrong.
Now, I know that many of us resist any new changes. We’re like, why can’t it be the way that it was before? Why is it that I as a woman have to deal with this when my husband doesn’t. Right? We all get really resentful of our partners because our partners aren’t experiencing these same symptoms. Men don’t have to go through all of this, why is this the woman’s problem? But that’s not really a very helpful thought being resentful of your partner because of something that’s happening with your body.
But I think that the bigger issue here is that we think that it’s unfair because we haven’t been expecting it. And so, going back to the beginning of the episode when I was saying that we need to talk about this more. We need to open up the conversation about it more.
Menopause is a diagnosis that happens to 50% of the population. And so, the more that we talk about it, the more that we normalize it. Especially, and this is going to sound radical for many of you in the workplace. When we talk about it openly because we need to. We need to start having these conversations. It’s a feminist act to start talking about this and not make it something taboo.
When we can talk about like in a meeting, oh, I’m sorry, I totally lost my train of thought because I have brain fog because I’m in menopause. Let’s wait until this thought comes back around. Or the other one is I’m having a hot flash right now. I need to take a second and drink a glass of water. So, when we can normalize these types of conversations, either at the dinner table, or with our friends, or even in our workplace. What’s going to happen is it’s going to make things so much easier for future generations.
Okay. I know that I went through a lot of that rather quickly. As I said, I’m going to do follow up episodes where we’re going to talk about the nuts and bolts of each of these in way more detail.
Now, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to share this episode with other women who you are close to who you know are experiencing problems either mentally, or physically, or emotionally going through this period in their lives. So, share this episode because the more that we share with other women, the more that we are going to be able to again, normalize all of the women going through this period in our lives.
That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week everyone. And I will talk to you next time. Bye-bye.
Hey, if you enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out the Feel Good Sisterhood. It’s my small group coaching program where we take all this material, and we apply it. We figure out what works for us, and we don’t ever look at another diet ever again. Join me over at elizabethsherman.com/groupcoaching.
I’d love to have you join me in the Feel Good Sisterhood. See you there.