From Anger to Calm (Me and My Menopause Weight Gain)

When it comes to weight, I was always one of the lucky ones. I worried about my hair, my skin, my loud braying laugh, but never did I worry about my weight. I was tall, slim, good boobs, long legs, athletic. 

I watched the women around me fall under society’s evil spell that sells the idea ‘If you’re female, you need to lose weight (no matter how skinny you already are) in order to be good, smart, productive, attractive wife material. I attempted not to judge these suffering women for believing the big lie. I just accepted that they were experiencing a different reality – one that didn’t resonate with me – and offered what compassion and support I could.   

In hindsight, wow, I was living the dream. I now know for a fact that ignorance is bliss. Because when I least expected it, I started to gain unwanted menopausal weight

But Nothing’s Changed!

Nothing in my life had changed that I could identify. No new food issues. No new bad habits. No emotional drama driving late night eating binges. Nothing that I could pinpoint to explain my changing body. As I tried to figure out what was happening to me, the pants continued to get tighter. The belly continued to expand. The grunting when I tried to get out of a comfy chair continued to get louder. And then the grand finale came out of nowhere, like a stealth assault. A massive wave of paralysing shame about being FAT hit me and then settled in to stay. It was the shame that pushed me over the edge, into self-hatred.

As a result, I turned into someone I didn’t know and didn’t particularly like. Not just the physical me, although it’s true, my shape has definitely changed. It was the mental and emotional me that I didn’t recognize. I became completely absorbed in the ridiculously painful pastime of obsessing over my weight. And it was horribly awful. 

My ears would perk up when I overheard someone talking about how they lost weight. I would experience a stab of envy when I saw old friends who had managed to lose weight. I tried to not get caught by clickbait about how to lose weight, fast, with no effort. Knowing in the logical part of my brain that it would disappoint me, I would fail, and that any weight I did lose would boomerang back onto my hips in no time flat. 

Yet my yearning and my hope for a fix remained alive and well. The dream that maybe, just maybe, these pricey supplements, this diet, that new body sculpting technique, these patches, these creams, this meditation, this natural remedy, this…[fill in your own blank]…would work.

That these, finally, were the magic beans that would keep the unwanted pounds at bay and return me to my previous glory. 

Wait…Menopausal Weight Gain Is A Thing? 

It took awhile to connect the dots between waking up drenched in sweat and the fact that I was entering the transition to menopause. And it took a bit longer to understand that gaining weight is one of many other possible symptoms of that transition. And as much as I’d like to ignore all of it – the hot flashes, the extra pounds, the sweating, the body aches, the emotional rollercoaster I ride on a daily basis – I can’t just squeeze my eyes shut and cover my ears until it goes away. 

And therein lies the root of my new truth. It’s not as simple as  “just accept the weight and buy new pants that have some extra give”. It’s about losing control of my glorious hard-earned athletic body and, by extension, my life. The one where I was happy. The one I worked so hard to achieve. The one that went where I steered it. It’s about accepting that I’m ageing and positively adapting to my new body. 

I’ve hit the stage where I can no longer ignore that I’m headed towards my inevitable future as an old woman. Wrinkled and frail and helpless. Unfortunately, that’s my image of old age. You can fill in whatever your image is, but I bet you aren’t looking forward to being your old lady self either. Because nobody – and I feel really confident about this – nobody looks forward to being old. I can keep on buying youthful clothes, I can align myself with icons who have aged gracefully, I can tell myself all the stories I want to. But. At some point I have to face my new reality. I’m on the other side of my life, past my peak as they say. 

This stage in my life where I am transitioning into my older self is here, right in front of me, demanding my attention. Every single day. 

My old Nana used to say that there is always a silver lining, and she’s right. And as I started on my spiritually calming path of acceptance, I realised she was right. My body may be changing against my will, but my spirit – well, that is still under my control. And my spirit is strong, stronger than it was when I was younger. I’ve finally realised the upside of aging, which is wisdom. 

Will I Keep Gaining Weight? 

I have often wondered if there is an end to my menopausal weight gain. Will I have to fight this every day for the rest of my life? Could it get totally out of control? What more can I do? 

For me, the weight is hard to deal with, but it’s not inevitable that I keep gaining. I just have to be extra careful about what I eat and when I eat it. I have to keep my physical activity happening, keeping my usual skiing and hiking but adding in some calmer and less aggressive activities like swimming and tai chi. I have started a regular meditation practice. Yes, keeping the monkey mind at bay can be frustrating, but this practice also allows me the occasional glimpse of true inner peace, regardless of what size my pants are.  

From Anger to Calm

My new-found calm is allowing me to move into acceptance. Not for gaining weight, but for getting older and for experiencing these changes to my body. Acceptance has allowed me to decide how I will live going forward. The result?

I refuse to live in a self-hatred cycle that includes daily commentary on how lazy and fat and ugly and awful I am.

Because gaining a tummy does not equal losing my worth. I still grieve, in private, for my youthful life and waistline. But at the same time, I feel deeply satisfied that I have risen above the cultural messages that insist I spend my hard-earned money to buy useless magical solutions to a problem that I didn’t create. 

I celebrate that I am still here, still smart, and still beautiful. No matter what size clothing I wear. 

Written By:

Jennifer Vander Zalm

More By This Author