Here I Go Again…

Menopause. It’s a rite of middle age. Actually, post-middle age because I doubt I will live to be over 100. I’ll probably drown in a puddle of sweat in my own bed. Menopause can make life pretty tough, especially when in my head I am still young and thin. Unfortunately in the mirror I am aging and chubby. I volley back and forth between acceptance and disbelief. Somedays I think I’ll just roll with it and buy bigger clothes and invest in better wrinkle creams, and other days I just want my old body back – the one that didn’t sweat profusely several times throughout the night, and fit nicely into skinny jeans. The body that could run a decent pace and could do – and enjoy doing – burpees.

I thought I understood hot flashes until I actually had one. When I was young and birthing children, I thought what I experienced was hot flashes, but I was just hot most of the time. A menopausal hot flash is different. It always awakens me as I begin to get restless. Then when I am awake enough to fully experience the heat, I can feel it start at my core, and then it spreads throughout my extremities until sweat is pooling under my boobs and my hair is wet. I kick the covers off, or at least attempt to. Two dogs sleep with my husband and me, so sometimes kicking covers off means sending a dog sailing off the bed. I’ve found they don’t appreciate waking to my flailing arms and legs as I work to extract myself from the sheet and comforter that suddenly feel as if they’ve caught fire.

My nightly hot flashes became so regular that my husband bought a king-sized bed. Not only do the dogs keep me from cooling off, but my husband feels like a furnace when I am already hot. One touch of his hand makes my arm feel like it’s melting.

Another effect of menopause is weight gain. For me, this is much more difficult to deal with because I’ve been petite my whole life. It took no time after having a baby for me to get back to my pre-baby size, and I didn’t exercise back then. I thought the weight gain was bad in my forties, but could still control my weight with exercise and sensible eating. Now, however, it’s getting out of control. I find myself buying only loose-fitting tops and dresses and I finally gave in and bought a larger size pant. I don’t want to just give up, but damn, I can’t eat anything good. And when I am trying to avoid crap, every other commercial is for Blizzards and Monster burgers.

So, how am I going to combat menopause? Wine is an excellent option. But it also has a lot of calories. I do believe that menopause is the reason so many middle-aged women enjoy a glass or four of wine regularly. If we can’t be skinny, we might as well have fun. Drink enough wine and you won’t notice those wrinkles when you look in the mirror and you’ll be happy to wear leggings and a tunic (Thank God for that style!). My dear friend got me a wine Tervis that says, ‘This wine is making me awesome!’ Yes. Yes, it is. But I still need to workout because I can’t drink wine every day.

To try to get in somewhat decent shape, I am going to run two half marathons this fall. I had about given up the idea of distance running because it’s just getting harder and harder, but rather than quit, I am just going to have to accept that I will never run a half marathon in close to two hours again. I will have to accept that I might even have to walk a portion of the course. I’ve completed 13 half marathons so far, and I’ve never regretted any of them. I hated a few of them (Hoosier Half in April – 20 degrees and hills!), but I was always glad I finished. I am going to run the Monumental Half in November with my daughter Bethany, and before that my husband and I are going to run the Purdue Half in October. It wasn’t in our plans, but we will be there that weekend for his class reunion, so why not? My training for the Monumental had me running ten miles that weekend, so I might as well add three point one and get a medal. I hope the medal goes with the dress I’m wearing to the reunion.

So, menopause sucks. I can’t find one positive thing to say about it other than every woman seems to survive it. It would help if I had some sort of timeline. If I knew there were an end in sight, I could suck it up and take one for the team. I could promise my husband that this craziness would end soon and he would get his wife back. But no, there is no timeline. This crap can last years. I really wish Eve hadn’t eaten that damn apple.

 

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Turns Out 50 Isn’t Just a Number

I have been 50 for just over a month. It’s been a busy month, but I’ve still had time to analyze this next phase of my life. What I’ve come to learn is that a lot of people lied to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard 50? It’s just a number!  You’re 50? Oh, don’t worry about that; it’s just a number. You are all liars.

Guess what. It is not just a number. Not at all. 50 is hot flashes. 50 is wrinkly skin and baggy eyes. 50 is weight gain that can’t be explained. 50 is going to bed at 9:00. 50 is running slower even when one is training harder. 50 is craving chocolate. 50 is not just a number.

I’ve always known I wouldn’t age gracefully; I would fight it every step of the way. Some things I can’t really do much about. The hot flashes hit this past fall. I suppose it was nature’s way of getting me ready to turn 50. I remember my mother having them; it wasn’t pretty. And God forbid we tease her. That was not allowed. I thought I had hot flashes when I was pregnant, but I was really just hot all the time. These menopausal hot flashes are a different beast. They begin at my core and within three seconds consume my body. When I am at home, I start fanning, moving clothes, throwing off blankets, and sometimes go out to the garage where it’s cool. At night in bed, sometimes I just strip. In my younger years, that meant a completely different thing. At 50, it just means I am on fire. Flannel sheets? Hell no. I cannot even imagine how miserable those things – that I once loved – would feel. Heavy sweaters for work? Nope.

Weight gain. This is a real issue for me, and one I am not handling well. Until my late 30s, weight was never an issue. I could eat whatever I wanted (burgers, candy, donuts, chips, and on and on), and I still maintained my petite size. In my forties, this all changed. Suddenly I had to exercise, run miles and miles, and I had to be more conscientious about what I consumed. Still, an occasional cookie – or sleeve of Girl Scout cookies – didn’t hurt me; I just ran it off. Oreos and milk were still on my menu. My favorite post-run snack was a Diet Pepsi and Nutty Bars. I could not eat what I did in my earlier years, but I could eat smaller portions of what I liked.

Fast forward to the last year. I can’t eat shit. As of today, I am at my highest weight (besides when I was carrying another human inside of me). I know that it’s not awful, but on my five foot frame, those little fat cells are just accumulating around my middle. Heck, my workout clothes are too tight. I put my age, weight, and goal weight into the Lose It app a couple weeks ago, and to lose one pound a week, I can only eat 1049 calories a day! Seriously. As I was going through the McDonald’s drive-through today (Don’t judge – I got a Diet Coke and grilled chicken), I saw that one of those mint shakes has 680 calories. That’s over half of my daily allowance. That, my friends, sucks.

And if you watch television, you’ve seen that food, really fattening food, is marketed constantly. We have always joked about how little my mother eats at holiday gatherings. She literally has a teaspoonful of each item. Now I get it. If I eat a normal meal, I see it on the scale. I listened to a podcast while I was running today, and a doctor was talking about fat. She learned that she has to stop eating at 4:00 p.m., and doesn’t eat again until 10:00 a.m. She is a scientist and learned that there is something that happens at night that gets rid of fat, and if she gives it more time to work, she can maintain her weight. I would starve. And my family would make me move out because I’d be mean.

So, what’s the answer? I have not yet figured it out. I have begun to drink more water, and I can already tell a difference in how I feel. I was up to about five diet soft drinks a day. My belly felt bloated all the time, and I knew it was just bad for me. I am going to work on my diet, but it’s a struggle. I truly don’t like most veggies. I can’t even force them down. My daughters are all working at losing weight and getting in better shape, so that will help.

Skin. There are all kind of anti-aging products out there, but geez, they are expensive! Nerium and Rodan and Fields are constantly on my Facebook feed, and some good friends sell them, but I just cannot afford them. I found something less expensive that I am going to try. As strange as it sounds, I ordered Robin McGraw’s skincare (you know, Dr. Phil’s wife). I watched her pitch at the end of one of his shows (Don’t judge; there isn’t much on at that time), and since it was affordable, I thought I’d try it. I’ll keep you posted (it hasn’t arrived yet).

There are a few positives about being 50. I can tell people I am wiser; I’m really still learning, but because I am old, it seems like I should be wiser. I really worried about my wardrobe for awhile, but then I decided that I am 50; I can wear whatever I want. I also feel bolder in standing up for what is right and good. What the heck – I don’t have that many years left to say what I think.

I often think about what my mom was like at my age. She exercised and worked to maintain her health, but she did nothing outside of caring for her house and for me. Now, that’s not a bad thing, but I would be so bored. I am on the other extreme. I work full-time as an eighth grade teacher, teach Tabata classes, sell real estate, run, direct the high school play with my daughter, coach an academic team, and I just finished coaching the JV cheer team. It’s a busy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I find rewards in all I do. For me, at 50, I still have a lot to give. I get really tired on some of my busy days, but if I am making a difference in a kids’ life, helping someone else get more fit, or helping someone find his dream home, it’s worth it.

50 isn’t just a number. It’s a large number that means life is passing by quickly. It’s a number that means I probably should spend less time obsessing over the negatives and more time appreciating what I can do. I ran nine miles today. I ran slower than I used to, but I ran nine miles on a Sunday afternoon just because I could. This body that is carrying several extra pounds carried me nine miles. This body, that some days I really dislike, can still do squats, burpees, pushups, and more. This body can climb up to my classroom several times a day to teach thirteen year olds to write, to read well, and to be kind to one another. This 50 year old body can run and climb with my grandkids and kayak with my husband. This 50 year old slightly chubby body can laugh and cry and encourage and scream and love.

50? It’s not just a number.