Lessons in Life

Back to the Basics

It’s strange how these things can creep up on you. One minute you’re going about your day as usual, and the next thing you know, you’re experiencing hot flashes, gaining weight, and feeling emotional. I remember my first hot flash vividly, but I was too busy to pay attention to it at the time. When I started working from home during the shutdown, I had the time to take note of what was going on with my body. I spent many sleepless nights, waking up at the same time between 2 am and 3 am in the middle of the night to throw off the covers. Why was I waking up at night like clockwork? At the time, I was three years shy of the big five-o. No way was I going through the significant change. Or could I be?

What’s important to know is that I had a hysterectomy and prolapse repair about 18 years ago. I just “celebrated” the anniversary of my hysterectomy just the other day. The surgeons saved my ovaries, sparing me from an early immediate menopause. Menopause, there I said it. I still have a hard time saying it out loud. I remember the night sweats, dripping night sweats from the hysterectomy recovery. Should I have known then that some element of change was going on?

Photo of me, during the pandemic, feeling good about my body.
Summer of 2020 – Feeling good about myself.

How far am I from the summer of 2020? I remember taking this photo, 15-17 pounds lighter, in all honesty. Currently, I am in a place where I am not happy with my body. What happened from then until now? Let’s talk about the in-between. This photo is when I started to notice the changes in my feelings. Emotionally, physically, emotionally. Did I say that twice?

Coincidentally these symptoms started a couple of months into 2020. If there was any blessing of 2020, I could go through these symptoms in the comfort of my home. I worked from home like most of the world and could wear lighter clothing and take breaks when I needed to “cool down .”Slowing down also afforded me the ability to recognize what was happening. I recall months prior having hot flashes while driving back and forth to work, soccer practice for my son, and trying to fill as much into the day as possible. I needed to pay more attention to what was happening.

I didn’t correlate all of the symptoms I was having at the time until it was too late. The hot flashes were one thing. I was not prepared for the weight gain and mood swings—panic, anxiety, anger, and, oh my goodness, the tears. I cried what felt like daily. I could get ahead of the symptoms if I could “figure it out.” What’s the saying? “Everything is figureoutable.”

WEIGHT GAIN

What bothered me the most was the weight gain. I loved feeling good in my clothes. I felt like I was slowly losing the ability to find something to wear that I liked and felt confident in. Instead, searching clothing that didn’t cut into my stomach or make me feel suffocating. I thought I was eating healthy(ish) and ran almost daily, did HITT exercises, and lifted weights, but I was still gaining weight. All in my stomach and thighs.

HORMONES

I spent hours on the internet researching how to combat the effects of my current hormone situation. Hormone testing revealed elevated cortisol, FSH, LH levels, and estrogen deficiency. I thought my weight would fall off if I lowered the FSH, LH, and cortisol. So, I bought the herbs to reduce the high FSH and LH levels and then worked on lowering my cortisol with more herbs and vitamins, along with eliminating activities that increase cortisol, including running on a trail that was steps away from my front door. I replaced running with walking on the trail and continued with the HITT exercises.

I was satisfied that I was on the right path with my changes. The herbs, vitamins, and hormones were helping with the mood swings and hot flashes, but the weight was still not coming off. I was continuing to gain weight. So, I knew I still had to find pieces of the puzzle.

DIET

It was time to start working on my diet. I noticed during this time that food or drinks, mainly alcohol and carbs, would increase the apparent symptoms like hot flashes. Diet was the change that was needed. In the late 90s, I had lost about 50 pounds on the Weight Watchers diet and could keep it off. The point system was easy to understand, and learning about healthy portion control was easily transferable when I wasn’t counting points. I knew the weight watchers plan, but I wanted to try something that could provide faster results. I spent countless hours reading about different diet plans, including one with which several friends and coworkers had success. The keto diet was becoming popular, and people were losing weight fast. I had to cut carbs anyway so that I could try it.
It was a cheese lover’s dream—grass-fed butter. Sign me up. I loved the butter and heavy cream in my coffee. Morning meals consisted of freshly cooked bacon, eggs, and cheese, followed by a similar lunch and dinner. But alas, I didn’t lose any weight. I started to lose interest in the process and often cheated or had days where I wouldn’t follow the program. After several months I gave up on it and started searching for another program. After countless hours of watching videos, I found one plan focused on counting sugar calories. At most, 100 sugar calories in a day which was a little. Every food was scrutinized for sugar calories, and I felt in control of what I was consuming. I did lose a few pounds on this diet, in addition to learning about the amount of sugar we put into our bodies. One of the challenges with this way of eating was keeping track of the daily sugar calorie totals. The only way I could note how many sugar calories in a day was to write them down on paper. If I lost the paper, then I would estimate, which for obvious reasons, is not an accurate way to follow the program. Eventually, I stopped logging my sugar calories and searched for another program. Back to youtube for more “advice.”
I watched more videos, but this time, the hormone experts had the tricks to “get your body back.” I watched and read countless hours of information, consumed it all, bought the books, and searched their websites for the magic that would change my life.

If you haven’t noticed by now I was lost. Lost in the information and advice that was available.

May 2023

FED UP

It wasn’t until I saw myself in the pictures that were taken during my mother in laws 50th work anniversary celebration. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and frustrated with where I was at with my body. I found myself wide awake at 3 am, feeling the full anxiety and anger of my situation. That night, I got an offer from Weight Watchers for a $10-a-month plan. I signed up, knowing this was the only plan that had ever worked for me. I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working and needed change. I refuse to stay this way, and after a few weeks on the plan, that weight has started to come off.

IT TAKES TIME

I wouldn’t say that the time I spent trying to reset my body, balancing my hormones, and losing weight was in vain. I learned a lot about what works for me. I can control my moods better with medication, herbs, and vitamins. Knowing that I and those around me will suffer if I miss one or two days. I learned about my trigger foods, mainly alcohol, sugar, and carbs, that increase hot flashes. I cut back on the types of exercise I was doing that were wearing down my body and instead focused on walking, strength training that benefits women over 50, and stretching and core work.


I have come to understand that there is no quick fix for this. It is and will be a slow process. I learned I need to be in a calorie deficit, practice moderation, and practice a lifestyle that will benefit me in the long term. I am not where I want to be, but far from where I started.

MY ADVICE TO YOU

If I can offer any advice to you, it would be to avoid getting lost in the amount of information out there. Take the bit and pieces and make them work for you but don’t let it consume you. Do check-ins with yourself now and then to ensure your actions are working for you. Returning to the basics might benefit you more than getting distracted by the available information.

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