Mother Nature is cruel. In addition to hot flashes and night sweats, I’ve gained nine pounds in the last seven months and outgrown most of my clothing.
Going from a size zero to a size four and acquiring a jelly belly may not seem significant. But for someone who runs 25 to 28 miles a week and isn’t much of an eater, it’s pretty disturbing.
At the age of 51, I’m smack in the midst of perimenopause, a term describing the hormonal roller coaster prior to menopause. According to the internet, diminished estrogen levels are to blame for my weight gain. The loss of testosterone has reduced my muscle mass and lowered my metabolism. Online articles by medical professionals offer meager advice: “Move more!” (I already run 80 to 90 minutes four or five days a week), “Cut calories!” (Steamed vegetables comprise my dinner most nights), and the ever helpful, “reduce stress!”
Many products promise relief. There are progesterone patches and creams, herbal remedies, medical grade supplements, and bioidentical hormones.
Given the controversy over hormone replacement therapy, and the fact that I am a wimp who avoids taking medication unless it is really necessary, I opted to start with Estroven, an over the counter product from Trader Joe’s. If they sell it at Trader Joe’s, I reasoned, how harmful could it be? Or how effective? My hot flashes continued, and I struggled not to gain anymore weight.
“Sorry!” The 50-something female cashier said when I returned the product. “I tried this stuff too. It does nothing!”
Tired of listening to myself complain, I consulted my gynecologist. “Eat fewer salty snacks,” she advised.
Since I haven’t eaten a potato chip since circa 2003, I decided it was time to change doctors. My new GYN was much more sympathetic. “The weight will come off once you get through the process,” she reassured me.” But you will lose your waist.”
Lose my waist? That explained the jelly belly. She was a good listener, so I forged on. “My boobs are huge,” I whined. “Huge!”
I explained that in addition to larger pants and tops, it was also necessary to buy new bras, which became too tight within a few months. “Don’t throw away your old bras,” she advised. “Your breasts will return to their normal size.”
I took a breath and started to relax, until my doctor said, “and then they will become pendulous.” Pendulous! I thought, what an interesting word to describe my body, like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. I went home and replayed the conversation for my husband “Pendulous, pendulous,” we said it a few times together.
Mother N. might be cruel, but she is on schedule. I haven’t had a period since last summer, so my doctor thinks I should be nearly finished with the bloating and weight gain of perimenopause.
Until I complete the transition though, I’ve asked my husband to gain a few pounds; take a couple of extra helpings of mashed potatoes and apple strudel for the team. Being the generous guy that I married, he’s made the sacrifice.
Beth Herman is an artist and essayist. She enjoys running the city streets of Washington and the hills of Charlottesville in almost equal measure.