It Has To Be Menopause Related!

Woman standing at Opunake Beach New Zealand

I’m 47 years old, and just completed my first 1/2 Ironman. Four months prior to that I did my 2nd marathon.

And I’m now training to take part in the xStream Huka swim in a few weeks and another 1/2 marathon after that. I feel like I’m in my prime.

Competing in Taupo Ironman 70.3 swim leg

I’ve got myself into a great routine with what I considered a good wholesome diet, interesting goals and lots of exercise. I’m loving it!

Training six days a week (with three of those days containing two sessions) I felt invincible to weight gain. As the training got more intense my appetite increased. I wouldn’t say my diet is clean or perfect but it’s certainly not out of control.

Yet why is it with all this fitness training do I feel like I’m putting on weight? I thought I had it all under control. Over the last 6 months during some of the most intense training I’ve ever done, I’ve watched my waistline expand. How could this happen?

It has to be menopause related!

I’m already aware I’m well into peri-menopause. The main sign was sleeplessness which started over 2 years ago. I nipped that in the bud, but this weight gain is another challenge altogether.

Despite being disappointed at not being able to maintain the ‘belly’ I used to have I’ve started the process of trying to ‘accept’ it and not let it get out of control. This concept is illustrated in one of my colleagues blog – Minimising Menopausal weight gain.

The Life Cycle

But accepting is easier said than done. I consider myself an athlete and to develop some flab around my midriff does not fit with my self-imposed profile. I feel a little embarrassed.

I find myself being tempted to go on a diet. But I remind myself that a diet is not the answer. I refuse to be a ‘slave to the scales’ and I refuse to starve my body and go on a diet for short-term gain. I need a healthy long-term solution.

Competing in Taupo Ironman 70.3 run leg

Even though I haven’t been feeling happy with the fat around my midriff I’m happy to learn that it is my ‘friend’ as I approach menopause.

As Leigh Kite pointed out in her article Menopausal weight gain – it’s real, it’s necessary, it’s stubborn! – “the weight gain we so hate is actually good for us. Our fat cells have an important job – to manufacture estrogen and balance our bodies during the transition…”

OMG – This is healthy weight gain!

I’m mindful of not letting this weight gain get out of control. I’m happy I feel fit and energetic, I’m happy I am healthy and can do these crazy events I keep entering!

When I look at my life I realise I already have a healthy long-term solution in place and in fact acceptance is the real challenge and the step I need to master. Accept where I am at because where I am at is not as bad as I think.

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This is the time when menstruation is well and truly over, the ovaries have stopped producing high levels of sex hormones and for many ladies, perimenopause symptoms subside.

Estrogen has protective qualities and the diminished levels mean organs such as your brain, heart and bones become more vulnerable. It’s also a key lubricant so your lips may become drier, your joints less supple and your vagina might be drier. In addition, your thyroid, digestion, insulin, cortisol and weight may alter.

At this juncture, a woman might experience an increase in the signs of reduced estrogen but she should have a decrease of perimenopause symptoms. That said, some women will experience symptoms like hot flushes for years or even the rest of their lives.


Peri = ‘near’

Most females begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-forties. Your progesterone levels decline from your mid-30s but it’s generally from around 40 that the rest of your sex hormones begin to follow suit. 

Perimenopause is a different experience for every woman and some women may barely notice it. The first indicators are usually changes to the monthly cycle. This means that for some ladies, this can be accompanied by things like sore breasts, mood swings, weight gain around the belly, and fatigue as time goes on.

For those with symptoms it can be a challenging time physically, mentally and emotionally.

Importantly, perimenopause lasts – on average – four to 10 years. The transition is usually a gradual process and many women enter perimenopause without realising.