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Managing menopause: The disappearing waistline

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

No matter the number of crunches

No matter how much you work out, no matter how many abdominal crunches you do, it gets harder to keep that tiny waistline as you get older and go through menopause. Even the tiniest waisted women usually notice an increase in flesh around the middle during perimenopause and later. It can result in a serious change in your self image - if you let it.

Happy woman in fifties

Our culture isn't exactly known for being open to variations in size and weight. In a society with media that values specific curves and numbers (on scales as well as tape measures), keeping a healthy body image can be a challenge even when you are young and healthy and not facing major hormonal and life changes. Perimenopause, whether you want it to or not, will force you to reevaluate body image.

Those hormones again

The hormones of perimenopause don't just affect menstrual cycles; they affect so much more. While the exact mechanism may not be clear - or simple enough to explain here - the disappearing waistline becomes a reality for most women. The thickening waistline may also be related to changes in your thyroid. You might want to ask your doctor about whether checking your thyroid function would be appropriate, especially if the weight gain is particularly sudden.

Find out here more information on thyroid function.

Check your diet

If hormones are going to add flesh around the middle, you don't need to help them along. A check of your diet to be sure you are getting all the essential nutrients with out an excess of the not-so-great stuff can reassure you that it's not anything specific you are doing to cause this. Your body is changing, and you need to work with it in terms of food and nutrient intake.

Exercise

Exercise all you want; you'll still notice this change. You can do 200 or more abdominal crunches a day, watch your food intake like a hawk, and still notice muffin tops developing. It's disheartening. But by no means does this mean you should abandon your efforts. Try to focus on overall fitness - cardiovascular and resistance - instead of one area. With overall strength and fitness, one problem area is less noticeable. Really!

 

If you are member of a gym, consider some personal training for specific and complementary exercise that can benefit your changing body - and for some reassurance that you are fit and healthy and look great.

More good news -- exercise actually reduces menopausal anxiety, stress and depression!

Figure-flattering style

A change in waistline necessarily changes the clothes we wear. It's time to reconsider our favorite clothes and go for the most comfortable, figure-flattering items we can find. What was figure flattering (curve hugging?) in our twenties is not the same as it is now.

 

"Figure-flattering" does not mean "hiding." It means showing off our best assets - and drawing attention away from the less than perfect areas. If you have fabulous arms, find clothing that shows those off. If you have amazing legs, draw attention there. If you have a long and graceful neck, let the world see that. You may still have that thicker waist, but you'll be the only one who knows it.

Self-acceptance

As much as any exercise, diet, or style effort you may make in this time of your life, what it all really comes down to is self-acceptance. Your body will change as it ages, but deep down it's still you inside.

Check out our SK menopause message boards and vent, chant and share ideas with other women going through the same issues!

For more on menopause:

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