By Rana Wright
Have you ever…
- Woken up in the middle of the night covered in sweat wondering who just poured a bucket of water on you?
- Felt like you could walk outside in the middle of winter in your bare feet and a bathing suit and be just fine?
- Had trouble sleeping at night?
It does for me!!! I’ve recently reached THAT AGE (you know the age I mean – somewhere between 40 & 50) where I am standing on the precipice of “THE CHANGE!”
“The change” is one of those taboo topics. No one wants to talk about it even though it happens to all of us.
PERIMENOPAUSE – the time in a woman’s life right before menopause (menopause usually occurs in your 50’s). This is your body making its transition out of the reproductive stage.
Perimenopause can start sometime in your 40’s (even your late 30’s) and symptoms can be as follows, but not limited to:
- Hot flashes
- Trouble sleeping
- Change in menstrual cycle (longer, shorter or non-existent)
- Night sweats
- Weight gain – most noticeably in the tummy and hip areas
- Memory loss – caused by fatigue, insomnia and lower estrogen levels
If you’re already there with me, or just about to enter this new journey in your life, it can seem scary. It doesn’t have to be. There are ways to navigate perimenopause to make it easier.
Here are my 5 Tips for Navigating Perimenopause:
1. Have FUN with Exercise
Get out and move your body at a moderate to high intensity for AT LEAST 30 minutes 3-4 times a week.
Pick something you LOVE to do! For me it’s yoga and CrossFit. For YOU it might be walking, running, spin class, Zumba, step class, or powerlifting – whatever gets your body moving.
Why exercise during perimenopause?
- It may help regulate your body temperature and reduce the number of hot flashes you have.
- It’s great for regulating your mood; it can help keep mood swings at bay.
- It helps manage bodyweight.
- Weight bearing exercise helps keep your bones strong.
So, get your pump on, ladies!!
2. Sleep Deep!
This one comes and goes for me right now. Closer to my cycle (about 4 days out) sleep becomes elusive. I wake up in the middle of the night for no reason and falling back asleep can be difficult.
How to improve sleep during perimenopause:
- Make your bedroom a sanctuary.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine – like having a warm bath and reading under a dim light.
- Reduce your exposure to light. Avoid watching TV before bed. Black-out blinds can help keep your room dark and darken out any little lights that might cause you to wake up – for example – the glow of you alarm clock. Wear an eye mask and ear plugs to help block out light and sound
- Dress for the “night sweats.” Gone are the cute flannel pajamas! Hello tank tops and lightweight pajama pants. Sleeping with only a top sheet might help too, but have a blanket handy for when you get cold after the sweats. (I know, right?! We can’t win!)
- Keep your bedroom cool. Sleep with a fan gently blowing or a window open.
3. Don’t Forget Nutrition
Feed your body wholesome, nutritious foods. It’s important to make healthy food choices at any age but even more so as our bodies start making this change.
Nutrition tips for perimenopause:
- Eat protein – think lean protein like chicken, turkey, and fish.
- Enjoy foods high in, or supplement with, Omega-3 fatty acids – such as flax seed oil, chia seeds, spinach, and eggs may aid in reducing hot flashes and menstrual pain.
- Chow down on veggies – eat your veggies, YO! There is no reason other than they are just plain good for you! Fill your plate with veggies.
- Build your bones – get calcium in your diet. Milk, greek yogurt, kale, bok choy, and almonds are some examples of foods high in calcium.
- Don’t forget fibre – ya gotta stay regular! Berries like raspberries, blueberries and black berries are high in fibre. Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and kale are PACKED with it. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, oats, air-popped popcorn, brown rice, quinoa, nuts or nut butter, and legumes are also great choices for helping you hit your fibre intake. You know what else is good? A really dark chocolate low in sugar. (Did someone say, chocolate?)
- Limit highly refined carbs and sugar, caffeine and alcohol – as much as we love ’em, these treats can make hormonal symptoms worse. Enjoy these on special occasions.
4, Talk to Your Doctor or Naturopath
I’m writing this from one perimenopausal woman to another. If you have questions about what’s happening to your body, the internet is a great starting point. If you’re looking for more, talk to a professional. Get second, third and fourth opinions if you’re not confident in the advice you’re receiving: you deserve to feel sure when it comes to your body.
5. Become the Expert on Your Own Body
No one knows YOUR BODY better than YOU. And yet there’s always more to learn, and more ways to study what’s going on,
Keep a journal and write down what’s happening throughout this phase of your life. Keep track of the following (and more, if you like):
- Sleep – what’s a good sleep? Did you wake up in the middle of night? How many hours did you get? Night sweats?
- Food – what are you eating? (How much, when, and how you feel after you eat it?) Watch for trends of certain foods and how they make you feel.
- Exercise – when did you work out? How long did you work out for? Describe the quality of your work out, how you felt, and your recovery/soreness.
- Self-confidence – this is an often overlooked aspect to measure, but one of the most important. Isn’t life so much better when you feel good about yourself? Hormones, what we eat, how we sleep, and how we feel about ourselves – all of these things are LINKED. Track them all to observe the friends. I like to rate my self-confidence on scale of 1-10 on a daily basis (10 = proud unicorn, 1 = …well… you know.)
- Mood – I mentioned mood-swings above: Why not get familiar with how your mood changes throughout your cycle (or as your cycle changes)? I’ve learned some predictable patterns about my mood that make me feel normal instead of crazy (hee hee?). Becoming a student of your body helps in your acceptance of yourself. Rate your mood on a scale of 1-10 daily (or even multiple times per day), and notice how food, sleep, time of day, etc, affects it.
Like any change (puberty, moving out from home, marriage, starting a new training regime) perimenopause is a new experience and journey in life. We can choose to see change as scary, or we can take a deep breath and see it as exciting.
One way to overcome fear is to talk about it, and to share experiences.
Here I am, sharing my experience with perimenopause.
- Are you ready to embrace your own experience?
- What can you do today to start becoming the expert on your own body?
For more information on working with Rana on your nutrition, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject, “Hell Yes, Nutrition,” and mention her name (or the word “unicorn” – we’ll know who you’re talking about).