As I entered my 46th year a year ago, I started to notice changes in my body. I often felt tired, and lacked energy.
As a thin and small-bodied woman who could not gain weight whatever I ate, I began taking on a few pounds that would accumulate at the waist.
I often felt hot, whereas I typically freeze and need a sweater. It did not take me long to figure out that I was entering perimenopause and to realise that my mother was telling the truth when she talked about bodily changes at a certain age.
Menopause is a normal and natural phenomenon experienced by every woman.
Interestingly, the way we respond to menopause is related to how we perceive the phenomenon and the meaning we ascribe to it.
In the 1930s, menopause was associated with the beginning of old age in women, and the uterus considered at that stage as a useless, potentially cancer-bearing organ that had to be removed. To see menopause in this way can be very discouraging for women, and not very empowering.
Several contemporary authors try to understand menopause as a development stage that marks new possibilities and openings for women. Elizabeth Arnold, for example, focused in her qualitative research on the “developmental journey experienced by women moving into their fifties”. She found that women in their 50s talked about the “opportunities for developing a new and stronger sense of self in mid-life” and about the “possibilities inherent in late mid-life”. She found that menopause for most women was not a “benchmark of entry into older adulthood”.
Similarly, Canadian nutritional expert Louise Lambert-Lagacé sees menopause as a normal stage of life and a natural process. Moreover, she perceives menopause as an exceptional opportunity to change certain habits and to cultivate one’s health.
Menopause, which is associated with higher risks of osteoporosis, coronary heart disease, and breast cancer, can be used as an incentive to take better care of oneself.
However, motivation should not come from a fear of disease, but from a desire to savour life as much as possible, and for as long as possible.
Based on recent research, a change in diet and an increase in physical activity, along with adequate rest and leisure time, are likely to help alleviate the discomforts caused by menopause.
I see myself as a dynamic woman, at the peak of my potential to contribute to society.
My entry into menopause is an opportunity to take better care of myself. The changes I feel in my body are an incentive to find ways to harmonise my relationship with life, with food and with physical activity.
Marleine Gagnon is a psychotherapist based in the Cayman Islands.