This is Not Your Mother's Menopause & Other Thoughts on Midlife
While this age of information can be overwhelming in some ways, there is a heck of lot to be thankful for when it comes to navigating menopause today versus twenty to thirty years ago. For one, we can actually call it by its name - menopause - instead of a vague awkward term like “the change”. There are also a lot more effective treatment options that allow us to treat symptoms rather than just “grin and bear” what could be up to a whole decade of our lives. And lastly, we are realizing that menopause is not the end of our lives. Often, we’re just getting started!
As I am coming up on my menoversary (the day that marks one year without a period), I’ve been reflecting on how my journey through this season of life has been significantly different than my mother’s or grandmother’s - and in all the best ways. And yet, I would like to propose there is one area of our education around menopause that has a lot of room for improvement. I wonder if you’ll agree?
Join me in this episode as I expose the need to normalize more of the very disruptive symptoms like hot flashes, crime-scene periods, and brain fog. We prepare women for puberty and childbirth really well. Why aren’t we doing the same for women before they enter midlife? There is so much life to be had even in the midst of every stage of the menopause transition and a heck lot more to enjoy after. Let’s discover more together about this season!
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Why you absolutely don’t have to suffer through miserable meonpausal symptoms anymore
- One of the best perks of reaching menopause
- Why we have to get specific about treatment through the lens of menopause on women’s health
- Why so many women have a very understandable grudge about the lack of discussion around what’s normal in menopause
- About the influence of a safe community to engage before and during menopause
Jenn Huber 00:02
Hi, and welcome to the midlife feast the podcast for women who are hungry for more in this season of life. I'm your host, Dr. Jenn Celine Huber. Come to my table. Listen and learn from me. Trusted guests, experts in women's health and interviews with women just like you. Each episode brings to the table juicy conversations designed to help you feast on midlife. Hey everyone, happy 2023 And welcome to this week's episode of the midlife feast, which is a little solo episode, which I'm kind of cheekily calling this is not your mother's menopause, which is basically just some reflections that I've had over the past year. Kind of as I get ready to go into my 30 Day countdown to my mental Versary, meaning February 13, will be 12 full months without a period. Yes, I am thinking that out loud. And yes, I know the risk that I'm taking, this is my third kick at the can. A
nd if I don't get there this time, while my head's probably just gonna explode. So I'm saying it out loud, because I feel confident that I'm going to get there this time. But I've been reflecting on all things midlife menopause, my menopause, my experience. And it really prompted me to think about how much has changed in our generation, um, Gen X, born in the 70s, turning 46 This year, I think anybody kind of over late 30s can probably relate to most of what I'm talking about. But, you know, I really have been reflecting on how much has changed for our generation, but also kind of within our generation. I've heard it described as we are unique in that we were born before the information age, grew up mostly before Google and the internet, but really have existed our adult life kind of In this information age. But I think that that, yes, it's unique, and it's different. But I think what it has changed has been how we seek out information.
So I'm going to come back to that. But I thought I would just kind of share some of the things that I think are really different about our experience of menopause compared to our mothers and our grandmothers. And then come back to some of the things that we still need to work on. So the first thing that I'm so so happy with is that we can talk about menopause openly. We don't call it the change, you know, we're calling it by its name, we're getting better at even calling the different ages and stages like Peri menopause and post menopause. But we can talk about it. It's not something that we're whispering behind closed doors. It's not something that we should feel embarrassed about, although I know that some people still have, you know, some difficulty talking about it. But in general, the word menopause is mainstream now. And then we can see that all over the media, social media, you know, we're we're talking about it, and that is a very good thing. The second thing that I think makes it different than our mother's menopause is that we really have access to effective treatment options, hormonal and non hormonal, that make living with the symptoms in perimenopause or menopause, much less disruptive to our life. So because perimenopause is you know, often many years, average, four to five can be eight to 10. We need solutions to get us through this decade of our life. It's not something that we can just grin and bear hope that it goes away, wait for it to be over. And thankfully, there are many different options out there now.
Now, I know that access is an ongoing issue depending on where you live. There's certainly been lots happening in the UK around access. I you know, I hear these conversations all the time. But at least they're available. And let's hope that by the end of this year, we will have sorted out the access piece for more people. So that's definitely a good thing. The third thing is that we recognize that there is life after menopause. You know, we are talking about it as a second season as a second act. And there really is a lot of good in this season of life. Now. Every time I say this, because I've talked about how I'm so thankful to be where I am. I'm so thankful to not be in early perimenopause. I'm so thankful not to be a you know, a teen or tween or, you know, I love this stage of life. It's not always easy. There are things that I would trade but I in general, I love it.
And I feel like it is one of the best seasons of my life. And whenever I say that, even though there are lots of people who share that same Feeling and opinion, I know that there are a lot of you because you reach out to me and you tell me hey, actually, this season sucks. And I don't believe anyone who says otherwise. And I don't even understand how it could be a good thing. All of these changes are happening. They're making my life miserable. Why would that be a perk? Those aren't the perks. The perks are not heavy periods, and mood swings and hot flashes and body changes. The perks are what come from the confidence that you can tap into. When you get that. When you get there, I don't know how else to describe it. But most people describe it as you kind of arrive at a place where you just feel more confident and comfortable in your own skin.
Even if you recognize that it's not the skin that you've been in, meaning that your body has changed, how it looks, how it feels, how it acts, what it does and what it doesn't do. But getting to know that New You in this new season, in this new hormonal soup can feel awesome. So believe me, because I'm not the only one saying it. But believe me when I say that it's possible. But at least we recognize that that is there isn't life after menopause, we're not talking about it being like the end anymore. So the fourth thing is that because we recognize that this is a life stage, meaning that we're going to spend 3040 50% of our life in post menopause. We're taking postmenopausal health, so much more seriously than we did even 20 years ago. It's no longer a reproductive afterthought.
We're thinking about bone health, and heard health and brain health, and all of these other pieces of the health puzzle that we can still influence post menopause, you know, we can still influence that trajectory of how long and how well we live in our post menopausal lives. And so that is a really big thing, because we know that there are some changes that happen as a result of the change in hormone soup, that we need to be talking about things like cholesterol and blood sugar, and bone health and strength, and mental health and all of these things.
And we need to be talking about them through the lens of post menopause and not just the big picture, women's health lens. So I'm really, really happy to see those things happening. And so when I was reflecting on, you know, those kinds of things that are different, outside of the really practical things, like I think period, underwear is a game changer. You know, that definitely wasn't something that was accessible in our mother's generations. But you know, when I'm thinking about some of the big fundamental changes that change your experience, those are the things that you know, kind of my top four that we could talk about it. There are treatments that we have access to, we know that life doesn't end with our period. And there are tools and people and supports in place to help us live a pretty great postmenopausal life.
Jenn Huber 08:20
But there are still some things that we really still need to be working on. And the big one, I think, is preparing people for perimenopause long before it starts. But one thing that hasn't changed since I have been, you know, kind of in this space over the last couple of years is that there are still a lot of people too many people who have never heard the term perimenopause before their 40s before they're in it, who have no idea what the symptoms are, who don't know who to look to, or ask for support, don't know what the different treatment options are. And what happens is that they end up you know, trial by fire, figuring it all out either on their own or with a health care professional. And then feeling really angry that no one had discussed this with them.
And I think that there's I think that that anger isn't misplaced. And the the example that I use a lot is you know, we prepare girls for puberty, we prepare women for pregnancy. We prepare you know families for when they're have young children and we have those supports in place. We don't do anything from a public health perspective to prepare women for perimenopause. We don't prepare them for this decade long experience until they're in the thick of it. That needs to change and it is changing a bit but it hasn't changed enough. We need to be more of an advocate for that change on a system level. And we need to be openly talking about it more so that it is on everyone's radar. So that I think is a big priority. But the next one also has to do with normalizing talking about the symptoms. So yes, there are treatments. And yes, we're not calling it the change anymore.
But we're still not really talking about the details of our experience in a way that normalizes it, and helps other women to know that what they're going through isn't just happening to them. And I'm going to give you a few examples. So one is about talking about heavy periods. So I think everyone has heard that heavy periods are common, but I mean, talking about like, soaking through, you know, super pads and tampons two, three times a night, not being able to leave the house for more than an hour. And the reason why it's important to talk about it like that is because even though that's common, you do not need to suffer. And the number of women that I've talked to who have said,
Oh, yeah, that's that's what my periods like. But I thought that was just normal. I just had to tough it out. I just had to wait for it to be over. No, you don't have to suffer through that kind of crime scene heavy period, every few weeks, every month for sometimes a year or more. Normally is talking about that so that other women know that oh, hey, when that happens, I need to go talk to someone about that. Let's talk about the brain fog in detail about how disturbing it is to not remember the thing that you've remembered every day for your life, and about how it can feel like your brain is working through sludge or how it's difficult, more difficult to focus on things. Because what happens is that we start to worry that there's something really wrong with us. We worry that we're losing our memory, we worry that it's Alzheimer's, we worry that we're losing our minds. But this brain fog is best described as a learning problem that happens in perimenopause because of the ups and downs of estrogen and progesterone, that for most people gets better after menopause. But let's not just call it brain fog. Let's describe it so that we normalize the experience. But that we're also helping to connect with that shared experience of like, Yeah, this is not fun to go through when I'm you know, in a career or when I'm really busy. And I'm trying to remember all these things.
But hey, at least I know I'm not alone. And maybe talking about it will help me to find some solutions. But the one that's really top of mind is body changes. So I always say that a human body is a changing body. And the narrative and the dialogue that needs to change from birth, is moving away from this idea that we achieve one body size and shape for our entire life. Because that is unrealistic, and really sets people up for this all or nothing. Thinking of there is only one number one size, one shape. That is the right one for my body. So this is top of mine, because of some of the amazing conversations that were happening inside this little seven day on dieting challenge that I did, at the beginning of January. So every year I do a non diet resolution, kind of challenge support thing, and at the beginning of this year, decided that it was going to be a seven day on dieting challenge.
And I walked several 100 women through this framework that I use for kind of understanding why our bodies change and what we need to change in order to be more compassionate towards that. And at the end of those seven days, I asked, you know, the women what, what was the most helpful part of this? What did you learn? What's your big takeaway? And 99% Of the dozens and dozens of answers were, I feel so much better, just knowing that I'm not alone. And it really was it was emotional to read because even though I know that even though a big part of what I do is trying to bring women together, even though I know that community and sharing is so important. Just that simple act of talking about it My body has changed, it feels really uncomfortable.
I don't understand why. And I don't know what to do. Uniting in that shared experience lessened the burden of feeling it. And it is so. So healing, I guess for lack of a better word, to hear your experience reflected in someone else who is going through the same thing. And is also looking to try and figure their way out of that. Which kind of brings me to the thing that I think is most missing, which is community. And this is kind of going back to what I said at the beginning of the podcast about how our experience of looking for information in our generation has changed. Because even though we have the ability to be in touch with anyone, anytime, find anything anywhere, because of the internet and Google, we how we look for information and how we look for help when we have a problem, I think has actually fundamentally changed in our generation.
So we think like pre Google, and really, I'm just talking about the 90s, for the most part, late 90s excluded, if you had a problem, and needed help, let's pretend it's like 1983 instead of 2023. You might have a book or a magazine, but chances are if you had a problem, and you needed help, you either asked a friend, you asked a family member, or you sought out professional advice. But now, because we have all of this information at our fingertips, we try and tend to problem solve our way out on our own. Maybe it's because we don't want to talk about it. But often, I think it's just because it feels easier to just try and figure it out on our own. Right.
So Will Google it will Dr. Google it, you know, we might look to a Facebook group or we might, you know, look somewhere else online. And maybe we're asking a friend for a recommendation. But we're often not sharing our experience in that way that might get an answer back that says, oh, yeah, I know what that's like. That's what I went through. Or I know someone who went through that, or this is what helped me. We're we're asking for solutions without really sharing our experience, or asking for answers. But maybe we don't even know what the question is. And so that's one of the reasons why I think community in the real sense of people coming together to support each other to share experiences non judgmentally is really missing from so many of our midlife and menopause experiences. Because when we see our experience reflected in someone else, it helps us to feel less alone, it removes, I think, a lot of the shame that we sometimes feel. But it can also inspire us when we know that we're not walking that road on our own right.
Jenn Huber 18:13
Which is really what the social learning model is all about that there's so much value in working on a common goal with others who also share that goal. And that's really why I created the midlife feast community because I really wanted to have a safe place for women to land when they're in the throes of these midlife changes especially centered around how they feel in and about their bodies, and are looking to, you know, try different instead of harder, they don't want to start another diet. And yet they also want to be thinking about food intentionally and intuitively. And just be able to connect the dots so that the information they have and their lived experience kind of moves into knowledge. And then it becomes something that they know and not just something that they're doing. It's no longer just data that they've collected from various places.
It's a place for us to gather and to share all the highs and lows. And so that we can continue to kind of change our own experiences, but maybe also change the experiences of others who are in that same agent stage. So that kind of ends my little this is not your mother's menopause start of the new year. And I wanted to let you know that if you're looking for the kind of community where you can share, but also learn and feel like you're well supported by me and others who are on the same journey. I would welcome you to join the midlife feast community. We're welcoming new members this month. My community is As a menopause nutrition and intuitive eating, you know, kind of safe space is what I call it. So we focus we, you know, we learn about menopause, and midlife and nutrition, but we also talk about the things that impact that experience.
So for example, this month we're talking about habits. Last month, we were focused on, you know, body image and feeling good in our body. Next month is her health month, and we're going to be talking about cholesterol. And I love supporting not just the community aspect, but also, you know, making menopause nutrition feel accessible through a recipe library, and just gentle nutrition, which is one of those core principles of intuitive eating that I just love helping women to incorporate at this Asian stage. So if you're interested, you can check the show notes, you can head to menopause nutritionist.ca. And learn more about the community you can join any time you can cancel anytime. It's meant to be an easy place for you to come and stay as long as you need and find community with us. So with that, I wish you a great 2023.
And I'll be back next week with regular episodes. Starting for another 12 weeks. I've got some great, great guests coming in and, and I can't wait to share all of them with you. And starting with Jen Messina, who is a dietician. Next week her episode is coming out on Monday, which is going to be talking about how do we change how do we get dye culture out of the house. So this was a frequently requested topic because it comes up so much.
Whether you have kids or nieces or nephews or even just younger people around you, how do we change the conversation for them so that we're really shaping a different reality for them. So that's a really great episode packed with really practical tips and I know that you'll enjoy that one. So for now, have a great day. Hey there thanks so much for tuning in to this week's episode of the midlife feast. Just remember that the midlife feast community membership is now open for registration and it is the perfect place for you to gather, grow and nourish with other people in midlife who know exactly what you're going through. You can find a link to join this monthly membership in the show notes. We'd love to have you join us as you feast on midlife. And if you found this podcast episode helpful or any of the episodes on the midlife feast, just a reminder that the best way to help others find us is to rate and review the podcast wherever you tuned in.
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