What’s a mom to do when she reaches midlife?
I mean, when a man gets our age, he may show a few face lines. That makes him look rugged. Some salt and pepper hair? “He looks so distinguished these days!” And thicker glasses to read his books—they just make a man appear sagacious!
(Ask me how I know that word! Someone has been throwing it around way too much this week to describe himself. This same someone also consulted Chat GPT asking “Why does my wife get irritated when I use the word, sagacious? To which the robot explained that basically, it’s because I feel threatened and probably have a vocabulary that just utilizes three-letter words. Next query—“Why does my wife say I have to sleep in the doghouse?”
Moving right along from that diversion…
Those same age-related additions on a woman will make a person mutter something about her age catching up with her. “She’s letting herself go.” I know you know what I’m talking about.
Mid Life Moms
Since I’m planning to live to a hundred, I’m creeping up on my midlife years.
I’ve never had an issue with my weight, aside from my teenage years when I thought I did, and battled an eating disorder. Ever since switching to a plant-based diet in my mid-twenties, I’ve stayed slender without thinking about it, plus I ate like a horse. Those were the days…
Enter changing hormones, chronic stress, and mom’s cookies.
Rather suddenly, although it probably crept up on me—I stared at the scale and saw ten extra pounds. After Austin’s accident, it was five more. While I didn’t notice the first two, three, five pounds, that ten kind of got my attention. And the fifteen or so more than baseline has started to show in clothes that no longer zip, and a heavy feeling of extra that makes me feel sluggish.
“But you’re so thin!”
You’ve heard of skinny fat? It’s more dangerous than evenly distributed fat, because it concentrated in the trunk, around vital organs. So while I’m lugging around what looks like a five month baby bump, the rest of me looks normal.
Because of many factors, including some depression after major life events, just the chronic stress of building, camper life, launching kids into life, job changes, and the off grid thing going on, not to mention me in the middle of perimenopause hormone upheaval, I just have not felt the motivation to do much of anything. My brain has been operating at short-circuit mode for so long that it kind of got tired, and my body just said it wanted the padded life. It got padding!
Woe is me!
That’s a nutshell. I have not been doing life too well lately, and there wasn’t a lot I even felt like doing to climb out of my slump. FlyLady calls it Stuck in Overwhelm and that’s how I felt/feel a lot. I think I may have some adrenal fatigue going on, but have not delved into the tests to prove it.
I was crying a lot, pretty much every day. Sometimes for a reason, but not always.
I’m writing this in the past tense, trying to be optimistic that it (this thing) will be left there. Time will tell.
I will say that I’ve spoken to some friends in my same age range (not young enough to have babies but not old enough for a nursing home) and they have confessed about their secret clingy friend that hangs around without an invitation. The tummy bulge, love handles, or, my favorite, the muffin top. Really, Folks? A muffin top? That’s the best part—not one we want to get rid of! Leave the muffins alone and call it what it is—a pooch!
Realizing something needed to change, or I’d be living in that doghouse myself, I started researching how to lost belly fat, how to balance hormones, and how to recover from endocrine (adrenal) fatigue. Turns out it’s all the same recipe. Stuff that sounds simple but isn’t easy to actually do in real life (like saying no to brownies 🤦♀️).
For me—I hadn’t changed my diet drastically. Sure, when my dad was dying, my mom’s backup stash of cookies mysteriously disappeared, but even that wasn’t the main reason. It was the actual stress of losing Dad, plus other things. I didn’t much feel like getting up after he was gone. Life was a blur for a couple of months, and when I finally thought I could get up and face things again, I went back to work one day a week. One day total is all I got before Austin’s major trauma, and that took the rest of my stress reserves. I’m eternally grateful that he survived. God is still good, and I know it, even though I don’t always cope well. See Reckless Love—Austin’s Recovery So Far
I tell you all of this just to illustrate that stress is the biggest factor. A body can take a few hits, but when the stress continues without end, you do wear out.
I found several good articles, but I’ll just refer you this one by Dr Axe. It’s a good summary.
My main takeaway from the above article is this:
Unless you get seven to nine hours of sleep every night, you’re doing your body no favors. A lack of sleep or disturbing your natural circadian rhythm can be one of the worst habits contributing to a hormone imbalance.
How so? Because your hormones work on a schedule!
Case in point: Cortisol, the primary “stress hormone,” is regulated at midnight. Therefore, people who go to bed late never truly get a break from their sympathetic flight/fight stress response.
A lack of sleep, long-term use of corticosteroids and chronic stress are three of the biggest contributors to high cortisol levels. A report published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism stated that “Stress can lead to changes in the serum level of many hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone and prolactin.”
Sleep helps keep stress hormones balanced, builds energy and allows the body to recover properly. Excessive stress and poor sleep are linked with higher levels of morning cortisol, decreased immunity, trouble with work performance, and a higher susceptibility to anxiety, weight gain and depression.
To maximize hormone function, ideally try to get to bed by 10 p.m., and stick with a regular sleep-wake cycle as much as possible.Dr Axe
This is the biggest fail for me. Sleep is not my strong point. I see a strong connection.
Common Sense Solutions
Balancing hormones, losing belly fat, and overcoming adrenal fatigue all rely on the same prescription. Sleep, exercise, good diet—these are the main things. Easy, but hard, right?
Also—light therapy has been noted as a very important element to add. This can be from the traditional Phillips Light Box or with special Happy glasses which provide the correct rays of light for mood elevation.
In fact, even though I’d been working up to it for awhile, the final little nudge that got me to decide to take a step towards doing something instead of thinking about doing something was this talk. Hormones and Emotional Health, by Neil Nedley. After listening to this talk, I felt more motivated, like I could actually take some steps and see results, and i think I felt a little less crazy hearing a renowned doctor telling about the effect that hormones have on people. I realized that indeed, some things really are the result of something being off, and that it doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.
Long story coming to a close…
I’ve come up with some small changes for myself. I will be going back to review Neil Nedley’s talk, so I can write down the key points applicable to me. For now, I’m focusing on two basic things:
- Getting to bed
- More consistent activity
So…getting to bed is just hard, but it’s one of the biggest reasons that we women add belly fat, experience hormone havoc, and feel so emotionally drained. So I’m trying.
I’ve found several herbs to include in my routine that do help when I remember to consistently take them.
- Nettle—I get mine in bulk looseleaf. I make it strong, and drink a quart a day. It helps my emotions significantly—again, when I remember it. There is research indicating that nettle is wonderful for female hormones. It’s also just a good green tea to add iron and nutrients. Read this article to see some of its benefits for women.
- Ashwaganda—a powerful adaptogenic herb, ashwaganda has been shown to decrease cortisol levels, which decreases stress response. I get mine from Costco or Amazon, and I’ve tried several brands, but currently use youtheory brand.
- Magnesium. I use a combination of Calm and Doctor’s Best Lysinate Glycinate Chelated Magnesium. The Calm powder is immediate (beware—fast in,fast OUT), and the high absorption lysinate glycinate is one of the most effective magnesiums for your body. I find that the tablets don’t give me the GI effects, but the powder does—nevertheless, I find that the powder is a great drink and does just what it claims—it calms you down. Just my opinion—I recommend the Orange flavor, the Raspberry Lemon, but NOT the Cherry, which tastes like pond water mixed with fruit punch.
- Mood Support. A blend of vitamins and herbs designed to help elevate the mood naturally. It’s always helped me, but with perimenopause, I find I need more for my routine. However, this does help, but I have to take it consistently.
- Ginseng—for those days when you need more of a kick in he pants, like every day! Korean Panax Ginseng. We tried to grow this, but I think the squirrels got it! They seem awfully energetic!
- Vitamin D
- B Vitamins
Next I’m ordering some Red Clover to make tea. It’s supposed to be the best female hormone balancer, and I don’t know how I missed that, but I’ll be ordering some in bulk to try it with my nettle tea. Don’t forget about nettle tea as an antihistamine. It works great!
Back to my Two Areas of Focus
Exercise—I enjoy walking but also enjoy procrastinating about walking. There’s always something more important to do. I don’t enjoy jogging, and going to the gym with my boys just probably won’t happen. We’ll see about that one.
Recently, I have hit on one activity that so far is working for me. I look forward to doing it, it’s fun, and those two things will make me actually move!
But I’m totally open to new things. I’d love to go swim at the Y, but for now I just don’t see myself packing up and driving into town to exercise. It takes so much time just to go to and from, even though the actual swimming would be great!
I’ve got a post almost ready to tell you what I AM enjoying (it’s new—as of like last week)! I started to just tell it here in this post, but it’s getting long already, so check back tomorrow and I’ll have that one ready!
One thing leads to another
See? The little bit of exercising has already given me a little bit of mental inspiration enough to get back into writing! It’s starting to have an effect!
We are inter-connected. Mind and body health complement each other. Gut and brain work together, muscles and mind, emotion and physical systems.
So here’s a little challenge for you and for me.
Try one little bitty thing today.
Maybe it’s going to bed just twenty minutes earlier (and I tried that last night! I failed completely—I got into bed, but my body said, “Nope!” Fully alert was what I was. That was annoying, but it’s a teeny weeny little attempt. I’ll try more, and maybe eventually my body will get the message).
Walk a little more, take the stairs, drink more water—something! One little victory is still a success!
Let’s do this! I can and you can! Let this be your sign to make a little change today!