Learning to love your body with the menopause
Kim Cattrall is one of my heroes. She wasn’t my favourite in Sex and the City at first – that was Miranda Hobbes – but as the series went on, I fell in love with her (I cry every time I watch the scene where she throws off her wig in the final season. Plus when Miranda tells Steve she loves him. And when Harry proposes to Charlotte. Strangely, there is no crying for happiness with Carrie…).
Anyway, seeing this quote from her pop up on Twitter pleased me no end:
After reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder…
Sorry – that was my inner Carrie Bradshaw taking over. But the quote did get me thinking about my body and the menopause and I came up with a surprising conclusion.
I no longer hate my body. And it’s all because of the menopause.
Like many women, I’ve had a bad relationship with my body throughout my life. As a teenager, I was obese. At one point I was touching 13stone, which is a lot when you’re only nudging over 5ft.
It affected my life in so many ways: I felt ugly, unwanted, unhealthy and unworthy.
I took control at 18 and lost more than three stone by following a very healthy (not) routine of skipping lunch and having an apple and orange instead.
Unsurprisingly, it was hard to keep to that regime and the weight crept back on over the next couple of years. So I lost it again, this time with Slimming World. And then put some more back on. So I did Rosemary Conley. And then put some more back on. So I did Joanna Hall’s Drop a Dress Size in Two Weeks Flat – and you get where this is going.
Name a diet, I’ve done it.
Eventually, after realising diets didn’t work. I ate less and started moving more, with gym sessions, running and yoga. And whaddyaknow? It worked. Worse still – I liked eating better and exercising.
All those years of depriving myself that needn’t have happened.
But I wasn’t happy. Whenever I looked in the mirror, I’d still see a big girl. My thighs never seemed to be the same size as other women in size 10 jeans, my belly never as flat, my bum not as pert.
The only part of my body that did look smaller was my boobs. Great.
A few years ago, when my normal spot hiding in the back was taken, I ended up in front of the mirrors at a yoga class. I had no escape. Every move I did, every shape my body formed, was reflected back at me.
It was hell.
Until, during a slow flow from Upward Facing Down through to Downward Facing Dog, I saw my arms. Rather, I saw the muscles in my arms and how they connected and moved and transformed themselves to get me into the position I needed.
And it looked good.
Not in a vain, I’m-a-yoga-goddess way, but for the first time, I saw my body as an amazing live machine, with more tech and engineering than any car. It was beautiful.
As Hamlet says: “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals.”
It made me start to rethink my body and instead of being something to loathe for what it wasn’t (which was, basically, not that of a Victoria’s Secret Angel), I began to appreciate it for what it was. The incredible machine that lets me live, have fun and love.
Becoming peri-menopausal has added to that.
My changing periods are a reminder of the changes going on inside, the changes that make me a woman and the same as every other woman going through this – supermodel or not.
HRT has made me aware of how finely-tuned the chemicals in our bodies need to be, like getting the recipe right for the perfect sponge! When our chemicals are out of kilter, we don’t feel right, just like the cake won’t be right if you don’t have the right mix. And this means there’s no shame in seeking help – we’re not Victoria’s Secret stars; we’re Victoria sponges that need our ingredients tweaking.
It also means that for the first time, I’m not looking at my body and wishing it were something (or someone) else. I mean, what does it matter if my legs aren’t five inches taller when my hormones are having a disco every day?
When you get out there on a bad day, when you make someone smile or laugh or think, when you lift a heavier weight at the gym or even those days when you just can’t – we do all this because of our wonderful bodies, no matter how big or small or tall or short or white or black or that funny David-Dickinson colour they are.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have days when I put the wrong fuel in my tank or go down to unleaded when my jeans feel tight. But for the first time, I’m more concerned with getting the inner mechanics right rather than the paint job.
And for that, I have to thank the menopause.
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