Are menopause myths holding you back?
Menopause myths are plentiful. It’s time to bust a few right here. It’s hard to separate the aging myths from the menopause myths so you’ll find the blend here.
1. There’s only so much you can do “at your age” or “for your age.”
The first menopause myth involves aging. If you listen, I bet you’ll hear it today! Someone will pay you a compliment, and spoil it by ending it in…for your age. If you believe it’s true, you’ll do everything to make yourself right.
Priming is the term coined by Ellen Langer from Harvard. She did a unique study (that unfortunately has never been replicated due to cost) involving older adults sequestered away for weeks. From the moment subjects arrived they were responsible for their own care and asked to speak of a time when they were in their prime (30s and 40’s). They were surrounded by music, movies, and periodicals of that era. When they were assessed at the end of the experiment, their hearing and sight had improved. Panelists who assessed them reported they looked better, walked more independently, had fewer wrinkles, and had improved their posture.
How can you benefit from priming? Surround yourself with others doing what you want to do. Give yourself constant reminders that age is not a limiter. Catch yourself saying, “I’m showing my age,” or “It’s hell getting old.”
I’m living in Boulder, Colorado where people never leave if they can help it and go to retire if they’re not already here… because they love the healthy active lifestyle. Around me are men and women who aren’t defying aging, they just aren’t letting it get in their way. They’re getting gray hair and wrinkles and starting to train for triathlons in their 60’s. They’re working with running coaches to increase speed as they celebrate their 70th birthdays. They may spend the morning biking and the afternoon hiking in spring and the morning swimming and the rest of the day downhill skiing sharing their record speed on Facebook in winter.
My 3o adult years in the middle of the Midwest wasn’t quite the same. People who exercise primarily went to the gym. Fewer were outdoors and active year round. It was about weight loss and vanity more than about lifestyle and passion. It was harder to be one of those active lifestyle people. You’re always swimming upstream to choose healthier food or fit your exercise in amidst fewer people who share that attitude.
Remove yourself from environments and people who settle for less and are resigned to aging any other way than optimally. What you think is connected to your physical outcome. If you believe it you will see it. It’s been proven.
Social influence affects the way you respond to anything. Thus, running every day may be seen as obsessive in the Midwest, and the norm or even expectation in Boulder. I can remember several instances running into friends after a Sunday morning swim. Where the conversation might have gone like this in the Midwest, “I’ll be it feels good to have that done! Have a good day!” in Boulder while dressing after a swim, it’s “Are you doing anything else today? A bike or run?” When others around you think a certain way so too will you be more likely to adopt that thinking.
This, I love.
Imagine your optimal life in 5 years or 10 years. See yourself at the end of your life. What does that look like? Keep changing the channel until you have the vision you want. Then you’ll need to go into action to begin it but thinking it is the start.
New research regularly shows we’re reversing effects of aging on the brain, deep in cells at mitochondria level, and in telomeres (markers of longevity).
Yoga, weight training, running, and high intensity interval training all have gained merit in the aging better arena. It’s not just apparently healthy older adults who benefit. Biking and boxing are slowing down the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.
Flipping Truth: Markers once believed a natural process of aging now we know can be avoided or reversed with the right lifestyle changes.
Flipping False: Decline is a natural process of aging.
Flipping Reality: You choose your future with every lifestyle choice you make every day.
2. Menopause automatically means weight gain or belly fat
The second of my menopause myth is all about weight gain. Don’t believe for a minute it’s about being one of the “lucky ones.” This does not have to be your mother’s menopause. You create your own luck. We know epigenetics makes more difference than genetics. Change your habits and you can change your life.
There is no science that shows a specific connection to weight gain and menopause. There is science to show the following connection to weight gain:
- Working long hours
- Who isn’t working longer hours today? If you have a career, and or if you’re running the show at home while your spouse has a career, longer hours are the norm today. There is a correlation with longer hours and weight gain. The why behind this is likely tied to the two additional points following plus increased work stress, and food choices on those busy long days.
- Increased affinity to coffee and wine
- Coffee is not a villain necessarily but using caffeine to get revved up and wine to slow down can open the door to cortisol and long-term fatigue. Both too much coffee and wine can increase blood sugar and increase fat stores.
- Reduced activity
- Women who gain weight during menopause collectively reduce activity level compared to those who don’t gain weight (who also have fewer symptoms). Are you as active as you were five or ten years ago? You have to admit that has something to do with weight loss, directly or indirectly. Exercise for many women is a catalyst to better food choices and better rest, both of which contribute to optimal weight.
Flipping Truth: Each of these three things are tied to an increase in weight.
Flipping False: Menopause is the cause of weight gain. There isn’t correlation showing that to be true purely because of menopause and hormonal change. You can offset the hormone changes with lifestyle change.
Flipping Reality: Small additions of movement during long work days, convenient custom-food choices, and managing your caffeine – alcohol consumption can make a big impact on a more positive menopause experience.
3. You have to exercise for hours or to extremes to get fit.
Menopause myths about exercise are abundant. It’s not “exercise” that makes the biggest difference. I have written and speak about this in my keynotes regularly. What’s more closely associated with your weight status than exercise? It’s movement, simply movement. It’s non-exercise activity time, or N.E.A.T. Obesity research shows that what you do the other 23 or 23 ½ hours of the day matter more than any boot camp, fitness class, or run. Menopause myths persist and play on your desire to get your energy and shape back with strenuous exercise.
That doesn’t mean stop them if you’re already doing them! It does mean you have to beware of the tendency to couch-compensate after you workout. If you exercise so hard that you want to be sedentary the rest of the day or you’re so sore that’s what happens, you may have defeated your purpose of exercise.
Don’t discount the active life you have. When you clean the house, walk the dog, tote children or tend to the yard, you’re becoming healthier with every minute spent.
Research shows that believing what you’re doing (providing it is true!) already contributes to your health, actually returns more health benefits. Hotel maids who changed nothing but were told that what they did every day at work counted as physical activity, improved blood pressure, cholesterol level, weight and body composition compared to a group of hotel maids with the exact same activity only told they needed to be physically active to improve health and avoid disease.
The mind is a powerful thing. Flex that too.
Flipping Truth: Moving more every day all day will harness the power of low level exercise to lose weight.
Flipping False: You have to spend hours or perform extreme exercise to get in shape or stay in shape.
Flipping Reality: You can’t overcome 23 hours of inactivity with an hour of exercise.
4. Exercise that burns the most calories and fat is best for weight loss.
If you incorrectly believe menopause myths that tell you more exercise and less food is the answer you may fall fast for this one too. New science on energy suggests weight loss may have more to do with the energy you get from exercise than the energy you spend during or after exercise. Sure you can estimate the number of calories you burn during an hour boot camp to be in the high hundreds. If you hate it, however, how long will you last at that level?
Vibrational energy is what we’re talking about. Elevate your energy, mood, and attract the same higher frequency people to you while you’re at it with the right food, and the right moves.
If you’re boarding adrenal fatigue, in chronic stress, or suffer from overeating but undernourished syndrome, your body is pumping out cortisol that makes it challenging to release weight.
Adding exercise you either don’t enjoy or is too intense or long for your existing stress may just amplify the problem.
Yoga or leisure walking outdoors, neither of which are known for their calorie burning potential, could help you release weight by decreasing stress hormones. A body under stress will hold onto weight. Find something you enjoy and do it regularly. Less exercise with specific purpose (beyond it’s caloric value) is a winner for weight loss. Menopause myths are perpetuated by marketing that plays on that vulnerable you that wants a flat belly right now.
Flipping Truth: Your body needs exercise, and the right exercise at the right time will help you lose weight.
Flipping False: Burn more energy than you take in and you’ll lose weight.
Flipping Reality: A body under stress will hold onto weight.
Which of these menopause myths have you fallen for?