I'm Still Hot … It Just Comes in Flashes Now!

I know I'm in the struggle of my life right now. You see, my body has become the victim of a hostile takeover by an extremist group known as the fat cells. They think my stomach, hips, thighs and behind will be their final resting place but if I have the last say on this, there will be a resurrection.

If you're dealing with your own weight issues like I am, do what my personal trainer says: "Get up and get moving." "The theory is you must take your body out of its comfort zone by changing your workouts every few weeks and increasing your level of intensity. your routine by trying something else like the elliptical or a low / high impact aerobics class from time to time, she says you'll reach a plateau and will reap very little additional weight loss benefits.

Strength training is also a key component to slimming down while firming up. I used to believe lifting weights would make me look bulky like an Amazon woman. I know now that's a myth. Light weight lifting of ten pounds or less can do wonders for your flabby arms and perk up sagging breasts. It also helps build muscle and endurance so you can ever turn a twenty minute aerobic workout into an hour or more.

If you can not afford a gym membership, you can certainly find other ways to get your heart rate up and lose some pounds. Even though I've become a self-proclaimed gym rat, there are times when I do not feel like driving all the way across town so I do a little street walking in my community. OK, get your mind out of the gutter. I live in an area with no sidewalks.

Taking a stroll is a nice change of pace because it gives me an opportunity to breathe in some fresh air instead of that stale recycled health club air. I love to admire nature's beauty all around me and walking and talking with my Creator during those times. When I really want to feel the muscle burn I do the steps at Wallace Wade stadium on the Duke University campus. Going up and down and up and down equates to close to three thousand steps and it's one incredible rush! I also love walking and running on the rigorous cross-country trail that circles the Washington Duke Inn and golf course. I've even done some mall walking but that gets depressed when I look at all of those cute outfits I know I can not fit into.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you get a check up and clear your work out plan with your doctor first. I spent fifteen months in the gym, working out six days a week before I discovered why I was not losing any weight. I was diagnosed with a medical condition known as hypothyroid. As a result of the disease, my body was not producing any estrogen and my metabolism had completely shut down. I had no energy. It was a struggle sometimes just to get out of bed. My mind would say, "get up" but my body would say "why?"

One day while sitting in the Duke Clinic I realized one of the challenges of growing older is dealing with any number of health issues. I used to see a doctor once a year for the routine exam but since turning forty, those visits have tripled on a yearly basis. These days if I've got a pain, I've got to see a doctor. My insurance providers have paid out thousands of dollars on my behalf. But why should not they? I spent twenty years of my working life paying premiums just in case something happened. I paid and paid and paid and nothing ever happened. Now I'm just cashing in on the huge investment I made.

Over the last ten years, I've been treated for heart disease (congestive heart failure), hyperthyroid, hypothyroid, high blood pressure, fibroids and yeast infections. My gynecologist tells me I should have a mammogram every couple of years, get my eyes checked annually and get ready for menopause.

Ah yes, the "M" word. That's the life changing experience that turned my mother into a psychopath! It all started when I was about fifteen years old. I remember seeing her do and say things that did not seem quite normal. For example, in the dead of winter when Ohio's wind chill factor would be on the minus side, mama would complain about how hot she was while sitting in her favorite chair near an
opened window. Snow would be blowing in and resting on the window sill. My dad and I tried closing it a few times when she was not around but we got tired of getting fussed at so we learned to adapt. She also kept a wet wash cloth and a jar of ice water on hand to cool her down.

In addition to being hot a lot, her emotions also appeared to be out of control. Sometimes she'd get angry over little or nothing. Then there were those times when she would break down and cry for no reason. At first, I thought she was reacting to something she was watching on TV but I just could not see how Sanford and Son and The Mary Tyler Moore Show would provoke that kind of emotion. It would be many years later before I discovered my mother's bizarre behavior was really a real experience.

Lillian Mahone was having her own summer! I remember her telling one of her friends she was going through "the change" but I honestly do not believe she understood the amount of what was happening to her mentally and physically.

Back then, menopause was as taboo as mental illness. No one talked about it. There was a stigma attached to a woman going through the "change." In his book, Feminine Forever (published in 1966), Dr. Robert A. Wilson wrote, "many women endure the passing years with cow-like traffic and disinterest; and a disturbingly high number take refuge in alcohol, sleeping pills and sometimes even in suicide." He also wrote, "The tragedy of menopause often destroys her character as well as her health." It's that kind of so called expert opinion that probably forced many women to suffer in silence for fear of being ridiculed or labeled as crazy because of their hormonal imbalance.

Have the seven dwarfs of menopause come knocking at your door yet? If you're not sure, please allow me make the introductions. There's Sweaty, Bloated, Forgetful, Bitchy, Itchy, Sleepy and All Dried Up. They do not all show up at once but you can rest assured they will come in, sometimes unannounced and definitely uninvited, and yes, they will wear out their welcome!

These little menaces to society bring night sweats, headaches, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, urinary incontinence, yeast infections and vaginal dryness, anxiety, depression and emotional chaos into our lives.

According to my gynecologist, over time we may even start to lose our desire for sex. I do not know how you feel about that but I certainly hope it does not happen to me because I did hate to think I wasted the best years of my sex life on my ex!

I started having a glimpse of what's known as peri-menopause about ten months ago. First, there were the hot flashes and then my menstrual cycle became very sporadic. My gynecologist said once I go into full blown menopause, my cycle will stop completely, to which I say "Hallelujah"!

As far as the hot flashes go, they can be very annoying and inconvenient. The first one I clearly remember having was at work right around the same time I was trying to handle some breaking news at work. All of a sudden I felt this intense heat rush from the base of my neck up to the top of my head. It felt like I was on fire! It only measured about a minute but that was just long enough for me to consider murder if anyone had said something I did not like right at that moment.

You see, I've chosen NOT to suffer in silence which makes me eager to let my colleges and anyone else I come in contact with know when I'm having a "moment." This is their warning to steer clear until they've been given the "everything's OK" signal. When Sweaty comes in, it triggers a not so pleasant personality change. I became uncomfortable and irritated. That's when Bitchy takes over and she can hang around a long time if aggravated. Now there are some who might argue that Bitchy and I have been acquaints for quite some time. You know what I have to say to that?


My new best friend, not by choice mind you, is Bloated. He always looks to show up when I'm trying to find something cute and sexy to wear.

Then there's the invisible dwarf known as Arthur. He pops in from time to time to try to slow me down. He can be pretty feisty when he wants to be. He likes to hand wrestle and if I'm not careful he'll kick me in my knees. I've been able to stand my ground so far but he's pretty persistent. Good ol 'Arthur-itis just can not understand that I'd rather have someone else holding on to me!

While researching for more information of what to expect as I enter into menopause, I came across an interesting fact. Middle-aged men also go through their own form of "the change." It's referred to as andropause. Starting in their late forties, some of our male counterparts begin to experience symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, moodiness, heart palpitations and yes, some even complain of night sweats. That lean, mean macho machine you used to know starts turning into a couch potato with a gut the size of a watermelon.

Maybe that explains why some of them pump it up a little harder at the gym. Then they want to show off their new and improved bodies as they cruise around in their brand new chick magnet sports car. And let's not forget about the help they get from Hair Club for Men.

As for me, what you see is what you get!

I've started keeping a journal, which I strongly recommend for anyone going through their own season of change. On a daily basis you should keep track of everything you eat and drink and see how it correlates to weight gains and losses. I can tell you first hand, no matter how much you exercise, if you do not change your eating habits the only thing you're going to LOSE is PATIENCE.

Nutrition really is the key. I'm still learning how and when to eat. I've never been a breakfast person but these days I force myself to munch on something, even if it's nothing more than a banana and glass of soy milk. My trainer says you need food to jump start your metabolism first thing in the morning. That's especially important if your day starts with a workout like mine does.

I'm also learning how to prepare healthy meals I can enjoy through the day. Everything I used to fry, I now bake. Instead of saturating my seafood and vegetables with butter, I now use a freshly squeezed lemon or other non-fattening seasonings. I can also turn one regular meal into three or four smaller portions and I love experimenting with fruit smoothies.

The one mistake I believe many dieters make is they change what and how much they eat to lose the weight. Then when the weight loss goal is achieved, they resort back to their same old eating and drinking habits and wind up gaining back all they worked so hard to lose.

In addition to keeping up with your eating habits, you should also write down all of the activities you do that require movement for at least thirty minutes. Did you know house and yard work can be considered exercise? The more space you have to clean burns more calories and if you have to climb up and down stairs, that's an extra bonus. Mowing the lawn in the Spring and Summer and raking leaves in the Fall are sure fire ways to get your heart rate up.

Your journal can also help you monitor how often your hot flashes occur, how long they last, time of day / evening and what is happening right before the sunset. The majority of mine happens when I'm at work. Stress and a hot flash seem to go hand in hand in my life. I am finding out, however, just how important exercise is in helping me stay below the boiling point.

I'm also trying to monitor my mood swings. I find myself crying or flying off the handle for little or no reason. That's why I've made it a point to share my "issues" with people who are forced to be around me during those times so they're not taken off guard and do not take it personally.

One more thing my gynecologist says is my personal summer could last up to twenty years. So with that in mind, this Diva is taking the attitude she saw on a bumper sticker not long ago:

"I'm still Hot —- it just comes in Flashes now" (Can you dig it?)

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