weight gain at menopauseAt a recent lunch with a job candidate, I surreptitiously picked the sliced turkey from its spongy roll, hoping I wasn’t observed.  But as I speared the meat and raised it to my mouth, I looked around the table and noticed that several of my colleagues had plates that looked exactly like mine, with sandwich meat removed and bread pushed to the side.

At that moment, I realized that I had joined the ranks of the weight obsessed, as a careful counter of calories and carbohydrates.

All my life, I’ve been a person who others describe as “petite,” “tiny” or even “skinny.”  When I moved to Morgantown in my early 30s, I still shopped in the Juniors’ department.

I’d like to say it’s because I worked out and ate the right foods.  And while all of that is true, the real reason is that I was blessed with good genes.  Almost everyone in my family has been rail thin at one point in their life.  My mom in her prime was a stunner with a waist that rivaled Scarlett O’Hara’s.

But about a year ago, as my older friends predicted would happen, my metabolism began to slow down.  I first noticed it after running a half marathon, when I gained weight instead of losing it.  I attributed it to pre-race carb loading, but when I returned to my regular diet and the extra weight never came off, I realized something else was going on.

I continued to gain weight after that point, about a pound every two months.  And I found there was little I could do to stop it, short of starving myself.

Since then, my weight has leveled off, and by most people’s standards, I am still relatively thin.  But I now know those “extra” pounds are here to stay, and I that can expect the scale to tip even higher in the years ahead.

It’s not just the weight gain that’s bothering me, it’s how my body is redistributing it.  With a growing belly “pooch,” and rounding hips, I am beginning to look a lot like my mother — in her later years.   By her mid-50s, her once petite figure had become more roly-poly, and her cinch-waist cocktail dresses were replaced with colorful tunic tops and flowing, caftan-like dresses.

It turns out that weight gain, particularly around the middle, is a common complaint of people in their middle age.  In the case of women, our shifting hormones are at least partially to blame.

It’s yet another example of the loss of control we experience as we age.  Around this time, we begin to experience other ailments and indignities, including back aches, hair loss, hearing loss, sinus problems, adult acne, cellulite, and mental “pause.”

So with nature conspiring against us, what can we do?

In my case, I’ve decided to follow the advice of my friend Francoise, who says that the key to aging gracefully is to give in, but not to give up.   Going forward, I plan to eat more fruits, vegetables and lean protein, and fewer carbs and sweets.  And I will amp up the intensity of my workouts, as much as my body and schedule will allow.

After that I plan to let nature take its course.  I’ve already accepted my new weight as the new “normal” and recently replaced all of my slacks with the next size up.

I’m telling myself I’m becoming a woman of substance with more “meat” on my bones and a solid sense of gravity.   And when the numbers on the scale inevitably rise, I’ll remember the model of my mother, who diverted attention from her expanding waistline with a fashionable Women’s-sized wardrobe, eye-catching jewelry, and her beautiful, warm smile.  She still had her admirers, and she didn’t skip dessert.

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