Accepting my changing body

Accepting my changing body

Like many women in perimenopause, I have found that my body has changed in ways I didn’t expect. I’ll admit some of these changes have taken some getting used to.

From my teens I have believed I was fat. I spent much of my time at university trying to cover up, much of my 20s stepping on the scales every single morning and celebrating tummy bugs as they might lead to weight loss. In my 30s, when I started doing triathlons I felt I didn’t look like a “proper” triathlete, so hauled myself off to Slimming World. I lost weight. I felt epic. I was nominated for various of the ridiculous SW prizes. I reached my target weight with ease.

But of course

It isn’t in a diet company’s interest for you to stay at target and remain a free member, so I found there was very little support and, unsurprisingly, the weight started to creep back on. It was fine, I was training for an Ironman, so I wasn’t too fussed about the number on the scale, I needed to eat more to fuel my training. I “knew” the weight would come back off again once I focussed on Slimming World again.

Except it didn’t. Week on week I would go back, get weighed and find I’d gained another lb or two.

Around this time I started a new job, which I found very stressful. I also started to get weirdly irregular periods. I was exhausted all the time. I was wide awake at 1am (I have lost track of how many books I read in this time), then fast asleep when the alarm went off. I was still trying to train, but funnily enough I was getting slower.

By the summer,

I had gained about 15kg. I clearly remember a shopping trip with my Mum who wanted to get me some new clothes for my birthday. The sight of my new body in the changing room mirrors set off some horrible ugly sobbing. How come I suddenly had a tummy? I’d always had a flat stomach, even when I believed I was fat. I had always had the same curvy shape of big boobs and big hips, with a waist inbetween, but suddenly I had this middle area that I didn’t recognise, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Another year later and I still didn’t understand this weight gain or the fatigue. I was still trying to train, and still getting slower rather than faster.

Finally

This year the pieces came together. All these things were part of my perimenopause, my 2nd puberty. Had I berated myself when I was tired in puberty? No, I had slept more. Had I hated myself for growing breasts and hips? No, I had bought different clothes. Yes, I had thought I was fat, but that was compared to the teeny models in magazines, it wasn’t actually reality.

So where am I now?

I don’t know what I weigh. My boobs have taken on a life of their own as they adapt to my changing hormone levels. I am no longer training for triathlons, rather I now have taken up powerlifting. Suddenly I don’t feel a need to be lean to look like an endurance sportsperson, I now spend time around people who have huge shoulders and arms, big legs; people who are STRONG. I am getting strong.

A side effect of this new hobby is that my body has changed shape again. It has got bigger. I can’t wear my old shirts, not because I got fat but because my arms got strong. My muscles don’t fit into non-stretchy tops! And I no longer worry about the number on the label of an item of clothing as it doesn’t bear any relation to my worth.

For me,

my perimenopausal body changes have been liberating. I am who I am. The size of the vessel taking me through my life doesn’t change my personality, it doesn’t make me a less good friend, a worse partner, a rubbish dog-human. I have adapted to my changing body by listening to it, by working with it, by treating it how it wants to be treated. No more diets, no more restriction, no more measuring my value by the number on the scales or the label, and no more paying a company to make me feel guilty about what I eat and who I am.

I absolutely understand it is difficult to get free of the diet culture that is around us all the time. I am fully aware that for many women the need to be smaller is so ingrained that it is impossible to see a time when they might be free of it, but I will ask you this: do you only have friends who are the same size and shape as you, or do you have friends of all shapes and sizes? If you’re in the latter category (I would imagine most of us are) do you think any less of your friends who are a different size or shape to you? Would you talk to them the way your inner dialogue talks to you?

If even one person, on reading this, can start to shift that inner dialogue towards how you would speak to a friend, then I have achieved my goal. Your body is with you for life, please treat it kindly.

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