Perimenopause? Lifestyle or HRT? What about both?
Updated: May 10
You have two choices for your perimenopause experience, you can simply get swept away and let fate drag you along with all the symptoms, changes, and unknowns just happening to you along the way, or you can be an active and proactive participant in your journey.
Modern medicine is a wonderful thing, with HRT (hormone replacement therapy), advanced testing abilities, and a growing data base of scientific evidence about the female journey from the “fertility years” through thru post menopause. Unfortunately, modern science hasn’t caught up in mainstream medical care leaving women suffering, overwhelmed and scared.
The purpose of this article isn’t to sway you towards any one kind of treatment or to hash out the deficiencies in medical care, but to help you to be your own advocate for wellness during perimenopause. Unfortunately the discussions around perimenopause are non-existent at best and incorrect in the worst case scenarios, but there’s hope because it’s getting better every year.
As I mentioned above, medical care for perimenopause is improving but it’s not the only answer. Your body has the amazing capacity to handle change when nourished and treated appropriately. The disconnect happens when you try to hold on to methods that aren’t appropriate for your current situation. In plain language, you’re trying to treat your changing perimenopause body like your 30 year old body- and that won’t work. Your body is changing and you need to understand and adapt to the new ways your body works.
Hormones control everything in your body, and for women that includes the female reproductive hormones of estrogen, progesterone, and yes even testosterone. As you age those hormones begin to decline along with decreasing fertility- this time is known as perimenopause. If you aren’t familiar with perimenopause you’re not alone- neither was I!! Learn more about my journey.
Unfortunately, for women, when reproductive hormones begin to decline it impacts literally every system in your body. That’s why you may have high cholesterol when you never did before, suddenly you are at higher risk for heart disease, and so many conditions that you may or may not have known were related to hormone balance.
The good news is that your body has an amazing capacity to heal, thrive, and overcome the challenges associated with aging and perimenopause- as long as you are making appropriate changes to support it. This means lifestyle changes, the biggest of them is to understand that your body is not 30 anymore and the things that worked then will not work now. Specifically: eating less and moving more.
The right lifestyle changes...
In order to feel your best, and look your best during perimenopause and be set up to live a long and healthy post menopause life you need to take action around how you eat, how you move, and the way that you approach self-care. Get the free Guide to Mindful Menopause. Let’s take a look at the basics:
Age appropriate nutrition- by this I mean planning for long term wellness instead of short term results. Focusing on nourishing to prevent diseases like heart disease, pre-diabetes, and even weight gain and taking the focus of weight loss to achieve a specific body shape. In addition to all of that, nourishing your body to support it during the stress of perimenopause and the changes that your body is going through. I teach mindfulness and mindful eating because your body will tell you what you need if you learn to listen.
Get active- appropriately! While there are hundreds of women taking up weight lifting for competition, marathon running, or other endurance sports during their 40’s and 50’s most of us are just trying to keep the ability to tie our shoes. Begin with where you are today, then work on a plan to get better in steps and stages. Exercise can help with many of the perimenopause conditions you will experience- from hot flashes to poor sleep, even anxiety and mood swings, but you need to do it right or you’ll increase the stress in your body making things worse instead of better. Incorporating yoga, strength training, and low impact high intensity work can be just as valuable as daily walks or cycling.
Another key piece of how I work with women is to prioritize self-care. Not just mani-pedi’s and spa days, but taking time to slow down and put yourself first. Being kind to yourself and your limitations, while celebrating victories each and every time. It’s time to flip the script from caring for the rest of the world to caring for yourself first!
Essentially your perimenopause experience will depend on how well you find balance. Balance in nourishing, slowing down, and challenging your new normal. Changing your lifestyle outlook is the first line of treatment but it isn’t the only treatment. I often get asked about the use of HRT, and while as a nutritionist and a yoga teacher I don’t prescribe HRT, I help women to determine when it’s the right move for them based on quality of life. Essentially, your trusted medical team will guide you in the right direction, but let’s face it, you need to arm yourself with information and advocate for yourself too! Not every woman will be eligible or need HRT, and many will find extreme relief from going down that path, but both versions of that path need the basis of a healthy lifestyle first.
The lift to your ego when you accomplish hard things can be experienced through setting goals like nailing a yoga pose, spending an afternoon outside in nature, or eating enough fiber in a day is priceless! And to do it during a time when your body feels like an alien and you experience emotions more strongly than you did as a teenager- is a boost to your self esteem that you didn’t know you needed until you get it. So, if you are heading towards perimenopause, or right in the middle it’s time to get the lifestyle down, and here are the steps to take action that I help women through every day:
Optimize your nutrition for where you are today, and where you want to be post menopause (take the free 5 day mindful eating challenge)
Get consistent with fitness that energizes, and let go of depleting activities
Prioritize self-care and make it a daily habit
Create your HRT care plan- talk with your provider, have the appropriate labs and tests done, and be informed of your options.
When you’re ready to begin optimizing your lifestyle I’m here to help! Schedule a free discovery call and let's talk about how you can get started.