I started my first diet in middle school after a fellow student accused me of looking pregnant because my blouse was so "puffy" around my stomach. I didn't know how to explain to him that my stomach size was the result of a food baby, not a real baby. All those years of sneaking chocolate bars at the park with my sister were beginning to show around my middle, and I had to do something about it. Like adopt the diet of a rabbit --- all parsley and lettuce and no fun.
My body shrank and expanded like an accordion over the years as I bounced from one diet to another. In my early twenties, it was all about leg warmers and sweat bands at the gym in order to keep the pounds off. Then came my pregnancies, which was a happy time for me because being pregnant gave me license to do some serious bulk eating. Little did I know how all those pepperoni pizza slices were going to take up residence on my hips for the next twenty years. I had a brief reprieve when Phen-Phen became popular. What an amazing diet pill! You could lose ten pounds in your sleep, paint your entire house in one day, and fit into a size 3 dress by the end of the week. Sadly, it was banned (all the good stuff is) and it was back to old fashioned dieting: carrot sticks and lettuce and me feeling more and more like a rabbit each day.
For years I ate right, exercised, and kept the weight off, and then something strange happened when menopause hit. It was as if aliens stole my body and replaced it with a much plumper, sweatier version. I gain five pounds now just looking at a piece of devil's food cake. What cruel joke is this? I finally don't have to count the days on my calendar to calculate when my period is due, but now I'm left to obsess over the numbers on the scale. If I could have a conversation with my scale, it would go something like this:
ME: "Good morning, Scale. I'd like to weigh in today because I've been really good on my diet this week."
SCALE: "Aren't you forgetting about those chicken nuggets you stole off your son's lunch plate when he wasn't looking?"
ME: "Yeah, but those don't count because they were just bites. I didn't eat a whole one."
SCALE: "And the Hershey's bar?"
ME: "Hey, that was a Halloween fun size candy bar. That doesn't count, either."
SCALE: "What about the three slices of all-you-can-eat-toppings pizza you had Saturday night?"
ME: "I don't remember that because I drank four glasses of wine first, so that definitely doesn't count."
SCALE: "And the secret rendezvous you had with the leftover lasagna yesterday morning? Who eats a cold wedge of lasagna at 7:00 in the morning?"
ME: "It was part of a nutritious breakfast and...okay, you got me there. Maybe today is not such a good day to weigh in."
SCALE: "Ya think? Besides, you might damage my frame if you step on me now."
ME: "That's rude of you."
SCALE: "Just saying...now go back to your lettuce leaves and don't bother me again until you're serious about this dieting stuff. Oh, and by the way, is it my imagination or are you growing whiskers and longer ears lately?"
My doctor told me to expect a ten pound weight gain during menopause. I think she was being kind. What makes no sense to me is how much I sweat during a hot flash --- I look like I've just run a marathon, so I ought to lose at least a pound of liquid a day in the process. I should resemble a stick by now, not a basketball. Pretty soon I'm going to have to call Omar The Tent-Maker to design my next wardrobe if I don't lose this excess menopausal weight.
Everyone laughs about marijuana munchies, but what about menopausal munchies? They're worse because they last all day and night without leaving you in a state of euphoria. The “FEED ME” valve won't shut off in my brain, and nothing seems to alleviate it except more food. My stomach expects every day to be Thanksgiving with all the trimmings. Instead I have to settle on plain turkey burgers, steamed broccoli and sugar free jello. Yummy. At this point I'm ready to gnaw on the frozen package of stale corn muffins in the back of the freezer.
If this was a kinder, gentler world, women would lose weight during menopause, their skin would glow and their hair would become thick and shiny. Unfortunately, everything is turned upside-down in menopause --- we gain weight, our skin dries out and the only thing that's thick and shiny is our thighs stuffed into a tight pair of black slacks.
Sometimes I feel like throwing my scale out the window and slipping into a roomy house dress with large, flower print. I could eat doughnuts all day in front of the air conditioning vent and get caught up on all the latest nighttime television dramas.
And the next time my scale talks back to me, I'm going to duct tape it to the wall as a decorative antique.
This post was first published at Menopausal Mom.
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