[DISCLAIMER: This post is about me, changes in my own body that I was concerned about, and what I did to help myself. Please do not use the comment section as a place to tell me or anyone else that we shouldn’t worry about it, decide that this is about vain, or that it’s not as bad as someone else. This is only about feeling healthy in our own body.]
Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I weighed the same. I had the usual 2-4 pound water retention fluctuation every woman gets, but other than that unpleasant week every month, I weighed the same. I have always been a pretty healthy eater and I have always exercised, so it’s never been an issue for me, and I am grateful for that.
About 8 years ago, I had to get my uterus removed thanks to a lovely thing called “adenomyosis” which causes a uterus to blow up to the size of a grapefruit, causing a ton of pain and even more bloat than normal. I kept my ovaries for the hormone factor, but that’s it. I suffered for three years with that thing before finally caving and getting it taken out, which was the best decision, ever.
Additionally in my 30s, I found out that I have nodules on my thyroid, which apparently is a very common thing that most people don’t even know they have and in most cases, never affects the function of their thyroid. Since discovering these nodules, I get my thyroid function tested a couple of times of year, and have the two largest nodules biopsied annually. My endocrinologist says my thyroid function is still in the normal range (although in this past year, it is starting to get on the low side of normal) and I have gone from four to six nodules, which is concerning to me. That, and over the past year, my vitamin D levels have dropped, my hair has thinned a bit, and I have been 5 pounds heavier than I was when I had all my parts in me. I have scheduled an appointment to see a specialist at USC Medical Center on October 17th, so I thought I’d spend the time before then testing to see if my thyroid really is the culprit.
See, my best friend is 8 years older than me and dealing with all kinds of crazy stuff happening to her body because of (as she puts it) the dreaded MENOPAUSE. She has someone helping her with nutrition, exercise, and various natural things to help her not feel like she’s going to lose her marbles with the hot flashes, forgetfulness, and the unexpected part, weight gain. It’s a constant struggle, but she’s managing. Between her and another friend of mine who is 60 years old who said “After 50, the weight just piled on!” I was concerned that my five pound gain was the beginning of going through what these two have been through.
This got me thinking about my own situation. At 45, hormone levels (estrogen, not necessarily thyroid) do start to drop a bit, and that can affect metabolism. So, what if my extra 5 pounds is because I need to do things differently and help my metabolism? I did a little research (staying the hell away from WebMD) and for a woman my age, the things that have changed in me could either be lower estrogen related or thyroid related. They’re basically the same symptoms. Gee, that’s helpful. In either case though, metabolism does slow down so I wanted to test that out on myself.
My son, Nolan, is a certified personal trainer and sports nutrition counselor. He completely understands what a person needs as far as protein, healthy fats and carbs, and how to keep metabolism up and most importantly, keep insulin levels low. As we get older, these things need adjusting in our bodies because our hormones do play such a large part in them. I set up the “MyFitnessPal” app on my phone to know just how many calories I needed to consume each day and for me, I knew I needed to increase my protein intake (I exercise a lot and without enough protein, my body is just eating my muscle as fuel) cut back on the unnecessary carbs I was eating (bread and my beloved cereal) and focus on boosting my metabolism and keeping insulin levels low by not having cereal and/or fruit first thing in the morning (carbs that boosts insulin) and trying to get a lot of protein early in the day, which fuels my body and keeps me from wanting snacky carb stuff late in the afternoon. It’s been tough because I am actually eating more than I normally do because of trying to keep my metabolism up and preventing insulin levels from getting too low.
I’ve never been a junk food eater. I don’t buy chips or cookies or fast food or other empty things like that that don’t have any nutrition. I do have the occasional ice cream or gelato but even though my snacking wasn’t typical “junk” it still wasn’t what I should be consuming nutrition-wise. I cut all that out (except for last night where I really wanted a spoonful of peanut butter and washed it down with a beer because I had done an INTENSE weight-training circuit with Nolan earlier in the day and no amount of protein or veggies felt like enough) and made my focus on proteins and vegetables balanced with some grains and nuts (we still need carbohydrates and fats, just healthy ones and not in excess) and in eight days I dropped four of the five pounds I’ve been carrying around.
I know as far as weight loss goes, that is usually considered water weight, but considering my diet was already pretty healthy to begin with, I’m not sure that’s the case for me. (I could be wrong.) I definitely feel more energetic, I don’t have afternoon or evening snacky cravings, and I just feel better overall. Yes, I do still enjoy the occasional glass of wine or beer (although I didn’t have either the first few days) but I’m not overdoing it because I know that increases insulin levels and is just a bunch of empty carbs, and I continue to drink a ton of water (which I have always done) so it seems to be helping.
My little test seems to show that it’s most likely my metabolism and not my thyroid, but I am still seeing the thyroid/head/neck specialist because it’s important to know medically if there’s any concerns (most importantly, the nodule existence.) It is pretty cool to know what I could do differently that helps me nutrition-wise to feel better, though.
If you’ve had similar experiences, please share them in the comments. I would suspect this is a fairly common thing for women as we age and the more we know what we can do to help ourselves, the better we will feel!