Powerful Things I'm Doing to Survive MenopauseOct 31, 2023
Menopause is not for the faint of heart. For some of us, it can be an earthquake, and for others it’s as slow and gradual as Summer into Fall.
If you’ve got underlying health issues related to inflammation, it gets even trickier. Here’s what I’m doing now to survive it, and some things you may want to consider adopting if you too are in this crazy season of life!
If you’re struggling with hot flashes, mood swings, brain fog, and energy issues, this episode is for you. If you feel like your body has gone rogue without your permission, and is changing before your eyes. I’ve got some powerful things to help. And if you’re not sure if your symptoms are related to the menopausal transition, but you’re experiencing an increase in your body fat or body weight, stay with me here.
In this episode you’ll learn the most powerful things I'm doing to survive menopause so you can steal my strategy. And these tips will help you even if you’re younger than me, or have already conquered menopause. You’ll learn what I’m doing with my nutrition and workouts - as well as supplement strategies and one major mental emotional shift I’m making. I’m proud to say that I’m surviving this crazy time so far! And I’ve got some super inspiring information for you, if you are struggling.
Did you hear that the official Holly Perkins Health Podcast is here?
That’s right! Very soon I’ll be dropping 3 official episodes that you can binge, and you can check out the show trailer now! Just search “Holly Perkins” on Spotify, Amazon or CLICK HERE for my feed on Apple Podcasts to check out the new trailer. The first 10 episodes will reveal what I know about your body after 30 years in practice as a health, fitness, and nutrition coach. I’ve never done anything like this before and you’re going to learn so much.
Get ready, because I’ve also created a brand new program called Strength Without Stress and you can get it for free when you post a review of my podcast.
Strength Without Stress is a 4-week strength training program that demands minimum recovery so you get maximum strength without the stress of confusing, elaborate, or overly intense workouts. See, the wrong strength training plan can cause dangerous life-threatening inflammation, and the right plan helps you to become stronger, preserve valuable lean muscle, and feel great, rather than wiped out after workouts. In the coming months I’ll release this program to the world for $197, but I thought it would be so fun to offer it to you for free if you listen to my podcast and post a review. Stay tuned for details - I’ll be announcing next week!
In the coming months, I’ll be talking more about silent inflammation and what you can do to reduce it. Did you know that inflammation is linked with the most dangerous diseases that plague women after 50 including stroke (my biggest fear), diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimers. Your risk of health issues increases after 50, and it becomes even more important to take steps to protect yourself.
I believe that menopause is a prompt that your body needs new habits to support the hormone shift that’s happening. It is not a death sentence, and the symptoms are not mandatory. If you’re struggling, please know that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are so many things you can do to feel great and young. You deserve to feel awesome and enjoy your life - you may simply need to start taking new actions because your body is…well…new. What you used to do may not work anymore. It’s not that your body is broken; it’s that your previous practices are broken. And you simply need new ones!
So let’s get into this incredible episode so I can share the Powerful Things I'm Doing to Survive Menopause.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my hormones really started shifting around the age of 44. Now, if you know my story, you know it’s been a rocky road for the past few years. Now that I’m on the other side of it and healthy again, my doctor’s and I acknowledge that many of my struggles stemmed from an environmental trigger (toxic mold exposure) compounded by a decline in estrogen. I didn’t know it at the time but - and this is big - estrogen is protective, and a powerful anti-inflammatory. As estrogen begins to decline, inflammation automatically increases. And this is why we see a drastic increase in diseases in women around menopause. Most of the time, those diseases are linked with silent inflammation. This is super important to understand.
The first thing - and probably the most powerful thing I’m doing to survive this time is to look at it not as my body breaking down, or aging, or “losing my youth”. Instead, I’m looking at it as a prompt to change how I’m treating my body.
I often hear women talk about menopause with a tone of losing something or their body “failing” them, or that there isn’t anything that can be done about it because it’s a cycle of life. If this were true, all women would suffer through these years. And yet, many women don’t. My client Marlene sailed through menopause without a single hot flash! And while it is a cycle of life, and a fact that you can’t control, there are so many things we can do about it. What I’m seeing in my practice is that the women who are suffering the most, are the ones who need more drastic changes. I’m a good example of this. I really needed to change my habits. My body needed something different - and that’s why I had symptoms. When I assess other women who aren’t suffering too badly, I have an internal check list of habits I run through. And most of the time, the women who aren’t suffering too bad, are the ones with habits that support this life stage. Symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, belly fat, and sleep disturbances don’t have to happen, even if they are happening for you.
The powerful thing here is to reframe how you’re thinking about this life stage and consider being open to adopt ing new habits to see how you feel. This one has been huge for me. I sleep great (if I keep an eye on my caffeine intake) and only have minor shifts in body temperature. But just two years ago I had major symptoms! I’ll share more details in a minute, but for now, I just want you to consider looking at this life stage differently.
The second powerful thing I’m doing to survive this season is showing myself - and my body - kindness. Wow. What a great concept - imagine that! If you’re anything like me - and many of the women I work with - you’re probably really tough on yourself. When I started looking at and listening to the tone and vibes I was giving myself, I would say it was downright abusive. I have a tendency to be so mean to myself and my body. I’m curious if you can relate? Do you get mad at yourself or reprimand yourself for doing things that you think you shouldn’t do? If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, do you have an internal reaction that feels negative? And let me just say, that unless you have nice things to say about yourself, there’s a good chance that you’re whispering something critical.
Pay attention and listen to things you think to yourself, or whisper about yourself. Something I do with my private coaching clients is I start off our calls by giving the client time to tell me all the wins, the good stuff, the victories, the things she’s proud of. This is a really hard thing to do, and some clients can’t even do it! I say, “tell me all the things that are working” and she’ll say, “well, I drank too much wine last week but I did get my workouts in” see what happened there? She started off with a self-criticism when I asked only for the wins!
Your body is listening. Your soul is listening. How on earth can you expect to feel good, and happy, and joyful - and energized if you’re talking to yourself like an enemy?
This has been a challenging practice for me, but I see such a huge shift when I get out of the shower and say something nice about my body. And if I’m not happy with where my body is, I’ll at least say something really nice about myself, and the things I do that I respect. I say loving and kind things to and about myself. I check myself when I’m eating and exercising, to make sure I’m being my best friend, and I choose clothes that fit and I feel good in. I don’t look at my “skinny jeans” and get mad at myself because they don’t fit. I know that when the time is right, I’ll get back to my fighting body composition and my favorite jeans will fit again. But I don’t live in clothes that hide my body, or feel loose.
The third thing I’m doing is I’m spending more of my exercise minutes each week on strength training, and doing only the “minimum effective dose” of steady state, heart rate based cardio. In fact, I’m doing only 2 sessions each week of true cardio where my heart rate is above 70%. My top priority every week is 3 strength workouts religiously. And some weeks that’s all I do, other than walking. I do get outside and walk for 35-45 minutes every day, but it doesn’t count for fitness because I’m really just walking to be outside. This is huge for my mood and energy. But it’s not a workout.
In fact, for the past year, I’ve been testing out the strength programming that I put into Strength Without Stress - my brand new 4-week strength program that I mentioned at the top of this episode. Strength Without Stress is specifically designed to protect and build lean muscle without adding unnecessary inflammation. They are shorter workouts where the volume and intensity are less so that I feel great after, and never wiped out. In case you missed that announcement, I’ll be offering you Strength Without Stress for free in exchange for your review of my podcast, coming soon. So make a mental note to watch for the official launch of my podcast coming next week! If you’ll leave a glowing review, I’m giving away free access to the program, which I’ll sell to the public for $197.
Expanding on the above, I’ve also reduced the length and intensity of my strength workouts. Now listen, this one may or may not apply for you! If you read my book Lift to Get Lean, I teach that you’ve got to find the right intensity in your strength training in order to actually improve your muscle and therefore, your body composition. After 30 years of coaching women, I notice that about 75% aren’t working hard enough. So let’s talk about what it means to work hard enough: It’s important that the last two reps of every set are hard. First you’ve got to be following a professionally created strength plan (by someone who is credentialed and actually knows what they’re talking about) and that plan will tell you how many reps to do. Follow that, and find your weight loads where the last two reps are hard. Now, “hard” is subjective. My version of “hard” is probably different from yours. There are shades of hard, so, another way to think of it is by using an RPE scale. This is Rating of Perceived Exertion and I like to use a 1-10 scale where 1 = easy and 10 = the hardest thing you’ve ever done. You want to be around 7-8 for your strength workouts.
And, if you’re part of the 25% like me, who tend to work too hard, push too hard, you will most likely need to ease up during your menopausal transition years (which by the way, can start in your mid to late thirties). For me, I’ve been working a bit lighter in the gym, but still finding my edge. Keep in mind that muscle soreness is inflammation. It’s good inflammation, but you want to keep an eye on it. My intention right now is that I’m not sore after strength workouts. I want to feel like I worked out, but soreness really wrecks me right now. If you’re finding that you’re always sore, and always tired, this one's for you. Ease up on your workouts, but still ensure you’re working hard on those last two reps.
The next thing I’m doing is to reduce alcohol. Now, a little backstory for you: from 2019 through 2022 I rarely drank because it affected my health so much. And in case you missed the memo, I found Mr Right last year in 2022 and we just got married in June of this year. So it’s been a year of celebration, and we’ve been having fun. Therefore, I’ve been drinking more than usual. And boy do I feel terrible. So now I’ve reduced alcohol to one drink twice, maybe 3 times each week. Keep in mind I’m not trying to lose weight. I’m reducing my alcohol intake to feel good and keep hormones balanced.
It’s important to know that research suggests that alcohol is directly related to an increased incidence of cancer. There are many troubling studies that show this, and some even overtly say that alcohol turns on the cancer gene. Check out this study if you’d like to read up on the DNA methylation, which is directly caused by the degradation of alcohol in your body.
This study states that cancer formation is one of the most significant consequences attributed to alcohol consumption, and approximately 3.6 percent of all cancer-related cases (5.2 percent in men and 1.7 percent in women) worldwide, as well as 3.5 percent of all cancer-related deaths are related to chronic alcohol drinking.
Don’t be fooled - alcohol is not a health-food.
I believe we shouldn’t be drinking any at all. I believe that one day we’ll look back at alcohol like we now look back at cigarettes in the 50s. Can you believe doctors promoted smoking as good for your brain!? Now, I’m also someone for moderation and realistic habits, and if I want a cocktail from time to time I am ok with that. There will most likely come a time when I quit altogether, but that time isn’t now, just yet. So, for now, I’m cutting back because I notice that my sleep gets impacted and I wake up in the middle of the night with mild anxiety when I drink!
Ok, and the last thing is that I’m taking bio-identical hormone replacement and it has been a life saver. I’m not an expert on this topic, I’m not a doctor, but I am educated more than most other people, by nature of my education and experience. I work with two incredible doctors and feel really good about my protocol. And I notice a big difference with it.
One thing I’ll be talking about even more going forward is how as estrogen declines, inflammation automatically rises. And this is a big problem, as inflammation is linked with nearly every life threatening disease, and is most likely why we see a drastic uptick in disease in women after menopause. Estrogen is anti-inflammatory and protective. As it declines, you lose your ability to manage systemic inflammation. This is why we see annoying health concerns starting in your late thirties and 40s.
For me, increased systemic inflammation caused digestive issues, which then caused depression and anxiety, thyroid dysfunction (because estrogen is super important for the thyroid), and therefore exhaustion. For other women, t hey might see brain fog, skin issues, hair loss, or symptoms like mine. My intention here is not to promote bio-identical hormone replacement, but simply to say that for me, it was the right decision and helped reduce my symptoms and improve my health. At this point, I have very few annoying symptoms. And when I do, it’s always because of my diet and I know what I need to do. Each woman is different and it might not be the right choice for everyone. When I work with clients where it is the right choice, we let the client's hormone specialist call the shots and I scan for ways to optimize her hormones and health through coordinated diet and exercise strategies.
Menopause is the door to an exciting new chapter. And it can be rewarding and joyful. You deserve to feel awesome and I promise it’s possible for you too.
I hope you enjoyed this episode!
Keep your eyes out for the first three episodes, dropping very soon. You'll be able to listen to every episode wherever you like to listen. Just search “Holly Perkins” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon and get ready to Rate and Review the first episodes coming in very soon!
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