Exasperation & Frustration, A Journey out of Hormonal Imbalance
Menopause is like becoming a teenager in reverse. As ever, I am sharing my journey to help those who can relate, both women & their partners. This blog is my most candid.
Devon, England and it’s a typical grey, misty, wintery day. I’m on a 14-day weight loss retreat. I decided to end the year turbo charging my metabolism sans alcohol, sugar and caffeine.
Unlike other detoxes I’ve experienced, where you cleanse the gut with Epsom salts or bentonite clay shakes, I’m eating three squares, light & healthy. It’s a bootcamp of sorts with 3 to 4 hours of exercise a day. Calories, in are definitely a lot less than calories out. The key to weight loss we are told is establish a caloric deficit required for our Base Metabolic Rate or BMR. The methodology is working as my waist is 2” smaller than it was when I arrived.
My timing is not accidental. Late this year, my metabolism returned thanks to a compassionate endocrinologist I’m now working with. Make hay while the sun shines. More on this later.
The reasons why I am overweight are many. The past 12 years, I have endured three reconstructive foot surgeries, fractured my pelvis from a ski accident, had two knuckle replacements and two operations on my right knee: the latest one being 5 months ago. I did the math. I’ve spent 3 years+ out of the last 12 sitting on my butt, healing or being physically impaired from movement. And then there is Menopause. Whoa!
When I hit 52, the weight came on, slowly but surely. Every year I weighed a little more. None of the strategies that I used to do to drop weight worked. I knew something was wrong. My doctor told me to stop sugar. I don’t have a sweet tooth and am an accredited weight loss coach among other things = I know how to lose weight. For me, her advice was lame. I reached out further afield to an endocrinologist in London. She informed me my thyroid hormones were in the normal range although they were at the lower range. Being ‘in the range’ meant no help from her. I continued to gain weight.
One day I looked down at my midsection and saw multiple rolls. I couldn’t take it anymore. “Whose body is this?!”, I thought. “If I can’t lose the weight then I have to find an alternative!” Bear in mind that I exercise and eat healthily almost every day.
At first, I tried Coolsculpting where they freeze away stubborn body fat. It didn’t work. Desperate, I turned to liposuction. It worked but it left my skin saggy in my midsection and of course, did nothing for the fat in other places. I continued to gain weight.
I knew that my metabolism was non-existent despite being in the ‘normal hormonal range’. Point being, nobody knows your body like you.
Finally, I begged my GP to prescribe Thyroxine. If she wasn’t going to do it, I was willing to travel to Germany or another progressive country to find a doctor who would. Amazingly she did after administering a blood test that showed I was indeed hypothyroid or below the ‘normal’ range. Another point, medical help most often comes when it’s too late and we’ve gained the weight.
Thyroxine helped to slow down the weight gain. Despite exercise and healthy eating 80 per cent of the time, weight creeped up. I’d do a detox retreat, take off 4 – 10 pounds, return home, eat normally. Up & down, I went. My weight range was like a teeter totter.
Thoughts turned to, “Maybe this is me? Maybe this is the new normal? Stop the self-loathing”, I would say to myself, but then the voice in my head would say, “This can’t be right. Other women my age are slim? NO, NO, it can’t be!”
I found a hormone doctor in Chelsea, London. Based on my history and the extensive blood test he administered, he suspected that my hormones had been out of balance for years.
Unexpectedly I got pregnant at 47 and lost the baby in the first trimester. I had never been pregnant before because my ex-husband didn’t want children. And when I think about it, that pregnancy was when my hormones changed. I assumed it was perimenopause that was causing me to have emotional outbursts. Maybe it was. I’ll never know for sure. Then when menopause hit, my moods changed exponentially. Anger, anxiety, depression ensued. Emotional control went out the window.
Of course, at the same time because of my surgeries and injury, I’m was taking mood altering painkillers – codeine, opiates. Physiotherapy and recovery for my feet took about two years. The pain from a fractured pelvis was unbelievable. Just when I thought the pain from my feet couldn’t get any worse. It did my head in. My consciousness wasn’t considering hormonal unbalance as the reason I was irritable and blue. It was pain and inability to run like I use to, inability to use my body. I don’t do well feeling ‘stuck’.
During that time, my mother passed away. We had had a tumultuous relationship. Like a ton of bricks, her death hit me so much harder than I suspected it would. After that, I became estranged from my emotionally abusive brothers. BAM, family gone. Done and dusted.
Then BOOM – adrenal fatigue followed. An adrenal body accumulates fat storage as lower belly fat. The cause is stress. Apparently, it often happens to people who find it a challenge to relax and sleep. Guilty.
The stress of my circumstances drained my endocrine system. It wreaked havoc with my gut health – that, and all the antibiotics I’ve had to take for operations (add in a benign tumor removal shortly after losing our baby), exotic food from my travels, and sinus infections from flying around the world & my mold allergy that spiked from the nooks & crannies of our granite house.
Poor gut health manifested in bloating. One gastroenterologist recommended a FODMAP diet. It didn’t help. Thankfully, I found a gastroenterologist in London who thinks outside the box. With his three-layered approach, my gut was finally balanced. There is no doubt in my mind that further weight gain was caused by my impaired digestive system. My gut remains a sensitive area that I nurture closely. Learning about the microbiome & critters in the gut became a passion.
Back to the Chelsea hormone doctor. He recommended HRT. My mood & clarity of mind improved greatly. You may not be surprised to know that with all of this going on including a 3-year dispute with a builder, I had fallen into clinical depression more than once. Depression is a sign telling you that your soul is off track. It’s also a BIG sign that your hormones are out of whack!
With HRT, I began to feel like a woman again instead of a tired bag of bones and fat. I didn’t gain any further weight except when I indulged and that’s normal. Yet try as I might, the weight just wouldn’t come off.
Earlier this year, a friend recommended an endocrinologist close to home. Thankfully, he has changed my life by prescribing Saxenda, a medicine that will not allow you to overeat. Your brain tells you when you’re full. Eating beyond that, I felt nauseas. Overindulging isn’t possible. Because I still wasn’t losing weight, most recently, he included Liothyronine Sodium or T3 in my regime. It is the manufactured hormone triiodothyronine used prescribed specifically for hypothyroidism. I no longer need a nap in the afternoon. My energy levels are as they used to be. I have a metabolism. I feel like Pam again. Yay!
Caveat – I am not a doctor. I am not recommending medication. I’m simply sharing my journey and the tools that work for me to encourage you to seek help when appropriate.
A cosmetic doctor I was speaking to, told me that he sees many clients with thyroid issues – losing their hair, skin becoming dry and wrinkly, nails turned brittle with weight gain especially in the midsection. He has seen the difference that T3 makes. He is frustrated that it is not prescribed more often. As he spoke, I thought, “He is describing me to a tee.” Nothing more soul destroying than not only gaining weight, but having your hair fall out, nails chip away by simply opening a package and skin drying up like a prune.
Now that I have my metabolism back, with no operations in sight for 2022, I plan on building my bodily strength to serve me through the remainder of my days. And of course, drop more weight, to not only look better, more importantly improve my health. With the weight gain came a rise in cholesterol. Shockingly, I had become a fat generator.
I’m goal oriented. Always have been. I wasn’t going to crack this weight gain nut until I found a solution. It’s taken years. Determination and perseverance have served me well, but the double-edge sword is the stress that comes along with it. Are you seeing a pattern? :>)
I retired from coaching earlier this year. Since then, the question for me has been what to do with my days? Number one goal has been to improve my health. Number two is how to spend my time that’s in alignment with my other key VALUES.
I have led a very difficult life on a number of levels. I’ve known great joy but also great sorrow. I’ve been in fight or flight for years. Most of my health issues have been caused by inflammation. My body still carries the stress I have experienced. Therefore, my goal for 2022 is to learn the Italian art of Far Niente or ‘to do nothing’ because I’m not good at relaxing. In fact, I’m admittedly, very bad at it.
Il Dolce Far Niente: ‘Pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness’
Doesn’t that sound lovely?
My goals have always been to do more, be more … now I’m in search of relaxation & fun.
I end 2021 with heartfelt gratitude for my darling husband, who has loved and supported me throughout this journey. He’s a brave, compassionate, wise, old soul.
And thank you for reading my blog! This holiday season, I wish my readers a Very Merry Everything with love & gratitude.