Fat: The Menopausal Woman’s Secret Ally

Susie Bright has an excellent article on physical and sexual changes in perimenopause, which covers a lot of good ground on hormone replacement therapy and the new “bio-identical approach.”

Susie’s list of menopausal problems and why women are unhappy about them? “Unusual fatigue, memory loss, hemorrhaging menstrual blood, scary heart palpitations, byzantine mood swings, insomnia, UTIs, immune system weirdness, your hair falling out, mysterious itches, weirdo weight gain — Oh yeah — and losing your sex drive.”

Kudos to Susie for including weight gain as one among many; in fact, of course, in this fat-hating culture it is often the single factor that pushes women toward HRT. And the little-known piece of information here is that being fat (especially before menopause begins) has a very good chance of making your menopause easier and less traumatic. Why? Because fat holds estrogen, and many fat women experience a less drastic estrogen loss at menopause.

Debbie says: “I think I’m just about at menopause now, and while the last few years haven’t been a picnic, I seem to have gotten off lighter than a lot of women I know. I’ve certainly never had a single hot flash, no UTIs, my immune system is fine, and I have all my hair (in fact, a little more–like on my chin–than I bargained for). Can I prove this is because I’m fat? No, of course not, but I believe it is.”

Like everything else, this doesn’t work for everyone. And like every conceivable health advantage of fat, the medical profession keeps it a deep dark secret. (Others? Lower risk of pregnancy toxemia and certain other side effects; better health during chemotherapy and other body-toxic treatments.)

Menopause is complicated, demanding, scary, and it can be very physically traumatic. As Susie so clearly points out, feminism can be a factor in women deciding to soldier through their menopausal problems. In fact, this is an area where (for different motives) feminism replicates the expectations of the 1950s: both encourage women to sideline, downplay, and minimize their menopausal symptoms (it’s not a hot flash, it’s a “power flash”), rather than getting real relief for real problems.

Don’t you think that if fat can be an ally in the struggle, we should be told about it?

Let’s continue the discussion from Susie’s comments section: what’s your experience with menopause? What has and hasn’t worked for you?

P.S. Here’s a charming, and slightly thematically-related, article by a woman in her ’60s learning to enjoy looking at her body.

3 thoughts on “Fat: The Menopausal Woman’s Secret Ally

  1. Another fat menopausian chiming in–at 57 this week, I think I’ve actually achieved post-menopausal status and I have two positives and one thoughtful thing to report. First, I had a very easy time of it compared to my thinner friends–very few hot flashes, no more “wanting to shoot everyone” moods than usual. Although my never having smoked may be as mcuh a factor as my fat. Second, the pain from migraines that I had suffered every month for decades began to dim as my periods went away. I haven’t had a migraine in about five years, and I don’t miss them (or the periods actually). The thoughtful thing is that along with diminished hormones (and various personal events, which I won’t go into), my sex drive suddenly switched off as if a light switch had been flipped. This is sooooo not the way I see myself, that I’ve been contemplating it in consternation, but it’s just as observable to me as the fact that I no longer have migraines. I have post-menopausal friends whose energy runs me into the ground, could this be where it comes from?

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