A few years ago, I made a decision. As it was becoming obvious that I was entering a new phase of womanhood, made glaringly real by the bright red high-beams that once were my ears that now emit heat that I’m sure aliens are able to detect from other universes. This new phase wasn’t going to be easy, I knew this. I have watched other women go through it with grace and poise. Yet I’ve never met one who admitted going through it with ease and without a bit of bat-shit-crazy.
So, my decision was, “Head down go!” This is a phase that we were made to go through. It’s not something to fight, it’s not a curse that I have worse than anyone else, it’s part of how God made women and I will trust that wisdom. Most of all I decided it wasn’t something to fix. I knew it would get hard, I’ve heard the stories, but I decided early on that I would use food, exercise and self-care to make my way through this rough and rocky terrain of exiting the childbearing years of life.
I know that exercise can play a massive role in the effects of menopause. I also believe that nutrition (and mostly getting sugar out of the diet) can help to even out hormones and blood sugar and therefore help to improve life during this phase. So, my decision was to use these tools, tools I already had in my arsenal and using quite well. If I didn’t say so myself, pretty proud of myself.
I now understand that this was the equivalent of that time before you have kids and you’re judging the poor mother whose child is throwing a tantrum in the store. Because of course mychild will never act that way! Flash forward to a few years later when I’m screaming at my two-year-old because I haven’t had a shower in two days, haven’t taken a poop alone in a year and the only adult conversation I have is with the helpful Publix cashier who is giving me the “I hope you’re going to pick that up” look while said devil child plucks every candy bar from the shelf and I’m cursing the people who put them there because they did this on purpose to make my life hell!
Yep, I’m there. Only the menopause version of that…it’s even crazier.
A few weeks ago it hit in full force. I have to admit, I never saw this coming.
I love that working out has a positive effect on the way my body looks, but I have always admitted that I actually work out and eat very little sugar more for my mind than my body. My battle has always been in my head. And after years of a hard work, physical and mental, I really was at a place where I was happy with me, the good, bad and the ugly. I accept that the parts of me that challenge me are also the parts of me that make me able to do what I do on a daily basis. While my brain may create some challenges for me, and I may not have the ability to fullychange them, I do have the ability to mold them into something of a force.
This is also why, that after being offered medications for my ADD and OCD on more than one occasion, I have said NO, on more than one occasion. I have no judgement for those who do medicate, I’ve learned better (see grocery store story above). But I decided early on that I didn’t want to. As much as my “disorder” has its negative effects that I need tools to deal with, it also is what I believe gifts me to do what I do. The thorn in my side is also my superpower. And for this reason, I’ve made the decision not to medicate myself. (It’s also why my fingernails look like monkey’s chew them….that’s just me, I’ll live with that.)
And, so it happened. And my force was removed.
In fact, last week I described it to a friend like this, “It’s as if on regular days I must have a forcefield that keeps me from feeling the full weight of the responsibility and stress of life and then I wake up and it’s gone. The force is NOT with me, and the full weight of all of LIFE is allowed to rest on me. No forcefield. And the weight is crushing.” She responded, “You lose your armor.” YES!
And it’s not like this is something I have never experienced before but I have learned to bounce back really quick. Give me one day. I’ll hang out in my little pit for a day but tomorrow I’ll be back. I’ve learned to just be quiet and stay there, try not to talk to anyone so I don’t say something I’ll regret, adjust my day as much as I can and just ride it out. I learned that fighting it was really the largest problem. It’s a like a wave that can take you under or you can learn to anticipate its swell, jump to your feet and ride the hell out of it. The wave always leads you back to shore. Always. It’s all in how you decide to react to it.
So, when it hit this time I stuck with the plan. I adjusted, I jumped to my feet to ride it out…only I didn’t. This time it was a not just a wave, it was a tsunami. My energy level was in the toilet. I mean to tell you that washing my hair was exhausting. I chose not to use conditioner one day because it just seemed like too much work. And one day would have been a dream. Try 5! And no amount of grit, determination or self-help hype was going to help. I’ve never experienced this before. This was a low I never knew existed and after a few days I was beginning to get worried that I had bought a one-way ticket. I was worried I wasn’t coming back.
But I did. And it was great, for about two weeks…then it hit AGAIN!
ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Another period, another low, another tsunami. And now I’m pissed so it’s worse, and then it’s worseagain because I’m so mad. Exhausted, emotional, mad, tired, need a vacation, need some relief, need my armor. Where the heck is my armor?
And food and exercise? So damn hard to give a crap. So hard! And I own a gym. I have a NUTRITION PROGRAM. Add that guilt to the list! I’m supposed to know what to do. I’m supposed to do better than this. I’m the one with the plan, the way out, I’m not supposed to have the toddler throwing the fit!!!! And now I am that toddler!!!
And then today it lifts. The sun shines. The tsunami is gone. I wonder if I’m crazy or is this part of it? I wonder if my plan can work.
And yet I stay the course.
My plan has not changed. I will go throughthis “head down go” because I believe it’s the fastest way…through.Throughis the fastest route. I will not look for the quick fix, I will not change the plan just because it got harder than I anticipated.
I will however keep my eye on the horizon and watch for the next swell. Two weeks or two months, it’s coming. Maybe I’ll make myself some notes for while I’m there. Maybe I’ll give my family a week pass at Dollywood for next time it arises. I’ll stay behind, it’s too happy there for someone in my ‘condition.’
I know that this is part of it. I knew that this wouldn’t be easy. I wonder if my guilt of who I am as “fitness expert” adds to the overall frustration. I have a lot of questions. I have few answers. I feel like I’m supposed to always have the answers. But today all I know is to go back to what I know. Today I look forward to giving my body good things. This is not a time for me to slack on self-care, exercise or nourishment, it’s time to double down. This is when my body needs me most, and I need it to work with me. So, while I’m strong, I’ll be proactive. When I’m weak I’ll rest and ride the wave. I won’t judge you how you go through this, so it stands that I should allow myself that same grace. I will not judge me on how I go through this.
This last time took me by surprise. I hope it enjoyed the sneak attack because next time I’ll see it coming. I’m building stronger armor. And something tells me that my greatest strength will be found in yielding. Flow. Riding the wave.
"I will remember that there is nothing in this life that I cannot have, but there are things I choose not to have because they do not line up with who I am becoming."
I found these words that I wrote a while back as I was looking through some old writing today.
It made me think about how we so often make changes in our lives to better ourselves yet never change our language to match that good and mature decision. Even worse we never change our thinking to match that healthy decision.
Instead of telling ourselves that we choose not to have _________ (cookie, cake, bread, sugar in general, that extra drink, smoke, whatever), we tell ourselves, and often those around us, that we can't have ________.
When in reality that is just not true. We can have anything we choose. And we have the ability to choose things that either bring us health and freedom and lead us toward the person we are becoming, or we have the ability to choose things that bring us illness, bloating, weight gain and a general bad feeling about ourselves and keep us where we are.
Here is why changing your mental dialogue (and outer dialogue) is so important in this area...because we always want the one thing we can't have. Cue the beauty and the beast music because this one is a tale as old as time. This one goes all the way back to the garden where Eve wanted the one thing she was told she couldn't or shouldn't have. I think we know how well that worked.
Here is what I want you to see...
This is not a you problem this is an us problem. We're all this way, well most of us. "Tell me what I can't have and I'll show you!" The funny thing is most of us know this. We know we have this rebellious side, most even admit it to me in a coaching session within moments of us meeting. And if we got really deep I bet we would find that some seek out the super regimented diets just so we can rebel. But that's some deep stuff there. Subconsciously making the decision to rebel and quit before you've even started. We're just weird that way, us humans.
But what if we change our language, what even we go even deeper and we change our thinking.
Because saying "I can't have ____" is actually not even the truth. The truth is "I choose to have ______"
What if you start doing a new mental exercise every time you're faced with an unhealthy decision. If you're like me, when you start this practice, and it will take lots of practice, you'll find yourself noticing you've slipped only once it's already out of your mouth. And that's ok. Even though it's already been said, go back mentally and rephrase. If you're really brave rephrase out loud.
For example, you're at the movie theater...Side bar: What is it about this place and food? I'm always baffled at the behaviors I witness there. The massive amounts of snacks, in massive sizes, and it's not enough to get a popcorn the size of a feeding trough but the people who leave the counter 3 times to layer the "butter" that is not anything close to butter, into the popcorn just scare me. I'm like, I have CPR and AED certification, no worries, I'll sit behind you, I got you! And wash it down with a 1000 ounce diet coke. Our society must change...
Anyway...you're at the movie theater and you hear yourself say, "I can't have raisinettes (insert sad face)." Now prior to this moment, you were feeling really great, now that you've had sugar out of your life. Your clothes are fitting better with less bloating, your skin looks amazing and you are sleeping like a baby. And yet, "I can't have." is our mantra.
This is the moment where you need to notice your thinking. Acknowledge all of the good things going on with your new lifestyle and replace your "can't have" with what your opening yourself up to.
To me it literally sounds like this in my head, "Actually I could have raisinettes, I do have a choice. I also have the choice to not have diabetes. I have the choice to feel amazing in my clothes and my body. And one day I will have the choice to go hiking on a beautiful day instead of spending it in the doctors office because of this decision today." I know, it sounds crazy, but over time I was able to completely change my thinking buy changing how I thought about what I put in my body.
You also have to give huge recognition to this one truth: When you decide to live healthy, and I' not even talking extremes here. I mean just learning to adult yourself around food. You will be stepping outside of our societal norm. You will have to learn to swim upstream. You will learn that it's not easy but over time it does get easier. Your friends may think you're a freak, and that's ok. (note: I once took kale salad to a movie!) We like to call those freaks "psyclepaths." We're not just carving out a new mental path but we are the beginning of a revolution in nutrition. We are the path makers.
Our society is sick. Illness is normal. Medications, even with all the warnings are taken with ease, while our friends look on us like we are crazy for eating kale. If what we see out in the world is normal, call me crazy. Call me a psyclepath. I'm ready to change my own psycles, the way I think and believe, so that my children and grandchildren can live lives free from the diseases we take as normal today. 70% of disease in America can be prevented with lifestyle changes. Let's get crazy about this, let's make a new path, and lets start with our own thinking.
Jen Mulford is an entrepreneur, speaker, author and champion for personal freedom.