The urban dictionary definition of pear shaped is “A British expression used to indicate that something has gone horribly wrong with a person’s plans, most commonly in the phrase “It’s all gone pear shaped”.
I don’t know about the rest of you but my day seems to start pretty much pear shaped from the moment I wake. Usually I haven’t slept as well as I’d like, even if I have I frequently wake with a groggy headache. I swing my legs out of bed and I ache all over, walking down stairs definitely requires the assistance of the banister and I generally feel too bloated to bother with breakfast. I get to work and of course I’m starving so reach for my emergency (becoming daily) box of breakfast biscuits – which it turns out are nowhere near the healthy option I’ve been led to believe and I might just as well eat a 3 digestives or a bowl of coco pops.
In terms of my body shape though, apple is what I’m morphing into. Or possibly teletubby. Falling oestrogen levels mean that excess weight clings to our middles during perimenopause. Increased weight around my middle means that I eat more chocolate because it’s so bloody depressing during perimenopause. Yes I know that cutting down the calories and doing more exercise is likely to help but when I wake in the morning feeling like I’ve been body slammed by The Rock (*sigh*) the last thing I want to do is lace up my trainers and head to the gym.
Oh yes… gyms. Full of young, beautiful people in designer leggings and trainers that cost almost as much as my monthly food shop. Their casual stretches demonstrate that they can probably still paint their toenails without needing a little rest every 3 or 4 toes. They don’t even seem to break a sweat during training whilst I’m completely knackered simply by the act of having wrestled myself into a sports bra. I loathe gyms with all of my non-aerobically beating heart.
Can diet alone help? Can I sit in a church hall with lots of other lovely ladies with an aversion to active wear, chatting about how we’ve succeeded or failed over the past week and collecting our shiny stickers to mark our progress? Whilst I’m much more comfortable in this sort of set up, comfort is not what my body needs these days to get rid of the middle age spread, and to be fair slimming clubs too are encouraging members to move more (and earn additional shiny stickers).
The fact is that we lose muscle mass as we age, which in turn affects our resting metabolic rate. This means that we actually need fewer calories now than we did in our thirties (apparently around 200 a day fewer) to maintain our usual weight. So surely then the flip side of this is that if we can increase our muscle mass we increase our metabolic rate – so we burn the calories we consume more quickly than we would if we did no exercise. We all know that exercising burns calories, but the right exercise can apparently help us to continue burning calories even after we’ve stopped exercising. Hmm – it seems that despite feeling like I’ve been body slammed by The Rock (again *sigh*) I really do need to dig my trainers out and find the right exercise regime – and as much as I wish that was just a gentle stroll along the sea front for 15 minutes every other day it appears that the right exercise is one that increases muscle mass – which means weights.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that we all nip out to buy vest tops and powdered chalk, and definitely not that anybody just orders a set of weights and goes for it unsupervised. Everybody needs to find what works best for them, not just in terms of the type of exercise but in how that can fit into our lifestyles. Deciding to hit the gym at 6am would be destined for failure in my case; I’m absolutely not a morning person. If you have a full time job or kids at home you’re going to have greater restrictions on your time than those that don’t. You might have other health conditions that need to be considered, and you might prefer to be alone or be part of a group. If you do have anything else going on in addition to the perimenopause then make sure you talk to your GP before embarking on any fitness programme, never ever compromise your health or your safety. I haven’t exercised for over a year but other than my abhorrent dislike of it there’s not actually anything to stop me, I just need to get off my increasingly flabby backside and get on with it.
So what to do? Well for me, past experience has taught me that the only way I successfully shift weight is with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) including weights. Past experience has also taught me that it hurts during and for several days after, that I have to go 3 to 4 times a week for it to be effective, that eating sugary food during the day affects my ability to get through a session after work, but also that the trainers at this particular company are invested in my success and will do what they can to help me get there. Thankfully there is also very little designer active wear in evidence. A well timed text from the owner last week prompted me to consider rejoining, because I know deep down that I can’t go on like this, I can’t continue to be miserable about my expanding waist line whilst pretending it doesn’t matter to me.
Each of us need to take the steps that we believe will make a difference to our overall well being at this time in our lives. For some that might simply be to find the time to rest, to have some precious “me time”, for others it might be meditation, and for others it might mean taking up exercise. It may well be that we need to try one or all of the above but the point is there’s no right or wrong, we just need to find what works for us.
So wish me luck! I’m not ready to post before pictures until the evidence of the after pictures make me look considerably better, but I will one day I promise! Post your top tips in the comments below for what works for you, or if (like me) you want to start something new comment with what you’re thinking of doing.