Buddha with Menopot

Menopot Buddha Belly and Stretchy Pants

As a young woman, I swore I would never succumb to wearing stretchy pants.   You know, the kind older ladies wear that are made of 100% polyester stretch with an elastic waistband that makes them easy to pull up or down.  They are wide-legged and come in many different colours ranging from basic black to pastel purple.

Fast-forward a few decades.  I find myself almost exclusively wearing pull on, stretchy pants.
Why?  Weight gain and belly fat.

I am 5’3″ and small-framed.  Up to recent times, I have been fortunate enough to have a fast metabolism.  And, only a weak emotional connection with food.

After menopause, I gained 5-6 permanent pounds.  But last year, I “kicked” a habit that I had indulged in for decades (you know which one…) and gained 12 pounds which now sit in my belly and rear end. My clothes fit badly.  I have a muffin-top aka Buddha belly aka menopot.  I often feel bloated and cannot bear to have anything tight around my waist.

It took my body 8-9 months to get used to the new norm of reduced hormones and stimulants.  I believe that I am taking in the same amount of daily calories and if anything, I am eating healthier since I mainly cook from scratch.  And while I am not working out of the home anymore, I play Tai Chi or walk over 10K steps at least 5 of the 7 days in a week.

Why does the menopot happen?

Women store fat in their lower body mainly due to the presence of estrogen receptors in the hips, thighs, and buttocks.  After menopause, when estrogen level decline, the fat storage moves up into the subcutaneous area of waist resulting in the dreaded menopot.  To make matters worse, a weight gain of more than 2-5 pounds means that these fat deposits are laid deeper under the abdominal muscles as visceral fat.  This is the type of fat that can lead to serious diseases like diabetes.

Yikes! How to get rid of it?

Diet

So if I am not eating more than before, then I must be burning fewer daily calories. Based on Livestrong.com, women in their 50s should be eating at least 200 fewer calories per day.  I don’t know what my daily caloric intake is and may never know. But, I do know that the sneaking of salty snacks and the occasional Belgian chocolate has got to stop.  Weight loss will be key in getting rid of this menopot.  Good news is, I do drink a ton of fluids in the form of water and herbal tea.
Action:  What modifications can be made to my diet to include more polyunsaturated fats, calcium-rich food, and veggies while reducing meat and grains?  Figure out how to count calories.  And look into organic apple cider which I hear might kickstart my metabolism.

Cardio

Tai Chi done correctly incorporates a lot of squats, leg raises and muscle resistance. You work up a sweat.  I’ve checked my Fitbit, my heart rate goes up to a fat-burning 85 beats-per-minute; even higher after a brisk walk of 60 minutes.  But maybe I need more strenuous cardio, even interval training.  Livestrong says at least 250 minutes of intensive cardio every week is enough to lose weight.  That’s roughly 35 minutes per day or 70 minutes every other day.
Action: I get a great discount at Goodlife Fitness.  Maybe it’s time make the gym part of my weekly routine again.  But this requires commitment.

Weight Training

As I mention above, Tai Chi is great for muscle resistance.  So are the planks and crunches I do.  I guess I just need to do more of them. I know that weight training will build muscle which in turn, burns more calories.  It will also help maintain bone density and might reduce the severity of the osteoporosis I am likely to suffer later on (my mother has severe osteoporosis and I already have arthritis in my knuckles).  Plus, I wouldn’t mind arms like Michelle Obama either!
Action: More reason to join the gym.  But if I don’t, what can I do at home?

If All Else Fails

Wear stretchy pants that rock.  Lululemon is my choice. While their demographic skews toward millennials, they also offer pieces in their “To & From” category that work for all ages.  My favourites are similar to the Jet Pants (I own black Jet Crop Slims but they aren’t available right now)  and the Street to Studio Pants (I own 4 pairs in different colours).  Stretchy waists, perfect lengths, great quality and detailing that mimics dress pants.  Their clothing is pricey but worth every penny to me.

I have been obsessing over my menopot for a while.  It’s one of those things that I cannot accept without a fight.  I need to find the self-discipline (sigh…) to be successful. I’m sure I will.  But in the meantime, I finally have come to understand the appeal of stretchy pants.  And, I am grateful that I can find stylish ones that rock.

Sensitive and Middle-Aged Skin

I got into natural products by mistake.   Around 2 years ago, my teenage daughter began to read the labels on the personal products I was buying and pointed out scary ingredients that were both bad for your health as well as the environment.  I referenced these chemicals in an earlier blog article (The Dirty Dozen, 12 Chemicals to Avoid).  Add that to my peri-menopausal, newly sensitive middle-aged skin and I started to look for alternatives.

Katie-Wellness Mama
Katie – The Wellness Mama

I never realized how much info is out there is on DIY in the cyber-world.  Nor how easy it is to make.  I have tried many different DIY recipes and there are a handful that have stuck with me.  One of my inspirations is the queen of DIY natural products, Katie aka the Wellness Mama.  She has been creating her own products for many years and is very good at it.  Not only that but she has 6 (!!!) children under 10 years old, manages a thriving business and is a doula in her spare (?) time.  She’s done so much and hasn’t even reached midlife yet!

DIY Body Wash for sensitive & Middle-aged skin

Of all my DIY natural products, this creamsicle body wash is my favourite.  Not only is it cheap and easy to make, it is creamy, fragrant and feels great on my skin.   With the addition of the vitamin E, glycerin, and various oils, it absorbs quickly and moisturizes my sensitive, middle-aged skin well enough that I only require a light lotion afterward.   So much has been written about the benefits of organic coconut oil.  Raw honey is also a terrific added ingredient. Not only is it moisturizing, it has anti-microbial properties, a most appropriate characteristic of a body wash!

Creamsicle Body Wash for Middle-Aged Skin

Creamsicle Body Wash for Middle-Aged Skin

Note that vanilla and essential oil quantities are approximate. I have added other essential oils or changed quantities as listed. Trust your nose!. This body wash is very moisturizing for middle-aged skin

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup organic coconut oil
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • 1 teaspoon vitamin E
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
  • 1 teaspoon oil (your choice - almond, pumpkin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 20 drops sweet orange essential oil
  • 10 drops neroli oil blend

Instructions

  1. Measure 1/4 cup coconut oil into 2 cup measuring cup
  2. Add 1/4 cup raw honey to the same 2 cup measuring cup
  3. Place in a double boiler over low-medium heat until melted (approximately 15 minutes)
  4. Remove from heat. Add glycerin, almond oil, vanilla extract and essential oils and stir well
  5. Add Castile soap slowly, stirring gently to avoid creating suds.
  6. Transfer to glass bottle using a funnel if required
  7. Shake before each use
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://thejuvenileretiree.com/2016/08/27/middle-aged-sensitive-skin/
 This recipe was inspired by http://helloglow.co/diy-body-wash/

 

Summary

DIY Creamsicle bodywash. Great for middle-aged and sensitive skin.
Pretty Creamsicle Body Wash

I have used essential oils and scents that remind me of creamsicles and complement the honey in the body wash.  However, you can add the essential oils that please you the most.

I estimate that this body wash costs about $1.50-$1.75 to make.  The most expensive element is the organic, locally sourced honey I buy.  My family of four uses this product and it lasts about 1 month.  So not only is it economical to make, it is better for your health and the environment.  If you buy pretty glass soap pump bottles, these make lovely gifts as well

 

 

The Dirty Dozen – 12 Chemicals to Avoid in Personal Products

It’s very scary what manufacturers put in the everyday products we use.  The ingredients are chemicals that enhance the colour or consistency, add or mask fragrance, or act as a preservative.  ThingSuzuki Dirty Dozen Chemicalss that make the product more attractive to the consumer.   The “Dirty Dozen” are 12 toxic chemicals that are commonly found in shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers, cleansers, and other skin and hair care products.  In fact, U.S. researchers report that 1 in 8 of the 82,000 ingredients in personal care products is an industrial chemical!  These can include carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors. and plasticizers.  These are products we slather into our skin.

David Suzuki is a well-known Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmentalist. His foundation conducted a survey to see how many of the Dirty Dozen ingredients were included in their bathroom products.  Their results were based on 6200 respondents reporting on more than 12,500 personal products.  The results were disturbing:

  • Almost 80 per cent of products reportedly contained at least one of the Dirty Dozen ingredients.
  • More than half of all products reportedly contained multiple Dirty Dozen ingredients
  • Participants were unable to locate ingredient lists on more than 1,000 products

I decided to look at some of the products in my own house after reading Dr. Suzuki’s report.

ceraVe Front

CeraVe is a fairly pricey drugstore moisturizer that I purchased because of its great reviews and the fact that it was “developed with dermatologists”   I was looking for a stronger product for my extra dry, itchy and sensitive skin this past winter.  While this cream is not organic, I wanted to try it since I had read that one of its ingredients, “ceramides” would help rebuild the collagen that I was losing post menopause and this appealed to my vanity.  The ingredients (copied from their website) are

Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Ceteayl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Carbomer, Ceramide 1, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-Ii, Ceteareth-20 and Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Cholesterol, Dimethicone, Dipotassium Phosphate, Disodium Edta, Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Methylparaben, Petrolatum, Phenoxyethanol, Phytosphingosine, Potassium Phosphate, Propylparaben, Purified Water, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Xanthan Gum

So CeraVe contains 2 types of parabens and petrolatum, ingredients that are on the Dirty Dozen list. I expect better considering that this cream was developed with dermatologists.

Next personal product is Dove Oxygen Shampoo for Men which my husband and son use.dove mens shampoo  Dove has fabulous marketing for its products targeted to women.  The current theme is “Let’s break the rules of beauty” and I’m sure you’ve seen their other “all women are beautiful” campaigns.  I have been impressed by their messaging for many years, even when they were only known as the soap maker that added 1/4 cup of cold cream to their soap.  They have a great reputation, that’s why I buy their men’s line of personal products for the me in my family.   The  ingredients for this bottle of Dove Oxygen Charge shampoo (from their website ) include:

“Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Parfum, Glycerin, Dimethiconol, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Citric Acid, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin, PEG-45M, Propylene Glycol, Caffeine, PPG-9, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, CI 42090, CI 17200.”

Wow, that is 4 different ingredients that are on the Dirty Dozen list. And as much as love Dove’s image, I’m not feeling comfortable about this.

I was already going down the path of using natural, organic products or making my own.  But I see that I need to be more vigilant.  Suzuki Shoppers Guide to ToxinsThere is a handy Shoppers’ guide on Dr. Suziki’s website that you can print and reference when shopping.  His website suggests that you read labels and avoid buying products with these ingredients.  He even goes so far as to advise you to send back open products to the manufacturer.  Other suggestions include buying natural products or those with short ingredient lists.  There are some other resources like the US Environmental Working Group and Queen of Green that focus on safer products.

This report makes me wonder if the sensitivity I have developed this decade is due to years and years of using products that contain chemical toxins?  It’s kind of scary.

Taoist T’ai Chi Surprised Me

I tried T’ai chi when I was 25 years old.  Since I was (and still am) very impatient, I found it far too slow so I quit after a few classes.   Jump ahead 30 years and it’s now the right speed.   I started last year knowing that I needed to find a way to relieve the overwhelming amount of stress I was experiencing at that time.   I ended up selecting T’ai Chi for several reasons:

  1. IMG_1481I had heard T’ai Chi being referred to as Moving Meditation.  I thought this might work better for me than Yoga which I have tried multiple times.
  2. I am of Chinese descent and I thought that this was a way to connect with my heritage
  3. I already have arthritis in my fingers.   Look at these knuckles, especially the middle finger.  My elderly mother has arthritis and osteoporosis amongst other things, and due to her lack of exercise, she is bound to a wheelchair.  If I live to be as old as she is, I want to prevent that from happening to me.
KR Tai Chi
Google Maps captured my silver Impreza parked outside

I decided on the Taoist Tai Chi club simply because there is a studio close to home.  I took a crash course to learn all 108 moves over an 11-hour beginners’ weekend.   Although I have participated in hundreds of aerobics classes, I was surprised to find that not only was I struggling to memorize the sequence of moves, I had also developed 2 left feet.  Nonetheless, I remained enthusiastic and dutifully attended class 3 times per week.

Taoist T’ai Chi surprised me in many other ways.

  1. There is no syllabus in Taoist T’ai Chi.  No precise and predetermined execution of movement and placement like there is in ballet.   Master Moy’s philosophy was to customize the move to the individual since each person will have different issues
  2. Taoist T’ai Chi is about continuous improvement and learning.  Even for those who have studied for decades.  It does not remain static.  It lives.
  3. I still find it a bit on the slow side but that no longer annoys me.  In fact, I strangely enjoy the minutiae that can sometimes be Taoist T’ai Chi
  4. I have strengthened my core.
  5. I sweat.
  6. The membership is primarily Caucasian
  7. There is no judgement

I am not sure if all my expectations were met with Taoist T’ai Chi but I can say that I have made progress.   My mind stays relatively uncluttered while in class and when practicing.  If I am thinking about anything at all, it’s about executing the corrections I’ve been given.   I don’t worry, my mind wanders much less than when I have tried to meditate in the past.   I feel calm.   Taoist T’ai Chi has been an anchor during my year of transition to retirement. It has provided me with focus, regular exercise, volunteer opportunities and of course, social interaction.  While the membership itself is not very Asian, the society’s principles are.  Sometimes I stare at the posters littered around the studio.  The one that resonates most with me lists the 8 virtuesvirtues.  Filial Piety, Sibling Harmony, Dedication, Trustworthiness, Propriety, Sacrifice, Honour, and Sense of Shame.

Each virtue is described in more detail on the http://www.taoist.org website but when I look at the poster in class, I try to think of how I exhibit (or don’t exhibit) the characteristics. While I am FAR FAR FAR away from being a model for the 8 virtues, the poster regularly reminds me of the characteristics and behaviours needed to become a better human being.  I try to work on one thing at a time.  I’ve spent 55 years developing some bad attitudes and habits, it’ll take a while.

This sounds like a cliche but Taoist T’ai Chi is for everyone and anyone.  I am only in mid-life and still healthy but there are many members who have serious health issues who practice T’ai Chi. Some suffer from severe diseases (like Parkinsons) that affect mobility.  Others have had terrible accidents that resulted in limited movement.  There many other members who practice T’ai Chi for the mental relaxation and physical exercise.  Every member has his/her personal story.  Some are in the video below.

So all in all, I am grateful that I found Taoist T’ai Chi.  I feel that it’s helped me both physically, mentally and emotionally.  I thank my lucky stars that I am healthy. Practicing this art form is a way of staying that way.  It is something that I will continue even if I embrace other forms of exercise and/or meditation.  It has certainly earned a continued place in my life.

Yoga not for you? Think about Tai Chi

When I think of Tai chi, I think of elderly Asian folks moving purposefully and gracefully at my local park.  Most of the time like this:

 

Old people Tai Chi Park

and sometimes with pretty props:

Tai Chi in Park

The Chinese characters for Tai Chi (aka T’ai chi ch’uan) are:  太極拳.  These characters translate to “Supreme Ultimate Boxing”.  T’ai chi is thought to have originated sometime in the 16th century. It was originally practiced as a martial art that embodied Yin and Yang along with both Taoist and Confucian philosophical principles.  Today, the study of Tai Chi involves health, meditation, and martial arts.  In the western world, it is practiced more broadly as a fusion of health training and moving meditation.  Not so much martial arts.

Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi was founded by Master Moy Lin Shin, a monk who was sent to Canada in 1970 to spread the understanding of Taoism and its practices.  Master Moy began modestly, with a handful of students.  He originally taught the traditional Yang-style set of movements but over time, modified the set to  maximize its health benefits.   Fast forward to today, there are 40,000 members scattered in 26 countries actively practicing Master Moy’s version of Tai Chi even though he passed away in 1998.  The organization goes on.   This is a video filmed in the 90s of Master Moy.