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.

Over the Hill Fashion

When I was working back in the 80s and 90s, the act of daily dressing was simple.  At work, I wore matching suits, blouses, pantyhose, and pumps.  Had the same kind of clothes in multiple colours and the heels were of different heights.  Just like this,80 powers suite catalogue

this  80 power suit 2  and this… 80 power suite

At night and on weekends, it was jeans and comfy tops with runners or boots.  At the start of this century (!!!!), the dress code at work became increasingly relaxed and eventually I stopped wearing matching suits altogether. With the (thankful) launch of Banana Republic’s petite shop, their business casual line-up of dress pants, skirts, shirts and cardigans became my new uniform and even crossed over to my non-work life. Their clothes were classic, maybe a bit generic and bland, but ageless.  And the mix and match function made getting dressed in the morning a breeze.

Banana-Republic-Work-Wear

When I stopped working last year, I went through a closet cleanse. I kept anything that was timeless. But I diwhat to wear after 50scarded a lot.  Some things I sold, some things my daughter claimed.  Most went to Value Village.  I had a hard time parting with many items, but I knew that I would feel like I was trying too hard if I wore them.   Do middle-aged women wear dresses with empire waists?  How about shorts?   Spaghetti straps?  Bright colours?  Skinny jeans?  See through tops?

Since I was unsure and insecure about what constituted age-appropriate casual wear, I went to the source of all popular culture, the Internet.

I started with Oprah, the former queen of daytime TV. She is someone with 11.5 million likes on Facebook and a staggering 32.7M followers on Twitter. I bet most of them are women.  What does she say?  She’s an influencer.  On her site, I found an article discussing what NOT to wear over 50. These would include mini skirts, bare midriff, tube tops (ewwh), shredded denim, tunics worn as dresses, bright nail polish, and rompers.

Oprah - bare midriffOprah - tube topsOprah - rompers

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) goes even further to include no sweatpants with writing on the bum, thigh high boots, gold chains, see through tops or fishnet stockings. Honestly, this is not helpful.  I don’t think these sorts of clothes look good on anyone beyond slim, under 21-year-old girls.

That same AARP site offers fashion tips for women in this age group.   They state that wardrobe “must haves” include clothes that “fight the frump and look smart”.  These essential pieces include dark denim mid-rise bootcut and straight jeans, white jeans, great fitting pants, black fitted jacket, black pencil skirt, cardigans, tank tops, dresses, and a leather jacket.  What?  Really?  Are these not wardrobe staples for most North American adult women regardless of age?

So I went to the fashion bloggers. To my surprise, there are a number of blogs aimed at 40+ women. Not much for ages 50+ but I guess we are all lumped into the same bucket.

Patti at Not Dead Yet Style
Patti looks great!

I liked this one if only for the title “Not Dead Yet Style”.  Patti is the author of this blog. She is 60+ years old and gorgeous. On Mondays, she invites her followers to become “visible” to counterattack the frequent feeling of being “invisible”.  Using a bit of embedded code, readers can celebrate their individual style by linking a photo of “any outfit, accessory, jewelry piece, hairstyle, cosmetic or other adornment” to Patti’s site.   This is a way for her readers to share their individual styles with a look that makes them happy, confident and more “alive”.

Lucy tall
Lucy looks so tall!

One of Patti’s recommended fashion blogs is run by Lucy at Fashion Should Be Fun, Style Over 40.  Lucy just turned 50 and also looks fabulous.  I cannot get over how tall she looks.   And if she isn’t that tall, she sure knows how to dress the part.  She runs a Fashion Friday linkup blog hop. Perhaps this is like a virtual beer run but for fashion blogs?  In any case, it sounds like fun and there might be something to learn.  I think I will try it at some point.

Susan B utility-jacket-grey-jeans
Susan looking chic going to the dentist

Then I went to see Susan B. at “Une Femme d’un Certain Age“.  This expression is a French euphemism for “middle-aged+ woman who doesn’t want to reveal her age”.  With a French title such as this, I am expecting expensive outfits right out of Vogue selected by a high-end stylist. To my surprise, I find a woman who has a casual style similar to my own.  She is a Francophile as I am. That’s probably why I like what she is wearing.

105 year old Beatrice Wood

Lastly, I look into a social medium that I have not understood up to now – Pinterest.   JACKPOT!  This is way better than a Google images search. There are tons of photos up here of famous and not so famous women wearing everything and anything. Look, there is even a 105-year-old woman rocking an exotic teal blue silk outfit.  This is inspirational!

As mentioned above, I am a Francophile.  When I lived in France in my twenties, I felt inadequate until I slowly adopted the uniform of young French women.  That meant jeans, leather jacket, good quality shoes, a scarf worn just so and most importantly, an attitude.  Although so much has changed over the years, when I watch this, I realize that it really hasn’t.   I’m glad that my fashion destiny is not limited to loud floral prints and stretchy pants but if that’s what I wanted, it would be OK.   It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.