This is the second part of the Women’s Hormonal Phases series. The Women’s Hormonal Phase series talk about the hormonal phases that women go through in their lifetime from their teens to beyond menopause. Each post will talk about what’s going on during each phase, the health challenges, and possible solutions. This second post will focus on the childbearing years between our late twenties to our early forties. You can find the first post of the series on the about hormones in your teens and 20s here.
These age brackets I am using are approximation only. It can vary by as much as five years depending on when we start our first period, the amount of eggs at birth, whether or not birth control was used, etc.
The next hormonal phase in women’s lives is the reproductive years. Even if we were active in our teens and early twenties, once the kids come along, we find ourselves spending more time sitting behind a vehicle chauffeuring than at the gym. The number on the scale is creeping up. A few days of careful eating is not going to take care of the problem as swiftly as it once did in our teens and early twenties.
What is happening to our bodies in our fertile years?
Remember how I mentioned in the hormones in your 20s post of this series that women need to adjust to a “new” body every 15 years or so due to hormonal changes? Pregnancy qualifies as a big hormonal change. That first pregnancy will propel us into the fertile years, whether it is in our early twenties or late 30s. It will drive our fat cells into a feeding frenzy.
The ultimate goal of fat cells is to ensure our survival. They are programmed to start storing as much fat as possible as soon as that fertilized egg hits our uterus, just in case a famine should occur within the next 9 months. But as many women can tell you, pregnancy does not automatically doom us to being overweight.
The most critical key to losing this pregnancy weight is when we gained it. We want to gain slow and steady during the first and second trimester, but put on the most weight during the third trimester (when the baby is growing the fastest). A healthy pregnancy weight is to gain between 25-35 pounds.
A Georgetown University study found that women who gained more than 40 pounds during pregnancy faced a 63% higher risk for developing breast cancer after menopause than women who gained less. The best time to loose the pregnancy weight is before getting pregnant!
Even though it is the 21st century, most women are still responsible for the domestic duties such as dinner, cleaning, and kids after getting home from work.
I am impressed with how my friend, Nina, keeps all these juggling responsibilities up in the air with her three kids. Her day starts at 5am. After 11 hours of work, she rushes home to make dinner for her kids and husband, who has the graveyard shift. After dinner, she drops the kids off to their various activities and start running errands or doing housework while her husband heads off to work. By the time she makes it home with the kids, it is 8pm. After helping the kids with homework, bathe, and tuck in bed, she can finally sit down to veg out in front of the TV at 10pm. This would be considered good days since none of the kids are sick.
Keeping all these juggling balls in the air means survival at the expense of our physical and mental health. It is no wonder that we seek relief by overeating, drinking, smoking, or drugs.
Our health challenge during our fertile years
Stress control is the most important challenge during this phase in our lives. We need to learn to neutralize stress with healthy alternatives rather than destructive ones. With increasing responsibilities at work and at home, it is no wonder we are stressed out.
Our health and happiness are just as important as our family’s. Repeat after me: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
- Learn to prioritize.
Stop doing the things that we think we have to do, but really don’t. There are weekends when Nina attends three kiddie birthday parties on the same day. She will drop by each of them for an hour with her three kids. And this does not include the time she spent earlier in the week buying and wrapping birthday presents. Are these parties really necessary?
Forget about what other people might think. Instead, focus on finding some “me time” to keep us healthy and balanced. At this stage in our lives, it is important to master the art of saying “no.” Time is our most precious commodity – do not let unimportant activities rob us of it.
-Learn to make sleep a priority.
When we were younger, we can pull an “all nighter,” and roll out of bed, and still look refreshed at work. Trying doing that now and more likely than not, we will look the wicked witch.
Nina gets approximately 6 hours of sleep a night on a good day. When the kids are sick, she get 4 hours or less. The next day at work, she is compensating with coffee and sugary food all day long. We often eat to maintain our energy level, but what we really need is to sleep longer or take a nap. Sleep more to weight less!
- Learn to squeeze in a workout.
I doubt it if I can convince Nina to start going to the gym. But at least she is now walking while her husband feeds their kids dinner. She has manage to convince her entire family to give her this “pocket of peace” to regroup and relieve her pent up stress. Our families might resist at first, but it is up to us to convince them that we need these few minutes to ourselves. We cannot take great care of our kids if we are do not first take care of ourselves. There is a reason why we are asked to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before attempting to help another when they do the demo on an airplane. How can we help anyone if we are sick, tired, or exhausted?
If you never tried yoga, this might be the time to learn a few basic moves. Stress control is the focus during this phase. Stress will lead to weight gain. So find healthy alternatives to manage it and get our families involve in helping to protect our sanity.
It is tough raising a young family, especially when both parents are working. As all parents know, parenting can be one of the most rewarding experiences in our lives. I am approaching this phase in my life. I am dreading the increase in stress, but I am excited and looking forward to it.
Check back soon for the follow up post on the next phase in our lives from our 40s to our 50s (perimenopause through menopause).
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
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