We all have them – hidden deep in the closet or at the very bottom of a drawer. We feel comforted just knowing they’re there. We hold onto them for years, just in case. They’re our secret, silent insurance policies. They’re our Fat Jeans.
We don’t want to use them, don’t want to need them. But we keep them because we know the realities of life, with all its ups and downs, including those found on our bathroom scales.
We tell ourselves we’re only saving them in case we have a “bloated” day or a tummy ache. But we know the truth. We know that we’re hedging our bets and playing it safe. All that weight we fought so hard to lose and/or control is always waiting to come back and surprise us. We have to be ready for it. Thus, the Fat Jeans.
And guess what I was wearing last weekend? Yup – after they spent years at the bottom of the jeans pile in the closet, I dug up the Fat Jeans. I could justify it by saying my other comfortable jeans (a/k/a the “Borderline Fat Jeans”) were in the laundry. But I couldn’t deny the truth – those Fat Jeans fit. Damn.
Four years ago, they’d have been inches too big. I got rid of all the other loose pants back then, but I tucked these black denim trousers into the closet – just in case. I never forgot them. I saw them constantly. Even picked them up a few times and thought about sending them to a church rummage sale. But I always put them back in their safe place.
In a way, I think I enjoyed knowing that they used to fit and became much too big for me to wear. They were my badge of honor – my proof that I really had lost well over 30 lbs. Like on “The Biggest Loser”, when at the end of the show, the person sent home holds up a pair of enormous pants, then drops them to show off their new, slimmer figure. My Fat Jeans were never that large, but they had the same effect for me. I used to be that, but now I’m this.
A few years ago, all that vanished weight started creeping back onto my hips. In fact, two summers ago, I gained ten pounds in a matter of weeks. Didn’t change my diet. Didn’t change my activity level. Just got bigger. Like magic!
At first I freaked out. Someone mentioned it being a “meno-pot”, and I had no clue what she meant. So I started doing a little research. Oh, joy – as if getting older wasn’t enough fun, it turns out women get fatter, too. It’s all natural. Approaching menopause means slower metabolisms, decreased hormones, increased hormones, blah, blah, blah. And even better, the weight gathers around our waistline, giving us those charming little pot bellies. Our own little meno-pots.
WHY WE GAIN WEIGHT NOW
Apparently, our body doesn’t communicate well with itself. Menopause makes estrogen levels drop, but instead of just accepting that, our bodies want to find estrogen elsewhere. Fat cells produce estrogen, so our bodies start collecting jiggly little fat cells around our middles in order to get that estrogen. Our bodies should just say ‘good riddance’ to estrogen and move on.
Progesterone also drops. Lower progesterone leads to water retention (no wonder my rings are feeling tight on my fingers). Testosterone levels drop, too, and this is one of the few times in our lives when we want more testosterone around. When it drops, so does our metabolism, and we don’t burn calories as easily as we used to. And one of the hormones that actually increases now doesn’t help us at all – androgen levels rise, and androgen, for some reason, makes our weight collect in our mid-section. Yippee.
Insulin issues can also lead to menopausal weight gain, as well as stress. I don’t know about you, but I have a little stress flowing through my life right now. My first thought was that stress makes us gain weight because comfort foods like chocolate and beer make us feel better, so we indulge in them more. That’s probably true, but stress also encourages our body to hold on to fat, in some misguided nod to our Stone Age days, when stress meant we might be heading into a famine, so our bodies start collecting fat cells (what’s so darn attractive about those fat cells, anyway?).
As I cruised all my favorite medical websites, I read two different messages about this mid-life weight gain. Some articles said “don’t feel bad, it’s not your fault.” True, and nice, but not helpful. The others said “if you’re active and eat right, you can beat it.” Also true, and even helpful, but nothing that we really want to hear.
So I ignored those extra ten pounds, which, over the next year or so, became the extra fifteen pounds. In the last couple of months, after I stopped exercising, it became the extra 20 pounds. And, this past weekend… I wore my Fat Jeans and they fit. Argh!
WHAT I’M GOING TO DO ABOUT IT
So back I go to Zumba (more on that love/hate relationship another time). No more careless snacking in front of the TV. Much smaller portions at meals. It’s not misery, and it’s not rocket science – if you eat less and move more you’ll lose weight. But it’s so hard to get back into that habit, and now it’s complicated by an aging body that’s fallen in love with fat cells!
But I am NOT in love with Fat Jeans, or feeling out of breath after tying my shoes, or sitting on the sofa like a lump every night. That’s not how I want to go sliding into old, so I’ll suck it up and start behaving. I’ll keep you all posted on how I’m doing every week or so. I’m off to a respectable start – since Fat Jeans Saturday, I’ve dropped a pound and a half. Bye-bye, fat cells! Bye-bye, Fat Jeans!