Dammit … It IS Menopause! I was SO hoping it was just a hangnail or something. This was my first response when the menopause symptoms began at age 45. Apparently book titles are super important. Who knew? This being my first book, I had no idea. Never gave it much thought. Having said that, I’d like to give some backstory of my journey, how and why I wrote “Dammit … It IS Menopause!”, and how the book got its name.
It Began with PIES—The Secret to Loving My Body at Any Weight
My original book title was “How to Avoid Basketball Stomach.” Why? I have maintained a 35-lb. weight loss without dieting for more than 30 years. That said, when I began my perimenopausal journey in my mid-40s, my biggest fear was gaining a disproportionate amount of weight in my midsection. My thinking was, “I have spent ten years loving living in this body. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna lose it now.”
I consider myself a former volume eater and exercise bulimic who has recovered from disordered eating for more than three decades now. This healthy homeostasis doesn’t come without work. The secret to being where I am is my commitment to PIES. Got your attention? I am referring to my commitment to consistent, daily self-care on multiple levels:
If you are like me, there’s nothing like a food reference to get your attention. A component that set the foundation for my daily self-care, PIES was loving my body exactly the way it was at my heaviest weight, all those years ago. Close to 200 lbs.
As I said, I lost my weight without dieting. Yes, I just said that. I recognize I am somewhat of an anomaly, given today’s diet-focused culture. But after years of unsuccessful dieting attempts from my teens through my early twenties, I finally realized I would not find success in dieting.
Wait. Let’s stop here to define “diet success.” My definition of diet success is losing the weight and keeping it off for more than 10 years. If any diet can offer me that, I would call it successful.
Given that definition, I’ve yet to find a successful diet. Not only are diets unsuccessful, in most cases they create an unhealthy binge/fast eating behavior, which perpetuates a destructive emotional shame spiral that worsens over time.
By the time I was 24 years old, I had tried every diet available at the time. Trust me. I am quite thorough. I was miserable, frustrated, discouraged, depressed and exhausted. Not to mention I weighed even more than I had when the dieting began. On top of that, I still loathed everything about myself. If I discovered anything in my years of personal diet research, it was my four Value Epiphanies:
Knowing my body-dysmorphic, disordered eating history, you can imagine I come from a family where undue importance was placed on looks and body size. I continue working to dismantle that mentality to this day. Progress … not perfection.
Along Came Menopause…and a Book of Meditations
Originally, I planned to write a book of meditations for pregnant women. When I resurfaced for air after having had my first child, I really wanted to have another baby. Apparently, the Universe had other plans. Lo and behold, at 45, and much to my chagrin, my body seemed to have other plans besides childbirth.
Yes, the “M” word reared its ugly head. I began writing because I was so distraught and uncomfortable with the changes in my personality, my thinking, my confidence, my body, and basically everything about myself as a result of perimenopause.
To embrace this new chapter in my life, even though I hadn’t given my female body permission for this unwelcome “chapter,” I started journaling and compiling a book of meditations for perimenopausal and menopausal women—“Dammit … It IS Menopause!”
“Dammit … It IS Menopause!” is a book of essays, meditations and prayers that are primarily addressed to God, along with calls to action and reflections, written over the course of 15 years, from age 45 to 60. It encompasses the journeys of several women of varying ages, in many stages of perimenopause . . . and my own. During this time, I have come to a new acceptance and love of my amazing, aging body. I realized that I no longer feared what my body shape would become. I returned to my original Value Epiphanies, renewing my commitment to live in and love my healthy-sized body for optimal quality of life and aging, PIES
More than a decade and a half later, I can honestly say that I have embraced menopause and the discoveries and freedom that accompany it. And I am flourishing in what I call my Varsity Way. I also let go of derogatory nicknames for parts of my body, such as “Basketball.” So began the quest for a new book title.
I spent time contemplating…
It was important to me to choose a title that was more reflective of my successful aging evolution, a title that reflected my shifted, more accepting self-narrative.
First, I looked to my fitness, wellness and menopause coaching practice for book title ideas. I am known as the Dean of Varsity Menopause, so it seemed natural to call my book “Meditations for Varsity Menopause”. When I proposed the new title, the Varsity Menopause concept was met with wrinkled noses, and was swiftly vetoed by people who knew far more about book naming than I. Some people immediately got me and loved it. Others responded simply with a long, thoughtful pause. And...back to the drawing board.
To find the perfect title, I had to take an honest look at what my book was about. “Dammit ... It IS Menopause!” is me talking to you and sharing with you. And yes, pulling out my hair and crying with you. I’ve been there … wish I hadn’t … and yet I survived.
At the onset of menopause, I felt terribly alone, and feared I was losing my mind. The book I’ve written is meant to be a lighthearted, yet solutions-oriented, spiritual resource so you don’t have to feel alone like I did! You will laugh at times. In fact, it’s recommended and extremely important. It is meant to open the door for women to communicate and comfort each other during what could be a potentially trying time.
And so it hit me, “Dammit ... It IS Menopause!”—a lighthearted, humorous and couldn’t-be-more-spot-on-to-how-I-felt title.
Final Thoughts on “Dammit … It IS Menopause!”
To protect the privacy of the women whose stories are shared herein, I refer to all of them as “Cordelia,” after my Great-Aunt Cordy (1900-1985). This book is about self-acceptance, and my Aunt Cordy was someone from whom I received unconditional acceptance at a young age while going through a challenging period of my life.
Although I mostly use God when referring to a higher power, you can certainly substitute anything that works for your concept of a Power greater than yourself. Throughout my journaling, I often reach out to God (aka Big Love) in desperation, and I sometimes get responses … some profound and some humorous.
The prayers, reflections, and calls to action are meant as suggestions to help you find solutions to situations you may be experiencing. You can read the entries in order, a day at a time, or skip around, based on what you are experiencing. As I have learned from my own experiences and the many stories shared with me by other women, hormone level changes can be experienced in many ways and at all ages. Just because you are at a certain level hormonally, it doesn’t mean your life is over! Far from it. You have so much more living to do! And many people to live it with. Commit to bloom where you are planted and join my Varsity Menopause Team!
My Heart messages to you:
Don’t waste another second being unkind to yourself or doubting yourself or playing small.
You are being prepared to receive all the love and joy your heart can hold.
Take the time to invest in yourself. You’re worth it!
Sally Bartlett, ©2021