Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rest is Radical

How is it we get to mid-life so tired?

I was talking with my husband last night over supper, trying to remember if I was this tired and stressed about everything when I was in my 20's and 30's.  No, absolutely not, unless memory fails me (which it does regularly, but that's another topic).

Before kids is more to the point - we started late, due to miscarriages, and I had my first child at 36, second at 38 years old. Barely time for them to hit puberty before I hit peri-menopause and more lack of sleep. My daughter had just started sleeping full nights in her own bed, when I began demanding it was time for her to tuck me in at 9:00 p.m.  I was very tired.

Now, postmenopause, I can say that my energy levels are better. I can even stay up till 11:00 p.m. without yawning too much.  However, rest days and naps are a saving grace, and I think they are wonderful medicine, and very cheap.

For example, last Sunday, I had a huge list of things to do, furniture to put outside if it was nice, bicycles to pump up, a year's worth of bills to file, and a messy home office that needed organizing.  But we had had a very rich dinner the night before at Au Pied du Cochon http://cabaneasucreaupieddecochon.com/index.html. Suffice it to say that after the gravlax and buckwheat pancakes, pork and beef tourtiere, roast chicken, lobster stuffed cabbage, omelette, fried pork rinds (oreilles de crisse), and beef tongue, oh yes and the pea soup with foie gras starter, we could barely roll into our beds let alone roll out of them Sunday morning.

So we not only slept in, we had an afternoon nap after a hot bath.  It was a first for my husband, to ignore the list of spring cleaning items and just take it easy with a good book in the bathtub, then sleep in the afternoon. But how heavenly. And I thought, make this a real Sabbath, and take care of yourself for once.  Do not get up and read emails, or turn on the computer.  Unplug!

As you come into midlife, give yourself the gift of rest, at least once a week, and if you can make time every day! Rest is a radical option, cheaper than medication, and often all you need.

ps title taken from a chapter in The Piill, are yous ure it's for you, Jane Bennett and Alexandra Pope

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Weight Gain in Menopause

"women and men may be closer in size than the males and females of some other great apes not because men have been freed of the selective pressure toward enlarged body size but because women have been under some pressure to become fairly large themselves. Assuming that women have been selected for enhanced longevity - a long life after menopause - it helps to have a respectable body mass to persist through the decades. Large animals generally live longer than small animals. Many factors besides lifespan influence the evolution of a female's body size, including habitat, method of locomtion, diet and the demands of pregnancy and lactation....but it is possible that in the triangulating, negotiatingt process of adaptive change, women's physiology has seen a modest thrust toward maximizing body size while still remaining with the developmental constraints of reproductive demands. 

Afer all,women are the second largest female primates on the planet, bested only female gorillas who weigh an average of 185 pounds, compared to our nonobese norm of 125-130 pounds. Women are bigger than female orangutans, who weigh less than 100 pounds an dconsiderably bigger than female chimpanzees or bonobos. By comparison, men, with their standard weight of 160 pounds are much smaller than male gorillas, and smaller too than male organutans who average 200 poundes.

....what I am doing is offering grist for the argument that women need muscle mass more than men do, and that ... we must take the hint and make the most of our long-lived vessel. We need muscle....we have an extraordinary capacity for strength, the more impressive given our comparatively low levels of testosterone....Women are workhhorses in most of the developing world (carrying loads on ther heads or backs for miles and miles).  If the world's women went on strike, the world of work would effectively stop...."

The gist of her argument is that.. in the West, longevity has increased while the need for physical strength has declined. We are living longer....and we need muscle more than ever to protect our health. If we exchange muscle for fat as we age, we having nothing to shield our bones and weather illness.

fascinating book, by Natalie Angier, Woman, An Intimate Geography,


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