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Early Hysterectomy Caused Weight Gain and Body Discontent

By November 20, 2012

I am 36 years old and I had a full hysterectomy when I was 28. I have been fully thrown into menopause for now 8 years. I have struggled with my weight since my doctor took me off of hormone replacement therapy in 2003. I wish someone would have written a book about someone as young as I was getting thrown into menopause. I feel so old, and I know I’m still young. I’m obsessed with my weight, because I feel like I have no control anymore over my body. Can you tell me how I can find myself again? I am a born again Christian, and have turned to God for help many times, but I don’t know what diet, or exercise is right for me and my body type. No diet seems to help, and I struggle badly with self image. I really want to have a tummy tuck, my husband disagrees. Please help a desperate mom of 4 teenagers find a practical solution. Thank you. – Brandie

Dear Brandie,

I think I really like your husband!  Now, maybe he just does not want to finance a tummy tuck but I have respect for a man that realizes the answer is never in something that could promise great change fast! While the idea of a tummy tuck seems to be an easy answer for an area that maybe bothers you the most, it is not going to solve what is at the heart of your concerns.  Your letter reads as if the early hysterectomy and replacement therapy caused you side effects (weight gain and body discontent) that you would not have experienced if you were allowed to experience menopause at a more expected date—later, much later.

I do not know what diagnosis or symptoms were involved in the early removal but realize that whether you have these complaints now or at 52, you would have had them at some point. Many women complain of fatigue, weight gain, fuzzy thinking, insomnia, restless sleep, mood swings, hot flashes, anxiety, etc., during peri-menopause and menopause.

We could probably find a multitude of literature, books, plans, and web sites telling women how to eat and live in order to beat the weight. My basic thought is that if there really was one answer—everyone would know what it is and there would be another Bill Gates—of the diet world of course!

It is important that you not think of calorie control alone.  It will be very important that your body receives the right message behind what you want—health. And it only gets that message with the right nutrients and balanced eating. I hear in you letter that you feel defeated by the reality of your situation…a hysterectomy at 28, early menopause, and cessation of HRT (Hormonal Replacement Therapy) in 2003.  There is no perfect plan.  And I can not identify a specific mass marketed diet plan. Certainly, you will find persons who have tried a variation of plans and swear by their results.

But…I would guard against seeking answers in plans that demand obedience to either no sugar/no processed foods, or complete organic/whole foods.  Any plan that wipes out certain whole grains (unless you have a specific allergy) and label the cause of the weight gain due to eating bananas, using sweet-n-low, or eating dairy must be considered with caution. I understand your struggle from personal experience. I have not had a hysterectomy but following the birth of twin sons experienced a hormonal imbalance that has led to an 80 pound weight gain despite personal training, consistent exercise, and healthy eating.

As a fellow Christian, I too, call upon God to help me with the fear and anger at my body and to teach me to deal with the image reflected in mirrors and in pictures.  I believe that God knows our experiences, shares our frustrations about the inability to conquer on this side of life the shell in which we exist, and yearns for us to trust Him and that we are valuable servants unto Him regardless of what we weigh. Alas, I also believe the right thing to do, while we trust and call upon the Lord, is to establish a relationship with a registered dietitian who can review our food intake and provide a reality check about whether we are actually experiencing health issues related to weight, insulin resistance/adrenal fatigue or just being impatient and unrealistic in our expectations. (See “Finding a Nutritionist”)

While I am certain you were hoping for a definitive answer or program (I want that as well!) I believe God calls us to love Him first and let Him care for the other aspects over time. In the end what we weigh will not matter. If we established relationship with God, through His Son, will be the most important factor in how we spend eternity.

Great blessings to you!

Leanne

Dear Brandie,

I agree with Leanne’s wisdom and advice, and would like to add my perspective as a nutritionist.

I hear your frustration over the changes you have experienced in your body as a result of your hysterectomy. It‘s not your imagination; with reduced estrogen levels after menopause, muscle mass decreases while body fat increases, with a tendency towards more thickness in the waist and abdomen. So you are dealing with some very real changes in your body shape. Skin can also become less elastic, which probably intensifies your feelings of “losing your figure.”

I am wondering, however, if in your case, the amount of weight you’ve gained is a health issue, or a cosmetic issue.  If your doctor thinks you are healthy, then perhaps you have fallen into the all-too-common trap of measuring yourself against the world’s unrealistic standards of beauty.

Although this has happened to you at a young age, some of the transformation is a natural result of the changes in your hormonal state. So the questions you need to as yourself are as follows. Am I beautiful to the One who created me? Do I appreciate this body, and all the amazing things it does for me each day? Am I showing respect for it by taking good care of it?

I know you feel like you have no control over your body anymore, but really think about it. Although you are dealing with some specific physical changes, when you put them in perspective, there are still numerous things you can control about your body (and it is serving you well in countless ways every day).

First, there is a healthy, non-obsessive way you can choose to eat, to nourish it well.  Stay away from diets, because they can actually slow metabolism for a variety of reasons, and can promote food preoccupation.

Secondly, you can take steps to increase your physical activity level, especially exercises such as strength training which will help rebuild muscle and improve metabolism. I would suggest a consultation with a certified personal trainer to help design a program that you can enjoy and will fit into your lifestyle.

Third, get plenty of rest, which helps foster a healthier weight, along with a multitude of other benefits. Last, choose not to focus on your weight. Don’t let it become overly important or your compass for joy and happiness.  Weigh yourself infrequently—not more than once a month.

There are several articles in the “Eat Well, Live Well” section of this site that I think will be helpful to you.  I would suggest starting with the following:

Assuming there are no underlying medical problems, a healthy weight after menopause is definitely attainable. With the lifestyle changes I’m recommending, you can be healthy—physically, emotionally and spiritually. You will feel good and have more energy, free to enjoy life at 36 years. I can tell you as someone who is much older than you, that each day is precious, with many blessings for which to be grateful.

A couple of books you might want to explore are Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge and Thin Within by Arthur and Judy Halliday. I dislike the title of the latter, but it is packed with inspirational scriptures and promotes non-obsessive healthy eating.

Feel free to write back if you want more information.

Many blessings,

Ann