Menopause Matchup: Fitness Freak vs. Sloth Bear

Remember those cartoons with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other tormenting some hapless soul who is struggling to make a decision? Usually the battle is between something she wants vs something she should do. Well, I can relate. I have my own little menopause advisors perched on my shoulders who go at me every day. I even have names for them: the Fitness Freak and the Sloth Bear.

The Fitness Freak drives me bonkers. She wants me to go go go. "Lift weights," she exhorts. "You know those flabby underarms need toning." "Go walking – aerobic exercise is absolutely necessary for good heart health.". "Pilates, yoga, dance – let’s get going. Why’d you buy all those DVD’s if you were only going to use them once or twice?" "I only have your best interests at heart." Oh sure. That and four bucks will get me a latte. I know her (since she is me.) She’s the Queen of Ulterior Motives. Her secret agenda is to get us skinnier as well as more fit. She wants to lose a dress size.

On my other shoulder reclines the Sloth Bear. She hates it when Fitness Freak gets rolling. She stretches and whines, "I don’t wanna exercise, we exercised yesterdayyyyyyyy. I wanna read or maybe take a nap. Why do we always have to doooooooo something. I’ll give you some health tips: wine is good for heart health, chocolate is a kickass antioxidant, and REST will keep you young. Most Americans are sleep deprived – I read that somewhere. Take care of yourself – hey how about an at home spa day?"

I have to step in and mediate at some point. "Okay, Fitness Freak, let’s get real. We will never look like 30 year olds even if we exercise all day every day, so relax. We simply want to be healthy, flexible, and active, okay?"

"And Sloth Bear? Girl, you’ll get yours. Only one day a week of total entropy, though, okay?. And of course, we’ll take it easy some between exercisings. Oh and the chocolate and wine? Say no more, I’m all over it."

Then I speak seriously to both of them. Here’s a couple things I know about this stage of life, from my nursing background, good old-fashioned life experience, and observing the women I want to be when I grow up.

Probably the most important thing we can do to stay vibrant and live fully is to exercise our bodies. I’m not talking ultramarathons or benchpressing big poundage. Flexibility, strength training, and moderate exercise can significantly enhance our present quality of life. A little yoga for flexibility (I like Gaiam’s Yoga DVD’s, a little walking, and a little weight lifting of LITTLE weights. Bigger is not better, surely we’ve learned THAT by now. 3-10 pound weights with repetitions three times a week and we’re suddenly much stronger with denser bones to boot. Best of all, exercise is insomnia’s worst enemy.

Maybe equally important is to ENJOY ourselves simply. Quietly. All too often our recreation is as frenetic and stressful as work. Rest, nap, sit on the porch and stare at the yard. It’s amazing what you see when you slow down. Read a novel or listen to music. Paint your toenails and sit still until they really dry. Put on a facial mask and a big fluffy robe and watch a weepy movie. Or a funny one. Not educational or ‘good for you’. And if guilt starts haranguing you? Let Sloth Bear roll over and lie on it till it quits. Still feel guilty? Try SARK’s fabulous little book "Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed". See this month’s book club entry for more on what she calls "the ultimate nap book."

You likely have your own menopause advisors. It’s okay to listen to them; just don’t let them run the show or paralyze you with indecision. After they’ve had their say, just get up and go. Or lie down and be. You choose. And be happy with your choice – fling yourself headlong into it and ENJOY. Hey, if not now, when?

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6 Responses to Menopause Matchup: Fitness Freak vs. Sloth Bear

  1. Lynette Sheppard September 23, 2009 at 7:43 am #

    Wow. I never knew that about cod liver oil. That's amazing, thanks for sharing. A non-toxic, natural remedy for depression and mood changes – menopausal women need to know about this!

  2. Lynette Sheppard September 23, 2009 at 7:43 am #

    Re: chocolate being good for your brain, check out this excerpt from Bryn Mawr College biology student Kristin Coveleskie’s paper entitled "Chocolate On The Brain": (

    "Chocolate affects the levels of endorphins in the brain. Eating chocolate increases the levels of endorphins released into the brain, giving credence to the claim that chocolate is a comfort food. The endorphins work to lessen pain and decrease stress.

    Neurotransmitters are the molecules that transmit signals between neurons. A common neurotransmitter affected by chocolate is serotonin. Serotonin is known as an anti-depressant. One of the chemicals which causes the release of serotonin is tryptophan found in, among other things, chocolate.

    One of the more unique neurotransmitters released by chocolate is phenylethylamine. This so called "chocolate amphetamine" causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels leading to feelings of excitement and alertness. It works like amphetamines to increase mood and decrease depression, but it does not result in the same tolerance or addiction. Phenylethylamine is also called the "love drug" because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when someone is in love."

    So Candy, seems that chocolate is GREAT for your brain. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  3. Candace Spring September 23, 2009 at 7:43 am #

    The sloth bear has been "unbearable" lately. I get home and can think of a thousand things to do other than change and go to my workout class. (Including eating chocolate and drinking wine). It used to make me crazy when I got like this but now I just go with the flow, I know that tomorrow or tomorrow the sloth bear will be sleeping and I'll sneak off to class. Life is long and the occasional good book, movie, or TV show or workout class will be there tomorrow. Thanks for saying its ok!! Is chocolate good for the brain??

  4. Rae Young September 23, 2009 at 7:43 am #

    I remember those two guys, I just let them battle it out, let them stress and whoever wins, good luck in getting me to act upon it.

  5. Betty Zahler September 23, 2009 at 7:43 am #

    Really loved the pros and cons of fitness. As i so love chocolate and wine, decided to reward me after a long and speedy walk. Sure did help with an incentive to get and keep going! Still like your advice best, Lynette. as always it was food for my old and tired bain.

  6. Theresa Souers September 23, 2009 at 7:43 am #

    "Everything in Moderation" is the shirt logo I demand my inner voices wear. If I exercise too much, I actually have worse back aches and the achilles tendonitits flares up. If I don't do anything, the weight creeps up and I have worse back aches and my knees ache. Compromise seems to keep my slighly less "soft," more comfortable in my skin, and more energized.

    Having sent a previous lifetime in the fitness industry – I can tell you that the key to youth is FLEXIBILITY. So, stretch when you reach for that glass of wine and all should be fine.

    Now – there is a third voice that we need to stifle once and for all. It say, "work, work, work, work – you need to finish, work, work, work ……

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