Perimenopause: What a Time to Be Alive


Perimenopause. What even is it?

Every January I do a Whole 30®, pretty restrictive elimination diet to try and put some discipline back in my eating because I go off the proverbial rails in November and December. I fill my body with foods that my mouth loves but the rest of my body hates – namely dairy, gluten, and sugar. So, in January I put some guardrails back up and get rid of the stuff that makes me feel crappy. I feel better and inevitably lose a couple of pounds. Once I start eating and feeling better, I keep eating and feeling better and usually keep losing weight for the next couple of months.

But last year. Oof. I didn’t lose as much as I usually lose in January, but wasn’t too worried, because I knew if I kept eating what made me feel my best, I’d be okay.


Except that year instead, in February and March, while I was actively trying to lose weight, I put on 12 pounds. TWELVE. This was with tracking calorie intake and exercise, eating lots of veggies and protein, and limiting my drinking. What had always worked no longer did. And nothing would make those pounds come off.

Fewer calories. More exercise. More protein. Even more protein. Heavier lifting. More cardio. A bigger calorie deficit. Less cardio. Intermittent fasting. Increased calories (maybe I wasn’t eating enough for my workouts?). No drinking. No sugar. Moderate drinking. More water. Even more protein. More fiber. More carbs. Less carbs. More exercise in Zone two. NOTHING was moving the needle.

It was maddening. And so, so frustrating. And demoralizing. We were moving into summer at this point so I decided to take a step back while were having our summer fun and until the vacations were over.

And then in late summer, I redoubled my efforts, even joining Noom as a way to refocus and know I really tried everything before I saw my doctor – I was beginning to get an inkling of what else might have been happening.

I tried to take a bigger picture view of everything that was going on. The weight gain was what bothered me the most, but there were also other strange happenings afoot. Always waking up at about 3 a.m. with my mind racing. No energy. Oversensitivity to heat. Irregular periods. The unexplained weight gain. I’m almost 54, so what I thought (somehow?) was still on the horizon seemed to be at my doorstep…


Perimenopause, if you don’t know, is the time when your ovaries start to pack it up, slowing down their estrogen production to the point where you notice the changes and havoc that process wreaks in your body. (This is, obviously, not the American Medical Association’s definition – it’s mine and mine alone.) Menopause is when your periods have stopped for a full 12 months – perimenopause is simply the time it takes for your body to make that transition.

And y’all, it is no joke. If you don’t feel like yourself or feel like you’re losing your mind, you are not crazy. And guess what? Changes can actually start happening at 35 and they can last for about 10 years, or even longer.

I thought you’d get some hot flashes, your periods would stop, and that was that! You were done! I had no idea how long it takes for our ovaries to fully retire and what the decreasing estrogen does to every single system of our body. I had no idea how unlike myself I would feel – and not be able to put my finger on how I felt different. I just felt…off. I had no idea how frustrating it would be.

And honestly, I think it’s easy to ignore some symptoms or attribute them to something else. It’s a weird time in our lives – or at least in mine it is. I’m caring for my kids (big kids, big problems) and getting more worried about my parents, we’re having our own health issues, we’re trying to figure out what comes next in careers, our kids are starting to drive or leaving for college. It’s just a lot. Our youngest was descending into her depression when I first started noticing my every-night wake ups, which were easy-easy-easy to blame on my worry about her mental health. It never occurred to me that they could be due to anything else.

On the advice of a college roommate, I read The Menopause Manifesto by Dr. Jen Gunter.  I learned a lot about what’s going on and why it’s so misunderstood, and so often women get told “Well, it’s just part of life.” When medicine first started, it was the menfolk doing it and honestly, it doesn’t seem like they were very curious about any of our stuff. Doctors today will still tell you that they don’t learn much about menopause in medical school. Even though, every single woman on the planet – if she lives long enough – will go through it.

Every single one of us.

And in a lot of cases, we still get the shoulder shrug and the unspoken “here come the hysterics again” attitude.

I’m at a point in my life where I’ve had enough of that attitude towards women and what our bodies do. I very recently saw a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) that was actually from about six years ago. The artist Maia Schwartz posted “menstruation is the only blood that is not born from violence, yet it’s the one that disgusts you the most.” I’m just sick of feeling like I have to apologize for what my body was designed to do and how it may make some people (usually the aforementioned menfolk) uncomfortable. 

But back to the delight that is perimenopause.

Because we’re all different, perimenopause affects everyone differently.

Some common symptoms are hot flashes, insomnia, weight gain, increased visceral/belly fat, hair loss/changes, memory loss, vaginal and bladder problems, mood shifts, sexual function changes, increased depression and/or anxiety, and health changes including heart disease (like increased high cholesterol and blood pressure). So that’s all. Neat, huh? Here’s an article with more information about it. 

Oh – and also some women experience what’s called Frozen Shoulder, where their shoulder basically gets stuck, and movement is severely limited. But don’t worry – it usually clears up on its own in one to three years. So that also seems great.  

Oh – and another fun one I almost forgot about – itchy ears. Yup, it’s a thing that can happen too, proving that the fun just never ends.

Perimenopause Treatment

A neighborhood friend also happens to be an OB/GYN, so one evening, casually over some prosecco, I was picking her brain about this stage in my life. She gave me several doctors to follow on social media as I started trying to learn more about and get comfortable with what was happening. (I’ll include that list at the end of this article.)

But what I have learned is that the ideal treatment – for most women – is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). About 30 years ago, there was a study looking at the benefits of HRT, but it got terminated early and made everyone afraid that HRT increased breast cancer. And in some rare cases, that’s true. There is a lot of misinformation out there about the study and its results and what they mean for someone in perimenopause or menopause. This article explains it better than I would ever be able to and gives more recent findings and links to the studies.

What I do know is that it’s a crazy time and can be hard for us to pinpoint ourselves exactly what is going on in our bodies. But if you’re over 35, there’s a chance it could be that things are starting to change, and decreased estrogen levels are making you feel not like yourself.

Perimenopause Resources

  1. This episode of the Mel Robbins podcast with Dr. Mary Claire Haver is about an hour long and is a great, easy place to start learning more.

2. People I follow on Instagram, who provide a ton of information and other resources you can check:

So if you’re already here (Godspeed, my sister – with you in solidarity!), approaching it soon, or still have a ways to go, learn about this stage of your life – it’s a doozy! But like most things, knowledge helps. Wishing you lots of cool, sleep filled nights!

Please note: This is not medical advice – it’s my personal experience and some information I’ve learned along the way. If you’re at this stage in your life, too, I hope it helps you realize you’re not imagining things, you’re not alone, and it gives you some helpful resources. As always, talk to your healthcare provider with any questions.

Are you experiencing perimenopause? What advice do you have?


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Kathy Ferguson
Wildly in love with her perfectly imperfect life, Kathy’s been married to her most favorite person in the world, “The Professor,” for 14 years. They moved to Columbia from Atlanta seven years ago and are enjoying raising their two girls, Gracie (12½) and Tate (10) here. After undergrad and her MBA, Kathy worked in Corporate America for 10 years before retiring to work full-time for the girls. Most recently, she was a grant writer at a college here in town, but had to leave that job when her family moved to New Zealand for six months for The Professor’s sabbatical. She started her blog,, to document that amazing adventure, but now she’s home and trying to figure out what to do with her life. Again. Probably the loudest and most foul-mouthed introvert you’ll ever meet, she can usually be found curled up with a trashy romance novel, on the tennis court, at her awesome gym, or drinking wine with people she loves.


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