This menopause/midlife thing has been a pivotal point in my life.
The milestone of reaching half a century of life, together with the major hormonal shift of menopause, has provided me with the opportunity to take some time to think about what ‘health’ really means for me and how I want to live this next part of my life.
To do that I’ve looked in the past, in the present and to the future. And, to be honest, this has provided its challenges. It’s been confronting. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that some of the ‘healthy’ behaviours I was once proud of, were in fact not so healthy at all. I’ve also got very real with myself.
Mostly, it all comes down to ice cream.
I’m an ice cream lover. Always have been. Mostly I enjoy a really good quality vanilla bean, though occasionally I’ll branch out to something fruity like mango or strawberry (with pieces please). When I look back, I realise that where I was at any time with regards to my health always related to my relationship with ice cream.
Normal healthy child/teenager
Ice cream – mostly only Neapolitan from a tub because in the country where I grew up there were no actual ice cream shops
No ice cream at all – not even a taste – not a chance I was wasting even 1 precious calorie eating ice cream
Either an entire tub (a really big one) of ice cream or absolutely no ice cream at all – there was never an in-between
Mother of young children and not focused so much on body/weight (probably one of the healthiest times of my life)
Delightful ice cream experiences (I have photos of both my kids with their first ice cream on holidays at Port Douglas when they were both around 9-10 months old). We celebrated birthdays and anything else with ice cream cake – gosh I love the frozen cream that topped those ice cream cakes.
Getting my body back/getting in the best ‘shape’ of my life
No ice cream – I was much too ‘healthy’ to consume any added sugar or other things that go into making ice cream
I don’t love the old Neapolitan supermarket ice cream these days, so I probably won’t eat that but if I’m somewhere where there is really good ice cream – vanilla bean preferably with the tiny specks of the bean scattered throughout – then I’m eating ice cream
So, there is it is – my life in ice cream.
What it tells me?
That unfortunately, I’ve had a rollercoaster of a life related to body image, food and well, ice cream.
I was talking with my daughter on one of our walks recently and asked her if she recalls me ever being restrictive with food etc. I really had such good intentions with regards to my behaviours around my kids about food. I never wanted my daughter to go through eating disorder/disordered eating like I did and I didn’t want my son to think that women dieting was a normal or healthy way to live. And initially, that was the way I was – healthy but not too restrictive.
My daughter said that she did remember remember times some years ago when, as a family we would go out for ice cream when we were on holidays but I didn’t have one because I was being ‘healthy’. This made me cringe – a lot. As my daughter who is now 18 and is about to leave home to pursue her own passions in life, I feel some regret for not being part of the family ice cream ritual on those occasions. I know that it was something that, when I was eating ice cream, was a fun family bonding experience. Yes, it’s a little thing and really in the scheme of things, not so important. But it also highlights some behaviours I’d like to think I didn’t partake in.
I look back to my body when it was in the ‘best shape of my life’ – which seems to be just as I entered my menopause transition.
I realise that I had started slipping back into some of my more restrictive behaviours – not to the extremes of my earlier years but definitely what I would now call ‘grey area restriction’ and over-exercising. I most definitely looked healthy. I had lots of compliments, lots of likes on Instagram and lots of people asking me how I achieved my physique. I ate super healthy, I exercised a lot (a lot!) and I was very disciplined.
Was that ‘healthy’?
At the time, I definitely thought I was exceptionally healthy. Now, I look back and feel that in retrospect, I may have (once again as in my younger years) got a bit too caught up in what I looked like, rather than viewing my health in a more holistic and overall way.
Yes, my body was healthy. However, was not allowing myself to have an ice cream when I was on holidays with my family (or even just when I felt like it) really that healthy? Maybe my body doesn’t actually need ice cream to operate optimally. But, I love ice cream and my mind and my family experiences most definitely would have benefited from the occasional ice cream.
So, these days, perhaps my body is not quite so buff, I may not get as many insta likes for the way I look now and also for admitting I eat ice cream, my blood sugar levels may spike a bit when I’m eating ice cream and I may even consume more calories than I really need on a particular day.
However, when I do look at my health in a more holistic way and consider how I want to create a happy way of living for the rest of my life, I now consider so much more than just what is optimal as far as nutrition goes and what my body might look like. If the only way I can achieve a certain ‘look’ is to restrict foods I love, then honestly, I don’t really consider that healthy.
Being able to have the occasional ice cream, enjoy it, savour it and know that, as part of a well-rounded nutrient rich way of eating, that ice cream can actually enhance my life and subsequently, my health.
That, in a nutshell is now (for me) what I call true health.
When I’m away with my daughter on our upcoming trip together, I plan to fully embrace the experience and I will definitely be eating ice cream.