Editorial director Katy Sunnassee delves into perimenopause and the body and mind changes bugging her – especially a growing waistline, commonly known as the middle-age spread weight gain…

Middle-age spread. What a delightful term! In my 20s and 30s, I never really understood it and thought, rather judgmentally: ‘Isn’t it just people being lazy? Surely you don’t have to put on weight?’

And then I turned 43. Up until then, I’d pretty much been able to eat anything – chocolate, cake, crisps – and not put on weight (I’m sorry, don’t shoot me. I realise many women struggle with weight so it’s probably annoying to hear me complain). However, from age 43, and seemingly overnight, my tummy began sagging over my waistband. Sitting on the loo and looking down at my body (as you do!) where once there had been a taught torso, now were grabbable rolls, and not just at the front but the sides, too. I hadn’t noticed this creeping up on me.

Related: Menopause Q&A: Why are my periods getting heavier at 40?

Noticing the middle-age spread

For the past three years, I’ve lived in jogging bottoms, fully embracing the WFH benefits of not having to dress up (or sometimes even dress at all – I have been known to work all day in pyjamas). So I wasn’t wearing my former office attire to provide feedback about my growing midriff.

A few months ago, I found a picture of the old Top Santé team from Christmas 2015, and couldn’t believe how much slimmer I was. The smart jeans, fitted tops and jumper dresses I wore are now relegated to the back of the wardrobe, never again to see the light of day as, a) I no longer work in an office and, b) I can’t fi into them! Actually, that is a lie: I can, but I don’t feel comfortable in them as I physically can’t breathe in hard enough not to look three or four months pregnant. And that is no exaggeration.

Also, while flipping through the photos I found ones from when I actually was pregnant, and at four months, posing in a bikini, I looked how I do now if I relax and let my stomach hang out.

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Into the unknown: perimenopause and weight gain

So, why am I whinging on about this, you ask? Because since turning 44 near the end of 2022, I most definitely feel I’m in peri-territory. According to research group GenM, from age 44, the number of women “possibly in” or “definitely in” perimenopause rises steeply. And while I’ve been writing/editing content on this topic for eight years, now I’m actually starting to live it.

To come back to my opening line, I, too, am experiencing middle-age spread, which affects a lot of women and which I naively thought I’d swerve due to my former levels of activity and a high metabolism. Nothing about my lifestyle has changed much over the past four years: exercise, food intake – all has remained fairly constant, and so it must be hormones. And so I’ll be exploring this topic – as well as brain fog, dry/sagging skin, sore boobs and more – in this column and on Insta.

For all of you on the peri journey – and apols to those who’ve been through it and are out the other side with the T-shirt – I hope you’ll join me as I seek advice and support, so we can navigate this path together.