Mansplaining Menopause – Journey Into the Heart of Darkness

Working with b-untethered, John Lewis has gained some insights into menopause and is here to get the rest of us guys clued up

I love the film Heart of DarknessFor the uninitiated, it’s a film about a film and is shot by Coppola’s wife.

HOD documents the making of the movie Apocalypse Now and the emotional and physical crisis the director and actors went through in its creation. It’s a story about a journey, how it changed people’s lives, and marks the vision of an artist creating his/her art.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to share my perspective on menopause.

I have been working with a startup, b-untetheredto bring a new menopause and midlife platform to life. The signature program, transform 6, is a 6-week course fueled by science with a step-by-step guide to optimize wellness for women in and approaching midlife. The platform is supported by an app that personalizes nutrition and fitness plans to a woman’s specific biostats. In this process, I have learned a ton about this midlife stage and what my female counterparts are going through.

What makes me qualified to discuss menopause? Nothing.

My expertise is limited to three daughters, an ex-wife and a (new) girlfriend. The latter two are in the throes of midlife and the teen daughters have leveled my male energy with their own hormonal swings that forced me to reconstruct my narrative on menopause. I live among the affected and have felt the impact firsthand. (Ok, maybe secondhand.)

That said, a dude with zero medical credentials commenting on midlife health issues for women is a recipe for disaster. It’s mansplaining at its peak.

My approach was to follow the lead from HOD and write an “article about an article,” and the journey I took in trying to understand this stage of life. Like HOD, I am deep into this midlife journey and need new tools and a refreshed perspective to find my way through. Hear me out.

Remember, men don’t have demarcated life stages that correlate in any way with our female counterparts: menstruation in teen years, the body changes that come with giving birth, a cycle that presents itself every 28 days or so, and then a full host of hormonal issues coinciding with an empty home in midlife.

So, yes. This is about empathy. This is about connection — to midlife and to the women in our lives.

This is about a journey with someone and sticking your head up every now and then to listen (not fix) and offer a shoulder. 

Any women still reading this article are likely wondering what perspective a man can add to a discussion about menopause. I am placing menopause into this category of “new day, new thinking” because (drumroll) the time has arrived.

Guys, some questions just for you…

Do you even try to understand or sympathize with the women in your life who are approaching or moving through midlife?

Are you aware that some of the most basic menopause symptoms can be reduced by a few changes to diet? With this scientific, nutritional approach, the changes can be as simple as cutting back on carbs and front loading nutrition consumption so a majority of caloric intake happens earlier in the day.

Guys, are you even aware of the checklist of basic menopause symptoms women experience?

How many dudes out there can name the top five? (Here’s the list so you don’t blow out your fingers typing this into Google: hot flashes, chills, night sweats, sleep issues, mood changes, weight gain/slow metabolism.) Yes, some of these symptoms can be mitigated by diet and exercise but others respond better to HRT. (Look it up, guys.)

Do you have an opinion on hormone replacement therapy?

No? Get one — or at least do some research to better understand. 

Guys, last question: Who are you and who do you want to be?  

Menopause, ironically, has given me the opportunity to rethink what kind of man I want to be in midlife. If you believe that “life happens for you, and not to you” then look at midlife as being evolutionary. Mother nature designed women to be a superior species. Mother nature optimizes. It never maximizes; nothing is done in excess. It’s also worth noting that many in the male species managed to evolve successfully without a natural gift for intuition or high levels of emotional intelligence. These are extreme generalizations to support my point, but I am 100% settled into the belief that menopause affects all of us. Mother Nature may be providing men with a midlife chance to be part of the human evolution process with the women in our lives.

So, what’s involved in this evolution?

HRT: have a friggin opinion on it – get educated on the topic

Symptoms: Identify what your partner or loved one is dealing with and offer educated (and science-based) support. (“Hey, babe*, you can’t sleep? Have you tried Valerian Root? Bourbon? Did you read John’s article on menopause?”) Ask and sympathize; this order works better before offering suggestions – no matter how well-intentioned.

Nutrition: Research supplements, focus on simple but impactful exercise, front load the day with calories (and carbs). Change your eating habits to match her changing nutritional needs. Eat with more awareness. More of this (protein) and less of that (carbs) isn’t rocket science; it’s practical. It will help with weight management, energy, bone density and even sleep quality.

Don’t let fear take the wheel, gentlemen. It’s not actually a journey into the heart of darkness. 

Repeat after me: quest, not crisis.

A quest is a “search for something.”

Let’s make it count.

*Disclaimer: My use of the word “babe” here is a term of endearment. I guess I should ask if she likes it…

By John Lewis. John Lewis is an independent marketing and branding consultant based in Los Angeles writing motivationally about topics he has experienced first hand. To date, that is midlife issues, entrepreneurship and the LA motorcycle scene. You can find John on LinkedInand Instagram.

Photograph by Drew Martin.

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