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Michelle Obama says her goal is no longer having ‘Michelle Obama arms’ as she opens up about menopause

The former first lady says ‘there is not a lot of conversation about menopause’

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Thursday 10 November 2022 18:23 GMT
Related: Three women discuss experiences of the menopause

Michelle Obama has spoken candidly about her experience with menopause, why she thinks it is important to talk about the transition, and how her health goals have changed as a result.

The former first lady, 58, discussed the topic in an interview with People ahead of the 15 November release of her new book, The Light We Carry.

“There is not a lot of conversation about menopause. I’m going through it, and I know all of my friends are going through it. And the information is sparse,” she said.

Obama said her friends have been one of the most useful channels of information when it comes to menopause and that they often discuss the changes they are experiencing when they come together to workout as a group.

“I find that when we get together and we’re moving and we’re laughing, then we spend a little time talking about what we’re going through. ‘What’s a hot flash?’ We have girlfriends around the table who are OB-GYNs, who have real information. All of that keeps us lifted up,” she explained.

Obama also said her workouts have changed as she’s transitioned into menopause and gotten older. She shared that she cannot push herself as hard as she “used to”.

“Some of it is menopause, some of it is ageing,” she said, adding that her recovery time is “not the same,” and that tearing or pulling muscle now means she’s “out”.

As a result, Obama said her goals have changed. Instead of maintaining her recognisably toned arms, her goal now is to make sure she keeps moving.

“I am still physically active, and my goal now, instead of having ‘Michelle Obama arms,’ I just want to keep moving,” she said.

Obama said she’s also recognised other changes to her body because of menopause, such as weight gain.

“We’re all in menopause with stretchy [waist] bands and our athleisure wear on, and you look up and you can’t fit the outfits you had last year. I have to be more mindful, not obsessive, but more mindful,” she said, adding that she still tries not to “stick to numbers [on the scale]”.

Ultimately, Obama said she’s had to “change the way I see myself in my health space”.

In addition to the physical changes, Obama also opened up about other menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.

She previously revealed on her podcast The Michelle Obama Podcast that she used hormone replacement therapy to treat it but that it’s been a journey finding out what works and what doesn’t. To People, she noted that working with hormones is “new information that we’re learning”.

“Before there were studies that said that hormones were bad. That’s all we heard. Now we’re finding out research is showing that those studies weren’t fully complete and that there are benefits to hormone replacement therapy,” she explained. “You’re trying to sort through the information and the studies and the misinformation. So I’m right there.”

The Mayo Clinic notes that hormone replacement therapy, which replaces the oestrogen the body stops producing during menopause, was commonly used to treat common menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. The health organisation also states that there are risks associated with using hormone therapy, and that these depend on “the type of hormone therapy, the dose, how long the medication is taken and your individual health risks”.

While Obama has noticed changes as she undergoes menopause, she said she feels “blessed” by her individual experience, as she hasn’t experienced mood swings, her “skin still feels healthy,” and her “hair is still in [her] head”.

“These are the things that I have to count my blessings for,” she said.

When Obama first opened up about her experience with menopause on her podcast in August 2020, she reflected on the moment she began having a hot flash aboard Marine One just before she was meant to arrive at an event.

“I remember having one on Marine One. I’m dressed, I need to get out, walk into an event, and, literally, it was like somebody put a furnace in my core and turned it on high, and then everything started melting. And I thought: ‘Well, this is crazy. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do this,’” she recalled, per Harper’s Bazaar.

Obama also spoke of her husband Barack Obama’s experience with women having menopausal symptoms, noting that the former president’s cabinet was largely made up of women.

“Barack was surrounded by women in his cabinet, many going through menopause, and he could see it, he could see it in somebody, ‘cause sweat would start pouring … He didn’t fall apart because he found out there were several women in his staff that were going through menopause. It was just sort of like: ‘Oh, well, turn the air conditioner on,’” she said.

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