Menopause is a time of significant transition, very similar to puberty. It is an emotional, hormonal, and physical rollercoaster that changes everything within our bodies and minds. Sometimes you won’t even recognise yourself, but after a while, it will settle, with a discovery of a new self.
The symptoms can control how we feel and cope with day-to-day life. I don’t know about you, but I was driven to absolute despair at times and was completely overwhelmed and under prepared; I wish I had known what to expect. So, if we can help one another have a more positive experience, then let’s see if we can do that.
Recently, we had a conversation in the office about what happens after menopause. I laughed, ‘What do you mean after?’ This is it! There is no going back to how we used to be, looked, felt or behaved. We have now entered a new stage of life; we must embrace it; there’s little option.
Menopause symptoms can include lack of sleep, hot flushes, changes in hair and skin, increased anxiety, palpitations, sore joints and muscles, mood swings, and the worst symptom for me was what seemed to be unstoppable belly fat; however, we all experience symptoms differently.
I’ve been in the food industry all my life, I studied food science, and still, I was baffled by the continuous stream of misguiding and conflicting advice flooding my brain via social media.
So called nutritionists, sports scientists and personal trainers introduced me to high-fat ketogenic diets supported by intermittent fasting! Fantastic if I was a twenty-five-year-old male athlete and not a woman who is experiencing menopause—time for long sighs, rolling eyes and wit’s end.
I have worked out from my research into women’s health and amongst the madness: (now, please be gentle, this is merely my interpretation, but I would be very interested to hear your thoughts).
We, the collective ‘we’ of a certain age, fall into the Generation X bracket (or Gen X for short). We are defined as people born from 1965 to 1980.
We are, without a doubt, the coolest. Or at least, we think we are.
We have excellent taste in music and take a different approach to life than our ‘Early Boomer’ parents and definitely to our ‘Millennial’ children.
Initially accused of wanting to linger in perpetual adolescence, most Xers maintain a strong sense of possibility, even as they enter midlife. Always on a quest to change direction and try new things; to make life better for their kids, most will think further than tradition. Tomorrow for a Gen Xer is a better day!
As children, we were left in peace to navigate life and work things out by our-selves. There wasn’t the same pressure as there is now, which was, at times, scary but also quite liberating.
When my mother thought I was riding my bicycle around the block for hours, I was, in fact, miles away exploring abandoned houses and playing dead man’s hunt in overgrown gardens. A possible anxiety trigger for many parents now; however, back then, it was a matter of course, and the most important thing for most of us, was that you were home in time for tea. Otherwise, your name would be heard miles around as your mother hollered from the doorstep! A shameful walk home quickly followed as everyone you met along the way knew your tea was ready.
I think life back then was terrific. It was more straightforward.
My sister and I walked to the shop in the mornings with mum pushing our baby sister in a silver cross pram. She bought fresh local food, meat, bread and vegetables and carried them home in the pram basket. We shopped differently then; food was fresh, and small local businesses thrived. People met and chatted on their journey to the shops or on their return. They swapped stories and shared the news. Life was gentle, or it seemed exceedingly like it to me. A treat was a treat. Pocket money was earned from washing dishes or not pulling each other’s hair and spent on the Beano and a bar of something dreamy. There was no junk in the cupboards; it just didn’t exist to the extent it does now.
Anyway, my point is. Gen X’ers seem to have a bit of a raw deal, or maybe that’s our creation. Technology has changed the world. We have instant access to just about everything we could desire, but is that such a good thing?
Improved modern medicine and public health keep many of us alive for longer, but there seem to be more diseases, especially cancer. And because we live longer, we must work longer or harder to pay for everything we think we need.
The way I see it, our bodies were only designed once. Our creator – whomever you believe that may be, hasn’t revisited us with an upgrade. So, even though our bodies are magnificent, they were designed to go through menopause, on average at fifty-two! That’s young. Especially when we have the guts of another twenty years to work. We have things to do, people to see, places to visit, and wishes to fulfil.
Think back to what your grandmother and great-grandmother were doing at fifty-two. They were likely taking it a lot easier than we all will.
There seems to be very little research into how Gen X women can age healthily in terms of exercise, diet and weight management as we transition through this hormonally challenging time.
If they are lucky, all women will go through menopause; some of us don’t get this far.
We should be allowed to take the time to go through it with as much correct information as possible. We shouldn’t ever be made feel bad or guilty about being menopausal. We should be Blooming Marvelous! I feel great being a woman and celebrating everything my body has given me, especially my children.
My focus on the menopausal transition had to be on my overall health and well-being if I wanted to continue living a healthy life and doing all the things I love.
Most of us aren’t athletes, but we like to swim, walk, go to the gym and take part in yoga classes when we can. Entirely dependent and dictated by a good night’s sleep, of course. It’s hard to motivate yourself or even be friendly to the world if you haven’t slept well.
All we want is to be healthy and feel good on a day-to-day basis and have our weight management under control. Don’t we?
My advice to you is to follow the government eat well plate. See link.
If you can, visualise a circle as your daily intake of food. One-third should be vegetables, at least 5 – 7 portions.
One-third of healthy carbohydrates include oats, wholemeal rice, pasta and bread.
The remaining third should include lean protein – chicken, meat, fish, eggs, beans, and pulses. Dairy – natural yoghurt, milk and cheese. And finally, fatty, sugary treats should be the very lowest amount included within this third.
No food or drink should be recognized as bad; however, the amount we consume will create health problems.
Because of the reduction in Oestrogen that our bodies now produce, we also need to be mindful of heart disease; therefore, high fat, ketogenic diets are out the window. They emphasise keeping carbohydrate intake low and fat intake relatively high, but they do not help us meet our energy needs. They may be suitable for the 25-year-old male athlete I referred to, but not us.
We need carbohydrates for energy, we get ratty without them, but we must manage the amount consumed. There are good carbs and not-so-good ones. Choose wholemeal and grains, including oats, quinoa, buckwheat, barley and corn.
Many low-fat products are high in sugar, especially flavoured yoghurts, so be careful and read the labels. We need ‘good’ fats to feed our brains and eradicate that horrible brain fog. Avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil (especially extra virgin for salad dressings), and oily fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines) will surely help, but keep an eye on the quantity.
As we grow older, calcium is essential for good bone health. Make sure you include dairy in your diet and if you don’t, then speak with your pharmacy or GP and have a supplement in your daily routine.
I hope this helps a little; it’s simply common sense. I think everything should be made simple. Menopause is such an emotional journey, many of us also eat a little more than we generally would because we believe it’ll make us feel better, but often it worsens the symptoms and creates guilt. Please don’t be so hard on yourself; you don’t have to do this alone.
Menopause is a taboo subject, we hate to admit to getting older, but as I said at the beginning, we are living for much longer and may need support. There are different views on additional help, such as Hormone Replacement Therapy, but if you feel it would benefit you, then speak to your GP. No one should suffer; we have the information at our fingertips. It’s finding the right source for you.
The things that helped me were – Dr Louise Newson’s Balance App. It is a fantastic tool: a medically approved health and well-being companion tailored to perimenopausal and menopausal women.
I’ve included a typical well-balanced recipe below; I hope you like it.
And remember –
Informed women are empowered!
Lots of love x