Who wants to age? When we were children, we could not wait until our next birthday to be a year older, a year nearer to being ‘all growed up’. At what point do we say ‘actually, next year I would like to start counting backwards’? What makes us say that? Is it anything to do with how we feel, physically or mentally? Is it how we look? Is it how society makes us feel? Perhaps it’s when we realise we need glasses to see the ingredients list on a packet of rocket tortellini? … or, more specifically, when we begin to start even beginning to show an interest in the ingredients list! Oh … gone are those carefree days when the last thing on our minds was a list of ambiguous E numbers or trans fatty acids.
This is all good my lovely ladies! This is a glass half full or half empty scenario. Yes indeed; we could catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror and squirm in horror at the imposter we see trying to impersonate us. We could say ‘This is terrible, I have to fix this!’ Reactive damage limitation, glass half empty scenario sets in, yikes! What if, just IF…. we could see this lovely lady in the mirror for who she really is? Wow! The younger woman I was has really grown into herself and developed wonderful features that are hers and hers alone? What if we could adopt an attitude of ‘This is perfect, I want to stay like this for as long as possible’, feeling, looking and being healthy, visible and vibrant? Enter the glass half full scenario.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly at Fifty
OK, it is time for honesty now. This is a safe place and we can get some issues out of the way. Just as we would never dream of putting make up on blindfolded, without assessing what we are working with, neither should we invalidate what we feel about some of the booby prizes we were given at a certain age, be it 40, 50, 60 or beyond. For instance, the ‘M’ word is hovering above us like a flying cow, ready to drop a ton of ……
''Well behaved women rarely make history!''
- Katherine Hepburn
Our experiences of this phase of our lives will differ from person to person, however, from my experience, sometimes it really is rubbish. Again, it could be that our society does not explicitly nor readily accept the menopause as a ‘thing’ very much and it is given little, if any, consideration by those around us. These could be made up of employers, friends, family, younger people, pets…? As oestrogen levels decline, our bodies react like spoilt brats that have had their Xbox taken away from them for half an hour! We potentially become grumpy, hot and bothered, incapable of rational thought and plagued by inexplicable anxiety. A simple request such as ‘would you post this for me today?’ becomes the most unreasonable request on the planet … after ‘could I have a piece of your chocolate?’ A myriad of subtasks flashes up and you wonder whether you need to hire the services of a personal PA to organise this? Just think …. I might have run out of stamps so I have to buy some; if I’m going out anyway, I should get the shopping in; but I usually do the shopping later in the week so I need to prepare a list earlier; I have appointments and other things to do though, so cannot start to plan the following week’s menu …. you get the picture? Then none of it matters because you missed the reminder flashing up on your phone and you’ve forgotten the whole exercise anyway. This is clearly a ridiculous scenario and I confess, slightly exaggerated, but totally acceptable for illustrative purposes.
What is on the Horizon at Fifty?
Anxiety and brain fog aside, all of a sudden, your waist looks slightly expanded! WHAT is going on? I haven’t changed a single thing! I eat the same types and amounts of food, I still go to pilates/gym/knitting club? Yes, this is all a reality for many and of course it will be the precursor for feeling less than wonderful. However, again, what if we could see all this for what it really is? Just because puberty was basically rubbish at the time, it was merely a transition to moving on; it was a positive period leading up to further development into a young adult. Once the spots and hormones settled down, oh what fun we had!
7 Top Tips for Maintaining Sanity During the Menopause
"The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before."
- Albert Einstein
I believe this is an exiting time, albeit challenging. It is all about perspective. Look after yourselves in every way that you can, given your individual responsibilities and commitments. If you do, your body will thank you for it. Here are my top tips for navigating through these fascinating, yet unpredictable waters:
1. Speak to people or find someone to confide in. The menopause is grossly ignored and therefore not on peoples’ radar, no matter how well meaning they may usually be. I cannot stress enough how much difference doing my research and speaking to those closest to me made. Not only is it a relief to speak with friends who are going through the same process, but it enables other family members, significant other or even your children to understand you. This makes a difference to how you will ultimately feel.
2. Eat healthily. Avoid too much refined sugar, alcohol, refined grain products such as bleached white flour, over-processed anything and denying yourself treats. Do include plenty of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, food made from scratch, matcha green tea, healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocadoes, and limited amounts of oils such as coconut, avocado, hemp, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and of course, treats. Eat organic as much as you can. Some pesticides have been linked to endocrine hormone disruption. This is something we wish to avoid because it means that potentially, the thyroid, pituitary, adrenal, pancreas, thymus, and ovaries could be adversely affected. A nice website to look at is Alisa Vitti’s https://www.floliving.com/pesticides-hormone-health/ She is a bit of an expert in women’s health and hormones and writes in a way that is accessible to non-scientists. In addition to containing more anti-aging antioxidants, organic produce is required to comply with strict regulations on pesticide use and is therefore a safer option.
3. Consider HRT or alternatives. It may not be for everyone and is safer for some than for others. However, that said, I would strongly advise conducting your own research around this subject in addition to speaking with your healthcare practitioner; it may be the relief that you need and can protect against some forms of cancer. A good place to start would be Menopause & HRT: Q & A With Dr Louise Newson on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwjLP9O1inw
4. Exercise. Now I am known to be averse to overexerting myself, but even I concede to the benefits of appropriate and regular exercise. It releases feel good hormones, it keeps your body supple and toned and your heart healthy. Although I sometimes vary what I do, (I get bored easily) I am consistent in my devotion and belief in pilates, yoga and brisk walking. I have a couple of hand weights which I use sporadically as and when I feel like it. Bingo wings are never pretty, so prevention is key.
5. Use a broad spectrum SPF. I cannot emphasise this enough. There is no shortcut to youthful glowing skin but protecting it from the sun is the single, cost effective and most effective anti-aging strategy you can adopt. Start now! I know that we require our vitamin D however, rest assured you will still benefit, as this vitamin will get through. This is largely due to the fact that sun protection is generally applied neither thickly nor frequently enough to block it; see more on this in the vitamin D consensus statement from British Association of Dermatologists, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Heart Forum, the National Osteoporosis Society and the Primary Care Dermatology Society: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Summerhealth/Documents/Concensus_statement%20_vitd_Dec_2010.pdf. A huge amount of time in the sun is unnecessary to generate sufficient levels of this vitamin; casual short bursts of exposure during the summer months is adequate. Furthermore, the PHE (Public Health England) advises that everyone should ‘consider’ taking a vitamin D supplement as sunlight and food alone may not be sufficient. See https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/the-new-guidelines-on-vitamin-d-what-you-need-to-know/
6. Nourish your emotional wellbeing.
'Lagom' - a Swedish word loosely meaning 'just the right amount, not too little, not too much, just right'
This doesn’t have to be an exotic spa weekend on some island of Paradise (but if anyone is offering?). Think of the simple things that energise your body and mind, such as spending time outdoors in nature or meeting a friend for a coffee and chat. Chocolate cake is a non-negotiable essential in this matter. There are so many healthier options for treats nowadays too; I personally love the raw chocolate OM bars, and I find that the better quality the treat, the less I actually need. Conversely, if you need that slice of white toast with chocolate spread (there is a bit of theme there methinks), go for it. Ultimately, doing a little of what you fancy (ahem) is free medicine for the soul and will put a spring in your step.
7. Think yourself young! Avoid negative resignation talk – ‘I don’t do dressing up any more’, ‘The days of doing xyz are in the past’ or ‘I just wear comfy cotton M&S knickers, no more lace for me’. You are NOT past your sell by date and the world is still as much yours as it is anyone else’s. Respect yourself, embrace your changes with grace and make your contribution to society. You deserve to have fun, share your knowledge, put on a chic outfit and wear black lace whenever you like! Take care of your manners, your health and your appearance but most of all, take care of your attitude; put on some lipstick, grab yourself some sass and sashay your chic into the world, or at least … the local cocktail bar.
I know I said 7 tips, but there is a sneaky bonus one for free! Follow, as much as you can, a whole food plant-based diet!
This not an exhaustive list by any means and I am more than happy to share more tips, strategies and advice that I have incorporated into my life. Please feel free to comment below and ask any questions. I would love to hear from you. xx