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Guest Blog: Am I A Perimenopausal Mum?

I am delighted to share this guest blog post by freelance writer, Sarah Haselwood.  Sarah recently took part in the Healthy Menopause programme that Aileen Ross and I ran, and here she gives an honest account of her experiences.  You can read more of Sarah’s blogs on her website corporatetokids.com

 

Am i perimenopausal mum?I wrote last month about my suspicions of being a perimenopausal mum. I have no medical diagnosis, nor do I think I’m about to get one, so all I can do is listen to my body and mind. With constant rejections from the doctors, I have sought help in the form of nutritional and exercise changes and the introduction of supplements. And guess what? I’m feeling a positive shift in my symptoms.

HELLO PERIMENOPAUSE

While there may be openness about the menopause, what it entails, and how to manage it, the perimenopause lacks the same gravitas. For example, menopause and the workplace are now gaining more and more traction, but poor old perimenopause possesses no such clout. It’s very lonely to feel like you are going through something without any support, solution or recognition. I was a perimenopausal mum without a clue what to do.

GROUP SUPPORT

In September I joined a support group with a difference: one that offered practical advice and guidance for women in the perimenopause or menopause. It was run by Venus Nutrition and Aileen Ross, Pilates Instructor and Sports Therapist. The 28-day plan, called the Healthy Menopause, was a closed Facebook group offering support, advice and practical suggestions to improve the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Surely help was finally on its way?

A PERIMENOPAUSAL MUM?

I was excited to be part of this plan because I was feeling ‘Off.’ Not a very helpful description, but I noticed a change in my periods, my sleep was bordering on insomnia and my moods were all over the place. It was normal for me to shift from a Snow White figure one minute to a raging, irritable devil woman the next. It wasn’t fair on my family and I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. As for the sugar cravings, I was a sugar addict on the brink of stashing my kids’ Haribos under my pillow.

THE PLAN FUNDAMENTALS: NUTRITION

I knew the 28-day plan wouldn’t be easy because I had to change my eating habits and go cold turkey on the sugar. In advance of the plan, I was sent an ebook of recipes, a list of potential ingredients and a meal and exercise planner. I’m a planner so it suited me. I didn’t warn my husband he was about to embark on a perimenopausal health kick, I just figured it would do him good and I wasn’t going to cook two different meals. A Perimenopausal Man, now there’s a thought.

I’m not a massive vegetable fan, but there was such a variety of meals that I could find plenty I liked. I got into a habit of making a big batch of soup at the start of the week for lunches and then each night I would prepare a meal from scratch (again, some of the recipes were great for bulk cooking). They were tasty, nutritious and easy to make.

NUTRITION FOR PERIMENOPAUSE

I’ve always considered my diet pretty healthy, but this plan has taught me how important it is to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Processed foods and foods containing refined sugar can unbalance blood sugar levels leading to fatigue or irritableness after blood sugar levels crash. Your diet, therefore, needs to be bursting with foods which allow a slow release of energy into your bloodstream. These include whole grains, seeds, vegetables and some fruits.

I now aim to have protein with every meal. This doesn’t have to be meat, I have a new found love for lentils and beans made in tasty recipes. I don’t skip meals and while I did not cut out caffeine or alcohol for the 28 days, I did cut back (apart from Oktoberfest which was always going to be a write-off!) Lederhosen and sober don’t go well together.

I make healthy flapjacks and hide them in the cupboard for when I need something sweet. I’ve found that cutting out sugar has significantly reduced cravings. When PMT hits I have home-made healthy treats prepared so I don’t hit the chocolate hard. I have also discovered phytoestrogens, such as chickpeas, lentils and flaxseeds which help to mimic the body’s own oestrogen.

THE PLAN FUNDAMENTALS: EXERCISE

I enjoy exercise, but I have discovered that I have had the wrong balance of exercises. I used to opt for high aerobic workouts like running and spinning rather than strength training. Yet nothing was shifting the stubborn weight around my stomach. The plan featured regular pilates videos which were easy to do at home.

I now do a circuits class every week, which focuses on strength training. I still run, but I have reduced this to once a week. I also incorporate a pilates class into my week. I didn’t realise that doing long sessions of high-intensity workouts can mess up hormone balance and the nervous system. This can increase cortisol and may have contributed to the stomach bulges I was struggling to lose.

ADDED SUPPLEMENTS

I have trawled the internet for information about supplements to take during the perimenopause. This is in no way an advertisement, but I can only feedback on what has worked for me so far. Sage is reported to reduce hot flushes by 64% in just eight weeks and insomnia, anxiety and irritability by up to 47%. I have opted for a Sage Complex from Victoria Health and I take one tablet a day.

WHAT IS THE OUTCOME?

I did the programme hardcore for 28 days and I lost weight around my middle (which has not shifted for ages), I slept better and my moods were much steadier (goodbye to the mad Motherland mother impersonator). I have noticed that just before my period I still have about four nights of disturbed sleep, but the rest of the month is fine.

A few weeks ago I had a rocky couple of days and ditched the healthy eating. The result was a very low mood and irritability off the scale. Perhaps it was just life getting in the way and bringing me down, but it seems coincidental that the poor nutrition and evil mood correlated. I was a perimenopausal mum at her worst.

I’m a perimenopausal mum and I’m learning to manage my symptoms. Some days it’s not easy and there are moments when I want to bury my head in a family-sized packet of Kettle Chips. But, I know now what I need to do and for the most part, I will keep on the nutrition and exercise plan.

If being a perimenopausal mum is good enough for Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s good enough for me.

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