The Everlasting Menopause ~ Is There An Upside?

If, like me, you have been dealing with the menopause for absolutely ages (as my memory has been melted by the hot flushes, I am having to guess that I am now entering my 5th year) you might be wondering whether this mid-life cloud has a silver lining. My initial answer would be, ‘does it bollox’ but let’s see.

I turned to my Personal Assistant, Google, and asked the question.

First up is Web MD and a cheerful obs-gyny doctor from Maine who suggests that,

“The truth is that women over 50 are just hitting their stride,” she writes in the introduction of her new book, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause. 

So secret that they are certainly hidden from me. She goes on to say,

“You can turn yourself on. You can rewire your brain and your body to feel more pleasure. The brain is the biggest sex organ in the body.”

Hmmmm.

I must say there are plenty of listings on Google for what can improve the menopause (yoga, exercise, nitric oxide, acupuncture, hops, and a neck-cooler to mention a few) but not so many for the upside. I do eventually find some joker who says this,

“Menopause is a gift, a lantern lighting the way to significant transformation in all areas of your life………. menopause is not the wicked witch. She does not drain women of any vital function nor turn them old, weak, crotchety, or unattractive with a wave of her wand”.

As youngsters (for whom their 50s is light years away) might say: ~ LOL

There is some information out there which I do agree with: Yes, it is natural. Yes, it (eventually) means no more periods and contraception. But is it a stage during which, as this cheerful woman suggest,

“…. the door opens to receive the wisdom of our lineage”?

That may be a step too far, even for the most optimistic of us. I’m not sure I even know what it means.

My only hope is that it is nearing the end. I can’t say my symptoms (brain atrophy, hot flushes, poor sleep are the highlights) have left me feeling particularly cheery.

hot flushes

Menopausal rant over ~ I feel a lot better already and I haven’t even got my neck-cooler out.

Annie Bee x

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The Rise Of The She Shed

Most of us will have heard of the Man Cave – a place for the male to go and do his stuff – it could be a den, a study, the garage, a basement or a music room. In essence, it is a place where a man can do what they like without upsetting the females in their life. A sanctuary if you will.

Well say hello to the She Shed (or She[d] or She-d?), the feminine equivalent. Of course there is a very big difference between an actual real-life pimped up shed and a bigger, more expensive garden room, which may have electricity, heating and running water; these can pretend to be a humble shed but we all know better.

But sales of the She Shed are apparently on the up and a lot can be done with a small wooden garden shed it seems. Women have jumped on the man cave bandwagon and are carving a small, quiet space in which to do their stuff. Writing, thinking, crafting, hiding from the family ~ the She Shed is the new place to be. And ~ boy! ~ can it be beautiful.

She Shed

Surely one of the most famous writer’s retreats (though admittedly a long way from being a simple shed) was Vita Sackville-West’s writing room in the Elizabethan Tower at  Sissinghurst Castle. A key member of the Bloomsbury set, her hide-away at the top of the famous tower is where most of her novels and poems were written. I am very fond of her inspiring and informative collections of gardening articles which she wrote in the Observer, from 1946 until 1961, and can be found in her anthologies (In Your Garden; In Your Garden Again; More For Your Garden). They are still very relevant to English gardeners today. Many of these were penned in her She Shed equivalent space.

Vita Sackville-West's writing room

So whether you are writing about gardening, sewing, sowing, thinking, meditating, working out, writing a novel, or you just want some space where you can relax and be quiet, the She Shed might well be the answer.

For loads more inspirational pictures of She Sheds, click here: Annie Bee’s pinterest shed pics.

Let me know if you are lucky enough to have a She Shed, and send a photo. I am off to see whether my shed, which currently bears no resemblance whatsoever to these pictures, could be transformed. Wish me luck!

Annie Bee x

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Habits: Hard To Form? Hard To Break? ~ The Impact On Dieting

Parents try to instil habits in the tiniest of babies – we bath a newborn at bedtime partly in the hope that it becomes a cue for a good night’s sleep and, later, a habit. Many habits start in early childhood: cleaning your teeth, eating nicely at the table, saying “please” and “thank you”. Those are the good ones. Bad ones – biting your nails for example, a habit I eventually conquered at the ripe old age of 31 – also often start in childhood. Once they are entrenched, new behaviours are terribly difficult to adopt. This makes the whole challenge of dieting both interesting and hugely difficult. Once the bad habits become ingrained into your subconscious, they become ‘learnt’ behaviours and are really tricky to quash.

Aristotle Quote

Some years ago some self-help bods started bandying about the phrase that it took 21 days to form (or indeed break) a habit. Research in 2009 at University College London, however, (‘Intervention Based on the Principles of Habit Formation’ published in the European Journal of Social Psychology) showed that actually it takes an average 66 days for people to perform an initially new behaviour.

Habits are behaviours which are performed automatically because they have been performed frequently in the past. This repetition creates a mental association between the situation (cue) and action (behaviour) which means that when the cue is encountered the behaviour is performed automatically. Automaticity has a number of components, one of which is lack of thought.

They suggested that because bad habits are very difficult to break, one helpful way of conquering this is to take control of your environment so you don’t encounter the cue which acts as a trigger. The research also highlighted that while being wildly inconsistent meant no change to habits, the odd inconsistency was not the end of the world. So we need commitment, but not necessarily a 100% track record. Many women on diets think all is lost if they have a bad day. We need to change that mindset and keep looking forward.

habits

There is undoubtedly truth in the argument that most diets fail and if we want to lose weight, eat healthier and feel leaner and fitter, we need to make a lifestyle choice, not reach for a short-term solution.

I firmly believe that much of this can be answered by strict portion control. In his book “Mindless Eating”, Brian Wansink argues that just an extra 10 calories a day will make you gain a pound in one year. So there appears to be a small margin of error, but this should give us all hope. If you missed my info on Portion Distortion, please have a read: http://wp.me/p5MNeq-2r

Lifestyle change and a long-term outlook then is the answer: breaking bad habits, making new ones and sticking with them once and for all. Diets which work over a long period of time and which become a way of life are ones which suit the dieter and which don’t require too much aggravation and thought. For me, the Side Plate Diet is a winner (see http://wp.me/p5MNeq-2). I eat what I want and enjoy my food, but I simply restrict the amount. Let me know if you are giving it a try.

What experience have you had with habit-breaking and habit-forming? How has it impacted on your diet? Please feel free to comment – I would love to hear from you.

Change ahead

Annie Bee x

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The Joys Of Being A 50+ Woman

When my friends and I turned 40, there was a spate of lovely girlfriend birthday parties and one favoured present was a packet of Tena incontinence pads. How we roared. Not so funny now we have hit 50, is it ladies? Things have started to – I am trying to think of a nice word here – loosen and slacken, droop and fall. Externally and (more alarmingly) internally. Chin hairs sprout overnight; if you are lucky you can plait them, put a scrunchy on them which matches that day’s outfit and go about your business.

Many of the challenges faced by the over 50s woman are linked to the menopause and the accompanying dwindling amount of oestrogen in your body, but as we are all living longer, we do need to learn to love this post-menopausal life, wrinkles and all. The average age in the UK when menopause hits is 51 and sadly there is very little scientific evidence to support complimentary therapies if you decide, like me, that HRT is not an option. Exercise and relaxation (yoga, mindfulness) are recommended as being helpful though. British women can expect to live more than 30 years post-menopause, so we do need to understand it and get help if we need to.

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Two Professors at The Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London are currently doing research into the effects of the menopause on work performance. Like many women, I don’t work in the traditional office-based, 9 to 5 manner, but I certainly do have a huge amount of sympathy for those who are making critical business decisions, managing the P&L, and being responsible for other people’s careers, if they fall into the category of the 25% of women who have troublesome menopausal symptoms. Poor concentration, tiredness, poor memory and lowered confidence can all impact on your ability to perform in the workplace.

Interestingly attitudes to the menopause, and (surprisingly) symptoms, seem to vary around the world. If you want to read some in-depth info, this is a good source: http://www.menopausemgmt.com/cultural-differences-in-symptoms-and-attitudes-toward-menopause/

So what is the upside for us?

You can reinvent yourself in your 50s – you can wear what you like, be as quirky as you like, and you have probably settled into a very individual style of your own. You may not give a monkeys any more about what people think – you have opinions based on decades of wisdom and experience and you are probably not afraid to share them. Chances are your kids have just about flown the nest. Maybe it is time to take up pottery, change career path, start knitting, write a book, launch a new business, spend more time going to the theatre, take surfing lessons, train for a 5k run or learn how to upholster chairs. I hadn’t realised this, but you can join U3A (University of the Third Age) http://www.u3a.org.uk/ at any time you like.  Benefits galore.

elderly women going surfing in Oz

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear from you.

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Annie Bee x

It’s Prestigious To Be Busy + Walking

I was listening to Ruby Wax being interviewed on Radio 4 last weekend  – an exhausting woman  (I was driving at the time and almost had to pull over and have a little rest)  – and she said, “It is prestigious to be busy these days” and she did not mean it kindly. So true. If you are not standing up (Sitting Down Is The New Smoking) you risk becoming a social pariah. I hear there are people lap-topping away on a treadmill as I write (attached to a string around their neck, like glasses perhaps?).

What’s it all about?

As I mentioned in a previous post about Calories In, Calories Out, you will know (we all know) that activity is very important to helping and maintaining weight-loss, and combining exercise into your life is the best way of doing this. Every magazine/newspaper  I read tackles the subject ceaselessly  and it is a very big business (in the UK alone the diet business is thought to be worth £2bn). You might be sick to death of hearing about it, but the great news for all of us, but particularly for women over 50, is that walking is fine.This information is from The Guardian :

“Brisk walking reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running when the energy expenditure of both activities is balanced out, a study has found.

Researchers compared data from two studies of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. For the same amount of energy used, walkers experienced greater health benefits than runners.

The effects on participants, who were aged 18 to 80, were observed over a period of six years.

Running reduced the risk of heart disease by 4.5% while walking reduced it by 9.3%.

Calorie for calorie, walking also had a stronger impact on heart disease risk factors. The risk of first-time high blood pressure was reduced by 4.2% by running and 7.2% by walking.

First-time high cholesterol risk was lowered by 4.3% by running and 7% by walking.

The risk of first-time diabetes was reduced by about 12% by both walking and running.

“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” said study leader Dr Paul Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

“The more the runners ran, and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable.

“People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise but now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk and invest in their future health.”

The research is reported in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology”. 

This is fabulous news for people like me for whom The “R” Word (as my beautiful friend Christine used to call it) does not tend to fit into their daily list of exercise. But we can all have a brisk walk and indeed very recent research from the University of Cambridge suggests that just 20 minutes a day has a big impact http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jan/14/scientists-recommend-20-minute-daily-walk-premature-death

Hooray! Cancel my order for that treadmill for the study; no need to pretend that I can see a computer screen while on the move. And have a good look at Ms Beckham’s shoes below. Someone needs to have a word. It will end in tears.

treadmill work 2    treadmill pic

And finally, I can highly recommend the Nike+Running App (ignore The “R” Word) https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/nike-gps/id387771637?mt=8.  I use it mainly to check how far I have gone and it keeps a record of the walks which I find very motivating.
Happy walking!

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Annie Bee x

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