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Nutrition to Power You Through the Menopause

28 January 2015

Saturday 24 January was the date of our exciting event for women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are determined to make the most of their middle and later years. We covered nutrition, exercise and mindfulness.

The writer and running blogger Ronnie Haydon has done a write-up of the event, capturing the content and mood of the day far better than I ever could. So here, with her blessing, is her post (and you can read more of her blogs at  http://ronniehaydon.blogspot.co.uk/):

How to feel Really Well

There was plenty of food for thought, not to mention food to eat, at Saturday's Thrive Alive event, co-hosted by two inspirational women Lorraine Nicolle and Ellie Brown

Aimed at women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, the day-long packaged of lectures, workshops – and eating - challenged the popular negativity about these midlife decades. The Thrive Alive experts dared to suggest - and indeed prove - that you can feel fantastic in peri- and post- menopausal years.

Kicking off in the spirit of the invigorating aphorism 'Knowledge is Power', Lorraine Nicolle posited an illuminating theory about the reasons for hormonal turbulence often triggered by perimenopause, in her presentation "why am I feeling like this?"

She explained how adrenal fatigue can be caused by unremittingly stressful situations - we know them too well - overwork, child care, money worries, relationship issues - that we're all too likely to respond to in the only way that feels comfortable: comfort eating, comfort drinking, comfort internet surfing from the comfort of our bed.....

With adrenal fatigue comes a whole package of health issues: weight gain, especially round the middle, sleep disruption, inflammation, headache and its inevitable companion 'snappiness' and a general feeling of misery.

Once we know the enemy we can set about treating it. The best way to alleviate adrenal fatigue is to deal with the stress that lies at its root, as well as to kick the sugar habit.  Trying to make ourselves feel better with a glass or two of wine, constant dipping into the biscuit tin, a latte and muffin habit....grazing on crisps, chocolate, doughnuts, is only feeding the sugar frenzy wreaking havoc in the body.

So feeding ourselves well, on proper food, not processed, sugar laden 'food like products' is the answer. Lorraine promised that our lunch would be just that, but first, it was time to move....cue Ellie's set.

Ellie Brown embodies physical health and fitness. Bright eyed, clean limbed and evidently younger than her years, this Pilates teacher and fitness coach promised to let us in on the secrets of her vitality. She explained how, over the decade or so she has been coaching women, she has noted the similarities in the needs of clients attending exercise classes at time of hormonal upheaval. Her pre- and post-natal clients seemed strikingly alike. The good news that all women - at opposite sides of the fertility window, as it were, responded well to training.

Using light weights, an exercise mat and a resistance band, with a little amuse yeux offered by video footage of Jane Fonda's notorious, but effective 'Feel the Burn' exercise classes from the 1980s, Ellie led us through a hugely enjoyable stretch and strengthen session, ensuring a good appetite for a buffet lunch devised by Lorraine. It involved about 20 different dishes, prepared, in the main, from fresh vegetables, with lean chicken and salmon, free-range eggs, nuts and organic dairy providing the protein. The rainbow feast we loaded on to our plates effortlessly incorporated our 10 daily portions of vegetables (plus two of fruit), as recommended by Lorraine, in one meal. Even the chocolate mousse fulfilled this remit, being made of avocado, lime and cacao.

After lunch, it was time to engage our minds. A lot is said about fuzzy thinking in relation to menopause, so Kelly Robson, a mindfulness instructor, was there to clarify.

Mindfulness, she said, helps us to 'create a pause, or gap, in the mental storyline that's constantly going on in our mind.'

The whir of pressured thoughts and 'must do, should do, haven't time to' duties pulsing through our head as we go through life on automatic pilot can ramp up stress levels and contribute to the fatigue, fuzziness and fever we may experience as our hormone levels re-adjust to the end of one phase and the beginning of another.

Remembering to pause, breathe, focus and engage with every day activities helps you to slow down and be calm.

The last session of the day was back to Lorraine, who suggested practical and achievable ways to adjust diet and lifestyle for optimal nutrition. Spoiler alert: it wasn't all juicing and detox, but a balanced, sensible route to clean eating and enjoyment of food.

The whole day was about understanding why – at a time in our lives when we may feel guilty for putting ourselves first, ahead of family, workload, duty – we should be doing just that. In midlife, when received opinion has it that women are invisible and past their usefulness, we're tacitly brainwashed into thinking we're not worth it, but middle age can be vigorous, strong, clearheaded, as long as we nurture ourselves. Whole, unadulterated foods, plenty of fresh air and exercise, space to think ...these aren't luxuries but essentials. So how come modern life has somehow contrived to cheat us out of these necessities by having us evolve into deskbound drones, fuelled by processed products instead of real food and driven to sacrifice sleep at the altar of blue-lit screens and to-do lists?  

Our fortieth birthday being a distant memory does not have to mean that youthful vim and vigour is, too. We owe it to ourselves - and those we love - to prioritise thriving, not just surviving. Ellie, Lorraine and Kelly showed us how.'

© 2015 Lorraine Nicolle

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Lorraine writes and edits nutrition books on how eating the right foods and nutraceuticals for your individual biochemistry can reduce the risk of chronic illness and lead to a healthier, happier life.

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