8 signs you’re drinking too much and what to do about it

I knew I was drinking too much when every single day I would wake up feeling shame, regret and hungover. I was 41, fed up, feeling stuck, carrying more weight than my 5’2” frame allowed, I was worrying that my drinking was making me a bad mum, and I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. All the signs were there, they had been there for a while in fact but I either couldn’t see them or chose not to. On March 28th 2018, I could no longer ignore the signs and haven’t had a drink since.  

Perhaps you’ve got the niggling feeling that something is not quite right, the excesses of summer are taking their toll and you feel like you need another holiday to recover from the holiday you’ve just had or maybe, just maybe, the idea of taking part in Sober September this year doesn’t sound quite as crazy as it used to. 

These are just some of the signs that you might be drinking too much. Below are more signs that it might be time to take a look at your drinking behaviours and some tips on what to do if you’re worried about your drinking or want to take a break from drinking.

How much is too much?

When it comes to alcohol, there is no completely safe level of drinking, but according to the NHS guidelines it is recommended not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, that’s around six glasses of wine.

Regularly drinking more than the recommended units of alcohol, poses a serious risk to our physical and mental health, but you might not be aware of just how many units you are drinking on a weekly or daily basis. 

It’s not just the amount of alcohol that can be measured in units or glasses that tell us we’re drinking too much, it is worth being aware of the more subtle signs that your drinking habits might be taking you down a path you don’t want to go down, so you can do something about it if you need to.

Here are 8 signs that you are drinking too much

You’re always thinking about drinking. Is thinking about drinking starting to take up too much space in your head? Worrying how much you had the night before, how much you will have tonight, planning the shopping trips so you never run out, calculating when is a respectable time to start drinking, how much others are drinking, how much you can drink without raising concern and what on earth you will do when you can’t drink for whatever reason, are all signs that your drinking habits might be starting to take over. 

You feel happy when you can drink

Similarly, when you know you have a night alone to drink without being judged or having to ‘moderate’ you feel the thrill of excitement. You might also find yourself looking forward to events and nights out because of the drinking that might be involved, not because of the evening itself.

You start to hide your drinking

Drinking in secret, lying about how much you had, hiding the empties, buying from different shops and taking the recycling to different places is definitely pointing to an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Suddenly one bottle is turning into two

The trouble with alcohol use is that it sneaks up on us. We don’t go from having our first sip of cider and black one day to drinking two bottles of wine a night the next, that’s why the actual quantity and units alone are not enough to tell the whole story. That being said, if you are drinking more and more to get the same effect than before, then you are building a tolerance to alcohol and that is a sure sign that you are drinking too much.

The thought of not drinking makes you feel uneasy (or scared)

Before I quit drinking I desperately wanted to not drink yet the thought of having a whole day or weekend stretched out in front of me without alcohol in it, terrified me. If you can’t imagine an evening or a Sunday afternoon without a glass of wine or few, or the very idea of it seems impossible or miserable, this is a sign that you are drinking too much.

You’re doing all the things to ‘be healthy’ but still feel something is not quite right

Sure, you might yoga and drink the smoothies, go to spin class, have spar days and massages. You might even run, meditate, journal and regularly enjoy ‘self care activities’ but you still feel stuck. Maybe the weight isn’t coming off, perhaps you are still drained or numbing out at the end of the day or despite all the good things you are doing, your still feel meh and your anxiety isn’t getting any better.

This general feeling that something is missing, that you just don’t feel like you should, your energy is low and you’re getting through the days when you should be loving your days is a sign that alcohol is getting in the way of you enjoying your life in the way you deserve. This means you are drinking too much.

Drinking or recovering from drinking is getting in the way of your daily life

Do you try not to plan anything after 5pm? Do you feel resentful if you have to be a taxi driver for the evening? Do you find yourself making excuses, cancelling plans or not showing up as your true self because you are drinking, or recovering from drinking? These are all signs that your drinking is taking over your life and it might be time to take a break.

You’re can’t stick to your own rules around drinking

Probably the most eye opening sign you are drinking too much is when you constantly break your own rules when it comes to trying to drink in moderation. Rules such as, ‘I’ll only drink beer, I’ll only drink when I go out. I’ll only drink at the weekend and then I’ll only have one or two glasses.’ This is soul destroying and you don’t deserve to treat yourself this way. I promise, it is much easier to not drink at all than to put yourself through the pain of trying to moderate.

What you can do if you’re drinking too much

If you recognise your own behaviour in some or all of the above signs then the most important thing is to be super kind and gentle with yourself. Do not beat yourself up, otherwise you will only feel worse and as women we are too hard on ourselves anyway. This must stop.

Worried you are drinking too much – so what can you do?

Start to be aware 

Begin to notice how your drinking is making you feel, tune into why you are drinking, what feeling you are trying to enhance or escape from and how you can be kinder to yourself in the moment.

Get more information

Read as much as you can about sobriety, quitting drinking, how alcohol affects your mind and body so you can begin from a place of feeling empowered and in control. Connect with other women already on this journey, ask questions and listen to their stories.

Find a way to be inspired and stay motivated

There is so much life and joy on the other side of drinking but you have to find your own version of it. What do you want to do? How do you want to feel? What will keep you inspired and motivated to stay alcohol-free when life gets challenging?

Put yourself first and ramp up the self-care

Probably the most powerful thing you can do for yourself is to really look after yourself. You deserve health, happiness, kindness, love and support so start by giving that to yourself. One of the reasons that as women we drink too much is because we’re so busy tending to everybody else we forget about ourselves, drink wine and carry on. You deserve to put yourself first, so start.

Commit to taking some proper time off

Having a goal in mind is really motivating and far less scary than saying I will never drink again. Having a timescale or milestone gives us something to aim for. Pick something that feels good to you such as 30 days or three months and then really commit to it. And decide how you will stay motivated and accountable for the time you plan to be alcohol-free for.

Get support

It is so much easier to stay motivated and on track when you have support and accountability, no matter how long you plan to stay alcohol-free. Get a coach, join a support group, enlist the support of a friend or take part in a challenge like Sober September.  Sober September  was created by Cancer Research UK to encourage people to take a month off booze while raising money for charity at the same time. Being part of a community or even just doing this with a friend is a brilliant way to begin this journey as you will have your person or people on your side, cheering you on and supporting you all the way.

Changing your relationship with alcohol is life changing. It can be the hardest, yet most rewarding thing you can do. Sober September just might be the springboard you need  towards finding a healthier, fitter, happier you.

Gayle Macdonald, sobriety coach and addiction therapist and alcohol-free since March 2018, is the founder of Sober Bliss, helping women to change their relationship with alcohol in a way that feels good through uplifting and empowering coaching and community. Find out more at Sober Bliss and book a free call to talk about one to one sober support here.

BRCA1 update: Removing my fallopian tubes to prevent ovarian cancer

I will forever remember Thursday 5th May 2022, the local elections..and the day that I signed the consent form for removing my fallopian tubes to prevent ovarian cancer. The day I effectively signed my fallopian tubes away to reduce my inherited risk of developing ovarian cancer.

After almost a year of fact finding, a rollercoaster of emotions and weighing up the best next step forward in light of my BRCA1 gene mutation diagnosis, I have finally taken the first step towards my cancer risk reduction.

With a heavy heart

I still have no idea whether this is the right thing to do, but this is my body, my mind, and my physical and mental health. It’s a big leap of faith. I am not going for the belt and braces gold standard approach of having both removing my fallopian tubes and ovaries, which is the best way of reducing the risk of developing ovarian cancer. I just can’t get my head round parting with my ovaries yet. The thinking about the removal of the fallopian tubes first is that according to current research, in many women with ovarian cancer it is believed that the disease may originate in the fallopian tubes.

Perhaps I am being cowardly but the thought of having my ovaries removed and being sent into surgical menopause and the will it or won’t it work of HRT frightens the life out of me at age 41. With the average age of menopause 50 I am just not ready to go there yet. I know everyone kept on saying if it was them, they would have both the fallopians and ovaries removed, but I am not everyone, I am ME.

Feeling frightened

I am also frightened that once they do go in there and go about removing my fallopian tubes, and take samples of the tissue from around that region that they will find cancer cells in there anyway (this happens in about 20% of cases), and I will have to have both my ovaries out and start cancer treatment. Or that ovarian cancer could develop before the later date of having my ovaries out, closer to the time or natural menopause.

I could drive myself crazy with these thoughts but have to take baby steps and trust that at least I am now in the system and what will be will be come my operation which is likely to be in November.

Taking comfort

I keep telling myself, at least I can take comfort in the fact that I am in excellent hands. The world class team running the Protector Study that I will be part of – running out of St Bart’s. I will never forget the warm yet firm handshake of Ranjit Manchanda, a Professor at Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts CRUK Cancer Centre, QMUL, and Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at Barts and the Royal London Hospital – and that smile which told me I was in kind and extremely capable hands.

Still, I couldn’t hold back the tears as I agreed to all the risks and caveats involved in surgeries, the woulds and would not and signed the consent form for the removal of my fallopian tubes and my ovaries at a later date.

The secret is out

I am beyond relieved that my daughter now knows the secret I had until last week been keeping so close to my heart, waiting for the right time to unfold the truth.

There were tears as I tried to tell her that the upcoming preventative surgeries were for the best and would only start with a little one. She sobbed as I told her about the preventative double mascetomy which I would probably eventually have and asked whether she would be able to still cuddle me? Would my breasts still feel soft and squidy? I cried for the future loss of my good old friends which had fed my daughter in her infancy which were now a ticking timebomb.

Ultimately I know that my risk reducing journey is a marathon not a sprint, and I need to stay strong for the long haul and pray that my body will not renegade or submit to the worst case scenarios along the way as I countdown to receiving my operation date. I pray that time will be on my side, and that a positive outcome awaits.

******

About the PROTECTOR study

PROTECTOR is a research study for women who are at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Some women may have an increased risk due to:

  • Carrying an alteration in ovarian cancer causing genes such as BRCA1, BRCA2, RAD51C, RAD51D or BRIP1.
  • Having a strong family history of ovarian and breast cancer or ovarian cancer alone.

PROTECTOR aims to assess the impact on women of a new two-step surgery to prevent ovarian cancer. This involves initially just having your fallopian tubes (or ‘tubes’) removed to prevent ovarian cancer. This is followed by removing your ovaries in a second operation at a later date of your choosing or once you have reached menopause naturally (which on average is 51 years in the UK).

The study assesses women’s views and the impact of this two-step surgery to prevent ovarian cancer on sexual function, hormone levels, quality of life and overall satisfaction. Outcomes from this new approach are compared to the traditional approach of removal of both tubes and ovaries in the same operation. We will also compare this to the well-being of women who do not have surgery. Women are able to choose which arm of the study they wish to take part in: single operation removing both tubes and ovaries, two-step surgery, ‘controls’ (no surgery).

Approximately 30 hospitals across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are recruiting participants for PROTECTOR. We aim to recruit 1,000 participants in total (333 in each study arm). If you would like to take part, please ask your GP to refer you to your nearest recruitment centre which can be found using this interactive map. Alternatively, you can contact the team for further details on how to take part.

Photo by cottonbro

5 ways to manage the menopause without HRT

The well-documented Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) shortage has given many women reason to worry as this essential treatment helps to alleviate menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, low mood, anxiety and insomnia.

Whether you’re struggling with the perimenopause or menopause, we’re sharing five important ways to cope courtesy of Vitaminology – a health tech company reinventing how consumers discover and shop for vitamins helping them discover and compare the best supplements for them.

5 ways to cope and manage menopause without HRT

Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle coupled with nutritional supplements or botanical therapies offer natural, yet effective strategies to help manage symptoms for many peri-menopausal or menopausal women. 

Eat a whole foods, balanced diet

… to help balance hormones. Avoid refined carbohydrates, sugars, processed foods and saturated fats. Opt for a wide variety of brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, good quality lean protein and healthy fats. Remember that spicy foods as well as alcohol and caffeine are triggers for hot flushes and night sweats. Eating oily fish 2-3 times a week (think SMASH – salmon, mackerel, anchovies and herring and sardines) will also help to support hormone balance.

Exercising regularly

…has so many benefits including our ability to cope with the menopause. It supports a healthy weight, cardiovascular function, improved sleep and the ability to cope with stress. Regular exercise doesn’t have to mean hours in the gym (although weight-bearing exercise is known to be extremely beneficial for bone growth and repair, reducing the risk of osteoporosis) so find something that fits into your lifestyle such as a yoga class or a long walk every day.

menopause without HRT

Keep stress at bay

…and promote calm using self-help techniques such as deep breathing, gentle exercise (ie, walking, Pilates, Yoga, Tai chi), meditation or journaling. Complementary therapies such as acupuncture may also be beneficial when coping with the menopause. A calmer mind will help to achieve a calmer body.

Sleep well

When we sleep our body uses this time to rejuvenate, so good quality sleep is vital when battling menopause symptoms. Try good sleep hygiene techniques such as switching off devices an hour before bedtime, reading or listening to music before going to sleep, taking a hot Epsom salt bath (contains magnesium to help relax the muscles and mind) to help get a good night’s rest. It is super beneficial to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and sleep for 7-8 hours.

Consider supplementation

Sometimes in life, we need a little extra help – and this is no different when it comes to our health and wellbeing. There are number food supplements that can help with the perimenopause and menopause including multivitamins specifically formulated. In addition to these, a Vitamin B Complex will help to support energy, mood and brain function or try Vitamin E to relieve hot flushes and vaginal dryness.

Summary

Whether you are considering HRT or trying to find a suitable alternative, always discuss first with your GP who can advise you of the benefits and risks in your individual case. Consult with a registered Nutritional Therapist who can support you through the menopause with advice on diet, lifestyle and supplementation.

Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a balanced diet or healthy lifestyle.

References:

  • Cagnacci A, Venier M. The Controversial History of Hormone Replacement Therapy. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(9):602. Published 2019 Sep 18. doi:10.3390/medicina55090602
  • Chen MN, Lin CC, Liu CF. Efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Climacteric. 2015;18(2):260-269. doi:10.3109/13697137.2014.966241
  • Dunneram Y, Greenwood DC, Cade JE. Diet, menopause and the risk of ovarian, endometrial and breast cancer. Proc Nutr Soc. 2019;78(3):438-448. doi:10.1017/S0029665118002884
  • Gava G, Orsili I, Alvisi S, Mancini I, Seracchioli R, Meriggiola MC. Cognition, Mood and Sleep in Menopausal Transition: The Role of Menopause Hormone Therapy. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(10):668. Published 2019 Oct 1. doi:10.3390/medicina55100668
  • Hill DA, Crider M, Hill SR. Hormone Therapy and Other Treatments for Symptoms of Menopause. Am Fam Physician. 2016;94(11):884-889.
  • Johnson A, Roberts L, Elkins G. Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopause. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2019;24:2515690X19829380. doi:10.1177/2515690X19829380
  • Joseph E. Pizzorno, Michael T. Murray, Herb Joiner-Bey, 53 – Menopause, Editor(s): Joseph E. Pizzorno, Michael T. Murray, Herb Joiner-Bey, The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine (Third Edition), Churchill Livingstone, 2016, Pages 624-647,ISBN 9780702055140.
  • Ko SH, Kim HS. Menopause-Associated Lipid Metabolic Disorders and Foods Beneficial for Postmenopausal Women. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):202. Published 2020 Jan 13. doi:10.3390/nu12010202
  • Larmo PS, Yang B, Hyssälä J, Kallio HP, Erkkola R. Effects of sea buckthorn oil intake on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Maturitas. 2014;79(3):316-321. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2014.07.010
  • Lobo RA, Pickar JH, Stevenson JC, Mack WJ, Hodis HN. Back to the future: Hormone replacement therapy as part of a prevention strategy for women at the onset of menopause. Atherosclerosis. 2016;254:282-290. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2016.10.005
  • Rizzoli R, Bischoff-Ferrari H, Dawson-Hughes B, Weaver C. Nutrition and bone health in women after the menopause. Womens Health (Lond). 2014;10(6):599-608. doi:10.2217/whe.14.40

photos by wayhomestudio, valeria_aksakova, wirestock

What happens when you have a mammogram

I won’t lie. The first time I had a mammogram, I really didn’t know what to expect. But being at high risk of developing breast cancer in my lifetime due to the fact I have BRCA1 gene mutation, then well let’s just say I am going to become very familiar with mammograms! But apart from the fact I expected it was some kind of scan, I had little idea about what happens when you have a mammogram.

Mammograms save lives

The bottom line is that mammograms save lives with breast screening saving around 1,300 lives each year in the UK. Finding cancer early can make it more likely that treatment will be successful.

Having said that, it doesn’t distract from the fact that having a mammogram is not exactly the most pleasant of experiences in my personal opinion just because it does tend to be pretty uncomfortable as your breast tissues gets pulled and manipulated into certain “flatter” positions before it gets positioned into place ready for the scan.

That said I would rather take a mammogram every day of my life rather than having a malignancy undetected in my breasts. The alternative – not knowing the status of your breast tissue and any potential changes and what they may mean, is unthinkable to me.

Do not put your mammogram off

Whatever the pain and discomfort you feel, I want to lay down now how important it is NOT to let this deter you from having your routine mammogram and attending breast cancer screening. All women are invited for a routine mammogram in the UK from age 50 up. If you have an increased risk of breast cancer due to hereditary factors then you should be having a routine mammogram annually from the age of 30 of 40.

Worries about the procedure, along with COVID disruption saw a 44 per cent fall in the number of women screened for the disease nationally in 2020-21 according to NHS England, but mammograms and early diagnosis of cancer can rapidly improve the long-term prognosis and chances of recovery. 

If you are worried about having a mammogram, not sure what a mammogram is, or yet to have your first mammogram, here Kate Whittaker, Superintendent Mammographer, at King Edward VII’s Hospital explains all.

when you have a mammogram

I’ve been invited to attend a mammogram. Should I go and what should I expect?

When women turn 50, they will be contacted by the NHS Breast Screening Programme  Unit, inviting them for a mammogram. All patients registered as female will be contacted every three years, until they turn 71.

Mammograms are a straightforward, non-invasive short procedure, but increasingly women are missing appointments, or declining to attend their screening. Worries about the procedure, along with COVID disruption, saw a 44 per cent fall in the number of women screened for nationally in 2020-21 according to NHS England. But mammograms and early diagnosis of cancer can greatly improve a patient’s long-term prognosis and chances of recovery – so why should women attend them, and how can they prepare?

Before the appointment

As mentioned above, breast screening can save lives. Identifying and intervening early can dramatically improve the outcomes for breast cancer, but attending a mammogram is obviously a personal choice.

If you do decide to attend and feel nervous about the procedure, try to book an appointment at a time when you’re not going to be rushing around. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask a friend or loved one to take you to the appointment for moral support, and have something nice planned for afterwards that you can look forward to and distract from any worries.

When you have a mammogram, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist up, so try to wear something comfortable that’s easy to take on and off. You’ll always be imaged by a female mammographer, but if you have any queries or concerns, including mobility issues or special requirements, it’s best to contact the screening unit before your appointment. That will allow them to make any necessary changes to your appointment, such as duration or location, as some sites are remote and may not be accessible to disabled service users.

During the mammogram

When you’re ready, you’ll be invited into an x-ray room by the mammographer, who will explain the procedure and answer any questions. Your breast is imaged by gently placing it onto the x-ray machine and applying some compression. This only lasts a few seconds and releases the moment the x-ray has been taken. You’ll have four images taken in total, two on each breast. All you’ll need to do is take a few small steps in front of the machine and raise your arms when asked, to help with the breast positioning in the side images. The whole process is over very quickly, in around five minutes, but keeping still is really important to get an accurate x-ray.

Breast screening can be uncomfortable, or occasionally a little painful for some people, so talking through any concerns with the mammographer can be very useful, you can also tell them to stop at any point if you’re feeling discomfort.

Getting your results

Results will be sent to you by post and they generally take between two and four weeks. A copy will also be sent to your GP for your medical records.

Your results will either say ‘No sign of breast cancer’ or ‘Need further tests’. If you have no sign of breast cancer, you can wait for your next mammogram in three years time, unless you notice any breast changes, including any lumps in your chest or armpit, discharge from your nipple, or an unusual texture on the skin of your breast. Do a check once or twice a month, and contact your GP if you notice any changes or have any concerns about your breasts.

when you have a mammogram

If you need further imaging, don’t panic. Most people who need further tests will not be diagnosed with breast cancer. But if you are worried, you can discuss the appointment with a breast care nurse, who will be able to explain to you the result, and what next steps will be taken.

You’ll be offered an appointment in a screening assessment clinic where you’ll be offered an examination of your breast and sometimes more mammograms, an ultrasound, or sometimes a needle test. Results from these tests normally take around a week. All of this will help the Breast Unit team and your GP to best support you and offer any further investigations and treatment you may require, which, in some cases, can limit the need for invasive treatment, or surgery. So when you receive your next invitation, I’d urge you to come forward and attend your  mammogram, or if you notice any breast changes or symptoms in the meantime, speak to your GP to access support as early as possible, which may save.

We hope the above helps you overcome any fears you may have about attending a mammogram screening. Focus on the end game in that when you attend a mammogram, you are doing something amazing for your body and yourself, and empowering yourself with the knowledge you need about any risk factors, warning signs and potential treatment down the line. To find out more about assessing your breast cancer risk see this useful guide over at our friends Breast Cancer Now or speak to your GP.

Photos by cottonbro and Tara Winstead via pexels and National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

How to ease into perimenopause: Tips and advice for a happier adjustment

Perimenopause is a time of change. Each woman’s journey will differ, but it can be an uncomfortable and confusing time for most women. Luckily, there are many ways to feel better during perimenopause. You can try hormone replacement therapy or natural supplements to relieve your symptoms.

You could also try meditation, yoga, or acupuncture to make yourself feel more balanced. Here we will discuss how you can ease into perimenopause to reduce the effects.

Stop smoking

One thing you can do to help ease into perimenopause is to stop smoking. Smoking causes several health-related problems, but it also contributes to menopause symptoms. Quitting is easier said than done, but you might be able to make it happen with patience. You can try nicotine patches to help you stop, visit a Vape store for nicotine-free vape liquids to substitute for smoking or chew on gum to ease your cravings during the early weeks of quitting

Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake

Perimenopause

Many women find themselves drinking more during perimenopause. This can lead to many problems. When you drink alcohol while going through perimenopause, the effects are even stronger and more pronounced.

Avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible during this time in your life. If you do drink, try to keep it limited to only one or two drinks a night and for every drink of alcohol, have at least one glass of water to stay hydrated!

Maintain a healthy weight

A common symptom of perimenopause is weight gain. Hormones fluctuate during this time, making it tougher to control your appetite and maintain weight.

The first step to easing into perimenopause is maintaining a healthy weight. Eating a balanced diet and incorporating physical activity can help with this. You might also try eating more fibre or drinking more water to curb your appetite.

Additionally, you should get plenty of sleep so that your body has time to recover and regenerate hormones. Sleep deprivation can lead to decreased energy levels and increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Finally, if you suffer from night sweats, wear loose-fitting clothing, so you aren’t uncomfortable while sleeping.

Add calcium to your diet

Perimenopause can make you feel tired and irritable. You might notice mood swings or other symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. One way to ease into perimenopause is by taking calcium supplements. Calcium supplements are often recommended during perimenopause because they can help reduce the severity of symptoms. They are also helpful for protecting bones in the long term, which may be an issue during this time since perimenopausal women are at risk for osteoporosis. Plus, calcium supplements have reduced PMS symptoms like cramping, bloating, and mood swings.

Try natural remedies

There are several ways to ease into perimenopause. One way is to try natural remedies. These remedies are usually herbal and can be purchased in-store or online. Some common natural remedies include soy, vitamins, minerals, herbs, and essential oils. All of these items have different benefits for perimenopausal symptoms. For example, soy may reduce hot flashes or vaginal dryness, whereas minerals could help with mood swings or headaches.

Are you going through the perimenopause? Share your experience with us by commenting below or join our community on Instagram.

10 reasons why women over 40 should adopt a Mediterranean diet

I’m always sure to have a bottle of extra virgin olive oil in my cupboard. I’m such a generous drizzler. I have an unnatural obsession with olives and I pretty much eat them every day. The Mediterranean diet always fascinated me so when I was given the chance to speak to Dr Simon Poole and share our passion for this incredible way of life, I jumped at it.

Dr Simon Poole MBBS DRCOG is a Cambridge-based medical doctor, author, broadcaster, commentator and is an internationally renowned authority on the science and application of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. So I’d say he’s pretty much the best human to give us his top 10 reasons why us old broads should look at adopting this way of eating.

1. Managing the Menopause

Mediterranean diet

As a practicing doctor, I see many women in their late forties and early fifties with very troublesome perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Hot flushes and night sweats, so-called vasomotor symptoms, can be especially intrusive. It has been known for some time that diet can be effective in significantly lessening some of these symptoms which can have a dramatic benefit to quality of life during the hormonal changes of the menopause.

Whilst individual foods or supplements have been promoted for these effects, the most convincing evidence is that the Mediterranean diet is the best nutritional prescription for the challenges of the menopause. One particular prospective study of 6000 women in Australia showed that those consuming a Mediterranean diet of vegetables, pasta, fruit and red wine were twenty percent less likely to have significant vasomotor symptoms, whilst those with a high sugar, “western” style diet were 23% more likely to be affected.

2. Preventing Heart Disease and Stroke

As we reach our forties and beyond, it is even more important to embrace a lifestyle which is enjoyable as well as healthy. Maintaining good physical health can be a challenge, but it is possible to significantly reduce the odds of heart disease and stroke by making some relatively simple changes to our diet.

The prestigious annual US News Report expert scientific committee convened to assess the merits of different diets has, for the fifth year running, awarded that accolade to the Mediterranean diet. This is because of the body of evidence which supports its ability to protect us from the commonest of medical conditions. For example, the Predimed Study – a large randomised controlled trial based in Spain showed that participants on the Mediterranean diet were thirty percent less likely to develop heart disease, even showing by ultrasound that potentially dangerous cholesterol plaques in the carotid arteries of many people in the trial regressed, thereby reducing the risk of stroke.

A separate study conducted by the University Bordeaux showed an extraordinary seventy eight percent reduced relative risk of stroke in people regularly consuming extra virgin olive oil, perhaps the single most important ingredient in the diet. 

3. Achieving Weight Goals and Avoiding Diabetes

Mediterranean diet

There are numerous diets promoted for weight loss, many of them difficult to sustain for a long period of time, some restrictive and frankly unpleasant. Research has shown that calorie counting is less effective than choosing the right types of healthy fats and low GI carbohydrates and that is important that a diet results in consistent travel towards a healthy weight and is enjoyable and therefore more able to be sustained in the long term.

The Mediterranean diet performs as well as most other diets for weight loss and also reduces the risk of developing diabetes by as much as forty to sixty percent. This is based on a number of beneficial effects of the diet – from the wholegrain carbohydrates and low levels of processed foods with added sugars, to the effects of extra virgin olive oil directly increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing sugar spikes by slowing the absorption of carbohydrate meals. In the Mediterranean, bread and pasta is almost always combined with extra virgin oil, adding great flavour, increasing satiety and a feeling of fullness at the same time as ensuring a slow and low glycaemic rise. 

4. Reducing the Risk of Dementia

Our generation has seen a dramatic increase in dementia affecting the over sixties and a failure to find medications to reduce its devastating consequences. Yet in the traditional lands of the Mediterranean – the mountains of Greek islands and the harbours on Italian coastlines, there are very low rates of dementia. This is thought to be due to the diet and lifestyle and perhaps in particular because the colourful vegetables, herbs and spices and ubiquitous extra virgin olive oil are so rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, protecting our bodies, including our brains, from harm.

A study from Thessaloniki University in Greece showed that a tablespoon of high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil, instantly recognisable by its beautiful fruity, deliciously bitter and peppery flavours, reduced progression of disease in people with early dementia in comparison with those given low polyphenol, poor quality olive oil.

5. Protection from Breast cancer

Mediterranean diet

It is said that a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer in western societies is as much as one in seven. These are uncomfortable odds, yet we see much lower rates across the countries which follow the traditional Mediterranean Diet. The researchers who led the Predimed study found a reduced risk of breast cancer of sixty percent in those participants on the Mediterranean diet. This may also be due to the presence of foods rich in antioxidants as well as a reduction in consumption of processed foods, which we know increase the likelihood of developing cancers. 

6. Improving Wellbeing

It is good to talk about a diet which reduces the risk of diseases and which therefore increases the chances of healthy aging with a good quality of life, but there is an even more positive effect of the Mediterranean diet for people who adopt this pattern of eating at any age. Wellbeing is a concept which is difficult to define and even more elusive to measure scientifically.

Researchers at the university of Granada however, not only found lower levels of depression in university students scoring high adherence to a Mediterranean Diet, but their wellbeing, sense of energy, and social functioning parameters were also much higher. Maintaining good mental health is important for us all at any age, and especially key for children passing through vulnerable stages of adolescence and leaving home for university. 

7. The Joy of Food Preparation

Mediterranean diet

Women have traditionally been at the centre of home making and food preparation for the family, although we must be careful not to reinforce gender stereotypes. That said, preparing delicious Mediterranean meals from scratch is such fun and so rewarding that it might be difficult to keep other family members out of the kitchen. On a serious note, learning to cook Mediterranean style together with children at the weekend is a wonderful experience.

8. A Diet that is Value for Money

There is a perception that the Mediterranean diet is more expensive than a standard, more processed western diet. The reality is a bit more complicated than that. Although supermarkets often offer price reductions on processed foods, fresh seasonal vegetables and wholegrains can be inexpensive and a very affordable alternative.

A good quality extra virgin olive oil is not an industrial product and its production costs cannot be compared with cheap refined oils. But the health benefits are clear to see. Often buying in larger quantities can reduce the price per litre and make regular consumption of fresh extra virgin olive oil much easier to afford. Preparing food from scratch is cheaper than buying ready meals and much better for us. To some degree, it is perhaps also about valuing good food and considering it as a higher priority call on our income in comparison with other expenses . 

9. Increasing a Sense of Community

In the Mediterranean time is spent “breaking bread” together with family and friends. Being part of a community where time is spent in company (a word which incidentally derives from the od Italian “con pane” – with bread) and enjoying food together has been shown to improve health and longevity in itself. A focus on the Mediterranean diet is also a focus on communal enjoyment of the sharing of food. 

10. Sustainability

A pressing reason for our generation to eat healthily is not only to increase our chances of a long and healthy life, but to also play our part in reversing climate change for the sake of our children and future generations.

The Mediterranean diet is lower in red meat and industrial processed foods. It is a plant-based diet based on local seasonal fresh, natural foods and extra virgin olive oil at its heart can be well produced such that the olive tree is not only capable of flourishing in arid, almost desert environments with minimal water use, but sinks 10kg of carbon for every litre of extra virgin olive oil produced. 

You can learn more about the Mediterranean diet by reading Simon’s latest book, The Real Mediterranean Diet. This book demystifies why a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle can improve the health of everyone, young and old. Explaining its origins in Ancient Greece to the modern day, this book is packed with recipes, photography and the science that joins up all the dots.

Keep the conversation going by commenting below or joining in with our Instagram community.

Thinking of leaving the corporate world? Top 5 tips for making the leap

Our 40s seem like the optimum time to take stock and really think about how happy we really are in all aspects of our lives. Career wise we might be stuck in a rut. Imagine you have a power house job in the corporate world but decide to find your own focus and create a business around yourself? This is exactly what Claire Antill did. She advocates that we are all ‘more than what we do for a living’. Here, she shares her experience leaving the corporate world.

‘At 40 I left a ‘stable’ corporate job in a company I’d worked in for over a decade. I stepped away from security to set up my own creative business venture during a global pandemic, because there is never the perfect time, right?!

Why did I do this? I’m someone who has always measured their value through what I do for a living and what others think of me. Since school, I’ve always been a study, and a grafter.  If I want to do something, I learn everything there is to know about it and then strive to make it work. 

However, despite working in high profile roles, companies and institutions, I felt that there was an invisible barrier stopping me achieving my potential, whatever that was. I felt like I was always waiting to be found out. 

Then the identity change of motherhood hit (I’m a mum of three very close in age). Suddenly, I could no longer be all things and work all the hours. If you’ve experienced it you’ll know, it’s like walking a tightrope, with people just waiting for you to fall. 

Leaving the corporate world

You spend your whole time apologising for not doing or being enough. Stepping through the minefield of daily office politics erodes your confidence and self worth. You can also feel like an easy target.

I had never thought of myself as creative, these are skills that are not encouraged. Working in male-dominated industries (politics & energy) in the corporate world, I tried to mould myself on those around me and downplayed my ‘soft skills’ of being a mentor, communicator and builder of successful teams. 

The breaking point came for me when my twins started school, which is a whole new milestone to contend with. School hours and work hours simply don’t match up. You then try to condense more into less time and have to make sacrifices right, left and centre. 

No more. I decided to take my experience and my skills to go it alone and create something new. 

I had retrained in social media marketing and then advertising while on my second maternity leave. So I created a business helping e-commerce businesses to grow and thrive, built around a life they want. It’s about building meaningful connections and creating stories to resonate with people. 

Leaving the corporate world

I love what I do.  It’s very rewarding to tap into creativity and work with others to achieve their goals while shaping the life that I want for my family.  i

I’m most proud of the fact that I have re-defined my self-worth on who I am as a whole person and not just through my work. 

To inspire others to take action I have written a chapter for a best -selling book called Step Aside and Rise where 21 women share their stories of how they have got out of their own way and overcome challenges to succeed.’ 

We talked to Jo Swann, a hugely successful director at Chocolate PR and asked her for her top five tips for taking the plunge.

1. Remember why you left in the first place

We move on because we are moving away from something that didn’t make us happy, fulfill us or align with us. Remember your move will give you the chance to be who you REALLY are and take the control back.

2. Be brave

Leaving the corporate world

It’s not easy ‘starting from scratch’ – leaving a highly successful corporate career – but remember you are NOT starting from scratch. The career you have built up – whether you loved or hated it – is still ‘collateral’ – it is still proof of your knowledge, experience, and provides credibility. Don’t sweep this under the carpet as many do, make it work for you by highlight elements that showcase your level of expertise.

3. Be prepared to be you

When you have a blank slate this is an exciting place to be as it means you can really show up as you – but yet many of us don’t when we become business owners initially! This is because we feel we have to fit into a certain box, or feel we still need be ‘corporate us’ to be seen as professional. This can waste years of not really attracting your ideal clients so please dive head first in and let people see the real you!

4. Try not to compare yourself to others in your space

This is HARD – but it’s not helpful. If you follow people who are further along their journey than you, you are not comparing like for like and so not being fair to yourself if you then see them reaching goals you haven’t yet. Also watching others too closely takes your eye off your own path and you’ll become confused, distracted and misaligned which makes for marketing that wanders off track.

5. Get yourself some recognition early doors

Be it media exposure, a startup award, endorsement from an industry body. Our minds are not always kind to us and you may well suffer bouts of imposter syndrome feeling that you are not good enough and have made a terrible mistake leaving your ‘safe’ job! Third party recognition helps you build up your self belief as when others trust you it’s easier to trust yourself, and it builds up trust with your audience too.

Are you thinking of making the leap? Let us know about it by commenting below or follow us on Instagram.

4 common sexual concerns after 40 (and what we can do about them)

As life starts to throw more challenges as we get older, whether it’s in terms of our health or just the sheer volume of tasks we need to complete every single day, the fact is that we’re not always in the mood for a bit of naughtiness, if at all! We can be very surprised by changes that occur in our sexual activity, especially after 40. There are very common reasons for this, such as decreased libido, hormone decreases, and changes in our sexual response. But there is more to it than this. Here, we explore, 4 common sexual concerns after 40.

1. Loss of libido

It’s a very common thing women experience, but we must remember that men experience it too! As women go through perimenopause into menopause, women are less likely to think about sex, if at all. And they may be very surprised at this sudden change. But it’s not just women. But men can have decreased libido too. And this is predominantly because their testosterone levels are starting to dip. 


While some methods and medications can help with this, such as Testogel, the fact is that when both partners are losing their libido, this can throw up a confusing number of components. Commonly, if one partner is sexually active and the other one isn’t, this can pose relationship problems, where breakups and divorces can occur.

2. Perception of the self

sexual concerns after 40

Something that is not always spoken about in relation to sex is the fact that as we get older we are going through so many physical changes that we can feel less desirable, which means we can be less interested in sex. Over the age of 40, there is more of a chance of us gaining weight, losing fitness levels, as well as our mood altering throughout these times. 

But we have to bear in mind that the challenges in dealing with each of these aspects can be overwhelming all in themselves. If we don’t feel attractive, which will impact our interest in sex, the best approach is to do what is manageable and reasonable to improve our overall health and appearance. But this alone is not enough. We then need to move on and learn to accept that we are who we are as we enter a new stage of our lives. 

Having that sense of self-perception is so important, regardless of your sex drive, but the more important component is to learn to accept who you are. Once we begin to feel more comfortable in our own skin, this is when we’re going to feel more attractive and open to possibilities. So many of us don’t feel attractive, even during the act of sex, which means that we’re going to not want to even initiate this because it’s going to have a negative impact on our frame of mind.

3. Gender role behaviour

In mid-life, partners can begin to fall out of sync with each other. Women in mid-life will experience a number of changes, not necessarily because of pre-menopause but the focus in their lives changes. For women who have had children in their 20s or early 30s, now they are beginning to focus more on their own needs, but will also have more time to devote to themselves. This is why we see many women changing careers in mid-life. The same thing applies to men, as they are more likely to start slowing down in their careers and want to have a balance in their lives. 

Overall, these things will impact sexual behaviour and will mean that when both partners are going out of sync with each other, they won’t necessarily have those same desires to focus on the other person. As we get older we can feel that we may have given too much of ourselves to others, especially if we’ve been in a parental role. We see many women and men in middle age going out and socialising more as they may have felt they missed out on a lot of this over the last decade or so. 

The main solution to this is about, very simply, learning to sync up with each other’s lives, even to the smallest degree. It’s almost like we’ve got to let our partners get these things out of their system. After all, we deserve to let our hair down, but if our partner is looking to do the same thing we’ve got to be aware that as we try to reclaim our lives for ourselves, there is another person in the equation. 

4. A change in sexual response

In women and men, there is a lot more difficulty in coming to orgasm, or orgasms may be less satisfying, and could potentially be an early warning sign of underlying health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.

What can we do to help with these problems?

sexual concerns after 40

As we get older, there needs to be more focus on sex in a holistic manner. The fact is that it’s not just about being able to do it as in when you please. As we get older, we’re going to encounter more health problems that pose obstacles. Here are a few things that you can do to help move things along:

Manage stress

As we go into mid-life, our stress can increase. And this is where taking a look at your common stressors and eliminating these will help. Because if you work to manage your stress, you’re going to improve your general well-being which will have a positive effect on your sexual appetite. Managing stress doesn’t have to be about meditating for 2 hours a day, in fact, even as little as 5 minutes a day can have a positive impact, as long as you choose the right practises for you. Learning to breathe low, slow, and deep can have a positive impact on your abilities to deal with stress. 

Having a healthier diet

Our bodies respond very well to certain diets. And because there’s so much information around being healthy, we can find ourselves going down certain avenues that don’t benefit us on an individual level. Physiologically speaking, you have to ensure that you are increasing blood flow and helping your body to regenerate in the right ways. In many ways, the solutions are simple: eating for energy and having whole foods without any preservatives or additives. But it’s also important to remember that fat can also be beneficial here, especially good fats. 

Exercising

sexual concerns after 40

Women who take part in exercise have been shown to display fewer menopausal symptoms. It also increases cardiovascular health, resulting in a better sexual response. 

Treating anxieties

It may be beneficial to go to the doctor and discuss the right methods to medicate any form of anxiety or depression. It’s worth noting that medication like antidepressants can inhibit sexual function, but having this in combination with a type of therapy such as CBT may work for you. 

Sleep

Finally, having adequate sleep is vital for every aspect of your life. Having a solid 8 hours is not just going to reduce your stress, but will increase your hormone production which has a natural impact on increasing sexual desire. 

Because getting older, for many people, means naturally losing interest in sex, this doesn’t have to be the case. The reality is that we all deserve a healthy sex life, and having an understanding of the common issues that underlie a lot of middle-aged sexual anxieties, as well as having the best health solutions, will make a massive difference.

Keep the conversation going by commenting below or connecting with us on Instagram

The tell tale signs of a mid-life crisis

What are the tell-tale signs of a mid-life crisis? This is a question that many people ask, especially those who are in the midst of a mid-life crisis. There is no one answer to this question, as the signs can vary from person to person. However, some general signs may indicate that you are experiencing a midlife crisis. This blog post will discuss some of the most common symptoms of a mid-life crisis. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help and get support.

Dramatic changes in relationships

mid-life crisis

One of the most common signs of a mid-life crisis is a change in relationships. You may find yourself withdrawing from old friends and family members, or you may become more involved with them than ever before. You may also experience changes in your romantic relationship, such as increased fights or a decrease in intimacy. If you are experiencing these changes, it is important to seek help and get support. You should also keep in mind that relationships are not static, so this may be normal if your relationship with someone has changed significantly over time.

Loss of interest in hobbies & activities

Another common sign of a mid-life crisis is losing interest in hobbies and activities. You may find that you are no longer interested in doing the things you used to do, or perhaps your interests have changed entirely. If this is the case, ask yourself if these changes may have a negative impact on your life. Of course, some hobby changes are normal, but if you are experiencing changes that negatively impact your life, it is important to seek help and get support.

The loss of interest in hobbies and activities can also be caused by depression or anxiety. If this is the case, these conditions should be treated before they lead to more serious problems such as substance abuse or suicide.

Increased substance abuse

mid-life crisis

Substance abuse is another common sign of a mid-life crisis. You may find that you are using drugs or alcohol more than usual or that you are engaging in other risky behaviours such as gambling. If you are experiencing these types of behaviours, it is important to seek help and get support. Substance abuse can lead to more serious problems such as substance dependence, which can be detrimental.

Reckless spending

mid-life crisis

Another sign of a mid-life crisis is when someone starts spending recklessly. This can be on things like cars, vacations, or even gambling. Often people in the throes of a mid-life crisis will feel like they need to “live it up” before they reach the end of their life. The key here is to carefully consider your spending habits and make informed decisions of which you’ve assessed the consequences. For example, a person experiencing a midlife crisis might be tempted to buy a new car that is out of their budget like a Maseratti, when they can, in reality, afford something more reasonable like a new Jaguar. Mismanaging your finances at this critical stage in life can seriously affect the next twenty years of your life, where you should be building towards a solid retirement strategy.

There are many tell-tale signs of a mid-life crisis. It’s important to be aware of these warning signals and take the necessary precautions, so you can make the most out of the second half of your life.

Have you fallen into crisis? Keep the conversation going by commenting below or follow us on Instagram.

How to be healthier without really trying

Trying to stay fit and healthy is a challenge for most people at the best of times. Lifestyle choices, work patterns and other factors will undoubtedly influence how a person can stay in shape and eat healthily.

The temptation to forego regular exercising and avoid take-out food is often too great to resist in today’s modern world. Do you find it hard to stay fit and healthy while leading a busy lifestyle? If so, don’t worry because you aren’t alone.

The following tips and suggestions will inspire you to stay healthier without needing to do much or make any significant changes in your life:

Eat lighter versions of your favourite foods

How to be healthier without really trying

You’ve likely seen all kinds of diets advertised, and you’ve probably even tried some of them. The truth is, trying a diet and sticking with it can be highly challenging, both mentally and physically. Plus, if you keep “yo-yo” dieting, you could even harm your body in the long term.

A better idea to get fit and healthy is to eat the things you enjoy but swap out some of them for “lighter” versions. For example, you could swap your butter and cheese for versions with low fat and cholesterol in them.

Swap Smoking For Vaping

Are you a smoker? If so, consider giving up your cigarettes and switching to vaping instead. Vaping is something you can do to get your nicotine fix, and you could even try other “juices” like CBD e liquid to help you improve your wellness further.

What’s more, vaping means your clothing and your body doesn’t smell like you’ve been standing near a bonfire for too long! Also, you can choose from all kinds of flavours and varying levels of nicotine to help ween yourself off smoking for good.

Park Further Away From Your Destinations

How to be healthier without really trying

Do you drive? If you spend a lot of time going to various destinations in your car, avoid parking close to where you have to go. Instead, purposely find parking spaces that require you to do some more walking than usual.

For example, park by the car park exit rather than close to your workplace’s entrance if you drive to work. Not only will you get in some extra physical exercise each day, but you can avoid queuing to get out of the car park when you finish work each day.

Avoid Eating Large Meals

Last but not least, you should avoid eating large meals each day. Instead, it’s a better idea to have several small meals spread out throughout the day and evening.

Why is that a good idea, you might ask yourself? The answer is simple: you diminish the chances of needing to snack on unhealthy food like chocolates and crisps to satisfy any hunger pangs between your meals.

Final Thoughts

The above isn’t an extensive list of what you can do. However, it gives you some ideas for getting started on your health kick without tiring or wearing yourself out in the process. Good luck!