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Heather, 53, is the co-founder of Gen-M, a company that works with brands to better represent the menopause in everything from product development and internal policies to marketing campaigns and signposting, to improve the menopause experience for everyone. She splits her time between Yorkshire and the Cotswolds with her number one companion, Stanley the labradoodle.
The best thing about the menopause, or perimenopause in my case, is that it nudged me to take stock of myself and recognise what needed to change in my life. As much as the menopause is a transition, so is life itself! Sometimes we need these moments to force us to stop and reflect. For me, perimenopause made me think long and hard about where my life was from a personal, professional, physical and emotional perspective.
Like so many women, it hit me quite off-guard. After spending decades building a business and raising my kids as a single parent, I was ready for some me time, to have some adventures and to unapologetically swing from the chandeliers. But within a year, when I was 49, I had become an emotional wreck – my self-confidence plummeted, I was incredibly fatigued, I found myself forgetting the names of colleagues I’d known for years, and I would burst into tears at the slightest things!
After multiple visits to the doctor and several tests, it was my friend (and now GenM co-founder) Sam who suggested it was likely perimenopause, as she had been through a similar experience. I’d never even heard of it, and it was such a relief to have an explanation for what I was going through.
The other great thing about the menopause is that it inspired Sam and I to set up GenM. We have over 40 incredible, responsible companies on board so far, such as Mark & Spencer, Next, Boots, Holland & Barrett, Co-op and Revolution Beauty to name just a few.
It’s not fair that once we reach menopause age so many brands just ignore us! Ironically, ‘the change’ tends to happen at a time in our lives when we’re often at our busiest, so the last thing we need is to spend hours searching in-store or online for menopause-friendly products. Part of our mission is to change that.
The lack of information, awareness and crucially, signposting to products that can help. There is so much out there that can help with symptoms and allow us to manage our menopause in a way that suits us, but they are rarely marketed as such.
The menopause is something we should prepare for rather than ignoring it until it hits us.
Our bodies dramatically change during the menopause so the shampoo that you’ve always used might not work in the same way anymore, or you might need new sweat-proof makeup to hold you through the hot flushes, or even moisture-wicking nightwear and bedding to help you with the hot sweats.
For me it was body moisturiser. My skin became really dry, and I found that my regular moisturiser wasn’t cutting it anymore, so I had to find a stronger one.
You wouldn’t run a marathon in a pair of slippers. You wouldn’t just dive in with no training and no change to your diet or the kit you might need. So why are so many of us entering the biggest marathon of our lives, emotionally, physically and mentally unprepared?
Realising that I wasn’t dying! Having spent months back and forth from the doctors with no explanations or solutions in sight, I was so worried. I had no idea what was going on with me! I thought it might be Graves’ disease, cancer or dementia, or any of the other many things I was tested for.
Learning that it was perimenopause – not an illness but simply a transition in life – was such a relief for me. It was also a wake-up call too, forcing me to think about making changes in my life instead of putting things off till later such as looking at what I eat from a nutritional value rather than the yo-yo diets I’ve done in the past.
My selfcare superheroes are my two kids, Meg, 25, and Sam, 23. They have supported me throughout my entire journey. They were actually the first ones to recognise that something was up and that I wasn’t myself. Their diagnosis wasn’t medical, however – they just thought ‘Mum’s gone batsh*t crazy!’
Jokes aside, it was so helpful to have people who loved me and could tell that something definitely wasn’t right. And once we found out that it was perimenopause, they have supported me every step of the way and have helped me adapt to the health and lifestyle changes that I’ve made. Now they’re enjoying time with their mum who’s back to the women they have known their whole lives – confident, proud, enthusiastic and committed.
Yoga and Pilates! I used to always insist on HIIT and cardio workouts so I could feel like I was working hard. But taking these up along with strength training since entering the menopause, has been game-changing.
My strength has improved so much and, at the age of 53, I’m more toned than I’ve ever been before, which helps with my body confidence no end!
Aside from the physical benefits, I’ve also found it’s worked wonders for my mental health, which is incredibly helpful as that is something that the menopause can really affect. The breathwork I do has had a great impact on my anxiety and insomnia, and I’ve learnt many techniques now that I can confidently add into my day when needed, without necessarily having to go to a class every time I’m struggling.
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