About Dr Jane...
Dr Jane, our Health Advisor, talks to Elizabeth Martyn of Beat Menopause Weight Gain.
Elizabeth Hi Jane - let's do the official bit first - can you tell me about background as a doctor?
Dr Jane Hi Elizabeth - I'm a UK doctor, and as such I can put the letters MBBS, DCH and DRCOG after my name! I was a family doctor for 15 years, have done a lot of work in family planning, and these days I'm involved in teaching medical students about women's health and child health. I also work in the Rheumatology Department of the local hospital. I've always been especially interested in women's health.
Elizabeth That's a great breadth of experience. Can you tell us what originally made you decide to take up Medicine?
Dr Jane Surprisingly, my childhood dream from the age of five was to become a professional ballet dancer! When I was 12 though, I realised I didn't have what it would take to achieve that ambition. Reluctantly I gave up the idea, and made up my mind to try and do something that was interesting, enjoyable and worthwhile.
I looked at adults I knew and one of the most satisfied was my father, who was a surgeon and pioneer of liver transplantation. He used to tell stories of his patients' lives, hopes and challenges. His job was never the same because of the different personalities and varied ways that illness affected different people.
It made me realise that with a career in Medicine I'd never be bored (my greatest fear of any job), and I'd always have the constant interest of the people behind the diseases.
Elizabeth I'm sure you'll find plenty to interest you at Beat Menopause Weight Gain! So tell us, how has the menopause affected your life?
Dr Jane Physically I was lucky because I only had a few months of hot flushes and they weren't severe. I did start to put on weight during the menopause though, and became slightly depressed.
I know I was definitely over-sensitive to negative comments and my emotions were much more up and down. I had mixed feelings about not having monthly periods as well. In one way it was a relief , but in another I felt a sense of grief for the loss of youth and the end of the fertile era of my life.
And you know, there are so many other life changes that can happen at the same time as the menopausal hormonal rollercoaster. I changed my job, and my eldest child left home - it all added to the feeling that I was losing my way in life for a while. Those kind of changes are very common for women in their forties and fifties, and make it all the harder to cope with menopause on top.
Elizabeth What do you see as being the biggest concerns for women at this mid-stage of life?
Dr Jane A lot of women feel that they're not as attractive any more - even if, to an onlooker, they still look really good. That's an important one, and can go alongside the emotional reactions as children grow up and leave home, and women feel the loss of our value and role as fertile mothers and nurturers.
As well as that, women often have concerns over menopausal weight gain and changing body-shape to contend with.
Elizabeth What have you done for yourself, that helped you deal with the physical and emotional challenges of the menopause?
Dr Jane Exercise has been key for me. The best thing I have discovered during the menopause has been running, which I took up when I was 48 years old. (You can read an interview with Dr Jane about her experiences of women running. The key to regular running is to have at least one running partner to kick you out of the door and to go first thing in the morning before you get tied up with other things to do.
I did the Great North Run, a half-marathon, when I was 50 and that felt like a bigger achievement than passing any of my medical exams! Running helped me keep physically fit, lose weight and sleep better. It also helped with any tendency to depression because it was so sociable - I really enjoyed running with supportive friends.
Another thing that's been vital for me at this stage of my life is to keep learning new things, and it's something I certainly suggest women should consider. Whether you take up a new hobby or rekindle one from the past, go on a course to learn something new or change your job - push yourself to do something different and stimulating, and you'll certainly reap the benefits.
Elizabeth Jane, thank you for sharing these thoughts, and for being our Health Advisor on Beat Menopause Weight Gain. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.
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