Explaining Period Pain To Your Tween

The thing about being an ‘older’ mum is that just as you are coming to terms with the end of your fertility, your daughter is approaching the beginning of hers. And while, in many ways, I am thinking “good riddance!” and looking forward to many Feminax-free years (other painkillers are available), Caitlin has all the ‘fun’ of period pain to deal with.

girl with period pain holding a yellow hot water bottle

Of course, it’s a natural part of being a woman, but the arrival of menstruation heralds a new phase of life in which nothing is ever quite the same again.

There may be some lucky souls who breeze through it and, as in the Bodyform adverts, find it no impediment to a combat-level workout, or a bar to water skiing across lakes with their long hair streaming like a glossy curtain behind them.

Frankly, I’ve never met one of these women.

‘Monthlies’ have always been more a curse than a blessing, despite the persistent attempts of sanitary protection companies to convince us that life can continue at an even higher octane pace than usual.

No.  Anyone who has had the misfortune to wrestle with a Tampax Super Plus in a dank public toilet in Inveraray on a family holiday in the 80s will understand that, rather than being an affirmation of femininity, it’s proof that our creator had a very dodgy sense of humour.

Of course, society, in general, tends to regard the ending of periods as proof of old age.  I believe the term ‘dried up’ is often applied.

Nobody, you’ll notice talks about the withering shrinkage which affects older men.  I can’t ever remember hearing the phrase ‘withered old bachelor’.

But, because I have a 12-year-old daughter, I have to put a brave face (or foof) on things and pretend it’s all a glorious adventure.

Explaining period pain - Caitlin and me at my sister's recent wedding

In all seriousness though, our daughters are lucky to have access to sanitary protection and medical care which is severely lacking in poorer countries.  And I once read of a woman who used to buy old handbags and fill them with personal hygiene supplies such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and tampons to give out to the homeless women she found in her city centre. What a brilliant idea.

Menstruation is as much a political as a biological issue in some quarters but that is a topic for another post.

But I digress.  I have compiled a few snippets of advice which I will pass on when needed.

Tips for coping with periods and period pain

Always carry sanitary protection with you

Because periods are often irregular and will catch you out.  The wrapping of many sanitary towels will rustle louder than a Roman legion marching up a gravel path so it’s pointless to try to conceal the noise.

Try to stop period pain as soon as you can

If you have period pain, try to stop it in its tracks before it gets worse.  Painkillers (Feminax was always my saviour), a hot water bottle and a nap work wonders.

Tell your employer if it’s becoming a problem

Should employers allow women with period pain sick leave? That’s tricky but I’ve always felt that if you suffer from the kind of dragging period pain that floors you then you should be able to stay home.  Sometimes, of course, you can’t but if you genuinely can’t perform then I think you should at least explain your predicament to HR.

If your period pain is frequently bad, see your GP

If your period pain is that bad, you should see a doctor.  The most common treatment used to be the prescribing of the contraceptive pill but you should get yourself checked out for other causes of extreme pain such as cysts or endometriosis.

The contraceptive pill, of course, comes with its own set of risks so you will need to carefully weigh up the pros and cons.

Some mums might not be too happy about their young daughters taking the pill which is understandable but if it helps them to cope with the extreme pain I think it is worth considering, on the basis that there are regular GP check-ups, particularly for blood pressure.

Be aware of Toxic Shock Syndrome

I have never liked tampons and given the risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome, I am surprised more women don’t avoid them.

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. It’s often associated with tampon use in young women and it can get worse very quickly and even be fatal if not treated promptly.

Consider alternative forms of sanitary protection

These days there are other alternatives to traditional pads and tampons, such as moon cups, menstrual sponges and reusable sanitary towels.

Listen to your body

The old joke is that a woman with PMS needs chocolate or carbs to help her feel better.  I’ve always found my appetite would increase significantly and, as long as you don’t go mad, the odd chocolatey treat won’t hurt.  By this I mean a Twix or two and not three pounds of Hotel Chocolat’s finest.

Expect some mood swings

Crying at random stuff is normal during your time of the month. Nature documentaries, sad words on Countdown, missing your bus, insufficient choice of sarnie for your Boots Meal Deal – there really is no telling what might set you off.  But it’s all completely normal.

We become slaves to our Oestrogen, just one of our hormones that is capable of creating havoc.

Take extra care of your skin

Spots and break-outs are common around the time of your period.  Much pocket money was spent on Clearasil and Neutrogena, both of which were great at dealing with oily, spotty skin.  Later came the Clinique 3 Step regime and their trusty concealer which I use to this day.

Gentle exercise will help

Particularly to get things flowing and to help ease that horrid dragging feeling.  Just a gentle 30-minute walk will help.

Try to stay regular

Make sure you are not constipated as this seems to make the pain worse.  Bran flakes or a high fibre cereal every day from the middle of your cycle onwards may help avoid this.

Nappy sacks might be a life saver

Bear with me but since having kids I’ve realised that nappy sacks (plastic bags designed to help dispose of soiled nappies) are great to use a sanitary bags if you are out and about and there is no sanitary towel bin – and let’s be honest, most of these are not emptied anywhere near as often as they should be.

Brands DO make a difference

If there is one area where paying that little bit more makes a difference, it is with sanitary protection (as it also is with nappies!).

If you’re not sure which absorbancy towel or tampon to buy, buy one level higher than you think you’ll need.  It’s always good to keep a stash of lighter absorbency towels or panty liners for those days when you’re just about to start or your flow is tailing off.

Your cycle will vary

If you’re stressed or lose a lot of weight, for example, your cycle may vary dramatically.  A classic example of this is when you are studying for exams or an equally challenging life event.

You may also find that stressing about getting pregnant may not only prevent you conceiving but may affect your cycle so much you don’t know where you are with it!

You should also see a GP if you suffer from a very heavy flow.

So there you have it.  While it would be great to pretend it’s all hearts and butterflies, I think it’s better to prepare our tween / teenage daughters for what is to come.

It’s hard, isn’t it to know exactly when to broach the subject of menstruation with your tween daughter – or sex come to that.  My parents bought me a book about fruit flies. Truth.  It’s OK though.  I think the fruit flies really loved each other.

Have you discussed menstruation with your daughters?  How did you approach it?  And for those of you with sons, did you explain it to them too?

Sexual Health At Midlife – Just As Important As Ever

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, sexual health was one of those topics which just wasn’t discussed.  We had rudimentary advice about contraception, of course, but the subject of STDs rarely cropped up over the dinner table – no surprise there!

In fact, most of my education about diseases such as gonorrhoea or syphilis was largely thanks to studying the literary greats of England and France, many of whom appeared to have succumbed to them – Keats, James Boswell, Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde all reportedly suffered from syphilis.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The landscape of our relationships both romantic and sexual has changed vastly since that time thank, in no small part, to an increased divorce rate, increased longevity and changes in society’s attitude to sex in general.

We now know more than we ever did before about diseases such as Chlamydia and the dangers of HPV.  Caitlin will be due her HPV vaccine in a year or so and there is a strong body of opinion that boys should receive this too.

Whilst sexual pleasure has generally been viewed as the possession of the young, the truth is that more and more of us in midlife are exploring our sexuality and the dating scene with as much vigour as we ever did in our teens, twenties and thirties.

Midlife dating is no longer seen as ‘odd’ and there are now online dating sites specifically for the more mature.

Coupled with this, however, is an increase in STD transmission among this older age group.

In 2019 Age UK reported that there were nearly three times more new diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections in 2018 among men aged 45-64 than among women in the same age group.

Between 2014 and 2018 there was a reduction in the rate of new STD diagnoses in men aged 20-24 (7.3% less than in 2014) whereas in men aged 45-64 there was a 13.9% increase. There was also a 23% increase in diagnoses amongst both men and women aged 65+ between 2014 and 2018.

These figures show that STDs are a significant and growing problem among older people and that there are increasing inequalities in sexual health between older and younger men, and between older men and older women.

Coupled with this, though, is the risk that these diseases will go unchecked and untreated – and therefore will spread even more due to the embarrassment factor.  Many people my age and older still regard STDs as a taboo subject and there is a lingering sense of shame surrounding them which we must work to dispel.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

In the same way that the subject of Menopause is discussed far more frequently these days – and women are becoming more vocal in demanding fairer treatment from employers, appropriate HRT provision and support in general, there is a clear argument for raising the issue of sexual health for older people.

How simple it would be for GPs to ask some basic questions about an older patient’s sexual health alongside a blood pressure test and eye exam. Wouldn’t this be a ‘healthier’ approach rather than having to scuttle off to the local GUM clinic?

There is some online testing available for sexual health issues and, personally, I would rather have a full health check and know I was OK rather than worrying about niggling symptoms and just wondering.

Worryingly, of course, while some experience the symptoms of an infection (discharge, itching or burning in the genital area), STDs don’t always have symptoms which makes the need for a full sexual health MOT more important.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

So when should you check?  Is there a rule of thumb it’s sensible to apply?  It appears not.  Vigilance is the thing.

Clearly, if you have any symptoms down below that are out of the usual for you (male or female) then you should see your GP or, here in the UK the NHS offer drop-in STI clinics, but otherwise, be body-aware when you have a new sexual partner.

Remember that the best way to avoid STDs is to use a condom in addition to other forms of contraception.

The sexual revolution for older people continues apace but let’s make sure that we are all healthy enough to enjoy it – for as long as we can.

Things You Should Never Say To An Older Mum

I am an older mum. I had my first child at 43 in 2007 and my second at 45 in 2009. I believe the NHS termed me a geriatric mother, even though I was in better health and fitness than many of the much younger mums to be.

In the back of my mind, I was well aware that there would be those who would look on having a child in my forties as being selfish but, in general, most people have been accepting and nothing but kind.

older mum - new born baby in a blue blanket

On the other hand, there are those who can’t quite resist trotting out a few of the gems below:

“Oh, was it, you know, a natural conception?”

People are fascinated by how we late mums conceived.  It is a reasonable enough question I suppose and I do know women older than me who have travelled abroad for IVF by donor egg.

But why people can’t quite grasp that until you have your menopause, you are still technically able to have a child, I don’t know. Does the method of conception affect your ability to be a good parent? Hardly. And, the answer to the question is, yes it was.

“But aren’t you menopausal“?  

The average age for menopause in the UK is 51.  And average, maths lovers, means that many women will reach menopause AFTER that age.

“But aren’t you very tired?”

Having a child is tiring.  Having two children is even more tiring.  Prior to giving birth, I was not spending my days lying on a chaise longue being fed peeled grapes.  I could even walk unaided. Younger mums also feel very tired, trust me.

“I suppose you find you’re so much more patient

Nope. I still have all the patience of my son in the Lego shop.  I think anyone who has a child (or adopts, fosters or becomes a stepparent, come to that), goes through a rapid learning curve, taking on all sorts of skills and personality traits that they never previously considered.  I’m still as impatient but I am learning strategies to deal with it. Rioja for instance.

“So when you’re reaching retirement, they will only just be going to college?”

Possibly true but given that retirement age will probably reach 70 for all of us sooner or later, I might not quite have a bus pass. Us late mums are hit by a triple whammy – retirement, kids’ university fees and caring for elderly parents.

I think in future the shape of the family will change; extended family will become much more important and child care will be shared through the generations (in a model which already exists in parts of Europe).

I think our friends will play an important role too. Stats say that something like 1 in 4 women born around 1964 (my birth year) are childless. I have many friends who are single, childless and in poor health and I can quite envisage adding them to the family mix!

older mum Linda Hobbis, hubby Mat, Caitlin and Ieuan

But don’t you and your husband worry about dying while your children are still young?”

Of course we do!  One of our main preoccupations is staving off illness and making sure we maintain a decent level of fitness. But life doesn’t come with a guarantee and parents can die at any age. I wish I had met my husband ten years ago. I wish my first pregnancy (a year before my daughter) hadn’t ended in an early miscarriage. I wish I wasn’t an older mum. I wish. I wish. I wish.

I would still tell younger women to have children in their twenties and thirties whilst their fertility is much higher, but I completely understand why women choose to have babies in their forties.

For me, the chance to experience having children and build a family would always outweigh anything I could possibly achieve in my career (I was a marketing director for a Welsh law firm).

You can call it selfish if you like. But I maintain that having a baby is always a selfish act. As Richard Dawkins explains in his book “The Selfish Gene“, we are programmed to reproduce to ensure our species’ survival.  The drive is more primal than just the urge to paint a nursery and knit booties.

When the time is right we will sit down with our kids and tell them the story of their birth and reassure them that we will do everything in our power to stay with them as long as we are needed.  We will tell them that they were wanted, loved and not some random throw of a dice in the last chance fertility saloon.

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had not had children.  I might have had a better wardrobe, more exotic holidays and a flasher kitchen but I think I would have felt dead inside – like my life had been a bit of a waste.

It is, of course, a personal choice and, equally, there are many women who just don’t want to have children and whose lives are just as rich and fulfilled.

But I’m talking here to those fighting against their biological clock whilst wondering if it’s too late or even whether they should try for a baby.

I’m happy to talk about my experience as an older mum but please try to remember that it is the Pacific Salmon that dies after spawning.  I’ve never felt more alive.


Having Babies After 40. My Experience.

I distinctly remember standing in my office looking out over the busy Cardiff street and wondering if I would ever have a baby after 40. I had just celebrated my 40th birthday and, although my biological clock had long been ignored, I was beginning to feel that there had to be more to life than marketing legal services! Odd that it took at least 20 years to come to that conclusion, but there you are.

have a baby after 40 - Caitlin Hobbis on the day of her birth in 2011
Caitlin, born November 2007

I’m writing this because I want to say, to any woman out there staring out of the window this morning and wishing, that it is possible to have a baby after 40.  Yes, of course, we read in the Media about the number of babies being born to older mothers increasing year on year.  Yes, we see the endless debates about whether it is “right” to have a baby so close to, let’s be frank, the menopause. It is, detractors say, selfish to create a life when you are so close to conking out yourself.  Your children will be ‘mortified’ when you turn up at the school gates wearing elasticated trousers and bearing a zimmer frame.

Well, here’s a newsflash.  Having a baby is a ‘selfish’ act.  We are programmed to reproduce.  We are not actually on the planet to rearrange scatter cushions and pet the cat. Survival of the species is all. I am not talking about here about assisted conception, merely the perfectly natural urge of a woman to bear children in her reproductive years – which generally continue into her forties.

My story is briefly this.  It took over a year to conceive my daughter and in fact, our first attempt resulted in a miscarriage at 6 weeks.  The consultant we saw at the hospital was completely matter-of-fact about it. The baby’s heart was not beating and I could either have a D&C or go home and let nature take its course.  Devastating as this was, it became clear upon consulting “Dr Google”, that miscarriage is incredibly common and not necessarily a bar to going on to conceive and deliver a healthy child.

We tried again.  We tried modifying our diets.  Little caffeine, reduced alcohol, exercise, taking my temperature (useless – it didn’t seem to move at all), tracking ovulation dates, standing on our heads…. you get the picture. After about a year of this I had come to the conclusion that, at 42, it just wasn’t going to happen and was referred to the consultant (who would later become my maternity consultant) with a view to fertility treatment.

During my examination (which featured what seems to be the obligatory medical student these days), the consultant pointed out that my eggs looked perfectly OK and I was about to ovulate.

Somewhat cheered by this I began to relax and on Valentines Day we went to a local Cardiff restaurant to celebrate where, for the first time in months, too much wine was consumed and Caitlin was later conceived.  I am convinced that as soon as I relaxed, my body was more willing to co-operate. I think stress is a huge bar to conception for some women.

I sailed through the pregnancy, although I managed to put on four stone! Although I did not have morning sickness, I had a constant gnawing hunger and indigestion which only cheese would stop. Aside from slightly low iron levels, rectified by a simple supplement, I had no other problems. You would not have known that I was 42.

Something that we did do, however, being aware of the increased risk of Down’s Syndrome and other genetic problems for older mothers, was to have a Nuchal Translucency Scan, for which we paid privately.  This is an ultrasound scan to measure the collection of fluid under the skin at the back of the baby’s neck which is an indicator of Down’s if the baby has an increased amount.  The results of my scan were encouraging and on par with those of a woman in her thirties apparently.

My waters broke in the early evening on 14th November and we duly took ourselves into the University Hospital of Wales where Caitlin was born by emergency caesarian the next morning weighing in at 7lb 14oz.  I had dutifully studied the Mothercare catalogue and typed up a birth plan but this was of no use whatsoever.  The surgery team were fantastic.  I felt no pain whatsoever thanks to an epidural and top up anaesthetic when I went into theatre. Two days later we were home.

I tried to breastfeed.  Expressing the colostrum (the pre-milk) to get things going was very painful. Once my milk came through Caitlin had difficulty latching on and never seemed to be able to get enough milk.  I used to watch whole episodes of Midsomer Murders whilst feeding.

When it became clear that Caitlin was not gaining sufficient weight and feeling incredibly guilty, I consulted my lovely midwife who said that I should not beat myself up about introducing Caitlin to the bottle and formula and that many, many women struggle with breastfeeding.  I had managed ten weeks so, although this wasn’t ideal, at least I had tried. Whether my breastfeeding problems had anything to do with my age, I’m not sure.  I think it’s doubtful.

We had decided that, if it were possible, to provide Caitlin with a sibling and started trying relatively soon on the basis that it took so long to conceive our daughter.   Ieuan was born when I was 45, just 18 months after Caitlin, this time by elective caesarian, at a bouncing 9 lbs 2 oz.  I put him straight onto formula and he downed 4 oz immediately.

Now I know that my way may not be yours.  You may not approve of caesareans or bottle feeding. You may not be as lucky as I was in terms of your own fertility.  I was lucky enough to find a wonderful man to support me and who wanted to start a family.  The truth is each of us may have our own obstacles to overcome but, as the quote says “we will either find a way or make one”.

What I want you to take away from this is that being an older mum and it is possible to have a baby after 40 is possible.  It is your life. Decide what is right for you and what compromises you are prepared to make. For example, I worry sometimes about dying before my kids have reached middle age. There is an increased pressure on us as a couple to keep ourselves healthy and young in outlook.

Baby Ieuan - having babies over 40 - motherdistracted.co.uk
Ieuan’s First Christmas in 2009

But if I think of my life without Caitlin and Ieuan now, it would be somehow pointless, barren and flat.  Of course, I wish that I could have met my husband ten or fifteen years ago, but perhaps I wouldn’t have been ready then, wouldn’t have had the wisdom, patience or, more importantly, the courage I have now.

And that is what I wish for you.  Courage.  And hope.

How To Survive Christmas With The Menopause

When you’re in the throes of the menopause, dealing with some of the more unpleasant symptoms is stressful enough but even more difficult at Christmas when we are expected to attend parties, functions and socialise far more than normal. Tricky enough already if you are an introvert! So how do you survive Christmas if you’re menopausal?

In this post you’ll find helpful tips from Dr Rosy Fazzi, MBChB, MRCGP, head of the Women’s Health department at Dr Nestor’s Medical Cosmetic Centre in Edinburgh, to make the festive season a little easier – and simple lifestyle changes that should help all year round.

The menopause is often thought of as ‘the last taboo’, trailing behind many other health and well-being issues when it comes to something that is spoken about openly.

In fact, the menopause is something that up to 50% of UK women are too embarrassed to talk about at all, even with their GPs.

But it is imperative that we talk, that we open the dialogue surrounding the menopause; it’s something that every woman will experience and we need to create greater visibility surrounding the symptoms and the triggers of the menopause.

The menopause can be a distressing time for women who aren’t sure what to expect from their symptoms and aren’t certain which triggers will set them off – women need to be equipped with the knowledge that will help them manage the symptoms and the triggers during this time of life.

For example, we all know that Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, but did you know that for menopausal women, it is also one of the biggest trigger times for symptoms of the menopause – in particular, the hot flush?

It’s very common for women to experience a higher frequency of hot flushes than normal if they are exposed to increasing levels of stress, as well as other triggers, including drastic changes in temperature or consuming greater amounts of alcohol or coffee – all triggers which are prevalent during the festive season.

The stress of Christmas shopping, meal planning and sticking to a hectic pre-Christmas social calendar – never mind the day itself – these alone can be hugely demanding for women who feel the responsibility is left to them to ensure that everyone else is having the most wonderful time of the year. Mums of tweens and teens will understand completely when I say that Christmas with this age group can be even more stressful than the days of toddlerhood!

Stress is actually one of the major factors in triggering hot flushes; the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream causes your heart to race and blood flow to increase, leading to a subsequent increase in temperature.

A hot flush is your body’s response, its attempt to cool the body down. But a hot flush can be overwhelming in its intensity and leave you sweating and even shivery afterwards, as your body attempts to bring your temperature back to a normal level.

Alongside stress, there are other factors that come into play when it comes to bringing on a less-than-festive flush.

The extremes of temperature that come with dashing in and out of shops, or in and out of the kitchen on Christmas Day itself, contribute to kick-starting a hot flush.

And while we’re all so busy, you might not think that there’s any harm in consuming an extra cup of coffee to give you an energy boost or indulging in some wine with friends in the run-up to December 25, but did you know that caffeine and alcohol are both hot flush triggers too?

But you needn’t think that your entire social schedule, shopping routine and gift list has to go out of the window this Christmas; in fact, Dr Fazzi firmly believes that making small lifestyle changes this Christmas may help to reduce stress levels and keep those hot flushes at bay.

Cooler undergarments can help you to survive Christmas if you're menopausal

How to survive Christmas if you’re menopausal

Here are her five top tips to survive Christmas if you’re menopausal.

Wear temperature-control undergarments

This is such a simple change to make, yet it can really make a big difference. There are some fantastic menopause-specific undergarment ranges on the market, using temperature-control fabrics to regulate body heat, reduce the awful shivers post-flush, and wick away moisture to avoid embarrassing sweaty situations too.

These garments are designed for wearing underneath your clothing during the day, so you can still wear your regular clothes and get all dressed up for the festive season, but be confident that you can remain in control underneath.

Layer up your clothing

Layering is the ideal solution for helping to regulate your temperature when you’re out and about. Layer a temperature-control tank top with a t-shirt and a cardigan, rather than wearing one bulky jumper, to help you better manage your body’s response to changes in temperature.

Choose cosy items that are quick and easy to pull on and off, depending on how hot or cold you feel.

Swap your coffee for a matcha tea

The caffeine in your regular teas and coffees stimulates the central nervous system, accelerating the heart rate, the blood pressure and the body temperature – all of which can bring on a hot flush. But just plain hot water can induce an episode, so I recommend trying something cooler to start your day.

A bottle of cool iced matcha tea a good choice, as it’s cool and refreshing, with very low levels of slow-release caffeine, and an incredible level of antioxidants that help to keep the body healthy – especially important in winter when germs are rife!

Reduce your alcohol intake

Yes, this can be very tricky around Christmas, but if you find that a glass of wine brings on a sweaty, shivery flush, it’s best to find an alternative.

There are plenty of non-alcoholic options in the supermarket if you don’t want to feel like the odd one out without a glass of something with dinner, or you can make delicious mocktails with fresh fruit juices.

Pomegranates are credited with high levels of oestrogen and antioxidants that can help ease the symptoms of the menopause, as well as rich levels of vitamins C, A and E, and folic acid.

Make yourself a deliciously festive, non-alcoholic cocktail this Christmas, using a plentiful helping of pomegranate juice and seeds, so you can still join in the festivities but soothe your symptoms at the same time.

Limit exposure to extremes in temperature

If you can stay indoors and do your Christmas shopping online, you might find it much easier than dashing from the cold into a store with the heating ramped up and back out again.

Extremes in temperature can bring on hot flushes in a flash, so if you can avoid exposing yourself to them in the lead-up to Christmas, you might find that you have a far more comfortable experience Christmas shopping.

If you do find yourself getting hot and flustered whilst out and about, try a cooling face mist with rosewater to soothe and refresh the skin, and help you to cool down.

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Top Suggestions to Help You Through the Menopause this Festive Season:

  • See whether temperature control garments might work for you
  • You could try some iced Matcha tea instead of your usual coffee
  • Why not try a non-alcoholic cocktail such as a pomegranate ‘gin’ cocktail, made with Pom Juice and Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits?  There are plenty of great-tasting low or no-alcohol beers now too – like Becks Blue.
  • Try doing your Christmas shopping online to help you find gifts without the stress and stay within your budget.
  • Spritz your skin with a facial mist to cool down and refresh
  • Try meditation and mindfulness to keep yourself calm and centred.
  • Cosy up your space with some Hygge tips and create a personal sanctuary just for you.

These tips should help you to survive Christmas if you’re menopausal.  Don’t be afraid to seek advice and support from your GP if you’re finding things a struggle.

How do you survive Christmas if you’re menopausal?

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Could Your Symptoms Be The Start Of The Menopause?

When you’re a woman in her mid-fifties like me, you start to view all your medical symptoms with suspicion and you constantly ask yourself whether this is start of the menopause? But what are the first signs of menopause?

Menopause is often cryptically referred to as “the change of life.” But as lovely as this sounds, it doesn’t tell anyone a whole lot about menopause, nor what to expect.

Menopause is something every woman with all her reproductive organs eventually experiences – a natural part of the biological process. It is not a disease or illness, although some menopause side effects can be very unpleasant indeed.

Some doctors claim that menopause is a process that can start with a woman in her 30s and last as late as her 60s.

But menopause occurs in most women between the ages of 45 and 55 and is officially defined as the full stopping of menstrual periods for at least 12 months in a row.

The first signs of menopause can differ from woman to woman and the wide variety of symptoms you may experience in the time leading up to the stopping of your periods is referred to as perimenopause.

First Signs Of The Menopause (Perimenopause)

Irregular periods

One of the most obvious first signs of menopause is irregular, unpredictable periods. Whereas once your periods turned up 28 days on the dot, now some months you are late or perhaps miss a period altogether.

Menstrual periods can suddenly vary between gradually getting lighter, then heavier, and then lighter again.

You are considered to be menopausal when you have not had a full period for 12 months.

Decreased fertility

A menopausal woman does not ovulate and cannot get pregnant. But women in perimenopause should still be cautious.

Pregnancy in a woman who hasn’t completed menopause can still happen, especially if it’s only been a few months since her periods stopped.

I had my children naturally at 43 and 45, although I was showing no signs of being perimenopausal back then.

Remember, full menopause doesn’t occur until a woman’s menstrual periods have stopped for at least 12 months.

Dry Vagina (Vaginal Atrophy)

Menopause is caused by a woman’s estrogen levels decreasing. So a woman in menopause doesn’t produce enough estrogen to keep the vagina and urethra well lubricated.

This causes the vagina and urethra to become less elastic and drier, causing those areas to become itchier and more at risk for infections.

Sex can also be more uncomfortable for women in menopause.

An excellent book on the subject is Jane Lewis’ “Me & My Menopausal Vagina” which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Hot Flashes

The drops in estrogen levels during menopause can also cause what’s called hot flashes. Hot flashes are often the butt of jokes but can be quite bad for some women experiencing menopause.

Hot flashes can last at least 30 seconds to up to several minutes.

They can happen at any time during day or night and are characterized by a flushed face and red blotches on chest, neck and arms.

Some women find that they are actually bathed in sweat.

I have experienced a few of these now (I’m 55) and my experience is of an intense heat that crawls across your body out of the blue.

I strongly suspect that coffee is a trigger of hot flashes for me.

If you suffer from hot flashes at night (night sweats), consider a cooling pillow and bedding made from bamboo – said to be effective at wicking away sweat and staying cool.

Weight gain

It’s common for menopausal women to gain stubborn weight around the middle which is very difficult to lose.

You can find advice on dealing with this, as well as other hormonal symptoms in Nicki Williams’ excellent book “It’s Not You It’s Your Hormones“?

Frequent urination

You may find that you need to urinate more often which is very annoying at night.  You may experience an increase in incontinence and more frequent urinary tract infections – in which case a supplement called D-Mannose may help.

Worse PMS symptoms

Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms may get stronger due to the hormonal imbalance you are experiencing.  Mood swings, bloating, lethargy, headaches and irritability may make your monthly period even more of a trial – when it does turn up!

Sage tablets may help to alleviate painful periods as well as those annoying night sweats.

Tender breasts

You should, of course, be checking your breasts regularly for any changes but you may find that the changing levels of hormones cause breast tenderness.  This should abate once your periods stop but any change in the condition of your breasts should be checked by your doctor.

Lack of interest in sex

The loss of oestrogen and testosterone in a woman’s body can affect her sex drive. Vaginal dryness may make sex uncomfortable. There are some excellent vaginal moisturisers and lubricants on the market.  I highly recommend Yes Oil Based Lubricant.

Trouble sleeping

There can be a number of things that interfere with sleeping, including night sweats and frequent urination. Many women have difficulty in getting to sleep in the first place or will wake often in the night.  A gentle sleep supplement may help.

Skin breakouts and facial hair

Adult acne can get worse during menopause.  You’ll find excellent advice from skincare expert Caroline Hirons on her website and look out for her skincare bible – Skincare: The Ultimate No-Nonsense Guide.

With decreased estrogen levels in menopause, the small amounts of testosterone every woman produces can take over, leading to coarse hair on the face, chest and stomach.

I have a great little ‘fuzz remover‘ which can be carried in your purse to quickly whisk away stray facial hairs.

Dry eyes

It’s not only the vagina that may become drier.  All the mucus membranes may be affected.  If you have worn contact lenses comfortably for years, you may find them more irritating and find yourself reaching for the comfort drops more regularly.

I use Hydrosan Extra eye drops which are contact lens compatible and will also apply Blink Comfort Drops when I’m out and about.

I have been taking a great supplement for both dry eyes and dry vagina – Seabuckthorn Oil capsules.  I have noticed an improvement but you may need to persist with these for a month or two.

Then there’s a good probiotic guaranteed to actually reach the vagina – Optibac For Women.

Menopause is a natural life transition. But sometimes complications in the process of menopause occur.

For example, if a woman knows for sure she’s in menopause (that is she hasn’t had a period for at least 12 months in a row), and she’s bleeding from her vagina, she should go see a doctor.

If a woman thinks she’s experiencing the first signs of menopause but isn’t sure, she can always go to a doctor. Depending on the situation, a doctor might take a blood test to determine menopause.

In this case, a blood sample is usually tested for the level of estrogen and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

During menopause FSH levels increase as estrogen levels decrease. So higher levels of FSH and lower levels of estrogen will show a woman has gone into menopause.

Be prepared, however, for your FSH levels to vary – it may take several blood tests around 6 months apart to ensure that you are fully menopausal.

Mine, for example, have been normal, menopausal and normal!  For this reason, you should still keep using contraception.

Although a 50+ baby would be unusual, according to my GP it certainly isn’t impossible.  Since I had Ieuan at 45 I’m not taking any chances!

The perimenopause and menopause can be a tricky time for many women and I would recommend talking to your GP and also friends and family who have gone or are going through it.

Sharing experiences and what works in terms of HRT or alternative therapies may help you cope better with any health-related challenges.

Menopause And Insomnia – Sleepless In South Wales

I know that title doesn’t have quite the resonance of the film Sleepless In Seattle but still…  One of the many joys of the menopause seems to be insomnia.  And not just any old insomnia.

Oh no.  We are not necessarily talking about a racing brain that is happily creating to-do lists or pulling decade-old embarrassing memories to the fore.

I am talking about being perfectly wide-awake and feeling as if you don’t need any sleep at all. And this joyous state of affairs is currently hitting me at around 2:36 AM with monotonous regularity.

Menopause and insomnia

Apparently, this might be because my progesterone levels are wrong but since I have not had a proper analysis of my hormone levels, I’m none the wiser.

Many of my ‘menopausal sisters’ seem to know exactly how much oestrogen and progesterone they have and have been given HRT prescriptions to rectify these on a far more scientific basis than just being handed a tube of Ovestin.

It’s such a lottery, isn’t it?  Menopausal care from our GPs and yet there are millions of us suffering and desperately trying to overcome the inevitable dragging tiredness and complete ‘slump’ that hits 12 hours later, in my case at 2 pm.

The level of fatigue is such that a couple of strong coffees or a sugary snack goes nowhere near perking you up.

Naturally this tiredness affects your concentration, your productivity, your mood and your appetite.

It’s a vicious circle that sees me swinging from tiredness to caffeine to sugar to guilt to tiredness.  Round and round we go.

The problem with this is that it also affects your relationship with your nearest and dearest. You are far more likely to shout (bellow!) when you are knackered and just want to go to bed.

I know that I am impatient, cranky, less likely to listen to the kids and just generally less engaged with anything going on around me.

I know that I am not alone and wonder how those who are employed, rather than self-employed as I am, cope with the 9-5 and the pressures of belligerent bosses, deadlines and annoying colleagues.  (I loved corporate life – can you tell?!)

My dad, who also struggles to sleep, has discovered that you can get an antihistamine based sleeping tablet which won’t leave you feeling drowsy in the day.

But for those of us suffering from vaginal atrophy or any level of dryness down below, antihistamines can increase dryness and thus discomfort.

Not what you want when you are sitting down all day.

In any case, I would rather try a natural supplement than rely on a full strength sleeping tablet.

I have also, I have discovered, become an incredibly light sleeper.  Having a bedroom which faces the road means that any car driving past tends to wake me.

For instance, we have, for reasons I cannot fathom, a milkman who delivers milk two doors up at midnight.  At least, I am assuming it is milk being delivered!

We also have a company who delivers dog food at 5:30 am. I am also assuming it is dog food being delivered.

Perhaps early hour and dawn deliveries are a peculiarly ‘Dinas’ thing but they don’t make for a restful sleeping environment.

Add to that the racket made by certain snoring residents of Hobbis Towers who shall remain nameless and on some nights I find myself thinking that I may just as well get up.

Those of you of a certain age will remember the lovable cartoon cat – Top Cat – (TC) who used to sleep in a dustbin wearing a sleep mask and earplugs.

Substitute the dustbin for my bed and we have a lot in common.  If anyone were to break in at night it looks like I have been taken hostage.

Well as far as I am concerned, I have been – by my hormones.

If you have any tips for a restful night’s sleep please let me know!

Thoughts On Turning 55

Ah, turning 55. It’s a bit of a shock to the system. When I was young, Star Trek used to be compulsory viewing. Who could forget those polystyrene rocks?  Or the Tribbles?  Or the Enterprise’s frequent point-blank refusal to muster up sufficient warp drive?

I mention this because the Captain’s Log is kind of how I am approaching this column.  When you get to 55 and you realise that you have less time to live than you did at 25, somehow ‘Star Date’ seems more appropriate than calendar date. Turning 55 is certainly like entering unchartered space.

It strikes me that I have been lurking behind this blog somewhat.  We parenting bloggers are good at that.  We will talk endlessly about kids and our interactions with others as a parent but many of us are nervous about divulging our inner core, our heart and soul and our emotional experience of ageing.

When I started to write this blog – and yes, I do subscribe to the ‘blog as therapy’ idea, it was to share just those sorts of feelings.

Take a moment to look around you and ask yourself this question.  Where are all the over 50’s? Where can you read about their hopes and dreams?

Isn’t it important to know what these are?  Like it or not, the years from 20 to 50 tend to pass in, to refer back to Captain Kirk’s crew, with remarkable warp speed.

Of course, you can’t truly know what it is like to get older until you get older!  But it seems to me that the over 50s are not all popping round to next door to promote funeral plans or life insurance.

They are not all slathering themselves in ibuprofen gel and yearning to play bowls.

This was, sadly, the expectation of the over 50s lifestyle for my parents’ generation (both born 1939).

I’ve written before that the beauty industry regularly ignores my generation – despite the fact that we have the most disposable income to splurge on their products.

Things have improved somewhat but there’s still a huge gap between the Mirrens and Fondas and the ‘newbie 50s’ finding their way in a society which is currently mightily confused about what ageing is and what retirement means.

On holiday recently (the night before my 55th birthday in fact), I spotted a banner in the small coastal town we visit which proclaimed that the over 55’s could get an OAP lunch and meet up with other oldies.

The Husband was highly amused that I now qualify but it felt as if the poster was referring to people on another planet.  He has another 3 years before turning 55.

The truth of the matter is that what was once considered the ‘gateway to old age’ has now become a bridge to a different sort of life in which there are still huge opportunities, huge challenges and a chance to stick two fingers up at the mediocrity one might have embraced and kick over the traces.

If you are fit enough and have the energy. “Aye”, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet would say, “there’s the rub”.  To be, or not to be – ailing, infirm, reduced or vibrant, vital, involved.

I know which I’d choose.

Check Your Bone Density With A DEXA Scan

One of the major health risks associated with getting older, particularly for peri-menopausal, or menopausal women is osteoporosis.  As our oestrogen levels reduce, our bones can become weaker and more brittle, placing us at a higher risk of fractures and broken bones.  It’s not an appealing prospect.

Whilst a lot can be done to help prevent this condition by HRT and a sound nutritional approach, it is still good to know how healthy our bones are.

Having just had my 55th birthday and being fully in the ‘menopause zone’, the strength of my bones is definitely on my mind.

Exercise is, of course, recommended, particularly weight-bearing exercise and, my women’s health physio tells me that jogging can also help – although it’s a toss-up between joints and pelvic floor in that department.

Either way, I am a firm believer in ‘forewarned is forearmed’ and, as things stand with the NHS and the woeful lack of knowledge about menopause which seems to abound up and down the country, we have to take our health into our own hands, educate ourselves and campaign strongly (and loudly) for better care for older women.

I recently discovered that there is a particular type of body scan which will tell you precisely how healthy your bones are.  It is called a DEXA scan.

A DEXA scan uses low dose X-rays to measure the density (i.e. the strength) of your bones.  It is quick, painless and more effective than a normal X-ray in identifying low bone density.

Whilst osteoporosis can strike at any age, you may need to have a DEXA scan if you are over 50 with a risk of developing the condition (i.e. menopausal or post-menopausal) or under 50 with other risk factors such as smoking or a previous fracture or break.

DEXA scans will do more than this, however.  They can measure your body fat allowing a more personalised weight loss programme.

Even more importantly, they can measure your visceral fat – the ‘bad’ fat wrapped around your organs which increases the risk of heart disease and other serious diseases.

DEXA scans can also be used to measure muscle mass.  If you’re inactive or naturally skinny, your muscle mass is probably low – and will decrease over time making your weaker.  Knowing your muscle mass allows you to adapt your diet and exercise routine accordingly.

If you are in the UK, you may have to pay privately for a DEXA scan if your GP will not refer you for one.  Contact your local private healthcare provider for more information.

If you are the US, visit https://www.dexascan.com for more information and scanning facilities near you.

The Whacking Great Crossroads That Is Age 55

I’m 55 in May.  I can hardly believe it and yes, I consider myself lucky to have made it this far.  But just lately the number of people passing away seems to be increasing.  I have lost 2 friends to cancer since the beginning of the year and although neither were particularly close, the fragility of life is definitely becoming clearer.

You would have thought I’d have cottoned on to that fact when I became a mum but, you see, aside from the passing of my grandparents back in the ’70s and ’80s, death, so far, has kept its distance.

55 is a weird age.  If you are a tad obsessed with numbers, as I am, you find yourself calculating how long you might have left.  It is entirely possible these days, after all, to live to 100 – even to pass that great age.

Three score years and ten, isn’t that what the Bible says?  But 70 doesn’t seem so old these days.

55 seems to be the age, around which, members of your gang, social circle, family – call it what you will – start to shuffle off this mortal coil – and it rather leaves you in shock.

Another casual acquaintance was mentioned in conversation the other day and it appeared he, too, had died.  Nobody knows how or of what which rather makes us bad friends I suppose.

But people drift away over the years and you just assume they are still going, living their lives in another part of the country.

Death comes to us all but most of the time we keep it at arm’s length, aside from the constant repetition of the Macmillan Cancer TV advertising campaign which kicks my health anxiety into play quite nicely.  How many extra nurses would all the marketing spend pay for I often wonder?

So we are faced with a bit of a stark decision.  ‘Now’ takes on particular resonance.  The great poet Lord Byron said that there is no guarantee we will live a moment longer and, up to this point, knowing that has been enough.

55 might be the time to start acting on it.

I’m not a huge fan of bucket lists as you know but in terms of getting healthier, addressing our diet and managing our stress, now is the time, surely?

Then there are medical checkups.  The number of women having a smear in the UK has dropped to an all-time low.  I don’t know the stats but I’ll bet there’s a significant number who don’t attend their mammogram appointments either.

Now the latter I can understand because there is some research to say that the risks of a mammogram outweigh the benefits, but not going for a smear seems like utter madness when the 5-minute procedure could literally prevent your death.

There is no doubt that much could be done to improve the actual procedure itself in terms of comfort for those who suffer from any vaginal pain or menopause-related dryness but read my story here and decide for yourself.

It is time, my friends, to start looking after your health which may mean going through a period of change which might be uncomfortable.

At 11 stone 2 lbs, I now weigh far more than I used to when my weight was around 9 st 9 lbs.  Weight loss is one of those things that is definitely less easy to talk about than it used to be. Body positivity is all well and good but less useful when you’re in hospital laid up with heart or joint problems or struggling to cope with diabetes and high blood pressure.

And then, of course, there’s the menopause.  Haywire hormones don’t help you to think clearly about what is best for you, where you are going and how you want to spend the rest of your life.

Add in two tweens to the mix and there are quite a few challenges to address.  The perils of an older mum include seeing everything lose its tone and start to wither whilst your kids come into bloom.

My grandfather, Harry Setters (known to us as Flash ‘Ar) had a saying “It’s being so cheerful that keeps you going”.

Never a man to avoid a good laugh he regaled everyone with very tall tales until his late 80s.

I can’t imagine he’d be too impressed with my current lack of mojo.

That said, I’ll bet there are quite a few of us around this age wondering what our last chapter will look like and asking ourselves whether it’s too late to get the old bod into shape.

Logically, of course, it isn’t.

Spiritually, energetically and practically – well I wonder.

I see so many posts in my social media timelines along the lines of “Oh no, I’m 20” and “I’m 30, how did that happen?” The urge to type a snarky riposte such as “you kept breathing” is strong.  Oh, how we envy those who have decades before them!

So if today, you’re not feeling the “I’m just getting started” refrain of a certain clothing manufacturer and are considering whether you should take out life insurance for that free £100 gift card, then I feel you.

Whilst confronting our mortality can only be a good thing,  the urge to put it off is very, very strong.

These days I sometimes feel that I’m going to have to face it rather than pretend I can keep living as if I’ve another 100 years to go.

Yes, 55 is a crossroads – do you take the chance that your old habits will see you through, or make some changes now to secure a longer lifespan?

Either way it’s a gamble I’m not entirely comfortable with.

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Menopause Anxiety Has Got Me

One of the lovely side effects of the menopause is an increase in anxiety.  To quote Dr Louise R. Newson from My Menopause Doctor,

“Low mood and feelings of depression can be very common symptoms of the menopause and perimenopause. Other psychological symptoms include feelings of low self-esteem, having reduced motivation, anxiety, irritability, panic attacks, poor concentration and low energy. These symptoms can be mistaken for depression and I see many women in my clinic who have wrongly been given antidepressants by their doctors for these symptoms.”

It can be common for women to feel more irritated and angry than they used to which can really affect their families and their ability to function at work. Women often feel more tearful and frequently have mood swings.”

I think it’s fair to say that I am experiencing this by the bucket load.  It’s a funny thing isn’t it – that we can read loads about the problems we face but sharing what is going on with us isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

I figure that I may as well come clean about my symptoms as it may help someone else to open up about theirs, or at least to recognise what may be going on for them and seek support and help.

I’ve always been quite an anxious person but lately I feel as if my thought are on a loop, just going around and around and around.

I do suffer, mildly from OCD and this has flared up again since I just can’t seem to decide what I’m doing or why.

It’s as if my wheels are spinning but I cannot move, no matter how much I want to.

And it’s worse at night.  I wake at random times – 4 am is a favourite – thinking about the most nonsensical of dilemmas.  Where have I put my wedding ring?  Should I have gone to the shop to buy more milk?  Where is Ieuan’s sports kit?  If we get a cat, how much will it cost to install a cat flap?

As soon as I think I have reached a decision, around we go again.

I’m too hot, too cold, need a wee, need some cold water, have a headache or have to put earplugs in because a car door has slammed somewhere in the street.

I can’t tell you how exhausting this all is.

Worst of all are the heart palpitations which seem to thunder in my chest when I start my endless navel gazing of problems so trivial, they truly are first world.

Oddly, even though I can reason with my self and tell myself to get a grip, I am incapable of actually doing so.

I thought about writing it all down in a journal but the mortification of anyone other than me reading it puts me off.

There’s always a point in my life where I am finally, finally going to pull myself together – a birthday, a certain number of days lived (I recently discovered I’ve been alive 20,000 on 1 March), a certain planetary alignment.

And of course, nothing changes because, as any ardent student of pop psychology should be able to tell you by now, it is not your conscious mind you are wrestling with but your unruly subconscious mind – and you can shout at that as much as you like, it’s not the way you’ll change.

Knowing and doing are such hugely different things, aren’t they?

Things have not been helped by the recent untimely deaths of two close friends to cancer – for both of whom their diagnosis led to their departure within around 6 months.

If you suffer from anxiety around your health, you would have to be super-human not to wonder about your own, wouldn’t you?  As another friend remarked to me “you can be sure I am having every test going!”

So if, like me, you find your mind isn’t your own and seems to be more log-jammed than an NCP car park at 5 pm, you have my sympathy.

Of course HRT would probably help.  Perhaps even anti-depressants.  I have taken the latter before and they made me feel so uncomfortable I stopped taking them.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that they wouldn’t work for you.

At the moment I prefer to let nature take its course and to seek out more natural remedies to see if I can get back on an even keel.

I’ll let you know how I get on and if you are in the same boat, please share your experiences.

Every woman is going to go through the menopause at some point and I believe that we can all help each other by opening up about our experiences.

You never know, the thought roundabout might at least slow a little, even if it doesn’t not, finally ground to a halt.

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Is It Still OK To Admit You Want To Lose Weight?

I ask this simply because, since I married in 2011, I have put on 20 lbs which are currently sitting comfortably around my stomach (the kids call it a ‘podge’), hips and thighs. Possibly this is menopause weight gain; equally possible is that my sedentary lifestyle is starting to catch up with me.

In the bad old days of wall to wall diet books, there was a new diet every week – usually featuring one star ingredient like pineapples or a ghastly cabbage soup.  But it isn’t quite as easy to talk about dieting any more, is it?

Now my ideal weight is, according to the generally unreliable but prevalent medical charts (actually devised for insurance, and not medical purposes by the way), around 9 st 9lbs.

Don’t ask me to go metric.  I’m happy with Imperial measurements thank you very much.

This, I appreciate is clearly a “first world problem” which could be easily solved by not stuffing so much food in my face and joining the rapidly growing cult of “sitting is the new smoking”.

But everywhere I look there are plus sized sisters ’embracing their curves’, insisting on their right to be body confident no matter what their size (and, indeed, why not?) and even wearing obesity like some feminist trophy of war.

Women of all shapes and sizes are staking their claim to beauty and femininity.  Remember the furore over that Protein World “beach body ready” advertising campaign?

But you know somewhere a little klaxon is sounding;  a note of warning I can’t quite shake off.

I see these women and their bravery and I think, “perhaps I don’t need to lose any weight at all”.

Perhaps I should just eat and be happy.

Does it matter if I have a burgeoning muffin top?

Will it matter when my thighs start to chafe and I can no longer run at all?

I am really, really torn.

I know that, medically, we were not designed to carry too much excess weight and that its original purpose was to keep us alive until the next successful hunt.

I know that I should not make weight an issue for my kids, particularly Caitlin who, at nearly 12, is already aware of the body shape that the media finds most desirable – and it’s still thin.

If I’m confused by these mixed messages, what on earth is going on in the minds of our youngsters – absorbed as they are by the constant stream of images on social media?

We can have as many lauded Twitter campaigns as we like but this will not make being overweight safe for our bodies or a route to longevity.

The media can trumpet about the latest morbidly obese supermodel but is this really the way to give confidence to young women?

Some will argue that it is possible to be overweight and healthy, flying in the face of many people’s belief that, surely, the two are polar opposites?

And in an attempt to do something, anything to get the Nation’s weight under control, every week there is a new Government initiative – tax sugary drinks, tax sugar, tax alcohol.

This week fat is the enemy, the next week it’s salt.

Surely the finger of blame should point back at the manufacturers who feed us this junk and price it cheaper than the food we really need to eat.

I can guarantee that, right now, a punnet of strawberries will cost more than a chocolate bar and a multi-pack of crisps will be less than a bag of salad.

I don’t accept the argument that it’s a question of education.

Unless you’ve just been parachuted in from space you know chips are bad for you and that mass consumption of chocolate will make you fat.

No, it’s as if there’s an unhealthy collusion between the Government, restaurants, food manufacturers and the media all happily working to keep us in this state of wavering weight with the scales moving ever upwards.

Yes, I am responsible for my weight and the choices I make about it, but it’s clear that for many of us the environment in which we make these choices is becoming more and more challenging.

And what of those whose health conditions have led to them putting on weight?

What help is available for them?

It would be interesting to see NHS statistics about the number of smokers and alcoholics treated, compared with the number of obese patients.

There comes a point, I suspect, at which you simply can no longer control your weight gain without medical, psychological and emotional support.

And there goes that klaxon again.

If we just give in to weight gain and don’t make any attempt to stay within healthy limits,  where are we headed?

To that point at which all control is gone?

Do I, for example, just accept that menopause weight gain is a fact of life and ignore it?  Should I blame my hormones and the increasing stiffness in my joints?

Every day there seems to be a new ache or pain in a different part of my body.  Just recently I have been feeling dizzy, as well as very, very tired.

We have got ourselves into such a muddle over weight that it is almost a crime to talk about it at all but, for our future health and that of our kids, it’s a conversation we really need to have – today, not tomorrow.