Welcome to This Changes Everything: the menopause newsletter
regular news, research updates, tips and advice from Niki Bezzant
Kia ora koutou
I’ve been immersed in all things menopause and perimenopause for 2 years now – not only researching and writing about it, but also going through it myself. It’s been a fascinating ride so far, and I’m still very much on the journey.
I’m also now on a bit of a crusade. Along with other wāhine working to raise awareness and spark conversation on menopause, I’m doing more and more work to educate people of all genders on what this transition is all about; what it does to us and how to manage it all. I’m finding it such gratifying work.
Also: I’m still learning. There’s sooooo much to learn on menopause, and though I felt like a bit of an expert after two years of research, what I’m finding is that there’s always new things coming up all around the world. Which is another of those things that drives me: there’s always more to learn. I love that!
So: this newsletter. I’ve decided to start it so I can regularly share what I’m learning and what I’ve already learned in the menopause and perimenopause space. It might include new research studies and evidence; tips and solutions; advice; articles; resources and even (non lame, I promise) humour. All designed to help us all in this transition. I’ll do the legwork, so you don’t have to.
I’m sending this to you because you are a) a person I talked to or who took part in my research survey and agreed to share your email address, or b) you are a friend or supporter of my work. If you prefer not to receive these emails from me, please unsubscribe and I promise I won’t spam you further and I won’t be at all offended. I’m not interested in hard-selling you on anything.
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That said, I’m starting this via Substack as a way of potentially generating a little income – or at least making the newsletter self-sustaining. As you may know, no-one gets rich from writing books here in NZ, and journalism isn’t really a money tree, either! Of course that’s not why I do it… but we all like to feel valued for our mahi, don’t we?
So I’ve priced this on a two-tier system. If you’d like a snappy monthly digest of menopause content including what I’ve been reading, some useful links and other bits of advice and tips, sign up and you can have that for free.
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OK, so what’s the latest?
All of that waffly admin out of the way, what can you expect to see here from me? Below are some snippets – expect this kind of thing and more in future newsletters.
New research: we can still burn fat after menopause
Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä (it’s in Finland; I had to look that up too) have done a trial on 42 women that offers some reassuring news: just because we’re in perimenopause or menopause, doesn’t mean we can’t burn fat efficiently via exercise – just as efficiently as we could before, in fact. Previous thinking had been that because of declining oestrogen, it’s harder for women to burn fat when we exercise. But this study found no difference between women pre-menopause, women in perimenopause and women post-menopause, with or without HRT. Meaning: it’s worth spending time and effort building and maintaining our fitness, no matter how old we are.
From Science Daily:
“Women burn fat also after menopause if their energy intake is less than their expenditure," says Doctoral Researcher Jari Karppinen.
Peak fat utilization rate was measured during a bicycle test. The highest rates were achieved by women with the highest fitness and physical activity levels. Again, postmenopausal women did not differ from women who had not reached menopause or used HRT.
"If you want to improve the ability to burn fat during exercise, focus on improving your fitness with endurance training," Karppinen continues. "In this case, you do not need to worry about menopause that much. Previous research has shown that the ability to burn fat while exercising improves with training even after menopause."
Emerging research: working shifts might delay menopause
Do you do shift work? There’s some emerging evidence of an association between shift work and a delayed onset of menopause, according to a Canadian analysis. The ‘significant relationship’ might be because of circadian rhythm (our natural sleep/wake cycle) being disrupted, causing changes to ovulation and fertility. It could also be that excessive exposure to artificial light during the hours of darkness suppresses melatonin, which in turn disrupts ovarian activity. The researchers say, though, that more research is needed, since they can’t rule out the effects of sociodemographic factors such as chronic stress, economic insecurity or substance use – all of which also affect menopause. In the meantime: if you’re a shift worker, it’s worth paying attention to your basics: diet, exercise, sleep and stress management, to keep yourself as healthy as possible.
Snake oil alert: menopause tests do not work!
In the UK and US there’s a trend of menopause ‘tests’ being sold off the shelf – a bit like a DIY pregnancy test. Unlike a pregnancy test, though, these tests are BOGUS. They do not give you a reliable indicator of perimenopause. As I go through in the book, and this BBC article also states: there’s no test for perimenopause, and anyone who says that is peddling misinformation, and not helping you! Your symptoms are your best indicator of what’s going on with you and where you are in the transition.
Food tip: boost your protein with green eggs (and ham, if you like)
While I much prefer to think about food, rather than nutrients, there are a couple of things I like to keep an eye on in my midlife diet. One is protein – an important nutrient we need to maintain our muscle mass (super important at midlife and beyond). Getting protein at breakfast can be a challenge, especially if we’re exercising and need a bit more. Lately I’ve been giving my scrambled eggs a boost with a protein powder made from hemp. Stay with me, here… protein powder can get pricey, but hemp seems to be a wee bit more reasonably priced than some others. I picked up a small-ish bag recently from Countdown for about $8, and I’ve been playing around with it. It’s best in savoury dishes – it does have a bit of a hemp-y flavour – and it also turns things pretty green! But it works in a scramble pretty well, and a couple of spoonfuls along with eggs, milk and chia seeds – and some seedy toast - gets my breakfast up over 20 grams of protein, which is pretty useful. It has a decent amount of fibre in it, too – so that’s a bonus. Worth a try.
Menopause product trend…
I’m lucky to get sent new products to try on the regular. There’s a trend emerging, as I could have predicted: marketers are jumping on to menopause and perimenopause as lucrative opportunities. It’s happening in supplement land (has been for years; it’s just ramping up now) and it’s starting to happen in skin care. With this one, I think it’s mostly good; we do know our skin changes in perimenopause, and I applaud the change in messaging from ‘anti-ageing’ to more realistic and less ageist claims. I’m trying out a few new products at the moment, so I’ll report back with reviews shortly.
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Thanks for helping make this a normal topic of conversation