Weight Gain and Menopause – What to do?

By Belinda

I guess my life has become about salads!

About five months ago, my life was turned upside down. There was no sweet introduction, just a BIG BANG! Literally, I started to experience the symptoms of menopause within a few days. I should say, a few hours, but in order to keep this post believable, I’ll tell a little, white lie.

It was overnight that my thinking became unclear and foggy. I couldn’t remember things. It was so severe, that I forgot to write my posts for Facebook – and I wasn’t even aware I’d missed them. My calendar on my phone, became my new best friend. I would schedule EVERYTHING! It was so severe, that Matilda was concerned, and we only chat about twice a week. My memory loss panicked her somewhat.

Another terrible symptom was the vaginal dryness! Oh my word! It was painful to wear trousers that were just a teeny bit tight. I hope this isn’t TMI, but I guess if you’ve experienced this, you will understand my need to share it. And why should we feel shame for sharing something, that might just make another woman feel free?

Then there was the acne. I never even had acne as a teenager! What the heck? Seriously? As if period pains and giving birth weren’t enough punishment. Now don’t get me wrong. I was one of those women who thought I’m going to sail through menopause. I’m 52 in a week or so, so I thought it had somehow passed me by undetected, when… Wham! Night sweats! OMG! I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted, but I’d be asleep for about an hour, and I’d wake up and have to throw all the blankets off. Thankfully, this started in our winter, so I quickly cooled down after opening up my body.

But, as if that wasn’t enough, I got the hot flushes (flashes) during the day too. This past winter, was a mild one for sure, but honestly, not once, and I kid you not, not once, did I wear a jacket or a coat. Oh, I styled them for Instagram, but they came right back off after the pic was taken. It has felt like winter didn’t even happen.

And then… Weight gain. I was the same weight in my 20’s. I had my son at 33, and after losing the baby weight, besides a short period where I gained weight (also related to hormonal issues, after which I had a hysterectomy), I was the same weight until 5 months ago. Within 3 weeks, I’d gained 3kgs (about 6.6 pounds)! For someone who is only 5′, this is instantly noticeable. When I eventually took myself off to my doctor, her first comment was how much weight I’d gained, and that was before she put me on the scale. How rude?

Beetroot and avo salad.

We tried a low dose of estrogen via a pessary, which she felt would give me the greatest relief for the vaginal dryness. It worked like a charm. Within just a few short weeks, I began to feel ‘normal’ again. The fogginess lifted and my mind started to function in a somewhat acceptable manner. My dryness disappeared (which really was my worst symptom, as it caused pain). I had some breast tenderness in the beginning, but after about 4 weeks, that dissipated. However, I developed such an appetite. Here I was, trying to watch my diet, and exercising everyday (walking 3-4kms per day), but I just wanted to eat everything in sight. And it wasn’t the healthy food I was drawn to. I was hungry all the time, and would try eat a banana, or an apple, or sometimes, I’d have a small bunch of grapes, but my appetite was never satisfied, until I’d had a sandwich or slice of toast.

I know bread is dangerous, but that was all that settled my hunger. I was never a big eater, and would regularly leave food on my plate at dinner time, but now, I could polish my plate within a few minutes. My daughter noticed this too. She’d remark on my increased appetite with a little bit of sarcasm. (How dare she?) But I knew it was the truth.

Then came all the side effects. Yes, my skin was looking better. Yes, my vagina wasn’t dry. Yes, my mind wasn’t foggy – But, I gained even more weight. Then I started to develop erythema nodosum (painful, raised nodules along my shin). I’d experienced this before twice in my life, so diagnosed myself even before going to the doctor AGAIN! (Did I ever mention I hate visiting the doctor?) My hair started falling out in handfuls. And finally, I lost sight, quite literally, of my ankles. I was retaining so much water.

So back to the doctor I went and again she remarked how much weight I had gained. Fortunately this time, it would seem that most of the weight was from the water retention, but we discussed all my side effects, and she felt that there were just way to many cons to me taking estrogen, that it was better if I went off it for a while.

So here I am now. I am working hard at losing the excess weight. I really do want a waist again. Did I mention that most of the weight is around my middle and my breasts? None of my bras fit anymore. I am going shopping to be fitted for a new size. I don’t even know what size I am anymore.

My dinner tonight – yet another salad, cous cous and seared tuna.

As I write this, I remind myself that I have always been healthy. What I am going through, is normal, and this too shall pass. My life has become all about drinking 2.5L of water per day, to naturally flush my system to assist with the water retention. I must say, it is helping. I do have ankles again, especially in the morning. I am doing some mat work for exercises in the mornings. I didn’t even mention that I have neuromas in both my feet, and am unable to walk for exercise. For that, which is totally unrelated to the menopause or estrogen intake, I see a surgeon in just over a month’s time. However, my life has become about water and salads. But I am determined to not let the lack of estrogen, get the benefit of me. I am determined to stay positive, to get to the other side of this, and to be healthy.

At weigh-in this morning, I am down 2kgs. I still have 2.5 to go to be at my pre-menopause weight, but I am committed to this journey. I am devoted to being the best version of me still. I don’t want to be harsh on myself for the change in my body. I want to celebrate this season in my life, as there is so much going on within my psyche that needs to find expression – but that is a post for another time. My body-positive attitude needed some readjustment, but in and through all of this, I can say, I will never ever minimize another’s experience with menopause. Not that I ever did, but although my symptoms were abrupt in their appearance, and intense in their severity, I feel that my 3 months on estrogen, gave me pause for thought. I feel more prepared to face this season now. I am grateful for the respite I had. It has helped me to reset my mindset.

If anyone reading this post, in any way relates to my experience, I would love to hear from you in the comment section. I do have a sense, I am not alone.

Belinda xo

Kombucha 101

by Matilda


Kombucha is said to have many health benefits, but that is not the main reason why I started to experiment with this fermented tea. It was something new, something that I have never heard of. It was exciting. I know, so much excitement caused by tea.

I discovered kombucha tea when I was doing research for our Facebook page. At the same time Belinda was visiting her cousin in Zambia and one of her friends served kombucha. Ice cold and refreshing. Belinda loved it and both of us were intrigued by this interesting tea fermented by something called scoby. When Belinda returned from her trip a friend gave her a couple of scobys. She gave me one with very little instructions to go with it.

Luckily, brewing kombucha is really easy. I Googled recipes and got off to a good start. It took me a couple of months of trial and error but now our kombucha brewing is well on track and I even make flavoured kombucha. I can only share my own experience with this process, but even if I say so myself: I brew kick-ass kombucha.

Our containers of kombucha with dates to show when new tea was started.

So, what exactly is kombucha and what is a scoby? Scoby is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Scoby is the live culture that ferments the tea and kombucha is what that fermented tea is called.

Before we start the process, let’s talk about hygiene and maintenance. Scobys aren’t very fussy, but you have to know a few things about them. I don’t sanitise my equipment. I just give everything a good wash and then rinse with boiling water. You need only one scoby to ferment the tea. It grows to the size of your container. If you aren’t so lucky as to be gifted a scoby you can make your own by using store bought kombucha. Scobys do get old, mouldy and sometimes sick, but a new scoby forms every couple of weeks, so you will always have a fresh one. Scobys don’t like to be touched by metal. Always use wood, plastic, bamboo and glass. Keep the fermenting tea covered with a tea towel or something similar, because flies love kombucha. I just cover our containers with their lids, but unscrewed so that the carbon dioxide formed during fermentation can escape. If you leave your tea to ferment too long, it will become vinegar.

Now, for the brewing. I dissolve a cup and a half (375 ml) of sugar in boiling water and steep ten teabags of Rooibos tea in enough boiling water to make 4 liters of tea. I’ve always used Rooibos, but I’ve read that you can use black, green or any other tea you prefer. You have to experiment with the amount of sugar you like. I’ve read about people using honey, but I haven’t yet. Sugars are what scobys “feed” on.

Allow the sweetened tea to cool completely and then add your scoby and some of the tea that was left over from your previous batch. It is called the starter tea and helps your scoby to thrive. Scobys look gross, I know, but you get used to it. In the photograph you can see how my scoby has started to make a new scoby. You can use this new scoby to make another batch of tea. I used both scobys in the same new tea, because the old scoby still looked good and I don’t need to make more batches. Cover your tea, let it stand and after about two weeks you will have kombucha. I like to keep my fermenting tea covered with a blanket. Yeast like to grow in warm, dark places. I also date mine, because I have four fermentations going at the same time. If the weather is cool the fermentation process will take longer, but your scoby should be fine. Now you can enjoy your kombucha or you can do a second fermentation.

The second fermentation is used to flavour your kombucha. I made lemon flavoured kombucha this time, but I’ve used apple, papaya and granadilla (passion fruit). We like them all, but so far the granadilla is our favourite.

For every liter of kombucha I use a tablespoon (15ml) of sugar and about a cup (250ml) fruit. When I make lemon flavoured kombucha I use a bit more sugar, because lemons aren’t naturally packed with sugars. I just peel and chop the fruit, except for the apples. I just chop them up. If you don’t like bitter tasting things, use just the juice of the lemons.

Add the sugar and fruit to a container. I made 3 liters of lemon flavoured kombucha. Cover the fruit with boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Let it cool down completely.

Next you fill the container with kombucha, leaving a little space at the top. This time you will screw the lid of you container securely and the carbon dioxide need some space. After you’ve tightened the lid, date your brew and leave from three up to seven days. In cooler weather it takes longer to ferment. You have to taste it ever so often, because you don’t want the fermentation to go too far.

When you are satisfied that the degree of fermentation is just right, it is time to decant and bottle. I’ve just made the lemon flavoured kombucha on Sunday, so that isn’t ready to be enjoyed yet. I did, however, bottle a batch of granadilla flavoured kombucha.

I usually transfer the flavoured kombucha to a jug that pours easily. I use a funnel and a sieve to pour the brew into bottles. You need bottles that closes securely or you will loose all the fizz. Keep it in your fridge to slow down the fermentation process and to enjoy your brew ice cold.

Kombucha brewing is easy and experimenting with different recipes is a lot of fun. You have to find the brew or brews that you enjoy most. Use my recipes as guidelines to explore and discover your own favourite kick-ass kombucha.

Matilda xo

Bottled and ready to enjoy.

Motivation, where are you?

by Matilda


 

I’ve lost my motivation. More specifically, I’ve lost my motivation to exercise. Now that I am almost fifty, I feel that I am becoming who I was supposed to have been all along. David Bowie said something along those lines and I am decidedly more me. Belinda says it is more about the unbecoming of who you never really were and I also feel this is true. We become so many things for so many people, but it takes time and work to discover and discard the false selves. That’s just great, but this becoming and unbecoming means that I am now almost fifty, fierce and flabby.

To be fair, exercise has always been difficult for me. My athleticism can be described as exceptionally mediocre and combined with my aversion to moving fast (read laziness), kept me demotivated. My saving grace was my social nature. I loved team sports. I am an only child with not so social parents. Hockey was a way to socialise and the unintentional benefit was getting fit. I played hockey at school, but not for the top team. I didn’t care. I didn’t feel motivated to try harder.

For a couple of years after school I didn’t do any exercise at all. Just before I got married a wonderful friend, Tracey, asked me to go with her to aerobics. I loved aerobics – it was the early 90’s after all. Mostly I loved to go because Tracey and I went together. For the first time since puberty I was in really good shape.

Then we moved away from my motivation (Tracey) and I regressed into energy saving mode. I would have flare ups of motivation. I would power walk with friends, play squash a few times with a friend, try all kinds of weird and wonderful things with a friend. I was really motivated to go to bootcamp with my daughter for a couple of years. That was wonderful. I enjoyed it so much. Then my daughter moved away and she took my motivation with her.

You do see the pattern, don’t you? I am unable to keep myself motivated without an accountability buddy. Something in me is keeping me from sticking to it. I did do yoga at home for a few months using videos I found on YouTube. That didn’t last either. The easy answer is that I should find someone to exercise with me. I don’t want the easy answer. I want to find out why I can’t find my own motivation. What is holding me back?

Even as I am writing this, I can feel resistance building up inside me. Why? I don’t know yet, but I will figure this out. Breaking resistance with persistence. Ha, I created a slogan.

Matilda xo

Why I don’t love Spring

by Matilda


The days are getting longer and warmer. I hear crickets at night. Birdsong wakes me from my slumber at sunrise. The blanket layers are coming off the bed. Less layers of clothing. These are the things I love about spring.

The pollen count is getting higher. I swear I heard a mosquito last night. Shorter dresses and skirts. Spaghetti strap tops. Shorts. I have to shave my legs. These are the things I don’t love about spring.

Like a lot of people I’ve had body issues. Here too little, there too much. This should be firm, that should be smooth. Some parts are too flat, other areas are too curvy. I can’t even say that I’ve made peace with every part of my body.

One of the things that really bother me, is my spider veins. Mostly it looks like blue bruises on my shins. I feel self-conscious in shorter skirts, dresses and shorts. I always try to cover my shins, but that hem length doesn’t flatter my body shape.

Me, on the left, hiding my spider veins. Belinda on the right.

There are gels and creams available to treat spider veins, but they did not work for me. I now have to decide if I am going to try laser therapy or Sclerotherapy. Laser treatment directs pulses from a laser light to the spider veins, causing tiny blood clots to form. The blood vessels become blocked off and eventually are reabsorbed by the body. Sclerotherapy involves having a salt solution injected directly into the affected area, causing the veins to collapse. The area may be tender for a few days and it may bruise, but bruising should fade over a few weeks. Sclerotherapy may require multiple treatments. The injections can be slightly painful.

I have one other choice. I can accept what my legs look like, veins and all. The spider veins have been a part of my body for a long time now. Maybe it is a non-issue. I have no idea what I will do in future, but for now I will stay as I am.

I do plan to drink more water, eat more fruit and exercise more.

Matilda xoxo

Foot Pain – You can read it on my face!

by Belinda


 

For those who know me, this is quite a pained face.

I am trying to do a series of photographs for the Gram and the Blog today, but not feeling it. It feels as if pain has taken over my life. I think I might be on to something, but let’s start at the beginning.

For a few years now, I have been struggling with lower back pain. I did nurse for 21 years, and most nurses have pain in their lower backs, so I attributed it to that. However, this past year, I have had pain in my right knee, right buttock and right hip, as well as increased pain in my lower back. I have also had pain in my left foot, but because the back pain was worse, I ignored that.

They do say, no matter how much pain you are experiencing, your mind can only deal with the worst one. I can’t remember where I read that, but essentially if you have minor pain and more severe pain in different parts of your body, your mind goes to the severe pain, and that’s what presents as ‘pain’ at any given time.

Up until recently, about 1 year ago, the lower back pain, has been the most severe. I have been to my family doctor, a chiropractor and a biokineticist. I have had X-rays done where it is clear there is degeneration of the disc between L5 and S1, which does explain the pain, but my doctor is not convinced I need surgery. More recently however, the pain in my left foot as become exacerbated when I walk with closed shoes, wear socks or heels, and sometimes, even when I wear flats in the summer.

Thank you to genetics, I have what most people refer to as a bunion on my left foot. I actually used to have them on both feet, but they were removed in 1999. This deformity is in fact called a hallux valgus. Sounds ominous! And it would appear that it almost is. When they were removed, the surgeon did tell me that as this was a genetic predisposition, they would in all likelihood, return one day. Thankfully, the one on the right foot has not, but due to the broadness of the left foot, I have had increasing pain in this foot.

I love to walk. I usually use this time for meditation and for learning. I walk whilst listening to Audible and am currently listening to “A New Earth”, by Eckart Tolle. But this past week, and up to today, walking has been excruciatingly painful. My lower back seems to go into spasm as I walk, and yesterday, after getting home in so much pain, I realised that it’s because I’m trying to walk on the side of my left foot, that the rest of my body is completely out of alignment. The body is an incredible machine, but if one thing is wrong, it affects the whole!

This morning, I called a friend’s husband on her recommendation. He is a Podiatrist. I explained all my symptoms and he confirmed what the chiropractor had said last year, that my body is out of alignment due to the pain in my left foot. I need to sort it out. He asked me to describe my symptoms which are: pain on the ball of my left foot, numbness in my 2nd and 3rd toe when I wear closed shoes, burning underneath my foot even when at rest in closed shoes.

So where to now? He has recommended I start with a ultra-sonic specialist who will diagnose the condition. He suspects a neuroma. He seems to think orthotics (which I wanted to try), will not help if it is a large neuroma, but will rather recommend surgery, which I had wanted to avoid – until now, that is, as the pain has become unbearable.

So, the way forward… I will be seeing the ultrasonographer as soon as she can fit me it. Once we know exactly what is wrong with me, we will decide if surgery is best, or if I can be fitted with orthotics that will help to realign my foot. Yes, the hallux valgus on my left foot, although not painful itself, has caused metatarsalgia, which is pain caused by the bones in my foot, which in turn may have caused a neuroma to develop. Happy Days!

But honestly, if I can get to the source of the pain, and eventually sort it out, and get my body back on track with exercise again, I will be thrilled. Be sure to tune in for the update over the next few weeks. Here’s hoping I can get sorted ASAP!

Belinda xo

What are microgreens and why you should grow them

by Matilda


Microgreens are trending in the food and wellness communities. People who are focused on wellness through nutrition are adding them to wraps, sandwiches, salads and even smoothies. I was curious to find out more.

What are microgreens? When vegetable and herb seedlings begin to grow, they are considered to be sprouts. Once the sprouts begin to grow leaves, they are regarded as microgreens.

Sprouts and microgreens are not the same thing. Sprouts are harvested before they have leaves and microgreens after they have leaves. They are usually between four and six centimeters tall when harvested. They will reach this height between fifteen and thirty days after sowing. (It says so on the seed packet)

Many types of vegetables and herbs are grown as microgreens. Beets, radishes, broccoli, cilantro, cabbage and coriander are only a few examples.

According to Medical News Today, microgreens are rich in antioxidants and contain a higher amount of many nutrients when compared with fully grown vegetables and herbs. They are considered to be a functional food. That is food that promotes health and prevents disease.

Many people are not getting the recommended daily amount of vegetables and fruit. Convenience, availability and cost are some of the reasons for this. Microgreens can provide a lot of the nutrients that we need, and best of all, is easy to grow at home. Or so they say.

So, we decided to grow our own microgreens. You need a planting tray, coco peat, vermiculite and seeds.

Coco peat (coconut fiber) is a substitute for peat. It is free of bacteria and is sustainably produced, without the environmental damage caused by peat mining. We used part of a coco peat brick, which had to be soaked.

Vermiculite is a mineral that retains moisture and nutrients necessary for seeds to germinate and it promotes faster growth. We mixed that with the soaked coco peat. We lined the growing tray with a piece of a carton box, but newspaper will also do the job. Ensure that the peat/vermiculite mixture is wet all the way through.

The next step is to spread the seeds over the peat/vermiculite mix. We used all the seeds. Lastly we sprinkled a thin layer of peat/vermiculite over the seeds and positioned the tray in a sunny spot in the house.

Our microgreens – ready to grow

We got everything we needed from our local nursery. Our packet of seeds contained coriander, red beets, cabbage, radish and pepper cress. Yummy!

Now all we have to do is wait. I will let you know if it really is this easy.

Matilda xo