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The Menopause Makeover

2010 September 7

Staness Jonekos went through menopause and ended up in better shape than she was “in her twenties.” You can, too, she says, if you’re willing to do the work.

 

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Staness Jonekos got engaged for the first time at age 47. Thrilled to have finally met “Mr. Right,” the award-winning television producer began planning the wedding of her dreams. Three months later, she “slammed in to menopause” and was in the middle of “a living nightmare.”

Her new book, The Menopause Makeover (Harlequin 2010) chronicles Staness’s journey through months of research, doctor visits, diets and hormones in an effort to get her life and her body back before her wedding day. The result: a straightforward, expertly-researched guide to managing your menopause based on her own 12-week turnaround.

We spoke to Staness, now 52, about hot flashes, hormones and why menopause was “the worst and the best thing” that ever happened to her.

 

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  • Tell me about your own menopause experience. Why was it so terrible?
    • I’d been on birth control for almost thirty years to manage endometriosis and ovarian cysts. When I got engaged, I went off the pill to have my fertility checked. (I wanted my younger husband to know I wasn’t going to be a babymaking machine at 47!) Once I went off the pill, I immediately slammed into menopause.
  • What were your symptoms like?
    • Miserable: hot flashes; I gained 25 pounds in six months; I was depressed, had itchy skin and was irritable. Also, the stress caused me to eat more. I was desperate to lose the weight for my wedding.
  • What did you do?
    • There are tons of books that have opinions on how to manage your menopause, but I was striking out right and left. I tried all the diet plans—Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, The Zone—and none of them worked. I did research and talked to lots of doctors, and eventually I decided to create my own plan. I used my wedding-planning book as a template.
  • Why do you think menopause treatment is so confusing?
    • We’re all different. There’s no one magic pill. You really have to look at your personal history, your family history, and your symptoms to find a formula that works for you.
  • So how is your book different?
    • Image

      The Menopause Makeover supports all alternative, complementary and medical management options supported by science. How I treat my menopause is different than how you treat yours. If you have moderate symptoms, lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise combined with alternative herbal remedies like black cohosh might be all you need. Women with more severe symptoms may need to look at medical (hormonal and non-hormonal) options to manage their menopause.

  • Which of course brings us to hormone therapy. Why is HRT so controversial?
    • Again, there’s no one easy answer. Almost ten years ago, it became very confusing, because the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) 2002 results basically said, “hormone therapy may increase heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer,” scaring many women away from hormone therapy. Many people have since disputed those results, and research continues. There are indeed risk factors to consider. You must work closely with your healthcare provider. For some women, hormone therapy is a good option, but for others it may not be. Today the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) says, “the benefit-risk ratio for menopausal hormone therapy is favorable for women who initiate HT close to menopause but decreases in older women with time.
  • Did you opt for hormones?
    • ImageHormone therapy was a good fit for me because I had miserable symptoms. The first step in my book is to track and manage your symptoms. In order to get on top of night sweats, hot flashes and itchy skin, I use a bio-identical estrogen spray. I also take a bio-identical progesterone pill. They are both FDA-approved, and that’s the important word here.
  • There are a lot of buzzwords—bio-identical, natural—what do women need to know?
    • I spent weeks and weeks trying to simplify the process, working closely with menopause expert Dr. Wendy Klein, and I’ve plotted it all out on pages 22 to 24 of my book. I’d rather you reprint those pages, because it’s so easy to misinterpret.
      ImageImageImage
      click on each page to enlarge
  • Done! But, can you explain: are there “natural” hormones that are better for you?
    •  “Natural” is a marketing term. The only “natural” hormones on this planet are made in your body. End of story. The reason people hear “natural” is that there are two places where you can purchase hormone therapy, ‘compounding pharmacies’—which are state regulated—and FDA-regulated manufacturers. A manufacturer that is regulated by the FDA can’t use the word “natural” because the FDA strictly regulates that language. A compounding pharmacy using the same ingredients can say “natural,” because it’s not regulated by the FDA, but by the state. There is no scientific evidence that custom compounded hormone therapy is safer or more effective than standard, FDA-approved hormone therapy prescriptions.
  • It sounds like you’re not a fan of the compounding pharmacies.
    • For a lot of women who have allergies or for some other reason can’t get their dose from an FDA approved product, compounding pharmacies are a wonderful alternative. But wouldn’t you rather have a product that’s been tested on thousands of people, rather than one that has been individually mixed in a pharmacy and not tested to prove that they are absorbed appropriately or provide predictable levels in blood and tissue?
  • You mentioned that there’s “a lot of riffraff” out there trying to sell different menopause cures. How do you find a doctor you can trust to help treat your menopause?
    • The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) has a listing at menopause.org of doctors who are certified in menopause management.
  • Your book talks about all aspects of treatment—no just hormones. You have chapters on diet, exercise, skincare, etc.
    • Yes. Menopause is a lot more than just fluctuating hormones. It’s about taking control of your health for the next 50 years. During our reproductive years, we’re busy with kids and jobs and our health often suffers. Menopause is a fork in the road with two arrows: One says, ‘I promise you a path of joy and health but you have to do a little work,’ and the other path says, ‘You don’t have to do any work and you may have poorer health.’
  • Speaking of “work,” tell me about the diet that helped you lose this weight.
    • ImageIt really isn’t a diet….it’s a lifestyle change. As you hit menopause, your metabolism slows, and you can’t eat the same way. That’s why women get all big around the middle—the ‘menopot.’ I started eating lean protein, low-glycemic carbs and healthy fats every four hours. That sped up my metabolism and I lost the weight. The trick is keeping your blood sugar level constant, so you don’t have cravings.
  • That sounds like a healthy diet no matter what age you are.
    • It is.
  •  So you’re saying that menopause is an opportunity to assess your health and make the life changes you should have made a long time ago.
    • Menopause is the ultimate women’s liberation. You’re not being defined as a babymaker anymore. So you have the freedom to reinvent yourself and live your dreams. Think about all the women who get in to politics, philanthropy or start businesses after their kids leave home. Taking control of my health and beauty during menopause has me feeling like I’m 12 years old again. That was when I felt total freedom. I’ve never been happier!

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Author
Staness Jonekos Staness Jonekos was one of the original executive producers to launch Oprah Winfrey’s television network, Oxygen Media, where she produced multiple shows and events focused on women’s issues. Her own production company, Krystal Productions, has earned a total of 12 Telly Awards for corporate clients. Since writing The Menopause Makeover, she has become a full-time crusader for women’s health. Read more at: www.menopausemakeover.com
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  • TML1104 says:

    I had the same experience. I was on birth control for irregular periods and when I stopped I was hit with menopause. I’ve gain 20lbs and having the hardest time taking it off despite at least a 70% effort at eating right and working out, the other 30% is due to a very high stress job. I’ve also been in therapy for 4 years, but I think the depression is caused by the imbalance in horomones, because it is not helping. I am a single parent, I’ve raised my kids alone, without any financial support. MY youngest son just went off to college. It’s time for me, but I need help doing it. I know this sounds cliche, but I never, ever win anything but I hope I could win this, I’ve tried so hard to do it on my own.

  • skipheart says:

    The only real control is a mild sleep agent used twice a week, to give me some much needed rest. Blankets on and then blankets off, sound familiar. Also limit on caffeine seems to help. But must have that one large cup of Java in the AM.

  • jjosemans says:

    I am experiencing the same things you were. I, too was on birth control for irregular periods and stopped 2 years ago. I was hit head on with night sweats and now the hot flashes have started. I’ve gained 10 pounds that I can’t shed no matter what I’ve tried. I’m at my wits end and I don’t want to supplement with meds — You alternative is an eye opener –similar to what I’ve read before by Suzanne Somers but easier to follow. thanks!

  • roberta mcclain says:

    I entered menopause at 46 just as my grilfriend since age 12 began her bout with cancer. My Dr. recommended a nutritionist, who designed a healthy eating plan that I shared with her. That was 6 years ago, two 5 ks and one ten k, a half marathon to come. A sound eathing, exercise plan is key to managing this experience.

  • Rallo says:

    It hardly phased me. Only the hot flashes and gaining of a few pounds. Lost 30 but sure would like to lose 20 more. I would feel so good and would not have to wear loose tops. This is one that I would love to have. Thank you for the chance.

  • speterso@oneidanation.org says:

    I am in full blown menopause. I will be reading the book
    I feel like a crazed wild animal that has lost it’s mind. On the good note I appericate my clear days when I have them. I have come off over the top stress and now that everything is calm this has hit.

  • Aaddie says:

    I couldn’t take hormones when I went in to menopause at forty. That workede for a long time but now I am going through it again at 55. With stress caused by a business close down and a husband with no job stress does not help with either hot flashes, night sweats orstress.

  • vkuhl says:

    This sounds very promising. I too have put on 20 pounds nearly overnight, and I always have eaten healthy (or so I thought). I really need some guidance on the hormones…I did the bioidentical route for several years, then discontinued it due to insurance and financial limitations, and you can guess what happened next. I really need to take control and this author sounds like she has a lot of good information that I need!!!

  • shirlene says:

    Need this bad.

  • ldaj says:

    It sounds like I’m in the beginning stage – gaining weight, can’t lose a pound. I hardly eat a thing – but that doesn’t help. My breast look like I’ve just filled them with helium they’re overflowing. No night sweats or hot flashes – but I’m always so cold, maybe those warm waves are my hot flashes. I got osteoporosis but I’m afraid to take any of those pills. I just feel like I’m falling apart. The worst is that my mom is 84 and still going strong. I’m 54 – another 30 years of decline – help.

  • Anonymous says:

    First of all, think primally: originally women would have been used up by the age of menopause…through the ravages of unattended childbirth (which probably would have occurred annually), or the attack of other assaults, be they wild animals, famine or disease.

    Being caregivers, we attend to those around us, not ourselves, and suffering the ravages of neglect.

    When we get past that, think of the advantages we have as modern women: all of the worries I mentioned before are non-existent. Now we MUST get up and move! There are NO runners who have a weight problem! There is NO food that occurs in nature that is high in both sugar and fat…and yet we, in these modern days, eat chocolates, french fries, restaurant Mexican food, and fast food and WONDER why we have weight problems? If we are lucky we wake up to this “lightbulb” early enough to forestall life-long health consequences.

    Ladies, start walking, every morning, and when you can, start running a few paces, then pick the running back up hen you can that day. I’m 67 , an ex-asthmatic (due to my parents’ smoking) and working full time.

    I’m also a dietitian, and had NO idea during my training that what we BRING to the table was so INsignificant to the total health picture. In fact, good health is facilitated by what we do with the energy provided by the food that we eat.

  • dianestrong_2000 says:

    I experienced SEVERE menopause symptoms including hot flashes which forced me to find a place to sit due to bodily shaking and mental fuzziness. Four hours of sleep a night was the norm due to hot flash interruptions. My memory was almost non-existent. I felt embarrassed, exhausted, and incompetent. I tried FDA approved hormone replacement therapies, Estratest and Premarin and creams, with limited results. Then I took a women’s biology class at the university I was attending (IUPUI), and both my Professor and the RN sitting next to me advised me to try a natural bio-identical Estrogen and Testosterone pellet therapy. These pellets are inserted into the skin, and last about 4 months (for me). Two weeks into the therapy, my symptoms were gone. I seriously believe the therapy saved my life. Pellet therapies can be found across the country now. I currently live in Phoenix, AZ, and the following is a website that will give you more info: http://sottopelletherapy.com/

  • bshank0219 says:

    I am struggling everyday to ease my symptoms from menopause. I really could use this book to win the battle.

  • skipheart says:

    Covers on, Covers off…. Only relief is Ambien CR once in awhile. Limit caffeine and lots of walking.

  • bshank0219 says:

    Still trying to get rid of hot flashes after 2 years

  • Kathy11016 says:

    I wondered for years if I had been through menopause.
    I stopped having the monthly flow many years ago. I gained
    weight with aging but had enough energy to do what I wanted to do, exercise and continue life activities with joy.
    I knew women who sat around moaning with this ailment
    or that problem they contributed to menopause. I think some of the issue with menopause is just accepting you
    are getting older like it or not. I eat a lot of vegtables,
    I always enjoyed tofu waffles, drink Silk and take vitamins.
    I have had the occassional hot flash but no big deal

  • jilro says:

    I am still in menopause at 58. It is the hot flashes that are bothering me now, most of the time and the night sweats. I am going to go get the book asap.

  • islegirl74 says:

    Started this year after 6 children and being on the pill on and off for over 40 years. My exercise plan went wayward as did a 25 lbs weight gain, along with night sweats and hot flashes, so PMDD went into Menopause.
    Back on track with a similar plan, less sugar,aspartame and more exercise, hopefully it will get me back to a healthier me!

  • minnymo@earthlink.net says:

    I was fortunate to have an older friend who told me that when menopause finally ended, I would feel better than I ever have before. Its hard to imagine while you suffer through the long years that you will ever feel better. It seems more like you are aging every day and are going downhill fast. But its true! Hang in there. You will feel better, your energy will come back strong and you won’t be on the monthly roller coaster you’ve been on since your teens. Your mind will clear and you can really begin enjoying life. Take care of yourself and you will even look better than ever before. Good luck and love!

  • dmayhew says:

    No real concerns at this time, but I’m trying to hedge off the bad stuff by trying to exercise a bit more and watch what I eat. Good life advice – thanks!

  • cevans54 says:

    Doctors at the overseas military hospital I had to use refused to believe that I had any problems even though my monthly cycle had nearly become nonexistent. Returning stateside and being able to select a knowledgeable doctors, all it took was a blood test to realize I had already gone thru menopause. At such an early age required me to increase my intake of calcium (and I’m not a milk drinker and hate supplements) and my exercise program. I fall off the program once in awhile, but then get back on. Every individual is different, just as Jonekos states, and it requires that each individual find the regime that works best for their body.

  • Myrancarl says:

    Althogh mr symptoms are less than when I first entered menopause, eleven years ago, they still exist. I’ve lost my waist, still wake up in the night with a flash or two, althoguh less severe. Hormones weren’t an option because of family history. Maybe I’ll try some of the things you mention.

  • livingmylife says:

    My method of getting through all the symptoms has been to first, read about menopause, and what to expect. When the night sweats and hot flashes, depression etc. hit, I knew it was normal. I did have to use an antidepressant to function at one point. I did gain some weight, but as the symptoms have decreased, I have lost it. Having friends to commiserate is a big help for me. I divorced 3 years ago and am a single mom of a 14, 12 and 8 yr old. This has made it harder to take time for myself. I would love to go to the spa to learn and to “chillax” Good luck to us all!

  • susanr says:

    Hot flashes didn’t really bother me that much, probably because I was on an SSRI which reduces menopause symptoms. One of the hardest changes was the slowing metabolism and weight gain. I’m still struggling.

  • Marshadee2001 says:

    I just put up with the occassional hot flashes. Never know if it it hot flashes or indigestion? You have it all when you hit menopause after 50. Would like to lose some weight to see a waist again. That would be nice.

  • Portions says:

    Interrupted sleep patterns became a huge issue for me. Because I was so tired I became forgetful and that brought on even more stress and it was frightening. I did use some hormone therapy for a short period of time just to get over the worst of it even though I have family history of breast cancer. I was so desperate for sleep I had to take the chance, I was becoming non functional with everyday tasks!

  • Lindypearl says:

    I am amazed at the male species who put women down when they go or are going through menopause. I had my last baby at 48 yrs. of age. However, I didn’t really start to have symtoms until my middle 50′s. I had a partial hysterectomy at 56 and by my 57 yr. was going through the total menopause experience. I definitely have those hot flashes and can not stand summertime because it seems to double the heat. However, at 62 1/2 yrs. of age I am managing my life without any medication whatsoever!

  • valorosa says:

    Hot flashes, night sweats, crying jags, let’s see what else. You name it and I had it. Hormone therapy really helped me but stopping the therapy was just as bad. I’m finally able to relax and forget about that time. Grandchildren help a lot.

  • chihuahuabulldog says:

    I haven’t managed it yet. I am still trying. Perhaps I should say IT is still trying ME!

  • ivanhoe says:

    I never had a “flash”-just constant heat. It has yet to stop; I buy no more wool clothing, but simply cotton year round. Sleeping nude has brought enormous relief- I can no longer imagine sleeping any other way, and never have to think of buying night clothes again. If you’re alone, think about a ceiling fan.

  • bffsmom says:

    I was diagnosed w/BRCA1/2 a year ago. I had not had a period for 21 years. My DR said I was post meno. I had to have a hysto in order to stave off ovarian cancer. The surgeon said since I was post meno I would not have any adverse effects. Well another man wrong. I am feeling full blown meno – hot flashes galore…Most times I look like I have just taken a shower. Tried everything except hormones. Thinking of moving to Alaska. Any thoughts???

  • scotthexter says:

    HRT was my initial response to menopause, but I was worried about long-term effects, such as cancer and heart disease. So I opted for more natural remedies, such as herbal alternatives, joining the health club for regular workouts, and going vegetarian. I’m glad that it wll worked out fine, as I now have no symptoms and no ill-effects.

  • ReBeck says:

    I had a hysterectomy and left oophorectomy in 2006 for an ovarian cyst but wanted to hang on to my other (right), sad, little ovary. I think it is still limping along because I haven’t had any full-blown symptoms of menopause. I’ve always been hot natured and sweat profusely with very little effort – I used to joke that everyone would know I had hit menopause because I would probably burst into flames! That being said, whether it’s age or wisdom of age, I’ve begun to think more prudently about what I put into my body. I’m certainly not an ideal weight, but I’m working on it and try to exercise at least 30 minutes every day. I am a nurse who works in breast cancer and have reservations about starting hormonal therapy – hopefully my experience won’t require me to make that decision although my OB/GYN says it’s doubtful that I would be so lucky to be the 5% of the female population who transition without any symptoms. I love the reference Staness makes about “…taking care of your health for the next 50 years…” For the most part, we truly are the pilot on this journey and I have high hopes for all of us :)

  • KathyJ says:

    Ah yes, Menopause
    We as females endure a plethora of changes. We bud and enter the world of womanhood when we are young and innocent. Then, we ask our bodies to make room for another life inside of it and then we ask it to shrink back as if nothing happened! And some of us as it to do this more than once! Our breasts swell and contract as we feed our babies, but woe be it for them to sag and loose their beautiful shape.
    We push our bodies to take care of our growing families needs, often neglecting our own in the process.
    Finally, our later years come. Our bodies say “enough” and so comes menopause. Hormones rage again only in a different way than when we were 13. Hot flashes abound. Our body is just talking back!
    It’s just saying that it’s time to change. It’s time to take care of ‘me’.
    Take the changes or what they are%u2026.just another phase. The hot flashes, not unlike cramps or labor are female obstacles that we ‘deal’ with. We are women. We are ever changing, ever strong. Embrace it! I did.

  • gingermclendon says:

    Hot flashes and loss of muscle tone are my two biggest complaints. There’s not doubt that a more disciplined exercise regimen would help, but I have not demonstrated the initiative needed to follow through.

  • smcmahill says:

    Had hysterectomy in my 30′s and still dealing with hot flashes even now in my 50′s!! Helping others helps me.

  • phizzy54 says:

    Manage menopause??? Wish I could figure that one out!!! I just keep breathing & try to think beautiful coooooool thoughts!

  • tonihughes says:

    I gained 50 pounds! I opted to not do hormones mostly because of migraines and because of my weight. I finally seem to have crossed over to the other side of meopause!

  • mitsol312 says:

    mitsol312
    I am so glad to know everyone has a “terror”ific time with that dreaded M word. I am go glad I am thru the worst of it and onward and upward….. bring it on!!!! I’m ready.

  • pepper3 says:

    I loved your article!! It resonated with me. I am now in peri-menopause and have gained the 25 lbs over the last year, as well as hot flashes and tired. I’ve put myself on a fitness plan as well as trying to figure out the diet. I just ordered the book and am very excited to learn how to combat this & lose the weight without trial & error. Thanks for doing the groundwork!!

  • trichardson says:

    I have worked with and known a lot of women who have gone through menopause. It is interesting dealing with them each day because I never know what to expect. It is almost entertaining. I haven’t reached it yet, but I prepare for it everyday by building relationships with my sisters who are there. I keep thinking I can avoid it, but I know it it will hit me before I know it. Blessings to you all ladies….

  • bzbdesigner says:

    During the hot flashes I spent a lot of time standing in the giant walk in refrigerated room at COSTCO. I also found out that sticking cold soda cans in by bra helped too. Since I went through menopause so early I really didn’t have a clue what was going on. But since I was the first out of all my friends I have been able to help them navigate menopause and that has been very rewarding.

  • cshepard says:

    The worst for me was a drop in libido. I found Mr Rigth ( After MR Wrong) in my 40s and we were both REALLY enjoying each other. When menopause hit, my interest went away. Vaginal premarin cream is great but what a hassle. Why dont they make a low dose estrogen ring for this purpose??

  • jocyclarke says:

    I am 51 years and am embarking on my own trail. I am scheduled for a Complete Hysterectomy on Nov. 4, 2010. It would be laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy. Tests indicate that I am not yet on my menopause however, because of dysfunctional uterine bleeding and multiple fibroids, my husband and I, together with my gyne, we decided that a complete hysterectomy is the best for me. I will surely need all these info I am reading for my own enlightenment for my post op recovery.

  • susan buniva says:

    I had to have a complete hysterectomy at 46 and was put on an estrogen patch immediately due to lupus that necessitated regulation of hormone levels. I was only sleeping 2 hours a night for a year after surgery and they then added oral progesterone which has allowed me to increase sleep to 5 hours. I have tried everything to get it to go beyond 5 hours without success.

  • Janifani says:

    I have been struggling with the weight gain and with being tense since I had a total hysterectomy at 39, 12 years ago! The weight just keeps creeping up a little at a time and I’m now 40 – 50 lbs overweight. I’ve been on HRT since my surgery. I have no idea what to do anymore. My 22 year old son is currently deployed to Afghanistan, he is a Corpsman, this adds an enormous amount of stress to my life. I am looking forward to reading your book. Thank you so much for looking at all aspects and not just the ones that are deemed most popular. I need help!

  • Loraine says:

    I’m 50 .I started getting hot flashes in my 40s but they were very easy to ignore . now not so much I’m up at night about every 3 hours or I get no sleep at all . I started taking remifemin as directed one in the am and one in the pm that helped for about a year but now I’m up to 4 remifemin a day and Ive added the one a day menopause formula vitamin this week sooo that’s 50 dollars of menopause formulas a month and they are not working . As we speak Ive been awake since 9 this morning and have had 6 major hot flashes . at night I have such bad night sweats that I have to change clothes 2 or 3 times a night ! On the up side my weight does not seem to be effected to much though I have gained about 10 lbs in the last year also my skin is not itchy but that could be because I exfoliate 3 times a week with a salt scrub. BUT now my mood is effected and I find myself acting very weird with temper and crying jags for no reason . I’m really about at the end of my rope not having insurance and a disabled husband money is really an issue . I get a small pension but its just a pittance really at 118.99 a month . I may need to go back in the work place but if I cant get any sleep how am I supposed to do that and keep a job ! I am always sleepy and crabby and have sever hot flashes during the day and night . I’m not sure about my history so its not like I can ask my mother or grandmother both have had early hysterectomy’s . I can use any help I can get so if you know of something that has worked for you please tell me what it is . at this time I’m 115 lbs and 5 ft 1 so I think my diet is ok but there has to be something that I can take to help me get sleep and control my mood so if I do find work I do not get fired for telling a boss or customer to shove it lol with my shifting moods its really hard to tell how I would handle a work environment at this rate

  • mosegert@sbcglobal.net says:

    I am a RN and read Suzanne Somers book on Identical Hormone therapy.It may be helpful to some extent but their is no difference in this treatment than the cream your OBGYN doc would give you and your insurance would cover it,Did you know it’s made from horse urine from a pregnant mare?It is no safer than what your doc would give you and can cause blood clots.Do look it up,you will see I am right.A nurse will have a book that she can refer to on ingredients…you will see that there is no difference in the ingredients.

  • mosegert@sbcglobal.net says:

    Wallgreens makes a natural plant estrogen replacement for $17.99 a box.It works but takes a few weeks to get into your system.All natural.

  • Mary says:

    yes please …age 51 now

  • PKW says:

    It has been over3 years since I saw this blog, read the book and it changed my life. Now at age 55, I am 46 pounds lighter, exercise more than I ever have, and weigh less than the day I graduated from High School. This book stays on my kindle ap on my iPad so I can quote from it to any of my women friends who need help with menopause… thanks again for posting this blog and writing your book.