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
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.
Posted on September 07, 2010
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.
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?
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?
Hormone 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.
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.
It 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.
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!