Moving from one hormonal cycle to the next can be challenging, which is why we want to speak to real women about their experiences going through these life changes and how they navigated them. To close out Menopause Week we have invited Rachel, a perimenopause influencer and blogger, who wants women to wholeheartedly embrace this later part of their journey. On her page, The Meno Memos, she shares recipes, motivational messages, and interviews women from all walks of life to talk about everything from peri/menopause to wellness and nutrition, and womanhood in general. She is also an active member of Perry, a supportive community for women who are experiencing perimenopause.
Rachel has worn many hats over the years from being a teacher to an author to working alongside a function medicine practitioner treating chronic pain patients and becoming a certified nutrition coach. While working with patients she noticed they were all experiencing high levels of inflammation and thought it would be helpful to further explore food alterations in their daily diet to help address these issues. She said, “it was always inspiring when they improved and also enlightening as food is such a personally challenging issue for most of us.” Rachel loves to cook and finds it to be a happy hobby for her to engage in. She is also an avid reader and movie lover who “loves to be entirely distracted from real life.” Keep reading to hear more about her personal experience with perimenopause, the motivation behind her blog, and her views on female empowerment!
1. Did you know anything about perimenopause or menopause prior to entering these life cycles?
I knew that I was in it at 43 because my mother told me so! I heard the term but honestly, hadn’t given it too much thought. Somehow, I associated “menopause” with turning 50 and at 43 thought I had more time. I have no idea why I had that understanding, it’s so absurd! But when life changes aren’t part of a commonly understood aspect of life, the culture of life, you’re left to fend for yourself. Once my mother mentioned that might be at the root of my challenges, I started asking her questions, of course, but also raising the topic among friends, my doctors, Google! I was cracked wide open with information and kept wondering why we’re not taught about these things in school, in our homes...but I think that’s what’s so unique about our generation: that we ARE speaking up and out about this entirely natural phase of life and the conversation is bridged to all kinds of communities: younger women, older women, women who experience pre or surgical menopause, menopause in the trans community, menopause as a result of cancer treatment and more.
2. Why did you decide to start a page discussing peri-/menopause? How do you hope to make a difference?
I began my page because I was new to IG and as I scrolled endlessly, I felt that there was so little representation of women of color talking about peri/meno. Of course, the deeper I got, the more I realized that of course wasn’t true but it took awhile. I thought, “Well, there aren’t many people who look like me talking about this, maybe I can lend a voice to this wilderness…” So I got going with absolutely no agenda and was completely in over my head. IG is crazy and I’m still learning it. Pretty quickly, the founder of Perry connected with me and asked if I would start making videos about my experiences and that opened a door for me and I started to hone in more with my page.
My initial focus was on nutrition; how women in midlife address healthy longevity and allow food to be a part of their toolkit, hopefully tempering some of their symptoms. But that’s changed a bit now as well because food is so triggery and women in midlife are often still at risk of going down a disordered rabbit hole. I still talk about food and nutrition because I like it and it’s in my wheelhouse but my desire now is to help free women, perhaps for the first time during this season of life, from the constraints they put on themselves around food. I’m always going to encourage being healthy, but not at the expense of anyone’s mental health. Women need to believe that they can trust themselves about food because of course we can! We’ve just been told, practically since birth, that we don’t know how to feed ourselves and that if we follow this or that diet, we’ll be free of the unknowing. But of course, the opposite is true and by the time we’re in peri/meno and our bodies start to change we’re vulnerable to feeling blindsided by our own bodies and, potentially feeling the need for more control. It’s a horrible ride we need to get off of and completely away from.
The other thing that’s been really, really great has been doing these interviews for Hey Perry. It’s kind of like a podcast but you can see us! I had wanted to podcast but had no idea how to start to dip my toes into that so I brought the idea to Hey Perry and said, “You guys should think about doing interviews with specialists and doctors and louder voices in this space and have kind of a video library where community members can watch playbacks and get real information.” Laura Crain, Hey Perry’s founder, said, “Sounds great, wanna do it?” And there it is! I love it. It’s been such a joy and pleasure to meet so many extraordinary women who have so much to offer so many around the topic of this very particular and special time of life.
3. What advice would you give to your younger self regarding menopause and womanhood in general?
Know it’s coming, know it doesn’t have to be terrible, know there is help should you need it, strongly advocate for yourself when you speak with your doctor and most importantly, trust and embrace that this time of life may actually be your best! You can redefine, reimagine, perhaps reemerge and try new things, say “yes” more, say “no” more, figure out what brings you joy and get into it! I always say the second season of life has every opportunity to be better than the first. You know yourself more, you hopefully have healed from a lot and have fewer fears and anxieties about anything and everything. Now you just get to get into everything you want. Also, find community. I never thought I’d say that because I’ve always been in the “no groups for me,” group, but truly, it's made such a difference. Find your people, your tribe, your crew, whatever you want to call it and lean on them. Let them lean on you.
4. What do you want people to know about peri-/menopause?
It may be unexpected. By that I mean, it may start sooner than you think and look different than you thought. You may never have a hot flash but you may have crippling anxiety or horrible insomnia. You may suddenly find you feel depressed or fatigued or constipated! For me, among many other things, I didn’t expect to feel less patient with things and people. I was patient to a fault, for YEARS! Not anymore. I feel more myself than I ever have but to some of the people around me, that may be threatening. “Who is this person who doesn’t go along with everything I want?” Well, it’s actually me. I never wanted to go along with everything someone may have wanted but I was such a people pleaser. I can’t blame that on anyone, it was a coping mechanism, but I don’t need it anymore. So, I seem different, of course I do! But in my own heart and spirit, I’m finally myself and life has always been too short to not be yourself.
5. How would you define female empowerment?
Being true to who you are. Doing the work to get to know yourself, trust yourself and honor yourself in all ways, spiritually, emotionally, physically. I also really think it’s important to cheer for other women, young and old. “Women supporting women” has become a catch phrase that gets tossed around a fair amount but I think it’s not as practiced as one might imagine. I really want to see others succeed in ways that make them feel whole and happy. The joy of another makes me joyful. Also, bodily autonomy and reproductive rights allows more room for female empowerment. I’m always gonna scream about that.
6. Is there anything else you would like to share?
As my mother always says, “Ya gotta laugh…” It’s true. Keep your wit about you, it helps get you through really tough stuff. Also, eat lots of plants and move your body consistently. Find a creative outlet, meditate, read, have a daytime and nighttime routine. Take good, tender care of yourself. This time of life demands that you do, not because it may be physiologically challenging but because you’ve always deserved it and undoubtedly haven’t given that to yourself. For example, I got to model for Become and Coolibrium recently, for their undergarments for women who experience hot flashes and it was awesome! Who knew?! But I loved doing it and was so flattered and honored to have been asked [to collaborate in this way].
You can learn more about perimenopause and menopause by checking out our IG story highlight “WMM (World Menopause Month)”, which features informational videos from Julia Walker, RN BSN, a Women’s Health Nurse from Hey Perry. To further connect with Rachel, you can find her on IG @themenomemos or on her blog The Meno Memos.