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Irene Hogan: “Watch your weight”

My number one tip for all women has to be to make sleep a priority. Let me tell you all the ways a good night’s sleep is beneficial for you. Sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. Ever noticed how when you have a restless night everything seems more difficult the next morning. […]

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My number one tip for all women has to be to make sleep a priority. Let me tell you all the ways a good night’s sleep is beneficial for you. Sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. Ever noticed how when you have a restless night everything seems more difficult the next morning. It can help prevent weight gain. Hormones that increase your appetite and hunger signals are managed by sleep. It improves your memory. It energizes you. It improves your mood which many women struggle with at menopause. So, if you think sleep is not important, think again. Many women come to me about not being able to lose weight, despite eating well and exercising. When I get them to hit the sheets rather than the gym, and design a sleep ritual, the pounds disappear.


As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewingIrene Hogan.
 
 Irene Hogan is the author of Hot Chixs Hot Sex: How to Survive Menopause. As a pharmacist and menopause practitioner, she helps women navigate the rocky road of menopause and go from hot and harassed to energized and empowered. She is passionate about women living with passion & purpose, adding life to their years, not just years to their lives, aging well and preventing chronic diseases. She is considered an expert in women’s health and has been recognized with awards from both the Ontario Pharmacists Association and Canadian Pharmacists Association for her pharmacist-based specialty women’s health programs. She is an accomplished speaker and educator to both professional and patient audiences.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

I grew up going on cycling trips with my mum, two sisters and brother, in Southern England and staying at youth hostels. I never thought of keeping fit as a destination, but a way of life. I continued to bike to and from my home to the local indoor swimming pool. As a family we never owned a car until I started work. Here I joined the swim club and swam competitively until I left university. Swimming is still my go to for health and also to escape the tides of stress that all women face on a daily basis.

Now working with women and their health and lifestyles, movement is a key component of all my programs.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Over the year’s women have shared many personal stories with me. The one that had a great impact on how I practice was that of a woman in her 60’s that came to see me. She had been through menopause as she put it without what she thought as any significant issues. Her reason for a consultation, a new partner in her life, after many years of being single. The partner was not the problem, or the relationships or lack of it was. Why you might ask would this be a problem. The issue was that intercourse was not only painful but impossible. She had visited her physician, her gynecologist all without resolution. She was told that it was her age, try a lubricant. All to no avail. No one had spoken to her about vaginal health during her checkups. Women often ignore this part of their health especially if they are not with a partner. I found out this was the norm for menopausal women, practitioners are too embarrassed to ask their patients about sex. Most women will experience vaginal atrophy or what is now called genitourinary symptoms of menopause. The sad part of this story, she was considering ending the relationship as she felt guilty and embarrassed. I worked with her for over a year researching options and introducing her to dilator therapy, and even ordering them for her online. The story has a happy ending. She allowed me to be a part of her journey educating me at the same time as I learnt how important asking women about their libido and changes in vaginal health were to overall physical and emotional health as we age. It’s not just about the hot flashes and night sweats.

I now ask every woman these questions and educate them about all aspects of menopause. I have also become the go to expert on dilator therapy.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

There are many humorous stories I can tell you working as a community pharmacist. Patients have a need to bring in various specimens to show us what is going on. From worms in glass jars to pubic lice(crabs).

I remember I was preparing a large gallon carboy of a stomach mixture. I carefully weighed and mixed all the ingredients. The final act to shake the bottle well, which I proceeded to do vigorously. My final check had not included ensuring the lid was firmly screwed on! I stood in disbelief as the white concoction went all over the pharmacy walls including my boss. What did I learn for my future career as a pharmacist check once, check twice before you sign off. This is true for anything I do in life now. That final check may mean the difference between the right or wrong medication in a patient’s hands.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I have been working as a pharmacist for over forty years. During that time, I have studied and researched all aspects of women’s health. I have established a private practice consulting with women about hormone and menopausal issues. I have passed the menopause practitioner exam, and am a national certified menopause practitioner with the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) as well as a licensed pharmacist.

I was one of the first pharmacists to deliver a fee for service in the community pharmacy where I worked. That specialty practice was recognized by both the provincial and national pharmacists’ associations in Canada with awards for my women’s health initiative programs.

I am a best-selling author of the book Hot Chixs Hot Sex How to Survive Menopause. I wrote this book to help guide women on what happens to them on their menopause journey. It’s a blueprint for women with examples from the patients I have worked with over the years. It’s my voice talking with 1000’s of women transcribed onto paper to highlight and become dog eared. Too often women are told to suck it up or live with it or it’s just a part of aging. This has them succumb to the myths that as we age, we fall apart and there is no hope. I am passionate about educating and empowering women, and help them find their personalized solution. Menopause is not the end of the world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

When I was 11 years old, we lived above the chemist (pharmacy) where my dad worked as a dispensing assistant. The owner was Mr. Owen who allowed me to come and watch as he prepared the pills and potions. I also listened to him deal with everything from carbuncles and boils to cancer. His caring attitude and compassion towards all his patients have stuck with me for life. I may not have all the answers, sometimes all a person needs are for you to listen to their story.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

The number one blockage for women and their health is perfectionism. It’s an all or nothing mentality that makes us say well I’ve already eaten one cookie so there goes my healthy eating for the day. Let’s just eat the whole packet. We strive for that perfect body image, look, family, career. It’s never good enough.

The number two blockage is fatigue and stress. We continue to burn the proverbial candle at both ends. That never ending to do list is always there. We lack the inside knowledge that the more we do the less we achieve. We fail to nurture our mind, body and spirit, with rest, comfort and calm. As we drain ourselves more and more simple decisions become harder to make. Exhausted we continue on the same path as it’s easier to live with the devil we know than force ourselves to take a step into the unknown and make the changes.

Number three on this list is our guilt and negative self-talk. It’s so easy for women to blame themselves for all their failures. Our guilt leads us down the rabbit hole of shame and self-destructive habits. We use food and other addictive substances to silence our emotions and have a semblance of control.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

My number one tip for all women has to be to make sleep a priority. Let me tell you all the ways a good night’s sleep is beneficial for you. Sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. Ever noticed how when you have a restless night everything seems more difficult the next morning. It can help prevent weight gain. Hormones that increase your appetite and hunger signals are managed by sleep. It improves your memory. It energizes you. It improves your mood which many women struggle with at menopause. So, if you think sleep is not important, think again. Many women come to me about not being able to lose weight, despite eating well and exercising. When I get them to hit the sheets rather than the gym, and design a sleep ritual, the pounds disappear.

Number two, become stress resilient. Stress is in your life both good and bad. However how you react to stress affects your hormones and health. Overtime I see many women who are literally burnt out. It’s hard to get off the hamster wheel and admit how much you ask of yourself. As hormones decline during menopause, the more stressed out you are the harder it is to achieve balance. The roller coaster of symptoms, hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats, moodiness and weight gain are aggravated by the stress hormone cortisol. Don’t sweat the small stuff is the ideal mantra for women surviving and thriving during menopause. Find stress management solutions that work for you. Be it meditation, journaling or going out and yelling in the wilderness, find your stress buster.

Number three, watch your weight. I know you’ve heard all the myths about weight gain at menopause. Your metabolism changes and so does your body shape. It’s not about a particular diet, or food. It’s about good nutrition for long term health. The risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease increases for women after menopause as estrogen declines. It’s not all in your genes. What you eat is as important as when you eat and how. Certain foods may trigger symptoms, alcohol, sugar and caffeine increase hot flashes and interfere with sleep.

Number four know your numbers. Women often take care of everyone else above themselves, and forgo regular medical checkups. Knowing your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol numbers help with your personalized plan. What are your risks for osteoporosis, diabetes and other chronic diseases? You are not predestined to a life of illness after menopause. Being prepared and informed allows you to make the right decisions for your wellbeing.

Number five, last but not least seek expert help. I have discovered over the years helping women that there are few practitioners that are up to date with the current research. Many fail to look at your health from a whole person perspective, not just a list of symptoms to be fixed. I focus on getting to the root cause. Wellness is not just the absence of disease; I look at optimal health. The internet is great for a generalized view. Muddling along and asking friends is good for your next haircut, not for your health.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

Daily exercise in itself has people thinking of grueling workouts and hard work and sweat. All of these are far from appealing to menopausal women with too little time on their hands, and already feeling like a hot mess.

The word exercise needs to be replaced with any activity, or movement just for the fun of it. Daily activity improves your mood, raises endorphins, that cause you to have a sense of joy. It is a key to improving your sleep.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

I encourage women to do any exercise they will enjoy and continue to do. Weight bearing exercise during menopause helps with weight maintenance, protects bone health, and builds muscle which increases metabolism. I have found yoga a great addition to my repertoire to help calm and relax and turn off an overactive brain. Cardio is effective for endurance and any activity that raises your heart rate is beneficial for overall health.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

My most treasured book is a chewed-up library book that I borrowed 20 years ago! The title Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it’s all small stuff. Around this time a puppy entered my family life, to apparently replace the recently deceased hamster. Over the years I grew to love and appreciate the companionship of a four-legged animal. However, at first the teething pains were literal. I came home at lunchtime one afternoon to walk the puppy to find him in the hallway chewing away at the aforementioned book. Pages torn, the cover missing corners, other pieces gnawed away. After paying the replacement fine, I kept that book and still have it. Twenty years later the chewed book is a reminder. Don’t let the small things ruin your day, and I can laugh at the memory.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Women need a community. When they can gather together, they realize they are not alone in what they are experiencing. My movement would be to foster a menopause sanctuary where women would get together for solitude, advice or treatment without judgement.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

I once attended a human resources development course which I hated. The only good thing was a recommendation that I take the road less traveled in my life. To this day these words have reverberated within me. If I have a decision to make, I listen to my heart and not always my logical brain. I am open to traveling into uncharted territories.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Christiane Northrup has been an influencer and trailblazer in the women’s health field for decades. Her approaches to a flourishing mind, body and spirit are both broad and deep. Her expertise and personal journey embody the essence of wellness. With her as a mentor and adviser even for lunch would increase my abilities to offer women wholeness.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

My website www.hotchixshotsex.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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