Author and television presenter, Andrea McLean (51), reveals her tips for achieving calmness, how menopause has some plus points, plus why she turned her back on Loose Women…
Andrea McLean on building a healthy lifestyle
‘I’ve always been into keeping myself healthy. From the ages of 11 to 14, I didn’t have posters of pop stars on my wall, but Sue Barker, Tracy Austin and Chris Evert Lloyd. I loved tennis and swam for a local swimming club. I’ve never been a team sport player because, weirdly, I’m afraid of letting others down. I think that’s why I now love the gym so much.
‘My happy weight is 9.5 stone but, like many, I put on weight in lockdown – about a stone. I wasn’t burning energy by going to the gym or running for trains every day and was also scoffing biscuits and drinking too much wine. But I kept up my strength with yoga, which Ido four days a week. I also try and get a walk in every day.’
Andrea McLean’s endometriosis diagnosis
‘I had endometriosis in my 20s and 30s. I was diagnosed when I was 28 and doctors found cysts on my ovaries and only one functioning fallopian tube. After my second pregnancy, I had a Mirena coil fitted, which helped with the pain because it pumps hormones into that area. When the menopause kicked in, the pain returned.
‘I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 28 and doctors found cysts on my ovaries.’
‘After I had a hysterectomy and they’d sent away the cervix tissue for testing, I was diagnosed with medium vessel vasculitis, a disease that attacks the medium-sized blood vessels, mainly those leading to organs. The diseased part of me was removed, then I had tests to ensure it hadn’t affected other organs. It’s an autoimmune disease, which shows itself in inflammation, so I try to stay as stress-free as I can, eat well and exercise to keep the blood pumping. The moment you’re told you have something that can kill you is horrendous.
‘Now I’m fine and I’m fit, well and healthy, but I get scared of something coming to get me. I do Wim Hof breathing and take cold showers. These have been proven to reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system. I turn the shower down to zero degrees and feel my body going into shock because it’s so cold, but I’ve learned to breathe through the stress. I really deeply inhale, then powerfully exhale. I listen to Chris Evans on Virgin Radio in the shower, because he’s so bright and cheery. A few songs will go by and I’m still under the cold water!’
Andrea McLean on mediatation
‘I’ve meditated for years. I used to do it on the train into work – I’d put my headphones in and close my eyes – but since lockdown, the biggest investment in my health and wellbeing has been a ‘Do not disturb’ sign. I stick it on the bedroom or bathroom door so the kids don’t come in, then do a guided meditation using the Insight Timer app, which is free. All you need is 15 minutes.
‘It feels good to take control of your wellbeing.’
‘One of the first things I say to ladies in the This Girl Is On Fire community is find time that’s just for you, then build a wall around it. Fifteen minutes is just 1 per cent of the day. If your kids are very little, get up 15 minutes before them to meditate. It feels good to take control of your wellbeing. It’s not about making huge changes, but thinking about things differently and doing small things consistently.’
Andrea McLean on the symptoms of menopause:
‘I began with normal menopausal symptoms at 42, but was perimenopausal and having night sweats from 37, shortly before I fell pregnant for the second time. The word menopause means when you’ve stopped having your period, but I found the 10 or so years before brought the worst symptoms. It takes a lot to get me riled up but from my early 40s, before beginning HRT, I was very down then very up. I still get low moods, but the biggest mistake I used to make was thinking I needed to be Little Miss Sunshine all day, every day.
‘The 10 or so years before menopause brought the worst symptoms’
‘Now, if a low mood visits, I take it easy for a few days and sleep more. I get very low in winter. I’m definitely affected by SAD. Weirdly, I reframed the winter just gone in my head. I used to look around and say to [my husband] Nick, ‘everything’s dead and the sky is grey’. Last winter, I thought ‘the leaves have dropped off but underneath the ground, there’s so much growing happening’. Something in my head switched and it made a difference.’
How Andrea manages menopause symptoms:
‘I treat menopause in various ways. I use plant-based oestrogen gel, which helps pump collagen between my bones. I also take Maxine Laceby Absolute Collagen for an extra boost and Vagifem pessaries to improve the elasticity of the vagina.
‘I no longer use testosterone, purely because I wasn’t noticing any benefits. Since starting oral vitamin B12and vitamins C and D sprays, which go straight into the bloodstream, I have so much more energy! I’ve also noticed a big improvement to my hair and nails, which weakened with the menopause.’
Andrea McLean on loving life after 50
‘In my 50s, I’ve discovered a level of acceptance I’m happy with. I’ve come a long way and learned a lot and now I am who I am. Yes, my body isn’t quite what it was before, but I’ve accepted that pitting myself against the person I was in my 30s is not beneficial.
‘The menopause has made me care less about what people think. It was a huge bump in the road and symptoms including low mood, anxiety and brain fog are all negative, but once you find ways to deal with them, you end up giving less of a s***.’
Andrea McLean on healthy nutrition
‘I’ve never been faddy about food. I grew up in the Caribbean with Scottish parents, so ate everything from spam fritters, chips and egg to callaloo soup and goat curry. It’s made me a pretty open-minded eater. My biggest problem is that I get so busy, I suddenly realise I’m ravenous and grab whatever is there. I need to be more disciplined! When I’ve eaten too much bread or pasta, my quick go-to dinner is lentil dahl soup topped with steamed fish. It’s ready in 10 minutes and super-duper healthy.
‘I’m lactose intolerant, so can’t go anywhere near milk or cheese. They make me throw up, I get migraines and I’m in bed for three days. I became intolerant when I was 22. I was backpacking in India, where I drank some contaminated water. I was so ill, I ended up in a hospital for tropical diseases. The illness totally messed up my gut and left me with a huge dairy intolerance. Apart from that, I’ll eat anything – especially if someone else has cooked it! I’m not the best cook.
‘Now, when I have to run, it’s to my own beat and for something I feel passionately about.’
Andrea McLean on why she left Loose Women
‘There’s a period of adjustment when you make any major pivot. I left Loose Women last December to focus full time on my business, This Girl Is On Fire, which is an online space supporting women in mind, body and business. It was scary to walk away from something I’d done for so long, but the pandemic made me realise I needed to follow my heart.
‘Age also played a big part. I’m 51 now and thought it’s time to just jump! I may land flat on my face, but at least I will have tried. January and February were almost vertical in terms of a learning curve, but I’m now getting into my stride.
‘It was scary to walk away from something I’d done for so long, but the pandemic made me realise I needed to follow my heart.’
‘Before [leaving Loose Women], I was juggling too much; running to stand still. Now, when I have to run, it’s to my own beat and for something I feel passionately about.’
For more information on Andrea’s personal growth courses and access to free life-changing downloads, head to thisgirlisonfire.com. Andrea’s private membership group re-opens for three days only, from September 29, 2021.