Carol Smillie speaks out about the menopause

Carol Smillie has spoken out about how the menopause has affected her body.

The waist-thickening effect of the menopause

The 55-year-old star of Changing Rooms has branded the body changes caused by the menopause as 'awful'.
She said: “There's a definite change in your body.”

“You thicken up around the waist. I don't love it but you know nobody loves ageing do they? You just change shape. You gain a little more weight but it's just placed differently. It's like you almost lose your waistline. It's not a fatness it's a straightening of the sides. It's very strange.'

She added: “And then your chest, your decolletage, sort of wrinkles and you think "What's that?!" 

However, the presenter-turned- entrepreneur admits she has had it easy compared to some of her friends: “I think I've come off quite lightly because I'm not sweating like a beast and getting angry all the time.”

Japanese women and the menopause

According to Miss Tania Adib of Twenty-five Harley Street Day Clinic, a consultant gynaecologist who runs the Menopause Clinic, there’s a lot women can do to ensure they have a stress-free menopause. She suggests we look to the East for inspiration.

“The experience of menopause is different for each woman, but interestingly, western women have worse symptoms than women in some other countries, such as Japan, China and India,” explains Miss Adib. “One study showed that 64 per cent of British women reported suffering from tiredness, compared to just six per cent of those from Japan. When it comes to those aches and pains that seem to become more prevalent in the menopausal years, 54 percent of British women reported these were a problem – but just 14 percent of Japanese women complained of these.”

Miss Adib says we should do the following to manage the menopause:

For weight management problems as experienced by Carol Smillie, obviously exercise and diet are crucial. Miss Adib says: “Put aside at least 30 minutes three times a week to exercise. It’s a great stress-buster - as well as helping keep your body strong, physical activity releases ‘feel good’ hormones, giving you a much-needed mood boost!”

Osteoporosis and the protective effect of oestrogen

It’s also important to exercise to avoid osteoporosis – your risk shoots up without the protective effect of oestrogen. “As women get older, without the benefit of oestrogen, bone density levels fall over time. It's especially important to do the right exercise to keep the bones strong, and keep the body supple to prevent falls. Weight bearing exercise, such as dancing and running are good choices, but if you don’t feel able to do this, even walking can help prevent osteoporosis.”

In terms of diet, there are simple strategies you can take which helps you lose weight AND manage symptoms. Miss Adib says: “Making sure your diet is balanced with protein, good fats (such as those found in salmon) and complex carbohydrates, lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, and plenty of hydration will help ease menopausal symptoms.”

Cut caffeine to avoid middle-age spread

What about that dreaded ‘straightening’ that Carol talks about – when your middle spreads out, making you lose the definition between waist and hips? Miss Adib advises: "Avoiding or reducing refined sugar, coffee and alcohol, all of which can make hot flushes and sweating much worse. This also helps to beat the fat around the middle, on the stomach and abdomen which so commonly occurs.”

A few lifestyle tweaks means it is possible to remain a good shape, during and after the menopause.

The part of the body that contains the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder and other organs. Full medical glossary
A group of compounds that are an important energy source, including sugars and starch. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
A substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. Full medical glossary
Relating to the menopause, the time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle. Full medical glossary

The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods cease

Full medical glossary
A hormone involved in female sexual development, produced by the ovaries. Full medical glossary
A condition resulting in brittle bones due to loss of bony tissue. Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
the organ or the body where food is stored and broken down Full medical glossary
Relating to injury or concern. Full medical glossary