When you’re looking for a medical provider in midlife, finding someone who is committed to listening, staying curious, and staying up to date on research are just some of the top priorities. But when you can find a woman who has some skin in the midlife game, well, many times you’ve hit the jackpot.
My guest on today’s Story Session is health coach and dietitian, Tracy Kelly. She’s sharing her story about how her practice has been transformed as a result of having recently started perimenopause. As universal as the symptoms of menopause can be, each of us has a story to tell. This episode will inspire you to lean into your experience, ask more questions, and discover how to live authentically in what likely feels like someone else’s body on a lot of days.
To learn more about Tracy and her work, check out her website at www.bloomhealthhub.com and follow her on Instagram @tracykellysays.
Looking for a place to learn more about midlife, menopause nutrition, and intuitive eating? Click here to grab one of my free resources and learn what I've got "on the menu" including my 1:1 and group programs. https://www.menopausenutritionist.ca/links
Jenn Huber 0:01
Hey there, welcome to this week's episode of the midlife feast today is a story session, which I always love, because sharing our stories is one of the things that I wanted to do when I started this podcast, and has definitely become one of the most loved features of the podcast is what people learn from other people's stories. And so my guest today is Tracy Kelly, who is a fellow dietitian in the UK, from South Africa, who is also in perimenopause. And like me was a little bit surprised when her symptoms showed up. But unlike me, has found really great relief with HRT. But as she shared, it wasn't a one and done solution. She spent about six months trying to figure out something that worked. And in that time really was kind of confronted with a lot of the changes that we all go through changes in how we look and feel and how we relate to the world and sleep and mood and all those things. And so I'm really excited to share Tracy story, because I think many of you will recognize pieces of the story in Tracy story. So listen in and let me know what you think.
Jenn Huber 1:11
Hi, Tracy, welcome to the midlife feast.
Tracey Kelly 1:14
I'm so excited to be it feels a real honor to be chatting to you what feels like in real life. And that also from listening to your podcast for so long to now being a guest on it's a real privilege and honor. So thank you for inviting me.
Jenn Huber 1:28
You're very welcome. So I love connecting with other like minded health professionals, and you're a dietitian, and you're also a health coach and you've kind of been working with people, I think almost as long as I have or maybe even a little bit longer. We're you know, kind of in the same age and stage I've I graduated university or uni, as you might call it in 1999. When
Tracey Kelly 1:51
did you graduate? 1998? Yeah, so.
Jenn Huber 1:58
So interestingly, it was also your personal kind of experience of going through perimenopause that we're going to talk about today. But it was also that experience that kind of led you into wanting to work with women in this age and stage. So why don't you tell us a little bit about about your experience? Are you are you menopausal now? Or are you still in Peri menopause
Tracey Kelly 2:20
and perimenopause and being on HRT now for 18 months. So still in probably the earliest side, and what felt like really young at the time, even though I knew the facts, my journey, the symptoms really started at the same time as the COVID pandemic. So it was quite a tricky time to also unpick what was hormones and what was just changed in the world from the way we were eating to exercise to access to things that we had for enjoyment. And, yeah, I look at this as a little bit of a blessing, but probably about 18 months before I actually had started working in a woman's health clinic with women who were in perimenopause and menopause. So a lot of those symptoms were a little bit more in the forefront of my mind. But it was just a really interesting journey in actually having to stop and work out. Is this just because of what's going on? And then I thought, okay, no, just be practical, do the things that you do that, you know, start writing down some of those symptoms to see whether there are just coincidence, because at that stage, I have my periods were still regular, they were on a 26 day cycle because I was charting them. But there were things that started to seem out of the ordinary to me things like I've never been a worrier or a very anxious person. But I was finding that I was definitely getting moody, around my period. And little things were bothering me a lot more than what they did before. Night sweats. I tried everything from changing the temperature in the room to Sleeping Naked to you name it, but actually still waking up in a puddle of water. And actually, this was it. I only found this out from joining a lot of groups, my body odor change, that actually when I was exercising, I smelled like a wet dog. It was terrible. And my hair started to fall out. So those were sort of the things that and fatigue. I've always been very active. I actually enjoy exercising, it's one of I just enjoy it and it's great for stress management. And that I was struggling with the things that I could do and I had to think is this just because of lockdown and I have not been there's no gym to go to. So what I've been doing has been very different. Some days I didn't feel like doing it. Everything was a bit familiar. And then I have a very lovely warm, I don't go to the GP so part of what I thought was actually are these things. Could it be I'm feeling a little bit too young I, in my mind for it to be this and I was like, Oh, my goodness is this could be it. And because I'm a dietitian, I was like, let's check the thyroid, let's check the iron. Let's check my vitamin D, let's rule out anything else that it could possibly be. And I suppose what I would probably also encourage other people and women who sound like some of these symptoms might be a little bit different. Do a little bit of your homework, write those symptoms down, start connecting dots. And actually, when you have that conversation with your GP, it's a little bit easier, because it's hard to be dismissed when you've actually got things written down, because they so randomly, so I feel a bit more tired, I'm a bit more irritable, which could be normal life. And what I also did was, I stalked all the GPS, I had a look at who had a special interest in women, or woman's health. And I also picked somebody who was around my age that she was two, three years older. So there was a strong chance that she would probably know a little bit more. And she was really lovely. She said, here, I was before my 45th birthday. So in the UK, they can do a test, although we know it's not accurate. But she said, let's just do all these give you peace of mind. And it might be this. And we both had a laugh, it probably is this, but we just don't want it to be. And that was how my journey started. And I'd probably say that actually starting HRT wasn't an I had decided for many reasons why I was going to do it. But it wasn't an easy journey. In the beginning, either. I think a lot of people that I see talk about hot flushes go straightaway, I wasn't having those symptoms. So and I didn't get on with it in the beginning. And I felt worse before I started feeling better. And advice that I had got from women who had walked the road was try different brands try different things before you throw the towel in. And that was where a lot of I would say the information also come from one working in that area. So I wanted to learn everything so that I could support these woman as best as possible. But marrying the theory in real life was very different. And those were the nuggets that I got from different groups that I joined people's lived experience, because the GPS will say yeah, take this, oh, it doesn't work. Well, nothing else out there not like on practical things, the patches on big, but I'm gonna, I don't want to stick it on my stomach where everybody's gonna see if I want to wear a bikini or I'm at the gym or when I get naked. Some of us like, put it under your G string, that and so you'd like so just little practical tips. There's other things that I think we really, we really learned from talking to people from opening up. And I think what it brought up for me was a lot of in the beginning when I was like, Oh, I hope it's not this it can't be was that whole thing around age. What's going to happen to me? Is this, a Daniel slope. And it was quite interesting how I'd always believed I could do anything that I set my mind to. And all of a sudden in that weird patch, I lost belief in. I didn't trust myself, my body wasn't doing what, what I wanted to do. And I was like, my body started changing shape. And I'm like, not eating hugely different. I'm not. But actually if I take a step back, I probably was doing a little bit less, maybe eating a little bit differently. But I'm only a I'm only a small person, I'm five foot, there isn't a lot of me. So actually, I knew I couldn't cut back more on calories. And if I can't do more exercise. And then I was just like I just said one day and I thought your mindset has always been around. The best is now and to come. stick to that. And I think that's where I had to really sort of dig into courage when I lost a belief. Because to everybody else, I still looked fit, I still looked healthy, I was still doing those things. But internally, there was a very different narrative going on. And that just
Jenn Huber 9:21
goes to show though, that, you know, confidence isn't a number. You know, we It doesn't matter what size or shape of body that you're in. If confidence and self confidence is what you're looking for. You won't find it in a number. Because people of all shapes and sizes have those moments of I don't feel like myself, I don't recognize who I see in the mirror. My body is changing in ways that I don't understand. And it's kind of rocking my world in the worst possible way. Like that's a really universal experience regardless. So there's a couple of things from your story that I want to come back to so One is that despite being a experienced, trained health professional who was working with people in this particular aspect of of life, you were still kind of not sure if when you were going into very menopause, this was like, Is this perimenopause? Or is this something else. And so when we hear stories and statistics about 50% of women not recognizing that they're in perimenopause, it's easy to understand, you know, I was, you know, I was a younger I was, you know, in my late kind of, almost really, I think, 36 or 37, if I go back to the very beginning of it, so it's a little bit more, I think, relatable or understandable that I didn't recognize it. And, you know, my care providers didn't. But if you're in your 40s, you know, it really should be the thing that we're all on the lookout for. And it's not that every problem is a menopause nail that needs a menopause hammer, that's not what I'm saying, either. But it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, if these symptoms show up in your 40s. So for anybody who's listening, who thinks, Okay, I feel a little bit less bad, because, you know, if it's, if other people have a hard time, then that's the whole point of sharing these stories is so that we do have this, you know, kind of community of, it's not just you, you can be very well educated, experienced, and even work in this area, and still not be able to fully connect the dots right away. So
Tracey Kelly 11:30
I think it's I like that. And I think it's often it's, it doesn't have to be an either, or is it the pandemic? Or is it hormones, I think coming from that mindset of it could be both, and it could be hormones, and it could be changed in the external world. And they're both impacting and our resilience in our approach is going to be totally different. But I think a big thing that I know, you talk about this a lot, what may be made it also the difference, the narrative around menopause hasn't always been very positive, or the stories that we hear, for marketing purposes, for whatever it is, are always bleak. There is a bit depressing, it's always somebody. It's not always relatable to a slightly, and I say younger, and maybe this is a small thing, you know, like when you like, it's it's not that it's devaluing anybody's story, but actually, are the people that don't have an underlying medical condition. And that's what I was seeing. So my maybe those things are also linked with that. So I think having people talk about these things, normalize the link, normalizing, normalizing, it's a little bit helps. And also just the ship hasn't sailed. And I think that's where the ageism comes in our belief structure. And if we look at sort of countries like Japan, where aging is actually valued and EU wise and graceful, those women actually experienced far less symptoms of menopause, they're probably experiencing the same, but the perception is different. It's just what we go through. And I think that has been a really, maybe it's the algorithm that when you start typing in these things, it just bombard your inbox, your social media feed. So a lot of things have been coming up about perimenopause, menopause in the COVID time with me, but you get to see so many like the positive stories, the real HotSync stories, because there are a lot out there. And that's what really upsets me in clinic, I see a lot of people, I run a chronic fatigue clinic as well. And I'm like, oh, goodness, this is your age, and you start asking those things. And nobody's asked them, and I'm like, it could actually be that rather than fatigue of unknown, unknown origin and cause. So
Jenn Huber 13:53
yeah, absolutely. So the other thing that I want to come back to is, is your story with HRT, because I, I shared mine, that it just wasn't for me. And, you know, I try, I spent almost two years trying all the different things. In hindsight, I now know that I'm hormone sensitive. And so it didn't matter what combination I was on, I just felt like a big pile of garbage. And I just couldn't get away around that. So and but most of the other stories that I hear are people who take it, and it's like, changed their life. It's the best thing ever. I had somebody referred to it the other day as like their heroin, that when they're like on day three of their patch, they're like, can't wait to change it. You know, so, and I think that's amazing. Like, that's amazing, but I don't actually often hear many stories of people who didn't have that, like, you know, fireworks experience right away and had to push through. So you mentioned that you weren't experiencing hot flashes. What was the driver to start the HRT,
Tracey Kelly 14:51
the night sweats. The fatigue was really bad and for me that also linked in with exercise literally just feeling like my stamina was not there. There was no power. And I just couldn't exercise in any way near the same way as I was before. But also the sort of the brain fog, the mental aspect. So a lot of my job is talking to people it is on calls, it is doing consultations, it is doing conferences, I was forgetting words. And you feel a little bit, you sitting on the Zoom call anything? What's that word. And so those sort of things. For me, it was very much when you wake up all the risks, I thought, at some point, I'm gonna have to go on it anyway. But for my for my brain and my mental health, and just to start feeling. I just wasn't feeling like myself. And then the more you look at where all the estrogen receptors are in the body, it's not surprising that we just don't feel right, because they do so many different things. And also, another thing was the disrupted sleep. So I've always been a good sleeper. If I'm awake, I know why I'm awake. It's not like I lie awake at night. And that was weird that sort of two, three o'clock waking up, right? There's nothing actually on my mind. And my days are infinitely worse if I have not had a good night's sleep. And so that was my that was my driver. And I should have mentioned this before, what started happening to me was also one of the reasons why I spoke to the GP, I started developing a whole lot of which is a little bit ironic, being the dietitian, a whole lot of sensitivities and intolerances to food. And I haven't had a single allergy or any intolerances. I'm a fussy eater. But that's what started. So those were sort of things that that's not stress, that's not the pandemic. And then, for me, the side effects were, I'm on a super low dose, so they started as low as possible. I didn't get on with the progesterone, I felt like a zombie the next day. And the estrogen was literally making my stomach blowed badly. And I did a little experiment, I cut the patch. For disclaimer, don't do this at home. But I cut my patches in half, I took my patch off, and it literally was you could actually watch it, put it on go pop out, I change it. So obviously super sensitive. Somebody said to me try a different brand, pop it on in a different place. I did switch brands, huge difference. And then also with the UTRA jeston. This was from speaking in forums. And I was quite fortunate that maybe a little bit because of my age and some and I was still having quite frequent periods, I did get into menopause clinic, one of the top ones in the UK quite quickly. And I had asked about taking neutral gesture and vaginally because somebody said they had it on. So they don't not prescribe that way in the UK, under a consultant, they might sometimes they do extra tests in Europe, it's the way they do it. And actually after changing to that, no problem because what I was finding with the EU tradition, you got to have your, you can't have it at mealtime. So it's having to have my dinner earlier and earlier and earlier, just so that I could wake up in the morning, which is fine when you're working at home. But actually, if you've got to be out for the day, or you're socializing, it just became more like a headache and an extra thing to to think about. But you have to go on the YouTube restaurant if you're taking estrogen. So there's no way around it. And then changing patches, using it at different spots, taking it in a different way. And that magic actually came from communities that I had enjoyed that I had joined. So the power of our stories again, from
Jenn Huber 18:51
a you know, yeah, I love how open people have been about all of their experiences. But I think that especially with the the HRT piece, because, you know, there really are so many different paths and combinations and ways of taking it and, you know, and obviously it's a it's a decision that only you and your doctor or prescriber can make because there are many different factors that need to be considered. But it is so important to know that if one thing doesn't work, then it's not the end, like you get there probably or at least half a dozen other combinations or, you know, ways of taking it that that Yeah, I think that that's really powerful to hear, you know, just again, a different story than what I know I'm used to hearing, which is it either worked or it didn't, but not a whole lot of like I persisted and it took time and now I'm really happy and I'd
Tracey Kelly 19:49
probably say took about six months.
Jenn Huber 19:51
Yeah. Which is longer than I think a lot of people stick it out. Like you know, three to four months is kind of what people will say like oh I've done I've been trying, it's not working, I've tried different things. And so there might be, you know, there might be someone listening who is at that mark. And hopefully this will convince them to maybe try a little bit longer.
Tracey Kelly 20:12
And also because I am very controversial topic on the move, but I'm also on testosterone. My testosterone was undetectable, which was probably more of an it's pretty much probably more of the reason why I was having all of the problems with exercise. So you always have to be, and it was just a little bit coincidental. The appointment slots are quite long waiting for the consultants. So that was probably also why I persevered for that little bit longer. But they're like your estrogen levels are really good. And if you're in perimenopause, it's harder to actually establish what's my body's producing and what I'm taking from the HR team. So they've only got cut offs for post menopause that are reliable. So that made a huge, a huge difference. But I think one thing also to probably mention as well is, when all these changes are going on with our body, we can become hyper vigilant. And when you add something new, you're like, is this the medication, this was kind of a weird, I changed one of the patches, and I got a real upset stomach. And I was like, Oh, my goodness, this must be this new patch. This is really weird. And then I met up with my sister afterwards. And she was like, Kip had a really bad stomach since you went up. We obviously all ate something. So it wasn't like full on food poisoning. But that's a very great example of two things happened at the same time. And they may not be connected at all. And I think that's where no matter how well you know, your body. Two things can happen at the same time and trying to unpick, are they linked or they're not linked? And the more you read things, the more you think, oh, maybe I've got that symptom, maybe I don't. So I think that's also aware, we've got to be quite discerning of the information that is out there. And when you are on forums as well, people are very generous with sharing. But you've also got to trust yourself what works for me, all right, does this work doesn't work. This doesn't feel right. This doesn't sound right. And always having a I think a mix of healthcare professionals, and people going through together and reading books and learning as you go. That's where we, you will find what works for you from that box of tools in front of you. What do I want to pull out at different times. And that I think was a big thing for me unlearning a lot of the things that have just been all the coping strategies, I had all the things that worked, actually putting things under umbrellas. So maybe exercise looks different now. Maybe my eating looks different now. And the things that I enjoyed before. I'm a 90s. Girl, I liked the cardio. I grew up with that stuff. grapevines and all of that, you know, we just I did that. But I also got like, running and that just sort of helped me zone out to get the endorphin hit. And that stuff became harder. So actually, I challenge my own thing on I started yoga and assorted all those overthink other things in your rest days. But actually, what does exercise look like? And what is my body likes actually, from having to sleep all the time, and I can't do it. My body's not liking that at the moment, you might not get the same endorphin hit. But actually, if you feeling better overall, what are you doing it for? So it kind of came back to that why. And marrying up the things that you enjoy with the things that are good for you. Rather than just doing what's all the right stuff. And I think I went through a phase where I was doing dialing up even more what the right stuff, inverted commas were but it wasn't right for me at that time. So I've actually ended up doing less, to be able to do more.
Jenn Huber 23:58
Less is more sometimes
Tracey Kelly 24:00
and less is most definitely, except for sleep. I've had to have more sleep now. For somebody you never really used to have.
Jenn Huber 24:11
Something that you said was, I think really powerful, which was that, you know, all of these things change and everything changed, like your relationship with movement changed and, and food changed and, and the anti aging narrative is fight the change. And so I think that, you know, those of us who are embracing this season of life are recognizing that you really have to be able to lean into it with some self compassion with curiosity with information like it's not a letting go. It's a leaning in. And I think that there's a much there's, there's a subtle difference therapists are leaning in and saying I need to listen to what it is that actually feels good and what do I want and how can I you know make this work for me in a way that doesn't feel like it's always going to be an uphill battle. Because I think a lot of what we're trying to hold on to, it really does feel like we're pushing a rock uphill. You know, we're, we're, we're exhausting ourselves trying to fight that, that change. And yeah, and about the stories too. And I do think that that was really important to say that, yes, people's stories are very powerful. And as your experience shows, getting that kind of information is, was invaluable in your case, because it helps you to find a path to having this thing work. But one of my favorite sayings is that the plural of anecdote is not data. And so even if you have 100 stories that are positive and powerful and inspiring, it doesn't mean that that information applies to you. So, which is why it's so important to have a healthcare team that you can that can help you to filter those those stories, essentially, and see, like, is this the right thing for me, because as we all know, the internet is full of advice. And not everyone who gives advice should be giving advice. So there's, you know, you really have to have that, that filter on when you're when you're reading these experiences. But one of the things that I loved and as we kind of finish up your story is that it really kind of prompted you to work in this space, this this kind of menopause world of helping to support people as they move through perimenopause and into menopause. And so tell tell me a little bit about how what that's looking like for you because you're in the UK.
Tracey Kelly 26:33
Jenn Huber 26:34
But your, your Australian, right
Tracey Kelly 26:37
South African accent right South Africa. So far, but I will give you that.
Jenn Huber 26:47
At least I can pick up that it wasn't British. But yeah, so but you do live in the UK. So tell us a little bit about how this has kind of changed and informed your work.
Tracey Kelly 26:59
So some of the work was there already. But what I'm actually working on now, which is quite exciting is actually trading in some of that stuff to be doing more of my own work one on one consultations with woman running a few programs. So there's a few actually in the pipeline now, which is really exciting. Some of them is actually bringing a lot of that mindset work, which is not what people sign up forwards, what they really what they really need, but kind of like how we bring the two together. And really revisiting what performances what does it mean to feel good. And also, I suppose it's a little bit of that ageism thing, actually, what's happening next, let's we're not here to fade out, they're leaning in that surrender, gives us an opportunity to pause. And I suppose it's a phrase that I've had to remind myself about. And now with hindsight, I can see the gift of a pause. That's stopping helps us reevaluate all of those relationships, again, health food, exercise, who we spending our time with, and also pausing to choose courage when you've lost everything, not lost everything. But actually, when that confidence is waning, when that belief goes that courage to trust yourself, just to do something, to ask for help, to share in forums like this, it's easy to share in a close group because it feels safe. And what happens if somebody else knows and it took me a while to actually even put myself out on social media, acknowledging my story. So that was a big challenge for myself, what is going on there. And what I also really want to be as a role model for maybe somebody who's slightly younger in their 40s. And actually, that 5055 60 space feels a little bit further away, because I'm also single now, which is quite a big thing at this age. So there's all those other things that come in through perimenopause, as well and make some of aesthetics also feel a little bit different. But I think just having that it's not over that actually, you have still got many years ahead. How do you want to live those? And actually, how can you design them in a way that's going to give you that that best? Or the opportunity to put your best foot forward to really catapult you into what you want to be? And also, are you still doing things that you want to do? Or do we have to drop some of those things and really make these next year's count? And I think sometimes just having hormones, and it's not that they're ever going to be under control because they're fluctuating, but actually, how do you navigate all the internal changes when it feels like it's beyond your control? And all of these external things that are outside of your control? And I think it just comes in like you said to that leaning in Listening. Because we live in a distracted world. Everything is on the go. It's nonstop. We do a lot of things mindlessly and on autopilot. So actually, I think in a way, we're forced to stop because your body forces you. You can either use your either roll with it, or you fight it, but even even rolling with it, it is still getting us to do things differently. And so what do you do with that? Is it a gift? Or is it feels like a prison sentence. And that's the choice. And I think where we choose to put our, our attention. And I read something, yes, it was really beautiful. It was a conscious awareness of an unwanted future. That is fear. I thought that's what I was in a conscious awareness of what my future might be like, when I can't exercise when I feeling moody, when I forget my words, when my body just is going on its own mission, actually. So what do I want is my wanted future. And that's just simply again tuning in. To stop we have, that's when we notice what we thinking. That's when we notice what we feeling, which is a lot of the work that you do a spell around tuning into your body, how you feel food movement. And I think that is the gift that through the work that I do and through the work that you do. And just by talking to people actually giving them that sprinkling of hope, again, actually, this is not the end. So that's what sort of got me back to where I got me back in love. I think with nutrition, again, because I was tired of diets, I was tired of all of that things. So I'd kind of left it, I was working probably a lot more with performance. But also, the other bit of my work is working with executives. And I'm working with a lot of female business leaders who are really struggling to be their best at home and work. And sadly, a lot of time work is all the energies going there because you enjoy it. But that's where the salaries coming from. And then not being able to give your best to the things that also matter to you like family. And that then lays on all that guilt. So that's been a really an interesting journey made me look at things differently. But yeah, so actually, if I can inspire somebody else, and that actually that they are having challenges that we can work together and create this new way of being that actually is they leading the charge on it, and you just this guide on the side. That's when magic is gonna
Jenn Huber 32:40
describe it too, is that I always say like, I'm like a Sherpa, you know where you want to go. I'm just gonna make sure that you don't fall off the side of the mountain on your way to get there. Yeah, exactly how I describe my work. Yeah. And you know, the gift of midlife, just to kind of come back, something you said is that your ability to do the things that don't bring you joy anymore? Really, it's not possible so far, you know, people will often come in or talk to me and say, you know, like, I'm just feeling so frustrated and angry. And I, you know, and I just can't do this, or I'm feeling really burnt out or overwhelmed. And it's because of that they're coming up against the wall of the things that they do want to do. And yeah, and your ability to do things that you don't want to do. It really goes like you cannot put up with bullshit anymore. And it's a gift. I think it's a great gift. But it can be a hard one to navigate yourself or like me can definitely be helpful. So to kind of end the question that I with the question that I asked everyone, what do you think is the missing ingredient in midlife,
Tracey Kelly 33:46
our stories, the power of a story to the bravery to put yourself out there as the person going through it. And to tap into it as somebody who might be in their 30s or 40s. Just start listening to the stories so that you've got a little bit of sprinkling. And you you know what to do ahead of the time. Yeah. And community story and community.
Jenn Huber 34:13
Yeah, we definitely need more of that. That's for sure. Thank you so much for your time and your story and we'll have the links for in the show notes for people who want to get in touch with you. But thank you so much, Tracy. It has been lovely chatting with you today. Thank
Tracey Kelly 34:27
you very much for having me.