Meg’s book, The New Hot: Taking on the Menopause with Attitude and Style is out on October 1. This is how it all began…
Meg, what was the inspiration for The New Hot?
Five years ago, all menopause meant to me was those really old-fashioned boxes of women’s vitamins I used to see in Boots. There was just nothing about it that was relevant or sexy. Menopause came with a multitude of negative ideas around it. To me, it meant: “It’s over, that’s it.”
We launched the MegsMenopause website in 2018. Immediately, I knew we were onto something – it started to get lots of traction, and Penguin asked if I’d be up for doing a book.
Of course, the first thing I said to them was, “I’m dyslexic and I have ADHD, so pages and pages of text don’t do it for me.” I wanted there to be blocks of colour, illustrations, advice, help, in digestible chunks. And what Penguin wanted was for me to speak from the heart. So in my parts of the story, it’s just me talking to you like a friend. And then we have some great experts – Dr Louise Newson, Sara J Matthews – who have also written for the website and been on my podcast.
When I look at the book today, there’s nothing I can fault with it. It’s beautiful. And it’s full of all kinds of women – I hope it’s representative.
How did the writing process work for you as someone with dyslexia?
I basically stuck hundreds of brightly coloured Post-its all over the walls of my house, took a bunch of big marker pens and went round jotting things down. Over here it would be what I was eating; over there would be how my sleeping was; there was my libido – and it worked, visually. I could look around the room at these notes, and it was like a big version of the book that my brain could understand.
What are you proudest of about The New Hot?
You know, I’ve always been afraid of the British press. For years, they just went for me. I couldn’t do anything right: whatever I wore, my weight, what I said. And in the lead-up to the book coming out, I still had this fear – because I never know what they’re going to do. Before, if some said to me, “I’ve just seen you in the paper”, I would feel like I was going to vomit. It still brings up awful feelings.
So, in short, I didn’t get too excited, because I was still worried about what the press would say. But then Louise Gannon wrote an amazing piece in which she said the book could be a game-changer and, all of a sudden, it made me smile. Now I feel like I have official approval. Now I am really proud.
What’s your next big project?
There’s lots on my list. One of the things I want to do is advocacy. We need to start lobbying, get some MPs on board, to raise awareness about menopause issues. Liz Earle said she wanted to chain herself up outside the House of Commons – I’ll do it with her.
We have to make changes within the medical profession, for a start. GPs get practically no teaching on menopause. We need to look at retraining, and it’s going to cost the government – but ultimately it comes down to prevention: the outcome for strokes, heart attack and osteoporosis is improved if you start taking oestrogen earlier.
I was diagnosed with osteoporosis at 48 and, to look at me, you’d think I was always in the gym. But it’s a silent killer: it was in my hip, my spine, and I had no idea. Women should be given a DEXA scan to measure bone mineral density in their forties. It’s not expensive. That’s something else we need to change.
And women need more information: a letter should go out to every single one of us at the age of 40 telling us exactly what perimenopause is – because it can last up to 15 years. And women can have a shocking time but they don’t realise what’s going on. I self-medicated: I used to drink, take drugs, do whatever to get rid of that feeling, because I didn’t know what was happening. It was the only way of getting through life. Information would have changed that.
What do you want women to take away from the book?
I want women to be able to read it and feel empowered; to think that menopause is not what we’ve been led to believe for the past 50 years: that you’re all dried up, that you’re over the hill.
I want women to be able to share with their partner and family how they’re feeling; to be able to say, “Come on guys, I’m going through the menopause, I need a bit of help here.” To be able to say, “I’m not feeling that good, so today I’m not cooking dinner, today I’m going to go for walk. On my own.”
As women, we feel guilty: we feel guilty if we work, we feel guilty if we don’t; we feel guilty if we have a massage, we feel guilty if we don’t. I want women to feel that they deserve to have time for themselves in this part of their life.
Do you ever wake up in the morning and go, “I don’t want to think about menopause today?”
No, never, because every single day I have a DM or an Insta message from someone asking for help or advice. Sometimes it’s, like, 100 a day – and I always try and answer. But it’s really given me a purpose in life, and that feeling, of being of service to women – there’s nothing better.
The New Hot: Taking on the Menopause with Attitude and Style is out on October 1 (Penguin £16.99) Pre-order it HERE.