Jackie Lynch’s journey to nutrition is a fascinating one. A highly-driven career woman with what she describes as a ‘strong constitution’, she was living in fifth gear for years, loving the pace of her life, unaware of the impact it was having on her until she decided to book her first spa package. Fed a diet free from gluten, alcohol and caffeine for 7 days in the Atlas Mountains, she emerged invigorated, with a new found understanding of what ‘well’ feels like. And so, she booked again…and the following year, browsing the C.Vs of the expert consultants on offer she decided to look at the qualifications. And that was it. The lightbulb moment.
14 years later, with a hugely successful clinic, a range of books and a popular podcast to her name, she has written a new book, ‘The Happy Menopause: Smart Nutrition to Help you Flourish’. It is a fantastic read. And this was a fantastic and far-ranging conversation. We know you’ll enjoy it too.
First, tell us a little bit about you. What motivated you to start your business?
I’m a Registered Nutritional Therapist and launched my WellWellWell Nutrition Clinic 10 years’ ago. This was a significant career change for me – my original degree was French and I lived and worked in France for a long time. Before retraining I worked in sales and marketing for intellectual property, TV & Film Rights, publishing and merchandising for literary properties such as Agatha Christie, Noddy, the Enid Blyton catalogue and Mr Men. Then, I had what can only be described as a ‘light-bulb moment’. And everything came right.
In 2005 I was in a senior role, flying all over the world in a job I loved but that gave me no time for myself. I booked a spa break on a whim. The food was amazing. I loved it. It was gluten, alcohol and caffeine free but it didn’t feel like a hardship. And I came home, after 7 days, feeling amazing. I hadn’t been ill - but I have a strong constitution. I can endure. But getting back, I was blown away by the change. I haven’t touched caffeine since. After that, I took a spa break the following year. There were a number of guests there from my previous visit, and we all spoke about the dietary changes we’d made. I was really surprised to find I was the only one who’d kept it up! The next year, I dug a little deeper into the qualifications required to deliver nutritional programmes and found the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. And that was it. I knew that this is what I’d do next. And by June 2006 I had!
It was tough, effectively going back to school. I remember sitting in the science sessions and the information just washing over me. But it was important. As a grown up I realised that I had the right to ask for help. - as a paying participant, they owed it to me to explain things in a way I could grasp. And I realised I wasn’t rubbish. I realised that balanced equations are a thing of beauty. And I got 94% in my chemistry exam!
Once qualified, I started as a generalist, working with people with a variety of health conditions. I expanded my work to include writing articles and features for the national press and running corporate nutrition workshops. And I became an author - writing ‘The Right Bite: Smart Nutrition to Help you Flourish’ and ‘Va Va Voom’: The 10-day Energy Diet’. But, over the years I became drawn to women’s health and the menopause in particular. Maybe it was because of my own stage of life, perhaps it was because of the large number of women in midlife who sought help in my clinic. But it was clear there wasn't enough information out there about how diet and lifestyle can support women as they transition through the menopause. Last year I launched the popular nutrition and lifestyle podcast The Happy Menopause, and my new book, ‘The Happy Menopause: Smart Nutrition to Help you Flourish’, launched this week!
How has midlife influenced your outlook towards work and life?
What I learned in launching my business is that you need to dedicate both your time and your headspace to make it work. But today, I’m much more interested in balance than I was before. It is really important to me to be in control of my own time. It’s interesting to look back to when my life changed. In 2006 my mother was in a coma and all three kids made quite dramatic life changes soon after. I had a sense of wanting to live my life - of enjoying the journey. And that has stayed.
What correlation, if any, do you see between age and ambition?
I think ambitions change – I’m still ambitious in the sense of wanting to do the best possible job, but not in the sense of wanting money or status. My ambitions are centred around spending time with loved ones and enjoying quality time to do the things that I enjoy.
I sometimes miss having the big salary. But going from one extreme to another, as I did, helps. I simply realised, it is actually all about the people you care about.
“All that stuff about ‘health is wealth’ is true, and it is only when you’re touched by it, that you learn to recognise the importance of it. The importance of being with those you love - and taking the time to appreciate life. Because I did both in life, I have no regrets”.
What are your aspirations for your business over the next 24 months?
“I’d like my book to be a best-seller – not for the money - authors never make any money in any case! – but to prove that the menopause is not a niche subject.”
It is the comment I heard from a number of publishers when my agent was pitching the book. I find it so frustrating that the menopause isn’t seen as mainstream. Recently, I looked back at the process of getting this book commissioned . And the phrase that came back repeatedly, is that ‘it’s a bit niche’. It makes me livid.
“It’s so characteristic of how this life-stage is seen more broadly. Every so often there will be a documentary. And women are supposed to think, ‘Aren’t they good….to talk about it out loud’! Every woman, without exception, goes through it. No one calls pregnancy a niche subject.”
My goal is for women to know what their options are. I want them to know about HRT. I want them to know about nutrition. The only way woman can be empowered, is by having all the facts. That is why I want to be a best-seller. Selling well will help me achieve my goal of spreading the word about the benefits of the right diet and lifestyle in midlife and beyond. I’d also love the podcast to grow and for my menopause nutrition clinic to be established as the go-to place for women in midlife.
What do you wish your younger self had known about:
Life: that you can’t control everything and sometimes it’s good to go with the flow
Love: that it comes in many guises and that joy can be found in unexpected places
Health: that it’s the foundation of everything and very, very precious
Work: not to take it so seriously
What would be your key advice to women transitioning through menopause today? What practical steps could they take to better support their bodies and minds?
Get the basics of your diet right and don’t be tempted to follow a radical regime or exclude major food groups. Your body needs a broad range of different nutrients during this time of hormonal upheaval.
Be kind to yourself: don’t overload your schedule; dare to say ‘no’; factor in ‘me-time’. All of this will help to reduce stress levels which will make a big difference to your menopause symptoms, because high levels of stress hormones disrupts the balance of sex hormones.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the MPowder community about our second spring?
Don’t see it as the end of something, see it as a door opening to a whole new life which is filled with wonderful possibilities.
Finally, we're living through unprecedented times. What counsel are you giving to your clients about managing their health during this period ?
It’s all about self-care, because these are tough times. So, be good to yourself and plan your time to include fresh air and exercise; look to mindfulness and experiment with new recipes, rather than sliding into comfort eating.
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