Muddy meets Meg Mathews
Primrose Hill party queen turned wellness guru? Stranger things have happened! Muddy chats to the always glamorous Meg Mathews about her new book, self-care and, er, vagina facials.
If the name ‘Meg Mathews’ conjures up misty memories of the Britpop days, of Kate Moss and Sadie Frost falling out of nightclubs and swinging from Primrose Hill chandeliers with her then-husband Noel Gallagher, then it’s seriously time to reset your mental picture. These days, Meg is more likely to be be seen charging across Hampstead Heath with her dog, smoothie in hand, or giving an address to several hundred women about her menopause support platform MegsMenopause.com than papped at parties. With the launch of her book The New Hot: Taking on the Menopause with Attitude and Style this month, Muddy grabbed Meg for a quick chinwag between spirulina shots.
Congratulations on your book! I read it cover to cover this weekend – there’s a lot in there that I didn’t know about the menopause.
Every single person who’s read it has said that so far, and that’s exactly what I wanted. Even GPs in their seven years of training only get taught three hours on this subject, and even then it’s rarely up to date. That was something I really wanted to bring to light, as it needs to change, and soon.
You talk in the book about how bad your symptoms were, and how were misdiagnosed with depression at first – is that why you’ve made it your mission to educate people on the menopause?
Absolutely. I suffered really badly, to the point where I didn’t leave the house for three months at one stage. I was in a very dark and lonely place, and it all came down to an imbalance of hormones. I didn’t realise that deteriorating mental health and feeling overwhelmed and anxious were part of the symptoms. To me, menopause was a hot flush and no period. I’d never heard of the 34 other symptoms. I consider myself a well-read woman, and still I’d never heard the word perimenopause, or postmenopause for that matter.
And once you were diagnosed correctly?
It was so easy to put right – just a matter of rubbing some gel that cost the NHS four quid on my inner thigh. It was a no-brainer and that’s what’s frustrating. There are 18 million women going through the menopause in the UK today, and only a tiny percentage of those are working with their GP to manage their symptoms, because the rest of us just don’t know it’s an option.
You mention that you tried some slightly off-the-wall natural remedies before going to the GP – what were some of the weirder things you tried?
I am an addict and will try anything. Absolutely anything! Kinesiology, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, breathing exercises, kundalini yoga, ice-cold baths, drinking four litres of alkaline water a day, having my tongue read, my eyes read, my stools analysed. At one point I was even working with a shaman in Hawaii. I’d lie there and she’d clear my energy over the phone from the either side of the planet!
Have you packed all that in now?
I do still use natural remedies as part of my approach. I use CBD oil to help with anxiety, and crystals for detoxification. I also enjoy matcha powder with almond milk – it calms my mind and relaxes me.
What does your food and exercise routine look like now? Quite different from your partying days, I imagine.
When I get up, I have two pints of warm water with fresh lemon juice squeezed into it, and then I’ll sip on another three litres of water throughout the day as I feel awful if I’m dehydrated. I am completely teetotal now and look back on my alcohol-filled days with a bit of incredulity. I don’t know how I functioned.
I eat a plant-based diet and tend to eat mainly in the evenings. I often get meals delivered, which may sound a bit of a luxury, but everyone who knows me knows I’m such an awful cook that it’s worth it! I’m also lucky in that I never really had a sweet tooth. A treat for me is a few blueberries, some peanut butter and some coconut yoghurt.
What about working out?
The reality is, I hate exercise and will find any excuse not to go. Give me a boxset and a comfy couch over working out any time! The benefits are immense though: I do weight-bearing exercises for 45 minutes with a trainer to help work specifically on my bones, and I like the odd body combat class; it makes me feel fierce and in control.
You sell your own range of wellness products for women now, too – are you the new Goop?
As well as my products, I’m actually working on an online marketplace called Meg’s Marketplace, which I want to be like Goop, but for normal women. It’ll be all things I’ve tried, tested and loved, all with a natural and organic feel. I want to help support well-sourced, British products, rather than going onto Amazon or eBay and buying something cheap from China.
How does your daughter Anais (Gallagher, Meg’s daughter with Noel Gallagher) feel about you selling your own brand of lube?
She’s fine with it! She’s very open and informed, as are most girls of this era. Back when I was her age, we only had KY Jelly, which meant anal sex to a lot of people rather than lubricating the vagina. That’s why I found making mine such an eye-opening process.
It was the same with the wash – I thought FemFresh was for people with smelly vaginas! I didn’t know anything about the pH balance, and I was a 49-year-old woman who had given birth. I had all these expensive scented shower gels, and just use that everywhere, which is ridiculous – you wouldn’t use them on your face, you’d use a delicate face wash. That’s why I created those products. It’s all made in England, all packaged in England, and it’s all vegan and plastic-free.
Speaking of vaginas, you had a vaginal rejuvenation – do you recommend it?
If you can afford it then I’d definitely recommend it, it makes such a difference. I went to go and see Dr Sarah Matthews at The Portland hospital in London, who performs the procedure for women who have just given birth as well as women going through the menopause. It’s about three sessions at 40 minutes each, and they go over everything with a gel and a wand just to plump everything back up and make everything more sensitive. We pour all this time and money into expensive facials and creams and lasers, but we don’t even look at our vaginas half the time! I think it’ll be the new facial, honestly.
Are you a big believer in self care?
Absolutely. We feel so guilty as women, especially as mums! We go for a facial, we feel guilty, we go to work, we feel guilty, we don’t work, we feel guilty. There’s so much pressure on us, and I just want women to know that you can take time out. You can say, ‘today I’m going for a massage’, or ‘I’m going for a walk’, or ‘I’m going window shopping for a few hours’, just to have time to yourself. Your family won’t starve, they won’t burn the house down. Give yourself permission to take a break!
What does your dream self-care day look like?
I’m very lucky, because I get to live my dream self-care days quite a lot! It would be waking up early, taking my dog out before anyone else is around, somewhere like Hampstead or Regent’s Park. And then later meeting up with friends, and just having a relaxed day with them. But honestly, the dream is not having to plan anything. I used to have a diary packed with things I’d planned and then I’d get to them and think, ‘Oh god, why have I put this in?’ But now I’m enjoying my own company and taking things a lot slower.
Do you think you’re wiser now?
Oh absolutely, I feel more comfortable in my skin now than I ever did. I spent years on this diet and that diet, feeling that I wasn’t thin enough or tall enough, and then you have an epiphany that you’re just comfortable as you are. If you think back to the times of tribes, the wise woman would be sharing her stories, helping guide the children, and that’s what I feel I’m doing now. I’m passing down my experiences and trying to stop younger women suffering the way I did.
You’re quite honest about your old party ways in the book – do you regret anything?
I had to be truthful about my past – back then, with acid house in the Eighties and Britpop in the Nineties, music culture and drugs just went hand in hand. But that was 25 years ago, and you have to grow in that time, otherwise that would be a bit sad, wouldn’t it? I don’t regret any of it though, because your past is what makes you you.
What’s helped is that a lot of the women who were writing about that scene in their twenties are now editors in their fifties! People like Lorraine Candy and Sarah Bailey have been able to give me a platform to discuss these issues, and they know me well and know I speak from the heart.
The New Hot: Taking on the Menopause with Attitude and Style is available now.