Spirituality & Mindfulness for Menopause

by May 16, 2022

A few weeks ago we had a lovely guest speaker join us to talk about spirituality and mindfulness and it’s importance to us as we travel through menopause. Lately, I have found a certain need to look inwards and to strengthen the bonds between my physical body and the spirit that lives within it, as I have travelled through menopause. I’d like to share my experience with our guest speaker…

As we took some time to quietly breathe in a seated position I kept saying to myself, I should really be doing this more often. The calmness was palpable, but the stillness was a bit hard for a working brain like mine (it always has been). With each inhale I invited my mind to soften and each exhale gently reminded my body to relax. 

We stood in a relaxed position and took some time to ground our feet and breathe into our torso. Alexia Georgousis, naturopathic doctor, Qi Gong instructor and spiritual awareness trainer led us on a simple exercise moving our arms in a full slow circle, gathering energy from the earth (yin energy) and the heavens (yang energy) to fill our body from our head all the way down into our pelvis. This gathered energy became a shining light that was directed down through the top of our head and along our spine (called the Taiji pole), filling our entire torso. It was quite easy for me to collect this gentle but vibrant energy all around me, but not as easy to then send it down my Taiji pole. In the end I used an image to help me (which may help you too) – fill a glass with slow running liquid filling you up from your pelvis to your head (your body is the vessel holding the substance).

After a number of repetitions, collecting and depositing, we sat and rested our arms with hands close to each other and man the heat and vibration between them was awesome. They felt like they were holding a ball but they were inches apart. This was a simple Qi Gong exercise.

At the end of our guided meditation and movement, Alexia spoke to us of extending kindness towards ourselves and we closed our discussion with a hug for ourselves – I highly recommend trying this, it was so calming (I don’t think we do this enough).

yin and Yang in the context of spirituality and mindfulness

Spirituality means different things for different people. For some it is a belief in a religion or God, for others it is about taking time for quiet reflection. Some see it as nurturing the body and mind through the exploration of nature. I don’t think you need to define spirituality, but I think you have to be present with it and this is where meditation and mindful breathing come into play.

From a traditional Chinese medicine prospective, meditation or mindful breathing connects both the yin and yang in a way that is quite synergistic and when you are menopausal finding this balance is super important as your hormones fluctuate and wane. Where our yang is energetic and active our yin is quieter and passive. But they don’t work in isolation, they actually feed, support, build and break down each other. That’s it’s nature – the calm, feminine of yin nurtures the strong, loud and masculine that is the yang in us. And vice versa…when our relaxed, gentle side needs a little boost our yang is there to provide it.

Slide Sometimes we need to give ourselves a hug

The power of spirituality & mindfulness during menopause

Menopause is a natural evolution of a woman’s body, not a condition or illness. It is often thought of as a rebirth or second spring, a shift away from our youth into the wisdom of life. Menopause is the ending of our ability to reproduce and is the beginning of new exploration. We reach this time in our life when things should be slowing down a bit, but it is often the busiest and most stressful. Children are growing, parents are aging, work may be demanding, sleep is disrupted, emotions are up and down and often you are the rock that has to keep it all together. Men don’t go through the same shifts and changes, so their experience with aging is often far different than ours.

Take the time to nurture what you need now, not at some point down the line. I often remind women, like flying in a plane, we have to remember to put on our own oxygen mask first then assist others to get theirs on. We will not be helpful to others if we are struggling in our own daily life. Many women find that taking some time in their day to follow a mindful meditative practice often reduces uncomfortable symptoms, calming the mind and the body. According to Alexia the best time to do mindful movement, such as Qi Gong, is in the morning. That is when we can tap into the energy of the day, but even spending 5 minutes to breathe deeply and sit quietly at the end of the day can do wonders.

3 simple things we can implement in our life that can support us as we age

This list was provided by Alexia…thank you!

  1. Creativity – exploring your passions by expressing your uniqueness are excellent ways to tap into your vital force and keep it flowing.
  2. Daily movement– that is mindful with an intention of gratitude for your body.  Moving with awareness of connection to your breath and the elements ie sun, wind, earth, moon, sky etc. We are nature too.
  3. Forgiveness– of the self for what you did or didn’t do in your life – helps us to connect to ourselves with compassion and kindness, and by doing so we lighten our energetic load, then we are able to connect better with others.

“We are here to express our uniqueness, to evolve and to become more conscious human beings”. 

Spirituality and mindfulness has no gender or age requirement, so find a teacher, mentor or practitioner to guide you along the way!

About the author and speaker

Cindy Willems is a registered acupuncturist, certified Pilates teacher and nutritionist with a love for all things that are inspiring, nourishing and empowering. Contact her for more about what services she offers at info@myfitover50.ca

Alexia Georgousis is a licensed naturopathic doctor, meditation and Qi Gong instructor, as well as a spiritual awareness guide. She has an extensive background in naturopathic medical education and spiritual awareness training.  Alexia believes in the balance of science and spirituality where an individual’s health includes the mind, body and soul.  Contact her at info@alexiand.com

Perimenopause and beyond

by February 16, 2022

into the Journey we Go

The very thought of peri menopause can be daunting and overwhelming for some women, especially those experiencing all of the crazy ups and downs that happen with our shifting hormones (I know it came fast and furious for me), but if we shift our approach and mindset the journey through menopause can be rewarding and enlightening. This is the next chapter of our life, a second spring (in traditional Chinese medicine terms) and one that we must be present for, through the good, bad and maybe at times a bit ugly.

Did you know that perimenopause can take up to
10 years for some women?

What can you do to support your journey through menopause and be better beyond it? In this page I will touch upon some of the remarkable changes that happen to our body, so you can understand a bit of what is going on.

If you need more help and want to get access to more in-depth information, recipes, Pilates classes and more we’d love you to join our growing community! Within your My Fit Over 50 platform we will explore important categories of health associated with perimenopause: physiological, nutrition, bone health, digestion, energy, body changes and more. Join in and be supported by a community of women through guest speaker events, a community platform on Facebook, Slack, and more.

Me and my menopausal glasses

Let’s define some of the Natural Stages of Our life

Perimenopause, It’s NORMAL!

Perimenopause is natural part of our aging process, but the symptoms you begin to feel during this stage shouldn’t be so uncomfortable and overwhelming that it prevents you from sleeping, keeping active, and feeling your best. Nightsweats, mentrual irregularities, mood changes, insomnia, weight gain, thinning hair and fatigue are some of the wonderful features of perimenopause and menopause (just kidding), the good news is after a while our hormones should balance out and the symptoms reside.

I have clinical and personal experience using traditional Chinese medicine to reduce menopausal symptoms, but you can also find help via bioidentical hormones if needed. Don’t struggle with hormonal symptoms, talk to your alternative health practitioner or doctor for help.

how to support your journey through perimenopause and beyond

First of all this is a time of transition and the changes and shifting going on in your body should start to balance out soon, but there is work to be done. Commit to taking care of your whole body that includes your mind and spirit.

  • STRESS MANAGEMENT – this can affect everything so you MUST address the stress levels you live with!
  • prevention screening – check in with your doctor or health practitioner for breast, colon, bones and heart testing

  • target exercises to help balance and strengthen the body – click TOP 5 EXERCISES FOR PERIMENOPAUSE
  • self care, self care, self care – it’s time for us now, don’t feel guilty for taking some time just for you
  • focus on foods that support you and avoid the ones that rob your nutrients – white sugar, pop, alcohol
  • improve your sleep habits – bed at a regular time, keep things cool and dark, turn off electronics
  • explore your creativity, connect and share with others

Get a bone density scan during this phase of your age to get a baseline reading of their density and health, especially if you have a family history of osteoporosis or have had to undergo cancer treatment.

Menopause – it’s here!

You have reached menopause when you haven’t had your period for at least 12 months consecutively. The average age of women transitioning into this is late 40’s to mid 50’s. Exercise, nutrition and self care is definitely a priority now to reduce any of those lingering symptoms typical with this time but it’s also important to set your body up for a better outcome as we age – seek some help with a professional if needed. 

Some typical symptoms include:

Menstruation stops

Now that your period has stopped flowing for 12 months it is important to focus on your bones, brain and heart as the drop in estrogen affects these greatly!

Hotflashes & nightsweats

Usually these symptoms begin to reduce as our estrogen and progesterone hormones drop, however I have worked with many women who still struggle with this for many years after.

Sleep disruption

Some women find it hard to stay asleep years after menopause, waking early in the morning, but there is help which may need to come from a practitioner.

Urinary urgency

The reduction of hormones, having multiple babies and a weak pelvic floor can make it hard to hold your urine, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help.

Skin, eyes and vaginal dryness

Yes more dry stuff – we can blame this on our estrogen loss… look for a natural vaginal lubricant if sexual activity becomes painful or uncomfortable.

Thin/falling out hair

Our hormones once again can be blamed, however you may need to check your thyroid function, as that too can be affected in menopause.

Joint pain/muscle cramping

As our hormones try to balance out, we have to be aware of what we are feeding our body as well as keeping track of our daily hydration.

I’m sorry to say there is no time frame or quick answers to getting over the hump of menopause, as every woman is different, but the most important thing to think about during this time is how all of these shifts now play a large role in your health moving forward. The reduction of estrogen will have a profound affect on your body (physically and mentally) so the more you can do to support your journey through Perimenopause and beyond from a whole body perspective the better outcome you may have in your later years (see the list above). Conversations and education are valuable tools.

A little note to all aging women out there…

It’s never too late to think about ways to support your body, mind and spirit’s health, living a great quality of life and continuing to learn and grow as a valuable person within your family and society. Age is a number but it shouldn’t define what you can and can’t do. Yes, making choices to do an activity that may not be the best for your body’s current physical ability is very important because recovering from injury as we get older may not be as easy and if you have osteoporosis you may be more at risk for fractures. The other challenge many of us may face as we age is the greater chance of developing an illness or disease, so spending the time to take care of ourselves now is super important, and if we do come face to face with a serious illness we may have a chance at a better outcome and overall recovery. 

Here are 3 quick Band Exercises to support your body and bones!

Contact me if you need some help

About the author

Cindy Willems has been a Pilates instructor for 15 years with her own practice in the Toronto area. She uses her holistic nutrition and acupuncture training to treat and guide her clients through perimenopause and beyond. If you are in the Toronto area and would like to book an appointment contact her at info@myfitover50.ca.

Are toxic products in your home hindering your health?

by January 9, 2022

Exposure to toxic products in our homes are harmful to our health and wellness. BPA, Dioxins, Perchlorate, PFASs and Phthalates (to name a few) are found in our food, cosmetics, clothing, furniture and food packaging and are all thought of as endocrine disruptors.  

An endocrine disruptor is a chemical compound that interferes with the normal functioning of the endocrine system, including the reproductive and other biological processes regulated by it.

As we age, the impact of toxins gets harder on us, especially if we’re heading into menopause and beyond! Perimenopause is already a time of hormonal fluctuations, so exposure to endocrine disruptors found in your home and food won’t be very helpful.   

Most of us are exposed to toxins in micro doses, however scientists suspect that even low doses can add up over time and affect all of our physiological systems (including respiratory, reproduction, nervous, endocrine, circulatory etc.) which can lead to other health problems down the line.

Our exposure to chemicals in toxic household products/food can occur in three ways; inhalation, ingestion and contact with the skin. Once the body has been exposed to chemicals it could reach the liver via the blood stream. The liver and kidneys will do their best to excrete any harmful substance, however the body may not be able to remove all of the toxins, causing them to build up over time.

HOW CAN YOU REDUCE TOXINS IN YOUR HOME? Read onwards to my 3 steps to eliminate toxins in your home!

Environmental toxins are all around us. From the food we eat and water we drink to the products and energy we consume. Toxins have been found in beauty products, household cleaners, carpets, furniture, mattresses, house dust…Being surrounded by chemicals on a daily basis can have some harmful effects on your health.

Melissa Young, MD

What toxic products are lurking in your home?

According to a report by the David Suzuki Foundation, most chemical ingredients in cosmetics have never been tested for their effects on human health and the environment and although Health Canada has created a list of many prohibited or restricted ingredients it does not enforce it.

CBC did a fabulous collection of articles recently including a documentary about the cosmetic industry and its affect on our health including 5 surprising facts that you probably don’t know! According to an article written in the Guardian, there are many ways we can reduce our toxic exposure.

What’s in your cupboard?

Take a look at the household products that you use every day, such as conventional toothpaste, personal care products, hair products, skin care/cosmetics, laundry/dish detergent, household cleaners and air fresheners.

In addition to toxic household products, we also have to consider the toxins in processed foods (including conventional oils/margarine), off gassing from new clothes or furniture, conventional produce that contain pesticides/herbicides, medical devices, non stick pans and more. Those micro doses now seem a little bigger than they were before, so let’s start with what we can control – replacing household products with non-harmful ones. More on that further down.

Check out Adria Vasil, Canadian eco blogger with some great suggestions for how to reduce toxins in your home.

Making changes to products you’re used to can be hard, but all of this can be done little by little. Each step you take to replace toxic household product with a safe one can improve your health. 

3 Steps to reducing toxins in your home

Here are some simple steps to help you: 

STEP 1 – Identify the Products

Write down the products you use daily or weekly, such as:

  • oral/hair/skin care
  • cosmetics
  • dish/laundry soap
  • nails
  • room fresheners
  • household cleaners
STEP 2 – Research the Products

This can be done super quickly so don’t shy away from this step. The Environmental Working Group has created a huge database for home and health care products. All you have to do is plug in your item and find out more.

STEP 3 – Find Better Products

Shop your local health food store, get to know local businesses who make healthy homemade products or make it yourself. Here is a sustainable guide to cleaners!

Need some help? I can help you find alternative products that are safer for your body and home.

Once you’ve cleaned up your cupboards it’s time to go back to supporting your health as you age.

How can you achieve better overall health as you age?
  • Reduce stressors – avoid, eliminate or find strategies to get through challenging times (talk, write, breathe)
  • Eat smaller meals more often – reduces stress on the digestive system
  • Minimize time spent on the computer – get up and move when possible
  • Get outdoors and breathe the fresh air – don’t rush, walk and enjoy the journey
  • Add more exercise to your week – this can be as simple as going for a nice brisk walk
  • Drink good quality water or beverages (herbal tea) through the day – keeping hydrated is important for healthy skin and weight
  • Set a good sleep pattern – important for repairing and rejuvenating the body

About the author

Cindy is a registered acupuncturist, Pilates instructor and holistic nutritionist. She has been researching and educating others for over 10 years about the affect environmental toxins can have on our body and overall wellness.

Top 5 exercises for perimenopause

by November 1, 2021

To get what your body needs, it’s important to know that during perimenopause, you don’t need to “shred your body” or “feel the burn” each time you workout at the gym. When you’re in perimenopause you can get huge value from simple daily movement. Even if you aren’t a gym person, my top 5 exercises for perimenopause will help you stay healthy as you go through some of the things you’re beginning to experience. Keep moving – get out and walk every day. Go with a friend – make it part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth.


Exercise during perimenopause keeps a few things in check. Stress is one of the big ones that can have a large impact on our perimenopause journey and exercise can help to minimize and manage the adverse effects it creates…which is an important step to protecting our overall health as we age.

According to Harvard’s Menopause Makeover, exercise can help reduce your chance of heart disease. Aerobic exercise can elevate your good cholesterol and lower your blood pressure. Exercise during perimenopause can improve your metabolic ability to burn calories, relieve mild depression, and reduce hot flashes.

Top 5 Exercises for perimenopause

**These are general recommendations of exercises for overall health and wellness as you go through perimenopause.
Every woman is different as well as her abilities and movement background. 

  1. WHOLE BODY STRETCHES – add Pilates or yoga stretches to your perimenopause workout to keep your body limber and your spine mobile. Perimenopause can affect the suppleness of the spine, so keep moving, because movement mitigates that process.
  2. BALANCE WORK – this isn’t complicated, simply stand on one foot and count slowly to 10 or 20 once every day, on each foot. This will improve your balance – super important for women’s health as we get older.
  3. PELVIC FLOOR STRENGTH – sit on a chair and contract and lift the area around your sits bones. Check out Pelvic Floor First for some how-tos, and why this is so important to start doing early, even before perimenopause if you can.
  4. LEGS, LEGS, LEGS – bridges, mini squats, leg lifts to the side, and long slow lunges are great for maintaining strength in the front, side and back of your legs. Perimenopause can make many women feel a lack of energy, these leg exercises strengthen you, and build back your energy when you do them regularly.
  5. ARM WORK WITH A BAND – You can work all aspects of your arms and upper body just by using a TheraBand for bicep curls, deltoid lifts, chest extension, and overhead pulls. Perimenopause can begin to weaken your muscle mass, these exercises combat that, and strengthen you.

Join our community of women working together to be our best

Don’t overdo exercises that make you sweat – what you want is to work efficiently and effectively. You can set physical goals with the help of a trainer or Pilates instructor like me (if needed). Challenge your body and mind to meet those goals, and work at the level you are at now in your perimenopause journey. Don’t be under pressure to work at a level that your body was at before.

When your body has decided it is no longer time for reproduction, it starts to conserve the energy once spent on menstruation and ovulation, to now support your bones, brain, heart and other organs. That’s the brilliant part of the process! The not so fun part, is that your perimenopause journey can take some twists and turns that can leave you feeling ungrounded, anxious and dizzy. As our sex hormones jump and fall out of sync pesky and uncomfortable symptoms arise. Sometimes you may feel you don’t have enough energy, definitely not the energy you used to have. These top 5 exercises for perimenopause will help you build back your energy.

“Your current body is the only body that can take you to your new body — so be kind to it.¨

Elaine Moran, author

Exercise during perimenopause can help with sleep disruption too. One of the biggest issues for women experiencing perimenopause and menopause is sleep deprivation. Exercise can help us sleep better. When we sleep better, we think better, react better, feel better and look better, and why wouldn’t we want all that?

Find some more helpful tips to support your sleep in insomnia and menopause.

Going through major changes in life, like perimenopause, can be challenging (to say the least), but when you arm yourself with good information and tools you prepare your body for healthy aging. During perimenopause and menopause, some days can be better than others, but the more you focus on simple exercises like these, the more likely you are to have great days ahead. Remember that exercise isn’t the answer to it all, we must support our whole body’s health – eat well, work on reducing stress and nurture your mind and spirit. 

About the author

Cindy Willems has been a Pilates instructor for 15 years with her own practice in the Toronto area. She uses her holistic nutrition and acupuncture training to treat and guide her clients through perimenopause and beyond. If you are in the Toronto area and would like to book an appointment contact her at info@myfitover50.ca.

Breast health as we age

by October 14, 2021

Last night we had a terrific chat about our breast health with Dr. Melinda Wu, a family physician and Oncologist at Women’s College Hospital and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. Dr. Wu provided such an informative information that I think you will be inspired to take more time for self care, especially for the health of your breasts.

Did you know your breast tissue changes when you go into menopause?

As soon as I turned 50, my family doctor encouraged me to get a mammogram and this was the first time anyone had ever mentioned something about my breast health. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so I invited Dr. Wu to be part of the conversation around our breasts, because we shouldn’t wait for our doctor to say something about it.

As Dr. Wu says in her presentation, getting to know about your breast anatomy and any changes that may be occurring in the tissue (especially as we get older and estrogen drops) is very important. We are the ones who can sometimes see and feel when things have changed in our breast tissue, so never wait to talk to your health provider or doctor if you have concerns. 

“We should have a good understanding of these bodies that carry us through our lives”…

Dr. Melinda Wu.

Lifestyle factors for breast health

(taken from our chat)
  • minimize alcohol – one glass of alcohol a day can raise your cancer risk
  • focus on fruits and vegetables – these will provide valuable nutrients and antioxidants
  • eat fewer saturated fats – like cheese, red meat, butter and curred meats
  • take vitamin D – speak to your provider about how much is best for you
  • work towards a healthy weight – especially around the belly area
  • exercise at least 30 minutes/5 times a week – you can split this up in your day if needed

More information about treatment and programs for women’s cancers in the Toronto area is available. Visit the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers

In this video you will learn a couple of really simple exercises you can do that can help support your breast health!


Much thanks to Dr. Wu for sharing her time and such great information with a kind and compassionate heart. If you are looking to donate to breast cancer research and support you can go to the Canadian Cancer Society.

About the author & speaker

Guest speaker Dr. Melinda Wu

Dr. Melinda Wu is a family physician at Women’s College Hospital and a general practitioner in Oncology at both Women’s College Hospital and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Wu is the Clinical Education Lead for the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers. She is engaged in medical education and administration, and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of Toronto.

Cindy Willems, host

Cindy is the creator of My Fit Over 50 and a practitioner in two clinics in the Toronto area. She is a registered Acupuncturist, Certified Pilates instructor and Holistic Nutritionist. Cindy is very passionate about helping others support their body’s health & wellness, especially as they get older. 

Top 8 ways to support your brain health!

by August 20, 2021

Brain health has been a hot topic over the last 20+ years, as more of the populations around the world grow older, dementia and Alzheimer cases also grow. I know personally my memory has been waning as I hit menopause and that is something that researchers are looking at now, but will that lead to memory issues as I get older? Menopause and the loss of estrogen has been found to be a major player in dementia – that may be why more women are diagnosed more than men?.

According to the Alzheimer society, our global population is seeing a drastic change in age, so it is important for us to try to understand aging and learn how we can support our body and our brain health. We recently had a conversation with the Alzheimer Society of Durham about MEMORY, which was great, and they provided some great tips to help support our brain health. Please note this is not for diagnostic purposes only educational.

Top 8 ways to support your brain health

Here are some of my top ways to support your brain health, while supporting your whole body health too!

FIBRE rich foods – helps to keep things moving

Fibre (such as ground flax seeds, vegetables and fruit) help to slow down the breakdown of our carbs to ensure balanced blood sugar levels and it helps support elimination! Super important ladies as we get older.

Eat regularly – your brain gets hungry

Our brain needs food for energy and when we get hungry there is a tendency to choose things that are not always that nutritious for us. Eating regularly helps to keep our blood sugars balanced and helps you to make better food choices.

Essential Fatty acids are great!

Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to provide the nutrients needed by our brain and nervous system. Oily fish (wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring), nuts/seeds (walnut, hazelnuts, almond, flax, chia, sunflower, pumpkin) are great options to add daily.

A Mediterranean diet is a perfect for this!

Colour Colour Colour – can’t have too much!

Having a colourful plate with fruit and vegetables (green, orange, yellow, red) will help provide nutrients that support our whole body, with valuable vitamins, minerals and antioxidants!

Amino Acids within a balanced meal – yum

Nuts, beans, whole grains, seeds, vegetables, fish, eggs all provide us with valuable amino acids which our body needs to create neurotransmitters used by our brain. They help us feel happy, relaxed and sleep well!

Exposure to environmental toxins – not good for our brain

Try to avoid pollutants in your home – no artificial scents or air fresheners (try essential oils instead), avoid using conventional laundry/dish detergent, parabens and chemicals in your shampoo, soap, creams, toothpaste and makeup. (see www.ewg.org for more info)

Avoid things that are bad for you

This is easy, we know the things that aren’t good for our body – smoking, pollution, too much caffeine/alcohol, dyes/artificial or processed foods, sedentary lifestyle and processed white sugar.

STRESS management – you can do it!

Even though this is last, to me it is the most important for most of us. Stress is becoming the new normal way of living, but research has shown too much of it can be detrimental to our health – meditate, exercise, deep breaths are always helpful.

Please speak to your doctor if you or someone you love is experiencing memory issues or loss.

As a holistic nutritionist, I work with clients to improve their dietary intake, but that’s only part of the work we do, there are many factors that affect our health and many of these we have the ability to change and improve. If you can’t do this on your own, talk to your practitioner or contact me and we’ll get you started.

About the author and guest speakers

Cindy is the creator of My Fit Over 50. She is a holistic nutritionist, registered acupuncturist and Pilates teacher. To contact her email info@myfitover50.ca

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