The career of a local chef and food presenter took an unusual direction when she found herself going through the perimenopause. WW! talked to Sabrina Zeif about her new venture – and how the menopause can be a good thing…
Sabrina Zeif is accustomed to change – she moved from the exotic heat of Trindad to the cooler climes of Shropshire in 2002 when her husband took up a training post as a doctor at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital. Then, in 2014, after 25 years of working in healthcare, Sabrina decided it was time for another change and began to develop a career revolving around an early passion – food.
“I grew up with an interest in food, whether it was going to the market with Dad on Sunday or helping Mom make the great Trini green seasoning,” recalls Sabrina. “My Trinidadian heritage lends itself to being exposed to a fusion of foods from around the world – India, Africa, China, South America, Spain, Britain and Syria.”
She started Kitchen Thyme, a ‘culinary experiences’ company delivering supper clubs, cookery courses, and team-building activities for employers – and the company grew and grew: “I was privileged to create a series on Simply Good Food TV with celebrity chef Peter Sidwell, and I did numerous demos and talks, including appearing on BBC Radio Shropshire alongside Nigella Lawson.
“In 2017, I launched Kitchen Thyme UK Spice Rubs and appeared on the cover of The Delicatessen magazine!”
Then Sabrina experienced a change that was beyond her control – she started to go through the perimenopause – the period before on the onset of the menopause when the body starts to produce less of the hormone oestrogen. For her, this meant aches, migraines and a series of other ailments – none of which she knew were connected to the perimenopause. She feels it’s a topic we’ve tended to sweep under the carpet, despite the fact that almost every woman experiences it.
“Menopause has been a taboo thing to talk about worldwide,” explains Sabrina. “It’s seen as an ‘old woman’ thing. But it’s a natural transition, and as a society, we’re finally talking about the hormonal upheaval some women experience. The biggest issue has been the lack of information on perimenopause, where one can experience symptoms such as sleep disturbances, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, memory loss, brain fog, aches and pains, fatigue, change in periods, flushes, night sweats and many more – perhaps before even turning 50.”
A new direction
At a loss about where to get information, Sabrina again took matters into her own hands, seeking advice from a specialist nutritionist and gradually changing her lifestyle to include more exercise and food rich in phytoestrogens and omega-3 fats. She now runs the Menopause Chef, educating women about what to expect during ‘the change’, with workshops dedicated to sharing information and giving women a safe space to talk about their experiences.
She explains, “The workshops offer women an opportunity to let their hair down, meet other women, and arm themselves with knowledge about hormonal health and how to thrive during menopause.”
There’s a session offering advice to those whose partners are going through the menopause, which can be a time of dramatic personality changes, and Sabrina also offers cocktail parties with a twist – “women participate in fun discussions that shed light on how menopause can be empowering, healthy and happy and I serve up nutritious canapes as well as tips on diet, exercise and lifestyle.
“I feel all women should have a basic understanding of menopause as it’s a natural transition. We learn about periods and pregnancy but rarely about what comes next. Life can be demanding and busy, and women, in general, put their care last. Knowledge is power!”
Eating for ‘the change’
Sabrina recommends limiting sugar, caffeine, processed foods, salt and alcohol. She suggests eating foods rich in phytoestrogens, naturally occurring substances with a structure similar to the hormone oestrogen, such as soya milk, tofu, beans, green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
You should always consult your GP before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.