My Woman of Substance for February is Dr Rosemary Leonard MBE, whose work as a consultant to national television, radio and newspapers makes her one of the country’s best-known doctors. She is the resident doctor on BBC Breakfast and also writes a weekly page for the Daily Express and a weekly column in ‘S’ magazine. She is the medical editor and regular feature writer for Woman and Home Magazine and has written several books: The Seven Ages of Woman; Doctor, Doctor, Incredible True Tales from a GP’s Surgery and its follow-up, Doctor’s Notes. Dr. Rosemary’s new book, A Woman’s Guide to the Menopause will be published this Summer. She has two sons and lives between Dulwich and Switzerland. We caught up in London a few weeks ago…
Dr. Rosemary, many of Winser London’s clients reading this will know you well from your television appearances. What do you enjoy most about your role as a media medic?
I really like being able to put across a common sense approach. In this day and age, people often turn to the Internet to find out what’s wrong with them and can get very upset by latching onto a worse-case diagnosis. I am very much a hands-on NHS GP and frequently need to put people’s concerns into perspective. If you have a sore throat it is most likely to be a sore throat, not mouth cancer. The other thing that I enjoy about my role is how being on telly gives me a lovely opportunity to have nice clothes that I otherwise as a GP might not have. I love clothes and really like to dress in an age-appropriate way – I don’t want to look frumpy and neither do I want to look like mutton-dressed-as-lamb.
Your speciality subject is women’s health. What have been your most important learnings and what should we be concentrating our efforts on to stay fit and healthy?
The most important thing is to think about bones and muscles. Most women as they age are aware of their bones – but few realise the importance of maintaining your muscle strength. Muscles give shape to our bodies and support our frames – and the key thing is that muscle tissue determines our metabolism. A mix of cardio-vascular and proper muscle-building exercise is what is required. Squats on a regular basis and Pilates for core strength, pelvic floor and frame - fantastic. Think muscles!
You are very active on social media, which gives your patients and wider audiences a valuable insight into your views and advice. How do you feel this way of communicating has supported the work you do and do you have any favourite Tweeters?
I do my own Tweeting and I don’t have any real favourites – I follow a range of Tweeters including people in healthcare as well as in politics. Twitter is a good way of keeping up to date – especially for learning about new developments in medicine. I use it erratically deliberately so that when I am on holiday and want to completely switch off, my followers don’t know whether I’ve just ‘gone quiet’ and am at home or if I really am on the beach.
You lead such a full life with your demanding media schedule, busy GP practice in Dulwich and as a mother of two boys – it is clearly hugely fulfilling and a mix that makes you happy. What is it that keeps your energy levels up and can you share your thoughts on how to get the work/life balance right please?
My sons are now 23 and 25 and are based at home, though the elder one has just bought a flat (strategically close to home so he can come back for Sunday lunches!). I don’t think I do get the work/life balance right – I promised myself that after I’d completed my Menopause book I would learn to say no. One big problem is that GPs’ surgeries are overloaded and we all spend very long hours doing our jobs – even though I’m ‘half time’, I must spend in excess of 36 hours each week in the surgery. I do, however, prioritise getting exercise three times a week. I am lucky as I am the Medical Officer for Dulwich College and I can therefore use the gym there. It’s a fantastic set-up – a real community gym and there’s no pressure to look good. I fuel my energy levels through regular exercise.
I know you are an avid gardener and you love outdoor pursuits such as skiing, hiking and sailing - a great mix of both mind-clearing and exhilarating activities. What do you enjoy about these hobbies?
I love gardening and do it to relax. In the Summer we try to be self-sufficient in vegetables – particularly salad veg. I’m not completely organic as I can’t find anything to get rid of slugs and snails apart from those blue pellets, but there’s really nothing better than freshly-picked rocket and salad greens from the garden. I adore the mountains. My husband lives in Switzerland so I am out there a lot. I love the fresh air, the quiet and the solitude. I do a lot of Snow-Shoeing as well – clumping up the snowy mountains with plastic frames like tennis racquets clamped onto my boots. It’s great for your cardio fitness and your leg muscles. I’m a fair-weather sailor – I did my training on the Solent and it was grim. I am afraid I fled to the Med and we now sail together as a family in Turkey on boats that we charter – we adore it!
You have been spotted frequently wearing Winser London and now I have shown you a preview of our Spring Summer 2015 collection, which launches this month. Which pieces caught your eye and how would you wear them?
Yes I love your collections – wonderful clothes in the most gorgeous fabrics. I am a fan of the new Merino Wool Parisian Dress in ivory/midnight – as I’m petite I think it will sit just above the knee, which is perfect for me. The Cotton Parisian Cardigan in ivory/midnight is fabulous and multi-purpose as I’d wear it with a skirt, trousers or over a dress. I have loved the Winser Blue colour since you launched and I really like this season’s new Cambridge Blue – they are both such great colours and really flattering.