Under pressure, Angela Meyer finds her troubling thoughts about food return

In this week’s Well & Truly, Project Gender’s Angela Meyer tells Rebecca Wadey how with a little help to get a few good nights’ sleep and lots of exercise, she manages to find good balance in her life.

Women of Influence 2021 nominee Angela Meyer is a self-described workaholic who fuels herself as much through the purpose-driven gender work she does as any other wellbeing practice.

Meyer founded the Gender Justice Collective in 2020, to lead the work on getting a national women’s health strategy into legislation. After being approached by many for consulting work in the wake of the collective’s success, Meyer and two of her colleagues started Project Gender, a social change agency.

A Wellington native, Meyer recently moved to Tāmaki Makaurau to take up a full-time role as head of marketing at Auckland Council. It is clear Meyer has a lot on her plate but, as she puts it, “the gender work is very energising for me, I really enjoy it and I can see that it’s really needed”.

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Here’s how she manages all the spinning plates:

What hours do you work each day?

I usually work about 13 hours a day. I wake about 6am, and sit in bed drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea before I get cracking. I do a couple of hours on my side hustles, then go to my day job. Most evenings I have meetings for Project Gender or other work.

Do you have set work/life boundaries, or do they merge?

I have no boundaries. I need to work on that. My husband and son live in Wellington, so this year I decided to focus on work.

I am remarkably healthy most of the time. I don’t really get fatigued. It is a mystery to me that I can go the distance. I have always liked long walks and we have done a lot of sailing, and in the past I used to do a lot of long-distance running.

I once walked to Palmerston North from Wellington across the Tararua Range. That was probably, physically, the most challenging thing I have done. That was intense, it is very exposed up there. So you are sort of holding on really tightly. I quite like pushing myself.

You get there in the end, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Some days you just have to keep going. There is no other choice.

What do you have for breakfast?

I spoke to a nutritionist last year, and made some changes to my diet as I was putting on weight and feeling sluggish. I got out of balance and was not eating properly. Now I try to eat more protein and start the day with an omelette.

Do you have an exercise routine?

I love exercise. Love it. Weights, yoga, walking, running, biking. I try to exercise every day, and usually first thing in the morning, or I try to incorporate it into my day, like walking to work or biking to the shops.

For me, it is a huge stress reliever, and it really helps with my mental health.

Do you use supplements?

I have been seeing an amazing acupuncturist who has really helped me with my IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I take Vitex, milk thistle and magnesium every day, which help to regulate everything.

What pillar of life causes you the most stress?

Finances. I didn’t grow up in a wealthy household, and money was always a real source of stress in our family.

I wanted to not have that in my son’s life and I just kind of thought maybe by osmosis I would figure it out. Then I realised it is like anything; you need to apply yourself and really get into it so you can understand and have some level of authority or power over it.

I helped launch The Table to help women have uncensored conversations about money. Many women feel stupid for not knowing more about how our money works, or embarrassed that we had no money to invest, or ashamed about not being in a better financial position, or angry we were never able to increase our income because of our caring responsibilities.

I am really conflicted with the whole capitalist system. I want to have money because I want financial security, but I also want to rip the system down and make it much more equitable.

What time do you go to bed? Do you sleep soundly?

I try to get to bed by 10.30pm. I am a perimenopausal woman, I haven’t slept soundly for years. I have some sleeping pills, prescription ones, that I don’t take every night but just to help break the pattern on occasion.

Knowing that I can get two nights of good sleep a week when needed makes everything bearable.

How do you know when stress is getting on top of your wellbeing?

I have had trouble in the past with disordered eating, and I notice that when I’m not in a good mental headspace I will get really controlling about food. And that is a rabbit hole that I really don’t like to go down. So I just try to eat a balanced diet and eat more protein. With my IBS, I am quite careful with what I eat. Otherwise it is just too painful and then everything goes out the window,

Favourite free stress-buster?

Reading and meditation. I have a meditation app on my phone, and I love a good page-turning crime novel, but the feminist in me is conflicted; they’re basically always women getting murdered. I’m like, that is not entertainment. Why is that relaxing?

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