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Oct. 6, 2022

Amanda Thebe: Fitness, wellness wankery & the future of menopause care

Amanda Thebe is a force and someone I have admired for a long time.  Recording our chat was a whole lot of fun, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Amanda is a Fitness and Women’s Health Expert, and the author of the Amazon best-selling book, Menopocalypse: How I Learned to Thrive During Menopause and How You Can Too!  With nearly 30 years of experience in the fitness industry, Amanda is a highly-regarded expert on women’s fitness and health.
She is Canada’s first menopause coach and educator. Through menopause advocacy and education, Amanda provides on-site or virtual presentations in the workplace to improve productivity, retention and attendance for female employees. Helping companies to normalise the conversation around menopause and provide support which impacts 100% of their female employees.
Amanda has lived in the UK, Canada and the USA, and has been exposed to all the healthcare systems, her book is a best-seller in these countries.

Currently working collaboratively on a model for the future of menopause care, niah. Listen in to learn how this model evolved and their exciting plans for the future.

Connect with Amanda:
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Twitter |
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Grab Amanda's 12 Week Core Program, ABS ON FIRE |

BOOK | Menopocalypse: How I Learned to Thrive During Menopause and How You Can Too! 

We talked about:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - book

Where to find Sonya:
Take the Midlife Quiz
Stellar Women Website

Where to find Sonya:
Take the Midlife Quiz
Stellar Women Website

You're invited to join the We Are Stellar Women community on Facebook, a free supportive space for all women navigating the menopausal transition. Click here to join.


[00:55] Sonya: Amanda, thank you so much for joining me today.

[00:58] Amanda: I'm really glad we're here. I'm glad we could make it work. Other sides of the globe, so to speak, but excited to be here. Sonia, thank you.

[01:06] Sonya: Thank you so much. So, Amanda, let's kick off. Why don't you introduce yourself to everybody and let us know a little bit about you?

[01:13] Amanda: Yes. So my name is Amanda Thebe. I am the author of the best selling book Menopocalypse, which is how I learned to thrive during menopause and how you can too. And essentially, I wrote a book that I wanted to read through menopause after struggling, struggling for a long time with it without any knowledge, support, community, any of the things that we know are super important. I'm a personal trainer and nutrition coach. I have been doing this for decades. I think I was 21 when I got my first diploma in this. And then I've been in the industry for that long, working with a different range of clientele, from pregnancy post pregnancy to pro athletes, seniors. And interestingly enough, when Perimenopause read, its ugly head and sledge hammered me, I didn't know anything about it, and it's never spoken about in the fitness world. Well, it is now. We're moving forward and acknowledging it now. But in fact, it was actually the opposite in my world, in the fitness and nutrition world, it actually was like, yeah, women just need to sort of just keep doing exactly what they were doing, and nothing changes. And it was typically crusty, old white men that were leading the conversation, and so well, that had to change. That conversation had to change. And so, you know what? Like, I was 42, literally feeling quite proud of myself, thinking, look at me. I'm fit, I'm healthy, I'm winning at life. And then I just wasn't then I wasn't able to just function, participate, just even live well. And I went through a medical system that supported me but couldn't find answers for a couple of years. And it was very frustrating thinking that this was the new me, that I was in this place that I didn't recognize. It was a person I didn't recognize. Eventually, a gynecologist said, hey, it's Perimenopause, and I can help you. But it took a couple of years to get there. And then after that, I just started talking very openly about it. Nothing was off topic. I started being really frank about my experience, about the mishandling of it in the medical community. And it wasn't that they didn't want it, they just couldn't.

[03:32] Sonya: Sorry to interrupt there, but I'm really intrigued to know because I know that you're obviously English, but you've spent time in the US. And you're now in Canada. Where were you actually? Which medical system were you kind of.

[03:43] Amanda: Caught up in at that point? Canada. Canada. And my doctor listened to me and I presented with symptoms like most women do, where they all go, I don't feel right, something's not right. And you go and speak to the doctor, but you don't typically go in and go, I'm struggling with perimenopause. Can you help me? You typically go in and go, I'm super anxious, or I'm not sleeping, or I've got migraines, or I have depression. And essentially that was me. I had migraines with aura, but nobody even could diagnose those. It was just a loss of balance, equilibrium. I would lose feeling in my face and my hands and then throw up everywhere, be in bed for days. And then I had depression. Anyway, so my story is the same as many women's out there, and mine isn't unique in that respect, but it just tires them that we're all having the same experience. Right? And we know that there's a lack of education in the medical. You spoke to my colleague, Ardelle Piper. Really amazing GP. She gynecologist. She really wants to help doctors become more educated. And most doctors are willing to learn. They just were never given the opportunity to learn. I then moved to the US. Where I had stellar health care because I was in that privilege plus that I was working in. I had healthcare. It's a completely broken system, but I happened to be in the system where it worked for me. And so anyway, I just started talking about it. I wrote the book based on my experience, on the evidence as we know it. It's very factual, very evidence based.

[05:21] Sonya: It is.

[05:22] Amanda: And then it's very solution based because I want women to feel I don't want them to feel fearful going into menopause. And unfortunately, I feel like that's sometimes, the narrative. I want them to feel capable, I want them to feel in control. I want them to promote autonomy so that they can go and advocate for themselves. And I think every woman deserves to have that.

[05:46] Sonya: Absolutely, 100%. One question I'd like to ask, just going back to you being in the fitness industry, and you and I have a very similar background in that respect, where I'm also a personal trainer, nutrition coach. How did you change as a personal trainer? Were you still working as a personal trainer through all of this?

[06:06] Amanda: Yeah. So it's interesting because my career has always been it's changed a lot. So I started doing classes in the 90s, that type of thing, like aerobics and spin and body pump and all that. Yeah, we've done it. All right, then. When I was in Toronto, I had one on one clients, small group business. It was really busy, really popular. And then I left to move to Texas for four years and I moved my business to an online platform. So I was doing active coaching. And it's really interesting because I'm an empath, I do care about people. I think most personal trainers, I think we tend to go into the industry because we want to help people. And even though women would say, oh, menopause is kicking my butt today, or I'm having hot flashes, or I'm just exhausted, that's something we hear all the time, right? I'd be empathetic and say, hey, it's okay, we can do accommodations and there's other stuff you can do, don't worry. But I never quite understood why. And then the minute I sort of understood why from a personal perspective and then from just speaking to medical professionals, reading their data, part of me was like, was I an ******* back then? Was I the person I want to be? I think I was okay, but I think I was probably dismissive in the fact that I just was uneducated. Right? And I love that young personal trainers are wanting to understand this about our life now, for sure.

[07:38] Sonya: And I think there's a lot more educational opportunities around now as well for the younger personal trainers that are coming through. I mean, Dr. Stacey Sims is doing incredible work in this space. I know here in Australia. I know two personal trainers that are running courses for female health and performance based. Where they're teaching the younger generation of trainers that are coming through about a woman's body and about the hormonal changes and how to work with her when she's going through her period and when she's at her best on her cycle and when she's not. As well as the whole. You know. And then she's going to go into perimenopause and menopause and that sort of thing. And it's so heartening to know that that information is now getting its way into the industry. Because for so long, as you and I both know, all data, all research was done on men, and that was what we were then taught to teach as well.

[08:30] Amanda: Yeah, young fitmen are old. All these men, and put it yes, all Christy men. But, you know, it's interesting because I love actually, as a little aside, I have family in New Zealand and I went to visit them and she lives in the same villages. Isn't that strange? Coffee. And it was really nice. I like to see a lot. And what I do find, though, with a lot of those type of educational courses is that they are very much pushed towards performance athletes, endurance athletes, maybe pro athletes, and I always like to take a step back and go, well, what can you take from all of that information and apply to the general population? And I do feel when it comes to women's cycles, we're micromanaging too much. Honestly, I'm a bit more pragmatic about how I coach people and I'm like, do you feel like you can do it today? Let's just stop saying it's your luteal phase, you have to lift heavy or you have to just work with your energy. When you're in your Follicular phase, I'm like, yeah, do you feel up to it? Can we just be a bit more practical about things? But when it comes to perimenopause, I actually think you have to be like that because it's so unpredictable. You can't be as strict as you were around your cycle. You just can't write. And so let's give women the power to choose yes. To say, I love that. This is what you were going to do today. You were going to do, like, a 45 minutes training program because it's in your schedule and you get up in the morning and you feel like **** and you don't even want to make yourself a cup of tea. You're not doing your workout that day, but what can you do? Can you be flexible? Can you go out for a walk? Can you actually move? Can you? Well, then do it. And then on the flip side of things, if it's arrested, but you wake up feeling like, oh, my God, carpet ******* DM, let's just do it, do it, work with it. So I feel as though we should be saying to women, we need to be less rigid, like, work with how we're feeling. Stop being addicted to yourself. Don't be so hard on yourself. Because I think that we do get disappointed in ourselves a bit funny, don't you? Like, we go to do something else and we can't, and we're just, like, really hard on ourselves and it makes no sense.

[10:47] Sonya: And I think what you're talking about there, what I know I've learnt and what I try and pass on to my clients, is the art of self regulation. And it's that ability to do what you're saying is actually, before I step into the gym or before I decide what I'm going to be doing today, I check in and say, how do I feel today? How did I sleep last night? What fuel do I have on board to get me through whatever workout it is I want to do and then having a low barrier to entry, like you say, okay, so today, maybe you know what, I actually I'm not equipped to go and lift heavy and push a **** ton of tin around in the gym. So I'm just going to go for a walk. I'm still moving, I'm meeting my goals of exercising and working out, but I'm not pushing myself to exhaustion.

[11:31] Amanda: Yeah, perfect. And then on the other side of that. We also have to try and find a balance because a lot of women don't feel like they can try because they don't feel capable. So we have that phenomena. There's a really great sports nutritionist in the US. I write in my book called Dr Susan Keeler and Client. Sorry, Dr Susan Klein. I apologize. I love her. I think her work is amazing and she talks about the phenomena of women losing belief in their athletic ability and it happens around midlife and it sort of coincides with perimenopause, but we know that women are capable, are stronger. So we have to also try and sort of ensure that we keep pushing that message. And one of the funny ways of saying that is women will want to start strength training and they'll say, Should I get some three pound one or two kilo dumbbells? And I'm like, no, you can lift heavier than that. Well, I've never done the weight training before and I'm like, yeah, I've just seen you coming out of Walmart with 20 bags of shopping and I've just seen you throw your grandkid up in the air, you can lift a little bit heavier.

[12:46] Sonya: I have those same conversations. I was actually having this conversation with some clients in the gym last night that were exactly wanting to do their overhead presses with two kilo dumbbells. I was like, Come on, babe, seriously. I know that you can walk out of the supermarket with three bags of shopping in each hand. You're going on holiday in three months overseas and you're going to be lugging your suitcase around with me. Do not tell me that you can't miss Tiviera. That a two kilo dumbbell today.

[13:11] Amanda: Yeah. So it's like showing women that they're capable while also respecting that some days are going to be challenging. We get it. And I think when you talk to coaches like you and I that have lived it as well as coach, it, it sort of becomes more acceptable. And also, I said to a minute, you're your own boss, you do what you want.

[13:34] Sonya: Yeah. And it is so important that we own that power, isn't it?

[13:38] Amanda: Yes, it is.

[13:40] Sonya: Excellent. Now, I do want to segue into a conversation I was really keen to have with you. So one of the things that I love and respect the most about you is you are a fierce advocate, particularly on social media. I can see you grinning smugly behind the screen. You know where this is going. What I love is that you have stepped into a space where you are not afraid of calling out and holding other influences, for want of a better expression, to account when it comes to ageism and wankery, as I think you like to call it, in the health and wellness and the beauty industry. How did you step into that space? Like, is that being a natural part of your personality or your life, or is that something that you've evolved into?

[14:27] Amanda: Well, I wonder. I've never really thought about it, but I definitely have always been drawn to evidence information. And it's interesting because you and I both have the same background, and nutrition science is hard to learn, but the basics are quite simple. The concepts are quite simple, as is exercise physiology, right? We know what stimulates hypertrophy, muscle growth and all of the benefits of it. So it's just that what I was seeing when I was talking about menopause is people were making these really wild claims, and I was sat back the longest time thinking, if I had missed a chapter in the book, did I miss the whole part of the course? Because I don't remember that happening. I don't remember anything like that happening. And then I was thinking, I have reputable credentials. And then I was looking at people calling themselves hormone balancing coaches, and I'm like, what? How what? They're not endocrinologists? They're not like gynecologists. How can I explain that? I sort of sat back and was, like, scratching my head for a little bit, thinking, there's a rabbit off here. Something doesn't feel right about this. And I'm a born skeptic for sure. And I just was like, I need to reach out to people who I really trust in the medical field and then the nutrition field. So I literally armed myself with a whole load of reputable experts like Jen Gunter, Abby Langa, the Nadowsty brothers. There's a whole bunch of them that have become my friends now. And I would say to them, hey, is this right? I mean, is this okay that people are saying that? And it was around the time I was writing my books, so I was knee deep in the research. And when I was reading research papers and I didn't understand them, I reached out to experts to help me to understand them. So I actually really put the time and effort into trying to understand it. And then that's when I'm seeing all these crazy claims, and I'm like, no, I think I'm just going to say it's not true. And so I try and do it in a respectful way. I try and do it in a way that is a little bit funny, but really it makes a point, right? I actually don't personally call out influences. I actually don't do that because I've set some pretty strong boundaries about my own emotional health. But I'll call out companies. There's a couple of really trashy companies in Australia, the Better Body Company and Better Me Coaching, that are absolute ****. Oh, my God. And they say the worst things. That advertisement is toxic. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. It's toxic. It's predatory. They talk about women's imperfections, and they talk about how they can fix you, and none of it has evidence behind it. And so I just have no problem calling them out. I tag them. I want them to reach out to me and say, what's your problem, Amanda? Why have you got an issue with this? Because I want them to show me the data and if they do, I'll put my hand up and go, you know what? I was wrong. And we know that this is the case now because the menopause industry is worth billions now and women have preyed upon, and I do call it wellness wankerry. Actually, an Australian friend of mine gifted me that term, australian term. I think she called it wellness fuckwanchery, which is even better. I'm not going to get all this beeped out, but anyway, no, to answer this story, I think it came from a place of like decent education and then seeing this really crazy claims and then realizing that women were falling for it and spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year on stuff that doesn't work. We know what works. But when I tell you to do stuff that is going to take you months and months of work and commitment and consistency in small chunks, that doesn't sell as well as a 21 day muffin top disappearing magic pill, does it? Right. Because women are desperate. We're frustrated and we're desperate and these ads are compelling crazy and I think.

[18:50] Sonya: Interesting hearing you speak about this and your driver behind it and your rationale. I think really taps into what you talked about before. Which is that empath side of you. Which is everything kind of comes from a place of wanting to help women to actually bring to their attention that this is dodgy marketing. This is dodgy sales. These people are dodgy. And it's a matter of shining a light on that so that people can then make their own choices, like you said.

[19:17] Amanda: Yeah, and something you do as well, I noticed as well. It's like we have to move away from this idealized sort of look that a woman should be like, you know, we're all fitness and health looks different in all shapes and sizes. And for some reason we've got this idea that we're not supposed to change, our body's not supposed to change and that we're supposed to look a particular way. And I find that particularly harmful in the menopause conversation, especially when I'm even seeing doctor saying, fight your menopause apron, or whatever **** they want to call it your belly fat. And I'm just like, Stop it, that's horrible. That's a horrible way to talk to women. If you really want to say, hey, you know what happens when our hormone profile changes, our fat distribution changes, we store more fat in the belly area and too much fat is not good for your health. And so you need to start doing some things to like, reduce the amount of belly fat you have. That's a much more ethical way of saying something that can be quite triggering for women when they've put weight on and they don't like the way they look. You calling her like a fat cow is not helping her at all, right?

[20:29] Sonya: No, not at all. Not at all. And I'm so grateful you're doing this and I share a lot of your stuff. That when it resonates with me as strongly as some stuff did recently. And one of the things that I do respect so much about you is the fact that everything that you do is so based in science and data driven.

[20:48] Amanda: I said sorry, though, a couple of.

[20:50] Sonya: Times and I think that's something that does make you so authentic in this space is that you do you very much own. Like you say, if somebody reaches out to you and said, well, actually, I did this because of that and you can then go, oh, okay, cool, I see that now. Then you will own and apologize and I've seen you do that.

[21:07] Amanda: And also, like, as trainers, we've been there. We've said the ****** stuff like no pen, no gain and no excuses. I'm so sorry for that time. I wasn't knocked anyway.

[21:23] Sonya: It's just that cells crying, come on, get on with it. It's like, oh, God, did we really say that? But that comes back to that. We didn't know what we didn't know.

[21:33] Amanda: Yeah, and as you develop as a coach, you become more attuned to your clientele and you realize what they want and want and don't want to hear. Behavioral coaching is super important for personal trainers as well, I believe.

[21:48] Sonya: Yeah, I think so too. Amanda, I want to finish up talking about what we're going to see from you in the future. Now, I know that you are working on a project at the moment with a bunch of amazing colleagues called Naya. Would you like to give us a little bit of information about that?

[22:04] Amanda: Yeah. And I actually like to start by talking about how it happened this month. Okay. Naya is a Canadian based startup company. That happened because I connected with Dr. Ardal pike, one of our previous guests. She is a gynecologist and menopause specialist out of Ottawa. And I've been talking about menopause for the last five or so years. And when the book came out, like, everything just sort of blew up and got quite busy. I have a Facebook group with like 160 people and I actually don't manage it, somebody else does. But I was like, saying, I hear these women's conversations all the day and they're still having to fight to be heard. I don't care whether they choose to go on hormone therapy or not. They at least should have the conversation, they should at least have education and then nobody's talking about the other stuff. They could be doing it, but to you, I feel like I'm banging a drum. I'm certainly not the only one, but I'm banging a drumstin. It really matters how you manage your stress, how you sleep and ******, ****** blood. So I was winching onto her all the time, like text messages go and it's got to change. And then she spoke to her colleague of her, who is a professor at the University of Alberta and a menopause specialist who also has a menopause clinic. And she was like, well, actually, I have two women that had a terrible experience through menopause and they want to make change too. And so the five of us got together and we were like, how can we make healthcare complete for a woman? And we're not trying to reinvent the wheel. What we're trying to say is that there is an opportunity to help women completely through menopause and it's being missed. And so although it's a Canadian based company, it's sort of applicable to applicable globally, there's one part of it that isn't. And essentially this is what it is. It's a resource for women that will have free educational tools and it's just going to be hopefully like a one stop shop in menopause. These are the symptoms. How can I talk to my doctor? What are the resources, the treatment, the stuff that we all know is important? There'll be then a membership site and the membership site is things like, it's really cool. Ardell and the professor have created something called Scoom, which is a school of menopause. And it literally is like a journey through what menopause is and what you should be looking for it's. Because what was happening is when women were going to their appointments, they were spending like nearly an hour just explaining menopause and it's not a good use of their time. They want women to go into the appointments informed, already knowledgeable, which is what we all want. Then within that, there's also an intro to strength training program and nutrition program, a mindfulness program we did with a psychologist, and a dynamic mobility style yoga program. And then the final part of it is like a virtual clinic, which will actually only be open to Canadians. There's an opportunity for any woman globally to do an assessment with a medical professional, where she will get a report at the end of it with recommendations that they can take to their GP and lifestyles that they can do. And they'll also have access to all of our programs if they choose to do the lifestyle things. And then the last part of it gosh, if there's a long answer, the last part of it is like a virtual clinic with GPS that sign up to actually speak to women based on how we expect women to be spoken to. So it's not just saying, I'm a GP and I'd like to be part of your program. We're like, well, we're going to train you and this is the way you're going to speak to any woman that comes through us and this is the conversation you're going to have. We want women to feel heard and we want them to have solutions. And so it's essentially this complete package that we're offering and I couldn't be more excited. I literally couldn't be more excited. But it's a lot of work and.

[26:08] Sonya: I'm not a part of it. I'm like, oh my God, this is what I have dreamed of being available in the world for women.

[26:15] Amanda: Exactly. And hopefully if we create something that has a solid model, it can be emulated globally from other people, like in Australia, potentially. And also we just want it so that women come to a place of trust. Yeah, right. That's essentially what we want. Right. I don't want women to feel like we're going to upsell them on anything with supplements and products they don't need. I just want them to come there because they are looking for something they can't find and we can fill that gap. So right now we've just done a launch of applications. We had over 1000 applications and we only needed 100 women and we have them now and they're going to actually run through it and just tell us whether it's good enough. I mean, if it's not, we have to work harder. We really want that interactive sort of approach to how we help women because it can't be just what we want. It's got to be what women want, right?

[27:12] Sonya: Absolutely.

[27:13] Amanda: Thank you for asking. I am excited about it as well. In addition to that, my book still has legs and I don't know how, but it's still going strong. I do lots of talks, lots of presentations, corporate presentation organizations. It seems to me what's really interesting, a lot of the emergency services want to be menopause and farmed. I'm loving it. So I'm doing tons for the fibrogate. The police brigade. They're paramedics. It's so exciting.

[27:44] Sonya: My oldest son, his girlfriend is a psychologist and she works in an addiction clinic. And I have literally been bending her ear the last few months. She's been listening to my podcast and she said to me the other night, she said, you know what, I've done four years. She's doing her masters now. I've done four years of study and not once have I been taught about this phase of a woman's life and the impact that the fluctuations of estrogen, particularly in progesterone, can have on a woman's mental health. And that broke my heart. Here she is working in an addiction clinic, which, when everything I've learned is likely, that a woman that has had issues brought on by perimenopause could end up. And yet the people, the first responders there are not trained and aware of that.

[28:34] Amanda: They're not trained. And you know what's really interesting is the topic of psychology for a woman through menopause has been studied, but I don't know why it's not applied. Like, we know that CBT is really impactful for a woman through menopause and also just building a resilient mindset like, actually, how do we go through. Menopause and not fear it and actually take control and take charge of it, their psychological tools. Actually write about those books in my book a little bit and then just actually practicing mindfulness, being present, being completely at now with where we are in life and actually accepting it and appreciating it instead of fighting it. They're huge. They're game changes. So actually get her on your podcast. She'd be an amazing guest, because all of the things that she's learning to me, they don't need to be menopause specific, but they're definitely menopause appropriate.

[29:31] Sonya: Yeah, true. Amazing. Amanda, I wrap every interview up by asking one question, and I forgot to give you a heads up at the start of this. **** you.

[29:40] Amanda: **** you.

[29:42] Sonya: So I'm going to throw you in the deep end, which I know you like. A bit of deep water swimming at the moment. Amanda, what are you reading, watching, or listening to right now that is bringing you joy?

[29:54] Amanda: Oh, my God. Right, so I am in a book club. I have been for 15 years, and it's my book club. I picked the book and I want every woman to read it. It's called The Immortal Life of Henrietta. And it's a brilliant book. And a quick, top level summary of that is that Henrietta Lacks is a very poor black woman who had a gynological cancer in the an unscrupulous doctor from Johns Hopkins Hospital took a biopsy of her cancer and started to grow it. And these cells are now called heller cells, which is the part of her name Henrietta Lacks. The first two letters of each, snare and Hella cells are still alive today. They grow so rapidly that they're used in almost every experiment, every vaccine. They helped with the edge pandemic. And so it's an amazing story, but the family who are descendants are poor, they have no health insurance, and it's this really sad story of how the health care system took advantage of this family without consent. And it's actually really sad to read. But also, her legacy has saved lives. It's amazing, and I highly recommend it to anyone.

[31:15] Sonya: That sounds incredible. I'm going to make sure I have a link through to that in the show notes because that sounds like an amazing story. Amanda, thank you so much for your time today. I have loved chatting to you.

[31:25] Amanda: It's been awesome. Thank you. Keep doing the good work. There's a couple of amazing women in Australia doing tons and tons of good stuff now. I love it. These are really valid conversations, and I just feel like it's such a great collective community. Like, I love it.

[31:40] Sonya: Yeah, I do, too. And it was when I decided that this was the kind of pivot that I wanted to take in my career. And also as a result of my lived experience, I really just felt like there was this beautiful community just waiting there that would be supporting and we're all working together, like you say, as a collective. And I love that so much.

[31:57] Amanda: Just because we take no **** anymore, we just know what needs to happen.

[32:00] Sonya: I know it's. One of the things I love about being on the other side of menopause is there's this gift that comes and it's all about empowerment and freedom and yeah, I love it.

[32:11] Amanda: Yes. So keep your eyes on the prize, ladies. For sure.