A recipe for balance

Jane Turner talks about how she learned to thrive in midlife


A couple of years ago, Jane Turner made the decision to embark on a new career and new business after spending 20 years in public service.

In a nutshell, Jane says she was made redundant from the Powerhouse Museum at age 52, had a cathartic experience when she wrote her first book, opened up a can of worms around body image issues and eating disorders and discovered a passion for helping others negotiate the journey.

We asked her to share her advice and journey with us here on Balance.

What made you decide to become an author and start the Wellness Coaching Collective?

I started the Wellness Coaching Collective back in 2007 after having a mid-career moment where I thought to myself – “what do I want to be doing when the time comes to move on from the high-powered job at the Powerhouse Museum that I was in at the time”, and the idea of coaching came to mind as a way to hone in on what I had always been very good at and got a real kick out of, ie helping people who are ripe for development to take themselves to the next level.

 What was your career before embarking on this new adventure?

I am a Canberra girl originally, and I was born into a family of public servants. In fact I was in the public service for my whole working life right up until being made redundant at the age of 52 after 15 years of service at the Powerhouse Museum. I moved from the federal public service in Canberra to what was then the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) in Sydney in the early 80’s. I then studied part time and for an Arts Degree majoring in Anthropology at Sydney Uni, and then a Masters of Arts Administration with the University of NSW College of Fine Arts. It was this qualification that essentially got me the role at the Museum in 1999. I stayed at the Powerhouse in various roles right up to the end of 2014.

How are you getting the word out about your services and businesses? 

I do a lot of networking, as well as running Wellness Coaching Collective workshops and our signature offering, the Urban Wellness Retreat in Sydney. I advertise on my website Write With Jane, and Facebook. Getting people in the room then leads to a fair bit of word of mouth promotion. I’ve been lucky enough to have been on Today Extra, In the Australian Women’s Weekly, on ABC radio in Melbourne with Clare Bowditch, and more.

What’s the best part about your new career?

Whilst I’m proud to be the Principal Coach and Director of Wellness Coaching Collective.  I’m equally proud of establishing my business Write With Jane. It’s especially designed to inspire and support clients to step into their story and achieve clarity and power in their personal brand by becoming an author. I designed the  “Power Writing Program” a program that educates people to create, write and market their own book. I absolutely love it when I see the light go on for people about the fact that they will finally be able to get the book they been wanting to write (for god  knows how long) written because I’m offering them everything I learnt from doing the hard yards, and working it out for myself, when I wrote my first book. Then once they get to see their book starting to unfold the change in them in terms of empowerment and self-confidence is a joy for me to see.

One particular career highlight was back in 2017, speaking at the Womens Economic Forum in New Delhi.

What’s the hardest part about starting again at 52?

Having to learn a plethora of new skills such as how to use social media to build my profile, and at the other end of the spectrum, how to do some pretty basic things that I previously had the luxury of delegating to my staff when I was a manager at the Powerhouse.

What are the top 10 tips you would you give someone who was in your position and was thinking of embarking on a new career or business?

I can only came up with five at the moment. Here they are –

  1. Don’t skimp on doing your due diligence around testing whether there is a market for what you are proposing, and whether your business model is sound.
  2. Do not go into it without a buffer in terms of capital to keep you afloat, and don’t underestimate how long it is likely to take you to break even, let alone bring in the amount of money you need to live comfortably.
  3. Make sure you know the difference between sharks and dolphins in the business world. It’s too easy to get sucked in by sharks, especially when you’re vulnerable and just finding your feet in business.
  4. Get a business coach and/or hook up with a supportive tribe of some kind because the early days can be soul destroying, and it’s easy to make mistakes when you’re going it alone.
  5. Meanwhile don’t let any of the above scare you off!

You wrote Thrive in Midlife in 2014 – what was the trigger for that book?

I had been running my coaching practice since 2007 “on the side” whilst working at the Powerhouse. To be honest it was more of a hobby than a business until I had to make it work for me withe the redundancy looming. I decided to write the book to boost my credibility and authority and niche my coaching business down to attract women in the midlife phase. It was very hard to get through the day in this state, and the future looked pretty grim.

What were you feeling during menopause – what symptoms did you have? 

I had the classic menopause symptoms of hot flushes (mine were severe), brain fog, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, low mood and dry skin.

How was your midlife mindset shaped by your early childhood and why was your connection to your mother so difficult?

This is complicated – here goes.

I only found out that I was the surviving twin in a case of vanishing twin syndrome when I was 45 and studying NLP to use in my coaching programs. Things started to make more sense to me when I understood that I’d suffered a significant trauma in the womb, and that the learning I took from that experience translated into not being able to feel my feelings anymore.

In hindsight I can see that I was probably going to develop some strategy or other to numb myself, and I think I developed Binge Eating Disorder for a couple of reasons. Firstly my mum used to give me things like chocolates, biscuits, and soft drink to reward me and comfort me if anything ever went wrong. I think for mum food equaled love. So my body’s reward centre was primed from an early age, then when my problems with body image really started to niggle away when I was about 12, I started to severely restrict food to get skinny, only to spring back and binge like crazy. That was the see-saw of life that I was on to one extent or other for decades. I was my way of numbing myself whenever stress, boredom or uncomfortable emotions started to bubble up.

Over time I very slowly managed to unpicked this bit by bit with the help of NLP, rebirthing, wellness retreats and a number of other strategies. And slowly over time I started to be able to observe my feelings and ease into them, and a huge part of the puzzle included starting to have some self-compassion.

It was because of the trauma I experienced in the womb when I lost my twin, and the fact that my mother was very ill after giving birth to me with a blood clot travelling to her lung, that I accepted abandonment as my lot, and unconsciously I never wanted to risk bonding with mum (it’s paradoxical I know). In fact I struggled to get any connection with mum whatsoever when she was alive, but the great thing about writing my book was that I managed to have a profound heart-opening experience that bonded me with her posthumously.

Do you have children and has your mid-life experience changed your relationship with them?

When my daughter was 15 year old, I had started going into menopause just as she was going into adolescence. Brilliant timing – not. I’m glad to be able to say that because of all of the healing work I’ve done on myself, I learned to have enough humility to give her space and let her be ‘hormonal’, and we both seem to have to knack of not poking each other when it’s likely to result in grief. My Lucy is a bit of an old soul. There’s no doubt in my mind that I got off lightly in terms of living with an adolescent daughter, and what’s more I know that it was her birth that got me on the path to getting to the bottom of the places in my heart that were crying out for healing.

After writing your book were you able to get rid of your menopause symptoms or just manage them?

I all but got rid of them because among other things I went from eating quite a lot of processed sugar-filled foods to a predominantly whole food diet. The result was pretty amazing in some regards. For example severe hot flushes stopped completely within a week of cutting out processed food.

Weight loss in midlife is using the Sirt Food Diet. What is the Sirt Food Diet and how did you find it?

The big message in “Weight Loss Midlife: How to Get Out of the Diet Trap” is to avoid dieting at all costs. I was on the dieting roller-coaster for decades, and if I can even stop just one person from going down that route it will all have been worth it. Ditching my compulsive dieting mindset, and just adding as many sirt foods into my shopping basket as possible has made my life so much better than it used to be when I bounced around from deprivation to gorging myself silly and back again.

The sirtfood approach is the brainchild of Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten. It’s all about activating our sirtuin genes that are known to switch on fat-burning and other natural anti-ageing mechanisms such as cellular detoxification. Sirt foods include the astringent vegetables like kale, celery and rocket, and other things like green tea, dark chocolate, and turmeric.

What is Binge Eating Disorder and how and why do you think you developed the problem?

Binge Eating Disorder is similar to Bulimia Nervosa except it doesn’t involve purging in any way. There are two defining characteristics of BED. They are 1)Eating a very large amount of food within a relatively short period of time, and 2)Feeling a sense of loss of control while eating (ie not being able to stop).

You are the author of two successful books. What’s next for you?

I’m proud to say my new book “Mindset for Authors: How to Overcome Procrastination, Perfectionism, Overwhelm and Self Doubt” has just been released in August this year.

Where do you want to be in five years time?

I want to be the mother of a settled confident twenty-something daughter who knows how wonderful she is and is not caught up in the kind of body image circus that I was caught up in at her age. I want to continue being booked as a motivational speaker and wellness expert, and continue to help clients reach their writing goals.

Buy Jane’s books here.


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Balance Team

This article was written by the brains trust of Balance . We are a talented team of writers and contributors with real life experience and a passion for finding balance.

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