Until Realizing She’d Been Doing It All Wrong!
Holistic health is all about positive adaptation to your body and environment. As you change, the way you keep yourself at your best may change. But due to outside pressures, we can be convinced that society’s popular “solution,” that is, vigorous exercise and dieting, can solve all our problems (When, truly, it doesn’t solve any).
Today I’m sharing Stacy’s story, one about change and choices and the journey to loving her body through all of its stages of growth.
Stacy’s first symptom was a slow but stubborn increase on the scale.
As an avid and aggressive exerciser who ate a strictly plant-based diet, she felt frustrated. What had changed? But when her periods started to become irregular, followed by the occasional hot flashes and night sweats, the problem became clear.
Have you already guessed?
Stacy was entering menopause.
Her OB/GYN told her that weight gain was normal and expected, but they could control the hot flashes and night sweats with a hormone called Prempro, a horse-urine-based estrogen, and an artificial progestin called medroxyprogesterone acetate.
She was having none of that.
A Popular Road to Nowhere
Since artificial hormones were out and weight gain WAS NOT an option, the solution she chose was one many of my patients come to me with: tough out the hot flashes and night sweats, increase exercise, and lower calories to lose the weight.
She did it all, but to no avail.
Exercising, some days up to 3 to 4 hours, lifting weights, going to group classes, walking the dog, going on bike rides with friends—Stacy did everything she could think of to increase her calorie usage.
Her already low-calorie diet dropped lower—under 1000 calories a day. She even kept up plant-based eating, but the weight kept creeping up.
Her frustration, understandably, became unbearable.
More Pain, More Gain?
With the increased exercise came an increase in pain.
She was now achy all over and relying on Advil before any exercise endeavor. Her sleep suffered as well, but she blamed this on night sweats, never on strenuous activity.
It did strike her as odd, however, that she would go to bed so fatigued, but sleep terribly.
She recalled that when first having night sweats, she could just fall back to sleep, but something else was different now. Her mood and attitude toward life changed.
The more she tried to keep it off with her movement and eating, the more weight she gained. Pendulating between frustration, shame, pain, and “Well, what’s the use?”, she and her closest confidants all attributed it to hormones and “The Change.”
That’s how she made it to my clinic.
A Fortunate Appointment
When Stacy came in to discuss hormone replacement therapy, she didn’t expect that I would soon be discussing her eating and activity.
She was a very healthy “early 50ish” woman (that is all she would admit to until she realized I had her date of birth on my chart).
She was lean and muscular, but quick to show me where she claimed all the weight was going: her belly and backside. We took her measurements and vitals and found that she was 20 pounds up from just six months earlier when this had all started.
She was devastated, asking, “How can anyone work out as hard as I do, and eat as little as I eat, and gain 20 pounds?” The question was all too familiar.
She then proceeded to answer it on her own: “It’s my hormones, right, Dr. Willey? Menopause does this to women, correct?”
I agreed, but explained that was part of the problem. It’s likely the thing that had started the process; however, we could also attribute some of the weight gain to her overzealous diet and exercise program.
This one threw her for a loop. Over the years, she had always been able to lose any excessive weight with that regimen.
So we dove into the concept of a typical diet program (what I like to call “Fat to Fit”; learn more here) and the damage it can do to the body—hormones included. I also helped her understand that when one undertakes a Fat to Fit program, with hormones already in distress (in her case menopause), things really go south quickly. So I wasn’t that surprised at her 20 pound gain in such a short time.
The more I explained the problem, the effects on the gut, the oxidative stress, and the hormonal disarray, the more it started to make sense to her.
She was ready for another solution, this time a positive one.
The New Plan
Our intervention started with balancing her hormones. We obtained the appropriate labs and studies, and replaced all her sex hormones in the appropriate amounts and delivery methods.
I also started her on some supplements and continued her on her plant-based eating plan, but made sure her protein was adequate and she was eating enough for her body needs and way of living.
It took some convincing to have her cut back on her exercise, and honestly—I don’t think she did for the first few months of our intervention.
But by all accounts she was doing much better.
Her moods improved, sex life was good, and her hot flashes were gone. The weight was slow to come off, and she was still not sleeping that well, even though she was having no more night sweats. This was my opportunity to encourage her to cut back a little on her exercise. Her body needed to recover and repair itself—that is, lower the stress hormone, sleep better, and let the fat go.
At our six-month follow-up, she was down ten pounds from our initial visit and was sleeping better. Her only concern was some vaginal dryness during sex, so we made some hormone adjustments. But she had finally backed off on her exercise and found it left a lot more time for other things like family and friends.
Who’d have thought? 🙂
Into the Future
A year later, Stacy couldn’t believe her progress. She was in cruise mode, at her ideal weight, feeling good, and without complaints. Her diet was steady and more than she had ever eaten in the past. She only went to the gym or participated in group classes three times a week now—a huge change from when we met.
On the days when she did not go to the gym, she went on walks and/or bike rides with her family and friends, or just worked in her yard.
She continued a few of the supplements I originally suggested—and could tell they were doing their job because when she ran out of them, she could feel it!
As we get wiser (older), our bodies change. But your feeling of fulfillment doesn’t have to!
Ask your doctor about helping you adjusting hormones, supplements, diet, and exercise to adapt to these changes if you’re experiencing them, too. It’s something I love doing for my patients. Being proactive in health always triumphs over being reactive—and Stacy could not have agreed more.
Listen to my RecoverMe Podcast Episode 1 to learn more about my proven approach to naturally healthy living.