Selene Yeager: Menopause, health, and writing

Episode summary

Selene Yeager (250)
Selene Yeager

Selene Yeager doesn’t shy away from topics other might avoid; in fact, she is leading the conversation around menopause. She shares her journey into creating a podcast about menopause, and her own experiences with menopause. Selene explains her thoughts on diet, nutrition, health tracking, and cycling. She discusses her relationship with writing, and what she’s currently reading.

Selene Yeager is a professional health and fitness writer, cycling and nutrition coach, personal trainer, athlete, and podcast host. She has written articles for many publications, including Bicycling Magazine, Runner’s World, and Men’s and Women’s Health, in addition to authoring, co-authoring, and contributing to over 2 dozen books. Beyond writing, Selene is the host of, Hit Play Not Pause, a podcast focusing on menopause for athletes.

Highlight [0:00]

What’s cool about what I do is that I can evolve with it. I didn’t know I’d be writing about menopause. I didn’t know I’d be writing about bikes. That’s actually the best part of this existence that I’ve carved out is that there is no… I’m never one of those like, “Oh my God, it’s Sunday. It’s Monday tomorrow.” I’ve never felt that way because I do what I do. And I like to ride bikes and sometimes race bikes. And I write and I like to express myself, and I like to tell stories. And I like to take complicated scientific things and make them digestible; I’ve always really enjoy doing that. That’s not to say every day is a circus and a picnic; it’s not. Sometimes the process is hard, but I really love what I do, and that’s all… it honestly is all I know.

Intro [1:02]

Menopause [2:27]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • How Hit Play not Pause started, and why she started it
  • Roar follow up specifically about menopause, leading to podcast about menopause
  • Menopause as a taboo topic, stigmatized; not discussed, many athletes don’t know what to do

Balancing productivity [10:36]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Very intentionally sacrificing specific things to fit in other things
  • Daily routine, figured out what works specifically for her own energy

Menopause experiences [14:43]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Wishing she had learned anxiety was hormonal sooner; being able to manage it
  • Figuring out what is hormones vs other things; transitioning and adjusting
  • Appreciating the moment, not worrying about the future
“I think when you know the root cause of things you can explore answers as opposed to just thinking like, "This is just who I am now." and "I don't know, maybe life is just getting to me." You just don't know exactly what that's coming from. So I think I would have definitely just told myself "That's the hormones and they're crying for help and you need to address that." But I didn't know that and it took longer than it should have.”

Selene Yeager

Presence and transitioning [17:45]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Slowing down, intentionally being in the moment
  • Perspectives; racing past vs pausing to appreciate
  • Amount of effort, work, energy involved in racing, slowly shifting to other things, other ways of being
  • Changing and transitioning; managing your own and others expectations

Role modeling and menopause [24:45]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Role Modeling is a weird subject; hard to see herself that way. Humbling.
  • Creating the podcast was similar; ability, opportunity, access.
  • Becoming invisible as an aging/menopausal woman
  • Being vulnerable to connect with others
  • Relatability, authenticity

Parkour aside [31:47]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Pigeon-holed as parkour podcast
  • Cycling and parkour as outward manifestations of their thing
  • intimidated by parkour

Menopause next actions [33:51]

Craig (00:34:26):
Let’s go further down that. I definitely want to talk about that but… Sorry, the but is a misspeak. I definitely want to talk about that. If somebody is listening and they’re thinking, “Ooh, that might be me,” what’s a good immediate set of next actions for somebody who maybe thinks that that’s what’s happening to them or they’re having anxiety, if somebody is like, “Selene, what do I do?”

Selene (00:34:51):
Right. There are resources. The nice thing about everybody starting to talk now is that it’s getting easier to find resources on exactly what symptoms are. You can go to the North American Menopause Society page and there’s literally 37 symptoms that you can see that… You can find, and I think it’s important, a lot of doctors, even OB-GYNs are not versed in menopause. So the doctor that may have delivered your most beautiful babies does not necessarily know anything about menopause and that’s important to know. It’s important because, and I’ve had guests on the show talk just to that, doctors saying that you need to find somebody and that North American Menopause Society actually certifies doctors-

Continue reading…

Craig (00:35:38):
As I was going to say-

Selene (00:35:39):
So you can go to it. You can go to a website and find, and it’s such a good resource. It’s such a good idea because women are super, super confused. There was a giant study about 21 years ago called the Women’s Health Initiative and they basically scared the crap out of all women from ever using hormone therapy of any sort. It will cause strokes, it will cause cancer, it will cause heart disease and all of that has since been shelved. The studies were not… they were flawed in many, many ways, but that message has stuck. It’s like the low-fat message that will never go away. Sometimes things get in people-

Craig (00:36:14):
Should we do diet? Yes, if you’re trying to-

Selene (00:36:15):
Oh, my God. Well, seriously. So I try to get that message out a lot too. Especially within 10 years during the transition when things are so crazy, it can be enormously helpful. It can help you feel on top of things and get in control and get you through it and then you can wean off of it. If you look, I just saw a graph that blew my mind the other day about women’s hormones throughout her lifespan and you can see puberty come up and then it’s pretty stint, a nice little undulating. It looks like somebody-

Craig (00:36:50):
Some of the stable-

Selene (00:36:50):
Like the graph is just going… Yeah, up and down in a spiral graph of hormones during this five to seven year period and then it flat lines and then it’s stable again. So to get you through that, someone may get vertigo and migraines and really crippling things. You don’t have to live with any of that. Some people get hot flashes all day and night sweats. If you are super, super disrupted, you do not have to live with that, things that you can be helped and it’s safe and it’s fine.

Selene (00:37:20):
So I think that going to those resources and seeking out those resources 100% like if you think like, "Oh, I wonder. Go check it out and then just find yourself some resources, of course I’ll tell you check out Feisty Menopause, which is the parent company that does my podcast, is a community of women and you can just come and ask anything. We have an Instagram, we have a Facebook. Hit Play Not Pause has a private Facebook page. You just have to ask and we make sure you’re not a troll and you can come on in, but it’s such a supportive…

Selene (00:37:50):
And when we first started that, we’ve got 5,000 women in there now, and I was blown away by the ca… I’ve got people who box and parkour people and bloc climbers and all stuff… I was just floored by the women in that group and what they did and who they were and it’s so, so supportive. It’s such a wonderful group of women. So there are definitely resources, but yeah, just dip your toes in the water and find your people, find a good medical person to work with and just set yourself up for success. Find a team.

Craig (00:38:28):
Earlier, I was going to ask you, what was it like when you created that Facebook page? Because it’s better than the private group because I was suspecting and you just basically said it that you were like, “I don’t know. Do we really need this group? Should I really make this group? Is this going to be… Okay, I’ll do it” and then wow! People show up. You’re like, “Whoa, did we that-”

Selene (00:38:43):
Did we need that? And people are so grateful for it.

Random [39:13]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Beautiful morning ride, enjoying the green
  • Billboard for the world: “Live Forward”
  • Friends opinion of your superpower; optimism, positivity

Roar follow up and writing [41:30]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Roar (cowritten with Dr. Stacy Simms) follow up book
  • Delayed by Covid, now a winter release
  • Specifically about menopause for athletes
  • Hardest part of writing
  • Typos, revisions, and updates; Michael Phelps story

Intermittent fasting [48:01]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • What Intermittent fasting is, different variations
  • Who is doing it, writing about it, studying it (men)
  • IF effects on women, particularly with menopause
  • Hormonal differences, responses in men and women

Craig (00:50:43):
(highlight) That’s what I was going to ask. I want to know what your thoughts are about intermittent fasting, because everything that I’ve read has always been either on IF, on high level male athletes or all the people that I’ve read, like I read about intermittent fasting. It’s from a guy. So what I want to say is, I think I’ve painted a reasonable picture of just the IF spectrum if you just go look on the internet. Now I want to know, okay, now let’s talk about it in the context of-

Selene (00:51:08):
It’s terrible for women.

Continue reading…

Craig (00:51:08):
Context of women in the context of menopause.

Selene (00:51:11):
Or as for menopause. I’m sorry, it’s-

Craig (00:51:13):
Possibly even counter indicate it, a counter indicator-

Selene (00:51:16):
Stacy would say-

Craig (00:51:16):
Tell me more about IF from-

Selene (00:51:18):
She has just actually done many speeches. If there was one thing she would get out, it would be IF in the women’s space. A lot of the original studies on intermittent fasting and such were done originally on men who were trying to lose weight quickly for a bariatric surgery. They had diabetes and they had other metabolic conditions and they really needed to get them into control and it was effective in helping those men lose weight and getting their blood sugar under control. Interestingly, some of the other human studies with women, pre-diabetic women would actually go into diabetes in some cases when they did that. And it all comes down to kisspeptin, which is a…

Craig (00:52:00):
Hit that.

Selene (00:52:00):
And it all comes down to Kisspeptin, which is a hormone that regulates your insulin sensitivity as well as some other things. I don’t want to get too far out of my lane, but women are not small men. It comes down to that. Men get a parasympathetic drive, so they feel more energy. They feel more relaxed, all this stuff. Actually, all the things you’re saying are true for men.

Craig (00:52:27):
For men.

Selene (00:52:28):
But with women, it drives up their sympathetic drive. So it makes them more anxious. I actually once talked to a neurologist, who was like all these young runner women that we’re putting on antidepressants, if we could just get them off keto and get them to eat, we wouldn’t be doing that.

Craig (00:52:44):
You are right [inaudible 00:52:45] because keto is like the kissing cousin-

Selene (00:52:48):
Yes.

Craig (00:52:48):
… to IF [crosstalk 00:52:49].

Selene (00:52:49):
Same thing that’s driving the same processes. And maybe women might have a little, whenever you mess up your diet. Or no, mess up is the wrong word. But whenever you tinker with diet, often weight loss might happen just as a by-product of just changing things. But long-term, it almost always backfires with women. They end up anxious. They end up with more body fat. They end up with higher [crosstalk 00:53:14] blood sugar, like the whole thing.

Selene (00:53:15):
And especially one of the symptoms of the estrogen decline, as I said before, is the cortisol going up. Anything you do to put your body under more stress is counter-indicated. It’s a bad idea. It just does not work the same for women as it does for men. And there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, but there’s also scientific evidence out there. (/highlight)

Nutrition [53:54]

“I am educated. I write about this stuff. I talk about this stuff and I still fall prey to it. It's very hard. I fell prey to the low carb thing for quite a while. And yeah, I was riding worse and all this kind of stuff. And it took me going like, okay why don't you try to eat around your rides? And I'm like, wow, I feel so much better in a fed state. Imagine that. But it's very easy to disconnect from yourself and to lose sight of this; you should feel good when you eat and train and recover. And when all the cylinders are firing in the right way, you should feel good.”

Selene Yeager

Health tracking [57:49]

Important truth [1:05:48]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Craig’s truth about podcasting
  • Defending free speech, of all kinds
  • Protecting the right to speech, what that looks like

Cycling [1:09:50]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Only having bikes she rides, 7 bikes total, all named
  • Favorite bike, gravel bike, multi use
  • Sharing love of cycling, her authentic self
  • Spreading cycling as a form of transportation, changing infrastructure
  • E-bike story and discussion
  • Craig’s Marty Nothstein story, racing in costume

Craig (01:12:42):
Do you find yourself called to share or spread the love of bicycling? Because by the way, it’s clear that you love bicycling. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. It’s clear that you love it. And anybody who sees anything that you do related to bicycling, can’t help but want to fall in love with bicycling.

Selene (01:12:59):
Right.

Craig (01:12:59):
Do you share that love on purpose? Or what are your thoughts on …

Selene (01:13:04):
No I share it as part of just sharing my authentic self, honestly. Because I do really love bicycling and I feel like, it’s just part of my DNA. And it always has been quite honestly, even though I didn’t really think of it until I was much, much older. I always really loved to ride my bike. But I think that in many ways, I have a couple of thoughts. One, I think a lot of people inherently love the idea of bicycling and love the wind in your hair and that motion. There’s something meditative about the motion. There’s something freeing. It feels like you’re flying, all those great things, which partially explains why there are no bikes available right now. Because during the pandemic, everybody bought them.

Continue reading…

Selene (01:13:48):
It’s amazing. It’s amazing. And I want our goal actually in the bicycling circles is to try to retain 10% of those people. We know we’re not going to retain all of them. Some of them are just going to go back to whatever. But if we can retain 10, that’s a big deal. And try too, because it’s interesting what you were saying before about we have the ability to … I can leave my garage and I can ride over here. And then after we’re done, if I had time, I could ride over to South Mountain and go on a mountain bike, or I can ride wherever.

Craig (01:14:19):
Right.

Selene (01:14:19):
But there are a lot of people, for whom the infrastructure in which they live is very prohibitive to any kind of riding. And-

Craig (01:14:27):
And the society is very prohibitive. Get off the road.

Selene (01:14:29):
And we need to really change that. Cars are not the answer. And I think more and more people are opening up to that. I think people who are walking around New York City going wow, downtown without traffic is amazing.

Craig (01:14:42):
Amazing place.

Selene (01:14:42):
Right?

Craig (01:14:42):
Yes.

Selene (01:14:42):
Yeah. And places are doing it. It’s happening. And it will. It will, will happen. I’m a 100% convinced of it. There’s enough momentum and E-bikes are going to change things. Have you ever ridden one?

Craig (01:14:54):
No, I’m kind-

Selene (01:14:55):
Oh my God.

Craig (01:14:56):
It’s kind of one of those things it’s like, I should avoid that or I’m going to-

Selene (01:15:00):
Nobody rides an E-bike without smiling ear to ear. It’s so, so fun.

Craig (01:15:04):
It’s magic. I mean-

Selene (01:15:05):
It’s magic.

Craig (01:15:06):
It’s magic.

Selene (01:15:06):
It’s magic. I’ll tell you, I did this ride with Specialized, which is a bike company. And we went from Salt Lake City to Vegas, which is a very long journey.

Craig (01:15:17):
Wow.

Selene (01:15:17):
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Craig (01:15:18):
That’s like 1,100 miles or something.

Selene (01:15:20):
Yes. Yes. I ride very long distances. So we-

Craig (01:15:24):
It’s downhill the whole way though.

Selene (01:15:26):
Yeah, no end at all. We had a really long day. I can’t even remember what day it was. And we pulled into … It was maybe the second last day of the tour. And I was actually with Rebecca Rush, who is multi-world champion. She was someone I was racing with at the time, at some of these mountain bike races. And she’s like, she had to present for something and she needed a hair straightener. And I was like, what? We literally just got done with like a 100 miles, maybe a 100 or 200, I can’t even remember.

Selene (01:15:55):
And I was like, you need a what? She’s like, it’s only five miles away. I’m like, I am not riding five miles with you to get a hair straightener for whatever. She’s like, we’ll take the E-bikes. And I had not been on one yet. And I was like, oh my God, I don’t want to do this. So we got these turbos and we got on. And you just start peddling and it goes, voom. And I was like, oh my God, let’s go anywhere.

Craig (01:16:15):
Yes.

Selene (01:16:15):
Let’s go anywhere. This is the most fun. They are so, so fun. And people are like, oh, it’s cheating. It’s whatever. It’s like-

Craig (01:16:23):
No.

Selene (01:16:23):
… the exercise level, and I’ve actually done this test with a heart rate monitor to check. I’d ride somewhere on my regular bike and then I’d ride on this bike and see. And yes, you’re definitely lower heart rate or whatever, but it’s the equivalent of brisk walking. So it is not nothing.

Craig (01:16:39):
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Selene (01:16:39):
It’s exercise.

Craig (01:16:40):
Yeah.

Selene (01:16:40):
A hell of a lot better than sitting in your bucket seat in your car.

Writing [1:23:51]

  • Chapter’s transcript…
  • Couldn’t stop writing, it’s a constant in her life
  • Being able to do what she loves in a way that works for her
  • Writing medical articles, Rodale press

Reading [1:28:30]

3 words [1:42:16]

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Craig (01:42:17): All right. Well, I want to be mindful of your time. So, I think I would just say, and of course the final question is, three words to describe your practice. It’s okay, it’s part of-

Selene (01:42:31): I would say, if I had to use three words to describe my mission and my practice, it would be to inspire, to empower, and to humor.

Craig (01:42:48): Terrific, as I often say. It was a pleasure to meet you, get to hang out, talk about bikes, talk about books. Yeah, thank you very much. I’m sure I’ll see you around.

Selene (01:42:58): Yeah, no, I pass by here all the time.

Craig (01:43:02): Thank you.