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Selene Yeager

Is it finally time for an elevated menopause conversation? Enough with the myths and taboos and the hush-hush approach from brands — today’s women are ready to get real about this major league life change. In this Art of Sway episode, health and fitness expert Selene Yeager, famously known as the ‘Fit Chick’, shares how women can keep smashing their goals, no matter their age or life stage.

Our expert guest Selene Yeager wears many hats. She serves as the host of the ‘Hit Play Not Pause‘ podcast and manages content at the ‘Feisty Menopause’ website. Beyond these roles, she’s also a successful professional writer in the health and fitness field, with a portfolio that includes co-authoring the books Roar and Next Level with Dr. Stacy Sims.

Selene doesn’t just write about fitness, she embodies it, as a certified personal trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), a cycling coach, and certified nutrition coach. Her sporting accolades include off-road bike racing and being a former All-American Ironman triathlete.

However, it’s Selene’s work bringing menopause into the mainstream that she’s most passionate about today. In her words, menopause is a transition for women who want to stay active — not a dead-end street.

Tune in to learn about Selene’s journey and how she educates women and men of all ages about the far-reaching mental, physical, and emotional impacts of menopause and how best to mitigate them. Plus:

  • Why competitive athletic women tend to think they’re ‘done’ at menopause, when in fact there’s plenty of gas left in the tank
  • The lingering stigma of menopause: why are we (and brands) often still reluctant to discuss it openly?
  • How ‘normalizing the conversation’ helps women feel less alone
  • Why (and how) we collectively need to combat menopause misinformation
  • What Selene does to promote her ‘Hit Play Not Pause’ menopause podcast via Instagram

Episode 33: Selene Yeager

Danielle Wiley: Welcome to The Art of Sway, the podcast that uncovers the power of influence and its impact on all areas of our lives. I’m your host, Danielle Wiley. Each week, we’ll explore the many facets of influence through candid conversations with industry insiders from brand marketers to social workers, educators, leaders and more. Let’s dive in.

Danielle Wiley: Selene Yeager is a host of Hit Play Not Pause podcast and content manager at Feisty Menopause, as well as a bestselling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as an NASM certified personal trainer, cycling coach, PN1 certified nutrition coach, off-road bike racer, and former All-American Ironman triathlete. Her work includes co-authoring Roar and Next Level with Dr. Stacy Sims.

Danielle Wiley: As anyone who spends any time with me personally can attest, I have gotten somewhat obsessed in the past year with the topic of menopause. I listen to every podcast I can find and read every article and book I can get my hands on. That is how I made the delightful discovery of Selene Yeager. She has been a health and fitness writer for years and is now considered one of the foremost experts in the menopause space, especially as it relates to active women. The book, Next Level, which she co-wrote with Dr. Stacy Sims, has become my bible. I literally keep it on my bedside table. I hope I didn’t scare her off during this conversation. I was clearly a super fan. Enjoy.

Danielle Wiley: Well, hello. Thank you so much for joining me. I reached out to you. I think it was last week. I was like, I’m just going to reach out and see if she’ll come, and here you are. This is awesome. Thank you so much for joining me.

Selene Yeager: Yeah. I’m not on LinkedIn that much, but I got a notification so …

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. I was talking to you on-

Selene Yeager: … glad to meet you.

Danielle Wiley: I was talking you on all the social media platforms, so I would’ve found you regardless.

Selene Yeager: I’m easy to find.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. So, I’m going to share in a little bit how I discovered you and the awesome work that you’re doing, but to kind of set the stage, I would love for you to share with our listeners just a little bit about your journey to where you’re at now. I know that you’ve always been a writer, but you’ve added a whole bunch of other mediums to what you do. Kind of interested in how you got from magazine writing to where you’re at today.

Selene Yeager: Yeah, it’s interesting. Some people are just like, “Oh, I guess you’re not much of a writer anymore,” which, A, is not true. I still write a lot of books including the ones with Dr. Stacy Sims, who we’ll talk about, I’m sure, a little bit later, but magazines are having some trouble. They’ve had some trouble.

Danielle Wiley: Oh, yeah?

Selene Yeager: I really am still a writer at heart. I still create content for Feisty Media and Feisty Menopause particularly, but I find, especially in the way that I do it, podcasting is still a lot of writing. It’s still telling a story. It’s still conveying information, and in many ways, it’s such a big breath of fresh air for me because I did, as you referenced, I spent 20 years in the magazine industry, writing for women’s health and Oprah and all the … like pretty much any of the magazines. You name it, I wrote for them. I would do often a 45-minute conversation with somebody, and they would get four lines in a piece. There was so much information that just would always be on the cutting room floor. It was really frustrating. In a book, you get a lot, but books are giant, giant missions to create, and sometimes, it’s like, Well, this is too much. A podcast is such a great way to get across a lot of ideas with nuance and let the people actually talk and have room. Yeah, I really, really have been enjoying it.

Danielle Wiley: I love, I mean just this here, talking to you. I think my favorite thing about podcasting has been this ability to just reach out to people I discover and think are awesome and invite them to have a conversation. It’s just the coolest thing ever.

Selene Yeager: Yeah.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. I love it.

Selene Yeager: Yeah, it’s really, really great.

Danielle Wiley: So, you’ve always been writing about fitness and women’s health, but this community you’ve really created and your podcast, it’s about really for women of a certain age, sounds like I’m writing some weird …

Selene Yeager: It’s women going through menopause. They can be any age. We have people in their late 30s.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah.

Selene Yeager: We do. I think that’s what’s important is that … and I didn’t mean to cut you off there but-

Danielle Wiley: No, no, no.

Selene Yeager: … that is what is important is that I have also, as a … I’ve been a writer, but I’ve also been an athlete for that time. I raced mountain bikes at a semi-professional level and as a pro licensed. I just never made a big salary doing it. I’ve done Ironman. I’ve gone to Kona. I’ve done a lot in that journey, and I raced all into my 40s. When I hit that transition pretty hard towards the menopause point in time, I started looking for information for myself. All the information was geared towards the main population who is largely sedentary, so the information would be like you should exercise.

Selene Yeager: I’d be like, “I got that. I’m on it.” You should fuel yourself, like eat nutritious foods. I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me. There was nothing about so much I was experiencing. The information has been starting to come out hot and heavy now that menopause is really getting into the mainstream, but people weren’t talking about anxiety and fear and all the other things that sort of come up as the hormones change. I was just like, women start disappearing from starting lines and from activity in the menopause transition just like girls do in puberty for all the same reasons. Their bodies are going through this thing, and they don’t understand, and they don’t know what to do. They think they’re kind of done, and they just step out when there’s things that you can do to work with your physiology to make things better.

Selene Yeager: I’ll be very transparent. It was difficult to start that podcast. I mean, I was very excited about starting it, and then it was the night before, and I was panicked about it. I’m like, do I want to talk about being in menopause? Because there was still so much sort of odd shame and stigma about it, right? Especially as somebody who is athletic, it implies that you’re old. It has all these negative connotations. I was thinking, well, if not me, who?

Selene Yeager: I have all these contacts. I’ve been writing in this space forever, and anytime that I had ever written about menopause, it was just about terrible things, like, oh, the menopot. Everybody was just talking about these awful terms. It was all about fat gain and this, and it wasn’t about … It didn’t encompass the whole woman. There was nothing positive about it. I just really wanted to change the conversation and have the conversation.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s one of the things that really appealed to me about your messages about it because you’re right. You’re living your life, and you’re doing all the things. I mean, I was doing everything right. I exercise a lot. I eat really well, and then all of a sudden, you no longer have control over this body, and it’s doing all these weird things and not doing things, and everything you’ve been … I mean, for me, at least, everything I was doing for 20 years was suddenly not having the same, not creating the same response in my body. What I loved about your messages, which I discovered on Facebook and then found the book Next Level that you wrote with Dr. Sims, is it’s really empowering. You talk about lift heavy shit, right?

Selene Yeager: Yeah.

Danielle Wiley: Right? So, it’s not just do your weight lifting. It’s like, no.

Selene Yeager: Right.

Danielle Wiley: Get really heavy weights and push yourself. It’s just a very different … and sprint training. It’s a very, very different mindset, and it’s very empowering. When you feel like you’re losing control, it’s really nice to feel like you can suddenly take control over something and do an activity that feels so empowering and actually does help.

Selene Yeager: Yeah. Well, thank you because that was 100% the intent behind all of that. I mean, there’s science behind it too. It’s all evidence and science based too, which is very important to me as well. I mean, you’re basically just giving your body some help doing some of the things that the hormones used to do just sort of automatically there.

Danielle Wiley: As I was saying before, you’ve been writing about women’s health and about fitness for a while, but obviously, this transition and this change in this stage in life seems to have been more inspirational to you in terms of really creating something new. I mean, you created a podcast, you have this community on Facebook. You’ve been doing this your whole career, but this feels something different. What about this kind of moved you to the next level. No pun intended. It’s not about-

Selene Yeager: Yeah, I mean it really was just that. I felt like nobody was talking about this in this way and that you’re looking … and a woman could easily live 40% of her life, if not half in this transition and past, right, that is astronomical. That is a lot of your life. I knew that there were other women out there like me who wanted to continue to engage in their athletic selves and in their active selves. I would be lying if I said I knew how big that community would become so quickly because I didn’t. We’ve got 22,000 women in that Facebook group now, and we’ve had more than two million downloads of the show over just a couple years time. So, there’s a lot of women out there. That’s why it’s been so satisfying. It’s been really satisfying because I feel like my whole life has built up until this point.

Selene Yeager: I’ve spent my life writing about all of these issues. I’ve interviewed hundreds of hundreds of experts. I have raced against and with a lot of people who have been on the show who are also in this stage of life, and they were willing to come on the show and also share their experiences. When you have somebody like a seven-time world champion adventure racer talking about her experience with muscle loss and her experience with anxiety, and you have another similarly world champion ultra runner talking about having hot flashes during a hundred-mile race in Leadville, it’s so refreshing. It’s so great to just normalize the conversation. Women are just like, this is wonderful. I’m listening to people who are going through this. It’s just really exciting to bring that kind of conversation into the mainstream and have so many people responding to it. It’s does feel like the most important work I have done.

Danielle Wiley: Well, it’s meant a lot to me, and I think it’s just so empowering to hear anyone being in the marketing industry. We talk a lot about, especially in influencer marketing, the reason what we do is successful is because people trust someone like themselves, and they find someone who they either aspire to be or they relate to in some way. Then, that person’s telling a story, and it helps to introduce them to a new service or product, but it doesn’t have to be selling something necessarily. I think about Peloton, which I use, and Susie Chan, who’s one of the running instructors, is 48 and will full out talk about her hot flashes. She calls them hot flushes, I think, because she’s British, and it’s very cute.

Selene Yeager: Yeah. She’s British.

Danielle Wiley: But she’ll full out just, “I’m having one now,” as she’s running, and it’s so nice.

Selene Yeager: So great.

Danielle Wiley: I mean, because so many of those, most of them are, I’m sure, darling, but they’re 28, they’re 29. They don’t have the same body concerns that I do.

Selene Yeager: They don’t. No, right. They don’t. Totally. Yeah. They’re not expected to.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. So, it’s just it’s so nice. I think to your point, talking to the ultra runner and talking to these serious athletes who are going through this, it gives you help or gives you hope rather, and just something to identify with. There just has been such a lack of information about this topic out there.

Selene Yeager: Yeah. There really, really has. You have estrogen receptors on every single cell of your body. Everything. People were like, “What are you going to talk about?” I’m like, I can talk for years. I’ve been telling people how to exercise and eat right for 27 years. I can talk for years about this, and science will always be evolving on it. There will always be things to talk about.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, yeah. Just in terms of the information that’s out there. I was talking to a friend. A friend of mine sent a picture yesterday and she had a tank top on, and I was like, “Oh, you look ripped. You look awesome.” She’s like, “Well, yeah, I’m always in a tank top because I’m hot all the time.” I was like, “Same, same.” So, we just started talking about HR T and information, and she was nervous. I said I was nervous too. I actually just started it two weeks ago. I said I’ve been consuming every single … and I’m not much of a non-fiction sci … It’s amazing how much non-fiction consumed just because of the changes going on in my body.

Danielle Wiley: I said to her, I think I’ve listened to every podcast episode, read every article, read all the … I’m just like a sponge trying to find all this information because there has not been a lot out there. Then, I think the other piece I want to bring up is just the misinformation that has been out there. I know you’ve talked about this a lot. I was listening to your interview, I forget her name, the woman who runs the menopause …

Selene Yeager: Dr. Stephanie Faubion. Yes, yes.

Danielle Wiley: Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. So, just so much misinformation out there from, I think it was a 2002 study. What do you think needs to be done to … I know there’s so many … I’m so impressed with how many people have downloaded the podcast and the huge community that you’ve built, but there’s so many more women out there, and there’s still so much misinformation and so many doctors who are just dismissing women when they come in and share what they’re going through. I mean, my own mom told me to just kind of grin and bear it. There’s just a lot of misinformation out there. So, how do you re-engineer and re-influence women who have been told this wrong story for so many years?

Selene Yeager: Yeah. You can only take it a step at a time. I take all the steps I can to amplify the right messages and science … Like I said, the science based and people who I trust having a background as a science writer, we’re never going to, especially with the internet, get rid of misinformation, right? That just exists. So, you have to trust that women, as menopause comes more into the mainstream and they have more information at their disposal, will be savvy consumers themselves. That’s really all you can do. I get honestly, more frustrated with the other part that you talked about, the doctors who are dismissive. I hear that all the time.

Selene Yeager: The generous part of me knows that it’s actually not their fault. They aren’t trained in it. A study that came out in the … I think it was a British medical journal, but I could be wrong. It could be Mayo Clinic. One of them. It was a peer reviewed, very respectable journal, showed that 7% of residents, and this was 2019, felt prepared to have any conversation about menopause with her, and that included OB-GYN. That was internal medicine, family practice, and OB-GYN. There just hasn’t been education for the doctors in this space. So, when you leave that big of a vacuum, whew, you’re looking for … That’s a wide open door.

Danielle Wiley: I was going to say my general practitioner is a woman my age, and we’ve had some great conversations about this, and she’s been wonderful and super open, but we were having this great chat two weeks ago, and she said, “If I could go back in time to young doctor me,” she said, “because I wasn’t taught about this, and I was actually taught misinformation. Then, I gave that misinformation to my patients. I think back to some of these conversations and what I ended up doing to these women early in my career,” and she said, “I’m just so angry with old me.”

Selene Yeager: Well, it’s just the Women’s Health Initiative studies, right?

Danielle Wiley: Yeah.

Selene Yeager: The studies that just stopped hormone therapy in its tracks. I worry that the pendulum swings again too far in the other direction that we’re like, there’s some people who are pushing hormone therapy as almost a fountain of youth, and that’s not true either. There’s just a middle ground where I wish we could all just tread, like for some people, it’s amazing and for some people, they don’t do as well, and there’s a lot of formulations, and it takes some trial and error. There’s lots of ways up this mountain. There’s lots of ways through this transition.

Selene Yeager: The real criminal thing that happened with the Women’s Health Initiative and for people who are native to that are naive to that, there was a giant study back in the early 2000s that they were actually looking if hormone therapy could prevent heart disease and prevent some of these like dementia, some of these diseases in women that go up after menopause. They were hopeful that that would be the case. They stopped the study early, and it was a moonshot. It was millions of dollars, tons of money went into the study because they were getting more breast cancer, they were getting more heart disease, but there was so much wrong with that study. When you looked at it statistically, it actually wasn’t that meaningful, and the average age of the woman was like 63. They were starting them, they were way post-menopause, and now, they know that there’s this window around menopause where you still have receptors like we talked about before.

Danielle Wiley: Right. Right.

Selene Yeager: Once those receptors start going and you start weaning, your body starts weaning and you put estrogen back in the system, that’s problematic especially for brain health. I mean they’re doing a lot of interesting studies on that. Once you’ve developed a certain level of cardiovascular disease, you can increase your risk by taking the hormones on top of it, so it didn’t just stop women from taking hormones for a good 20 years, but it also kind of put a cold blanket on research, right? So, we could be so much further along in our understanding if we had maybe taken the lesson of that to do more research instead of just like, “Nope, this is not it.” There’s so much bad that came out of that.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. We can share in the blog post of this episode when it goes live. I thought the article that was in the New York Times magazine a couple of weeks ago.

Selene Yeager: Oh, it was excellent.

Danielle Wiley: It was excellent.

Selene Yeager: Yeah, really excellent.

Danielle Wiley: By Susan Dominus. it was easy to understand.

Selene Yeager: So good. That was excellent.

Danielle Wiley: It explained … It just kind of explained the whole timeline of what happened so-

Selene Yeager: Yeah, very, very good. Very good piece.

Danielle Wiley: … we’ll link to that. So, as I was mentioning, I found you through this crazy circuitous route. So, I was in this Peloton group.

Selene Yeager: Hardcore on the Floor?

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. It was in Hardcore on the Floor, which is a Peloton weightlifting group, and it’s of all ages. Then, a bunch of people who were perimenopause and menopause started posting about this book Next Level and going on and on and on about it. So, I ordered the book, and then another group was started for people who were into the suggestions in Next Level. Then, I found your group, and then I found your podcast. That just kind of shows how social media works and how people find things these days, which is great for consumers but a little bit stressful for the people creating the content because how do you find everyone? So, how have you navigated? How did you decide on a Facebook group being the thing for you and then the … How do you decide where you want to put content out and how to best promote the work that you’re doing on social media?

Selene Yeager: Yeah. I mean, that’s an ongoing conversation, right? It’s an ongoing thought process, but it is funny. Word of mouth is still word of mouth, right? Word of mouth is still everything even especially now because of we have these devices, and we are all so connected. The word of mouth is more powerful than ever. It’s funny you say that because there was some Monday that I looked at … because you have to ask to be led into the private Hit Play Not Pause group. There was like 540 women. Usually, there’s, I don’t know, 40 over the weekend. I was just like, I’m like, what is happening? So, I even put up a post. I’m like, where did y’all come from? It was all the Hardcore on the Floor. That was so funny. So, that stuff is super, super powerful. For all of its ills, Facebook’s is really good for groups. It’s just there’s still not a tool out there that is as efficient.

Danielle Wiley: It’s the only reason I’m still on there. I mean, my entire Facebook feed is just my group.

Selene Yeager: Totally. Yeah. I don’t do anything else with it, but man, it is really good for groups. That group is so supportive, and it’s so … The conversations are great. We just wanted to create that, create this complimentary space where people could come in and help each other because this is part of being the community. So, that has been fantastic.

Selene Yeager: On Fridays, we just started implementing because what ended up happening is that you have … and a lot of it is well-intentioned, but you have people who are coaches, or they have nutrition companies, whatever. They look at this avenue to sort of market themselves, right?

Danielle Wiley: Right. Right.

Selene Yeager: But that can turn sour quick for the group Because it’s not the intent. People report, and I kept deleting. I’m like, there’s got to be a better way because people are looking for this information, and people have this information. We just don’t want the whole forum to be about that. So, on Fridays, I put up a post that says share your services. If you are a coach, if you are whatever, I’m not going to vet this stuff, buyer beware, but just here is your little marketplace. It’s been super successful. I know people are not doing it outside of it. It’s really taking care of that. So, it’s cool. It’s a cool environment.

Selene Yeager: As far as what else, we find, I find Instagram is super useful for disseminating the information that we are putting forth in the podcast and in the newsletter because I can make a little carousel just hitting the high points and then drive people to the longer form. that’s really useful. We’ve debated with the TikTok thing and just still not there. Still not sure that that is exactly where our audience is living. There’s certainly some doctors who do it quite well. You’re always looking at those things, right? Is it a YouTube short? Is it a … but we’re meeting people … I think mostly, we try to meet people where they are, and that is really where we find that they are.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, so but we wanted to ask every guest for this season to share a woman who has inspired them in their career and their life and just give a shout-out and share about a woman who has been an inspiration.

Selene Yeager: Yeah, that’s so hard because in what part of my life? I mean, I have to thank my mother because without my mother, there is nothing else possible. My mother helped me with my family, so I could race around the world and gather and build myself up. So, without that, nothing happens. I just have to thank her. She’s made everything that I’ve done truly possible. Hands down.

Selene Yeager: When you talk about influence, meeting Stacy Sims was definitely one of those pivotal moments in my life, dr. Stacy Sims, who you referenced earlier because she’s a pioneer, she was the first person saying women are not small men in this space. We have different physiology, and all the studies are being done on college age men. They don’t study women because their physiology is complicated, so it’s such a light bulb moment. I’m like, this is going to change everything. When I met her in 2012, I was like, this changes everything, and it has changed everything.

Danielle Wiley: Was it on your podcast that most drugs are not tested on women, on different gender?

Selene Yeager: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh.

Danielle Wiley: What is it? Ambien is the only one.

Selene Yeager: Yes. I just wanted wanted to burn everything down. Even that one, they found out after the fact, “Oh, women are having more adverse reactions because they’re processing …” If you really want to your head to explode, they even mostly work on male animals, on male mice and male cell lines. I mean, all of it. When I talk to all these researchers are like, “Oh, yeah, we need a whole lot of redoing.” It’s insane how long it’s been.

Danielle Wiley: So, how did you meet Dr. Sims? Was it through just because you are a fitness writer and she needed a partner?

Selene Yeager: No, it’s funny. I have a bunch of certifications, and one of them is as a cycling coach, so you have to get continuing education to keep your certifications. Every two years, I would go to the USA Cycling Summit because you could get all of them for the next two years, but it was always this all-boys club. I would go, and it would just be the same guys that were friends of the same guys saying the same thing. So, I just expected to go and just kind of check out and just get my CECs.

Selene Yeager: The man, a friend of mine who I was staying with, I was staying with him and his wife, he’s like, “I think that you’re going to like Dr. Stacy Sims.” He knew her work, and he’s like, “Make sure you go to that one.” So, I went to her session, and she was talking about periods and menstruation and how it affected hydration and all this stuff I’ve never heard anybody at a coaching summit talking about women’s menstrual cycles.

Selene Yeager: When she was done and walked out the door, it was like people … There was a line following her like she was the Messiah. Just so many questions. So, I got in that line because all I could think of is that women, we need to get this message out here. She needs a book. I got to her and I said, “You need a book, and I can help you do It.” She said, “Cool, let’s do it.” Literally, that’s how it happened.

Danielle Wiley: That’s amazing.

Selene Yeager: Before you know it, I was flying out to her place in NorCal, and we were running experiments, and she was showing me her work. That’s where it started. That all started after that summit, which was about 2012, and then the book came out in 2016.

Danielle Wiley: So, that was Roar. That was the first book that you did with her?

Selene Yeager: Yep. Yeah.

Danielle Wiley: Amazing. Well, again, as you can tell, I’m a big fan of what you’re doing, and I’m so glad you gave us some time today. This has just been awesome. I thank you for the work that you’re doing and-

Selene Yeager: Thank you.

Danielle Wiley: … for joining us here today. This has been terrific.

Selene Yeager: Thanks. I appreciate it.

Danielle Wiley: Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to share and subscribe. Please check back next Monday for a new episode featuring marketing conversations through the lens of influence. I am your host, Danielle Wiley, and this is The Art of Sway.