We are often characterized by how we deal with the bumps, the tough stuff that life throws at us. Looking good in an Instagrammable moment is fun; dealing with life’s more hearty challenges with grace, grit and aplomb is how we become the person we were meant to be. Our reaction to the tough stuff is a time for creativity, not passivity. Our adaptations in adversity allow us to let go of the baggage of who we thought we were and become one of those elusive North Stars that others look to for inspiration.
Anissa Buckley knows about success and strength. She climbs literal mountains, competes in Ironman Triathlons, and biked the entire length of East Africa. She built one of the leading nutrition databases for the grocery industry, then advised major grocery chains and drug retailers on their overall wellness strategy. You don’t get an invite from the White House to confer with the Presidents’ personal chef unless your expertise on health, wellness, and nutrition rises above the rest. Fitness? Not one to rest on her laurels, Anissa founded her own gym, Real Life Food and Fitness, as an inaugural launch of housing, food, HIIT classes, and health coaching under a single roof. Her latest start-up, b-untethered is the first menopause company to integrate recent science into a results-focused personal lifestyle plan.
An amazing, ever-upward trajectory…then, as often happens in life, came the real challenges. Within eight months, both parents died, her 12-year marriage ended, and she sold her second business. Her self-identity shattered, as she was instantly no longer a wife, daughter, or businesswoman.
Not enough? Next up was menopause and, with it, a litany of change. It was this last challenge that Anissa found so frustrating, as there was no one talking about solutions (outside of medication) to falling estrogen levels and their far-reaching, domino effect. There were concrete steps that could be taken to meet these challenges, she just knew it.
And, finding a new way is what champions do.
Relying on her immense understanding of nutrition and fitness, coupled with her innate desire to find solutions to life’s challenges, Anissa’s new mission was born: uncovering the adjustments needed to the real issues that no one was talking about. Enter the development phase of b-untethered and the transform 6 program.
With science as the starting point, Anissa found that lower estrogen levels meant that carbohydrates could not be metabolized as before. What? The essential role of strength training, cardio, and high-intensity interval training in breaking down carbohydrates needed to be adjusted. So did the ratio and timing of daily nutrition. Who else was talking about this? Why were women being told menopause (and all that comes with it) was a rite of passage, something to just get over?
What were your experiences in menopause?
My experience was a bit unique. I started my 4 years of global travel at age 47, very likely at the same time I entered perimenopause (which can range between 5-7 years before menopause). I was training so hard (and my body wasn’t used to it) that I went into a state referred to as “RED-S” which is essentially “energy deficit.” I was low body fat and didn’t have a period for over 3 years. I ended up with multiple injuries — hamstring tears, ankle fractures, etc — while training heavily.
When finally forced to stop, I felt like Dick Clark — like I aged 10 years overnight. This was my menopause “jolt.” My joints ached, which does happen with estrogen loss, as estrogen acts as an analgesic. That was especially challenging because I still wanted to exercise but it was painful. My brain was not working like it did before. I had been a decisive person and now couldn’t decide which color underwear to put on in the morning without crying. I also had increased anxiety — whew. Everything felt like a major decision and yet I couldn’t seem to make even the smallest of them. Sleep. OMG. It was a foreign concept. I experienced hair loss (major thinning of my hair) and my body composition changed. I lost muscle and increased visceral fat — aka, the roll around the middle, aka the meno muffin top.
“Lifestyle is the answer to healthy aging. And for women, our lifestyle includes the impact of menopause”
Many women have a standout menopause moment, a story that speaks to all these changes. What was yours?
My standout moment was more of a positive aging moment than a menopause moment. As I mentioned, I didn’t know that I was in menopause even though I was over 50. I had just completed a full Ironman (a 140.6 mile, 12-hour endeavor) and was hiking in the Himalayas. I thought I was in amazing shape at the time — which I still think I was and I’d take it again anyday! But as I was hiking up that hill in the Himalayas, a little “old” lady, who looked to be at least 60, RAN past me. She passed me on that hill in rubber sandals, while carrying a 60lb bag of rice! I felt like I was standing still. I was amazed, and that image of her passing me in those sandals with a large bag of rice just stuck. That moment made me realize that one’s lifestyle — for her, that was running and carrying a bag of rice every day — kept her in amazing condition as the years passed. That moment emphasized what I’ve always believed and what’s been my guiding force — that lifestyle is the answer to healthy aging. And for women, our lifestyle includes the impact of menopause.
Why is there so little information on the effects of exercise and diet on menopause?
Great question! I don’t have an answer for that, but I DO have a solution! (transform 6 — the signature product of b-untethered)
Why do some women gain weight in menopause?
Weight gain happens because the estrogen that helps us build and maintain muscle starts to decline. Without estrogen (menopause), we lose muscle, which causes a slowed metabolism. Unless we reduce calories, we gain weight because we’re not burning as many calories.
At the same time, we can no longer process carbs the same way. Carbohydrates don’t move into our muscles and cells as efficiently. The excess (unused) carbs can lead to weight gain.
What are some things that menopausal and perimenopausal women should know that maybe they don’t?
There are quite a few things we should know, but that no one has been talking about.
For one, our bodies can no longer use carbs as efficiently as before menopause. This suggests we should reduce the amount of carbs we consume to avoid both weight gain and elevated blood sugar. We also lose the ability to build muscle as effectively. Then, there is the fact that estrogen helps us stay asleep; so without it, our sleep quality declines.
We can lose up to 30% of our brain function during menopause. Our ability to use oxygen efficiently (VO2 Max) declines making us less efficient at exercise.
b-untethered and transform 6
How did your background in adventure prepare you for launching b-untethered?
I was tackling some pretty intense endeavors: training for Ironman events, summiting extreme high-altitude mountains with heavy packs on my back, and running Ultras. I was also living an extremely minimalist lifestyle, so I was washing sweaty clothes every night, lugging groceries uphill, often living in conditions without water or electricity in high heat. It was challenging, but I came out of that experience in the best shape of my life. I was feeling my most “alive” at age 50.
That experience made me take a step back and think, “Huh, I wonder what is possible in my next 10 years? Why does everyone in the US seem to suggest that women decline rapidly after 50?” I decided to find answers to these questions. That started my quest for all the science and research behind our transform-6 program. It also ended up being our tagline: Quest>Crisis (your quest is greater than your crisis).
What is your vision for the b-Untethered platform?
It all starts with our transform 6, six-week lifestyle program. In it, we offer KNOWLEDGE. We provide the answer to “what is happening to me?” We provide the TOOLS — the programs and products that can help you tweak your lifestyle for improved results and we provide SUPPORT — a community of others seeking the same healthy lifestyle in later years.
I’m excited about our plan to offer “Train & Travel” and Moai Retreats in 2023. Our vision is one where women can train together virtually for a period of time, and then embark on an adventure to “challenge themselves” in the safety, comfort, and camaraderie of a group. The retreats are educational and experiential, in that we teach lifestyle options to help with improved aging through menopause.
“I pretty much get in 1-2 hours of exercise first thing in the morning”
What is your day-to-day routine?
I pretty much get in 1-2 hours of exercise first thing in the morning. It might be a HIIT workout with strength training, a 2-hour hike, or a bike ride. That just depends on my time allotment that day. I always have a big breakfast, then work most of the rest of the day. Sometimes I slip in another activity — like swimming or walking — in the early evening.
What currently brings you joy?
Helping other women find themselves during this sometimes-challenging period of life. Being out in nature — whether on a bike, by foot, or in the pool. Being out in nature is a stress reliever that I wish more people took advantage of. We’d have less unhappiness and illness in the world if everyone would put it on their calendar and make it a priority to get outside every day. I also get great joy in spending time with friends, usually in some sort of recreational activity.
Can you share your top 3 guilty streaming pleasures? (We all have them.)
Queen of the South — I loved the storyline of strong women.
Godfather of Harlem — Forest Whitaker is brilliant.
Inventing Anna — Wow, what a story!
What are 3 non-negotiables in your life?
Adventure and global travel.
Movement every day.
A “fun night out” once a week.
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