Women, Hormones and Weight Loss

By Susan Arruda – 6 Time Fitness Champion and 2 Time Pro and Marco G. Author – Starving to Be Fat

Hormones, menopause, weight loss etc… How often do we hear about this?

Hormone issues, menopause and so on these are indeed very common, and yes, they can impact weight loss, we’ve seen it all the time with these precious ladies. 

However, while it’s common it is also INDIVIDUAL, and that’s the puzzle – The fact that hormones, reactions, protein synthesis, thyroid issues, insulin resistance are inextricably tied to a person’s DNA and health makeup which makes a common solution practically impossible.

If we could solve this, we’d be billionaires by now, lol.

Excellent quote I read concerning this –

“Our hormones, especially our thyroid hormones, are impacted by the way DNA functions over time. Hormones work inside the cell to bind proteins to DNA.

If it’s tied to DNA, how in the world could we ever hope to offer one solution that’s common for everyone? Oh, how I wish LOL we would pick you all up in our private jet and take you out for a vacation for a month LOL

Hormones are the wild West. It’s like taking 15 sheets of paper each with part of a sentence on it throwing it up in the air and hoping the paragraph comes together.

The next time you’ll get a different result. The only way to win that battle I think is to work with someone who knows where the pieces of paper belong, so to speak.

Nutritionists also are out of pocket where we live, I get it.

The whole thing is educated guesswork.
This is why that industry continues to thrive in billions and billions of dollars; they sell hope, so people keep coming back, but the problem is never solved.

I’ve never heard of anybody solving it. I see claims online, but I don’t see proof.
Look, I’m a guy and it aggravates even me to see this! I can only imagine as a female!

If you’re looking for a baseline on macros and calories… Here it is

What I saw from your BMR yesterday looks extremely low to me? Think you mentioned that you had a different result on a second pass.  

So I’m not sure the calculation is correct or if you did it using the Harris Benedict formula, including your activity profile 

Here’s the advice I can give you that I gave in over 1000 consultations. Protein is wayyyyy overrated not the key issue in weight loss or “cutting”. 

The best results I have seen come from 0.5 to 0.6 g per pound of lean body weight. 

If the issue is losing weight and body comp shift, I would say to split your macros evenly, P33 F33 C33. Start there and stay there while training as intensely as you do for at least 6 weeks and see what happens.

I would never advocate going below 1700-1800 calories as a sustained rule. What is bizarre about that? Most women are told to never go OVER it!

I’ll bet you that out of anything anyone has read in this article, where their eyes are stuck obsessing over right now are the calories. What I just wrote back there. As a GENERAL rule, that is where I think people should be.

Any kind of eating plan somebody takes to the extreme will lose its efficiency when they come off of it. Without fail, the weight will come back on. This I can guarantee.

John” may have a gluten issue, but “Brian” does not. Can they lose weight? Of course! Can they eat the same way? No. Again, there is no one answer … BUT I CAN give a baseline.

If “John” and “Brian:” have similar stats – let’s say, in their 50’s, need to drop 50 Lb and weigh 275

I would tell them to consume 2300 or so calories a day. You want to have beer? Fine, not my best advice, but account for it in the caloric budget for the day.

Train with intensity 5-6 days per week do NOT miss days.

Eat a balance of 33 – 33 – 33 for macros and it will work most of the time. UNLESS one of them has a thyroid issue, then the whole thing gets turned on its butt and the solution becomes personalized.

On our programs, people are usually stunned by how much they eat and yet they lose weight in conjunction with the training programs… Because they’re coming in at 1100 to 1200 cal in total starvation.

At that level, the body has nothing to go on. It can’t lose weight and it can’t build muscle. It is stalled. 

If you add food allergies to that at certain restrictions… It starts to go into the work of a scientist, certainly not a physical training expert.

So now, I’ve given you some baselines. It’s not a big secret, that’s the general formula that works, until it doesn’t because someone may have exceptions, which of course can’t be predicted.

We have thought about offering a platinum membership monthly to our members where they can work with a nutritionist one on one that’s part of the package and receive individualized meal plans, But that package is going to be at least $99 per month and it’s probably not affordable for most people.
We have connections to outstanding practitioners, people we work with in person. So it’s not a lack of network, it’s economics. So we’re sticking to what we do best, workouts. That is what we can offer with Susan’s style which is absolutely uncommon.

We are leaving personalized diets to the experts and instead offer balanced meal plans for fat loss and muscle promotion with our programs.

But those are my recommendations above, and I know they’re not necessarily the answers people are looking for, but that’s because the answer is different for everyone. So I can only give you an average,
Sarah, I wish I could do more.

We cycle our meal plans so that they go between fat loss and hypertrophy to promote lean muscle building. Moderation is the best approach with intense training. Then, you have to stick with it and usually reassess weeks at a time. It’s a marathon in this case, not a sprint.

If you can find a way to work one on one with an expert for at least a while, that is the way to go, not with a general solution that shows up on a Google feed.

I wish I could be more help, but I was at least trying to give you some other perspective here as well from my end.

Facebook Group Post – Calories – Progress – Stages of Life and Overtraining

Hello powerhouse Pauline!


Susan here with Marco.


THANK YOU for your kind words about my workouts, it is a privilege to have you training with me and your spirit in this group is priceless!  Your emails to me have blessed me repeatedly!


Thank you also for taking the time to post about your experience so far. 


Those tape measure changes you are reporting are hard-fought for and earned! Way to go!!


Let’s have a look at what is happening and offer some feedback. We are taking the time here to be exhaustive in the hopes of helping others as well. What a benefit to the group this is; we are so glad you posted this!


I/Marco can contribute the following as the meal plans designer…


The calories shift far more broadly than hovering at 1800 under 2000. It would be impossible to create a deficit otherwise. I can tell you with absolute surety, they dip lower than that at times. I am not familiar with the tracking app you are using, sounds pretty cool! But in this case, those numbers/calories are not accurate. 1800-2000 is not how I designed SHIFT.


This is why on this plan, we do not encourage tracking calories or macros, it is already done for you. We don’t release that information for a reason – we don’t ask people to track it and try to figure it out, it never goes well, lol. I hope you will trust the process, however. 


In fact, we discourage it in this case, the tracking –  as for some people, I am not necessarily implying this is the case with you – something happens psychologically/in the mind the moment a number gets into your head, it never goes away and it becomes powerful and often obsessive because we ascribe that authority to it. That number often rules every meal, vacation, mood, family gatherings, etc… it often becomes the reason we fail or succeed. 


I generally will not even discuss calories as it takes us off point and message with the whole mission of the Intensity program, but I get that people are curious and just want to do well, I respect that. As some of Susan’s muscle building programs come to market in the future, the calories discussion is going to open up because mass building is a numbers game and specific to each person.



As a fitness consultant, Marco dealt with thousands of men and women, and when he asked men how many calories they were eating they generally had no idea. However, the answer from nearly every woman was overwhelmingly precise – 1200 or some other number and the elimination of carbs. BOTH MASSIVE ERRORS that often take years to recover from.


That number, the scale/calories are engrained by social pressures and ridiculous big box starvation programs that assign some point system or colour coding to foods with no thought given to the most important thing of all – NUTRITION. Without that, calories are nothing and your body isn’t fuelled for growth and optimal heath.


Based on your BMR, the macros and caloric targets and the type of training you are doing on Intensity, our numbers are all in your favour. 


So let’s take calorie obsession off the table, pun intended, lol for the moment….


Let’s use your calculation of eating 1800-2000 / day and that is what the SHIFT plan was, why is the progress seemingly slow? 


So let’s look at a few factors:


If it was 1800-2000 calories, which is a satiating amount.. you mentioned you can’t wait to eat off the plan on Sunday. Why is that? Is it hunger driven? Boredom with the foods? Cravings of some sort? Help us understand so we can try to help.


Yes, at this point, age matters a lot… just like it did when we were in our 20’s and could eat far more liberally… I miss those days! 


Age now…hormones as well and at this stage, especially with an already fit woman, the changes come in inches and sometimes fractions of inches – the struggle is real!


Marco talks about having lost over 100 Lb in his book “Starving to be Fat”… that was easy in comparison to the last 25 Lb… inches, agonizing inches, the scale that moves in fractions of 1/8’s of a Lb… and relatively small payoffs for a lot of work and age has everything to do with it, he is 55 and cycles 100’s of km’s a week and adds weight training days. He has ZERO food issues, no sugar cravings… the man has it down pat in this area.


Yes, body type matters.


We know you live a fit lifestyle, that is for sure! You don’t need to answer this here but ask yourself; has your body ever looked like you wanted it to and if so, when was that? Can you duplicate what you were dong then?


I ask simply because as far as body type goes; when I did shows and I was standing next to some other very fit women, every one of us looked different. Despite clean eating, balls to the wall training, some people had better abs than I did, etc., and for a period of time I considered my abs a weak point in my physique (which is a big reason no one should neglect training them specifically on a regular basis), but some other women already had cellulite forming in their 20’s on stage. I have no idea why. Maybe they had years of eating poorly and all of a sudden decided it would be fun to diet down and do a fitness show??


As you know, this is a lifelong journey and a lifestyle is what gets it done and keeps it!


There are women on this program who drop inches, not scale weight, and vice versa. There is no way it all works the same way for everyone, as I am sure you know with all the experience you have in training and in leading classes – you have people that can work as hard as the next person, even be close to the same age, and the weight barely moves.


As a woman of 52 and dealing with some 7 years of menopause now, ugh… enough already!!! I am working through stubborn fat as a result of hormones (I call it hormone hell, lol). I know people say they don’t see it on me, but as I shoot videos, I see it and I am extremely critical of myself and know where those areas are. 


My saving grace is muscle memory, weight training and being instinctive to take time to recover, as hard as it is (that’s usually a weakness in us fit enthusiasts, as I’m sure many of you battle with that as well). FYI I blew the rest/recover piece ROYALLY when I was younger and it did not wind up costing me until much later in life but sooner or later, it catches up with you. 


Things at this season of life do not shift as quickly as they did even 5-10 years ago; oh how I wish they did!!


Which leads us to perhaps the #1 issue you may be dealing with, from what we can gather and it is in no way unique to you, so I am hoping this can speak across the board:


You train a lot, which is inspiring, but from what I/Susan am reading here, you are without a doubt overtraining and adrenal fatigue is likely a factor. 


The stage of life you are in, the body requires adequate rest and recovery time takes longer. 

How often do you rest? 

How many days off do you take to let your body recover especially from probably escalated cortisol levels… in which case there is no way your body is encouraged to release fat. 

Are you instinctive about taking days off when your fatigue levels are way up?


At this level, your body is in a constant state of trying to repair itself, it has little chance of progressing.


30 Days of Intensity has a 30 day window for a reason; I would not suggest someone train at that level for an indefinite period of time. It is yet another reason we do not make the program available for ownership and we have discouraged people from doing anything else except that program, as it is overkill.


Marco here has loads of experience as an award winning fitness consultant and is wondering:


There is a lot of cardio happening in what you are leading classes wise, wow I bet you can run a marathon and your heart is strong… but this type of training can massacre lean body mass, so make sure to keep an eye on that. Lean body tissue is your #1 ally in body composition and the fat shift and increasing  your metabolism. 


I have worked with women who refuse to stop with the excessive cardio and the body will not ever be able to build adequate muscle with  a ton of cardio and HIIT. The number one goal needs to be crystal clear because LIGHTER IS NOT THE SAME AS LEANER! The scale cannot/should not be your top priority in determining your progress. 


Other things to consider:


What are your cortisol levels like? 

Have you had them tested recently? That may shed some light.


Insulin resistance is also a big issue when women reach pre and post menopause. Blood sugar levels need to be tested. 


Thyroid, the entire panel. What are those levels like? Perhaps have bloodwork done to dial those numbers in and speak to your naturopath or physician.


What are your expectations? Is it to drop 2 Lb/week… a few inches a week? Should that not already be happening with the amount of activity you are doing? Again, the more fit you are, the more strategic you need to be about losing fat.


We always want to get to the root of the matter; that is why we are asking these questions; to see if we can help you and perhaps others by doing some detective work!


If the goal is scale weight loss; when is the last time you saw the scale move downward, even before the Intensity program or changing your eating? It can maybe help us determine if your body has become “happy” where it is and really does not want to change much.


If that is the case, a total reset needs to happen. A recovery break, followed by a permanent reset in calorie intake. We did this with another sweet lady and a couple of others on this program and that is what broke the plateau, but they were only working on one program at a time. 


For many of the women here, women who live a fit lifestyle as I know you do, the challenge is not in training enough, it is in knowing when to NOT train. 


There is often a fear that creeps in; if I take a break, I will lose all my gains, I will gain weight. 

This is true if a person takes a week off and starts eating garbage, yes, weight gain will happen.

But if a person were to take a few days off and keep eating in check and focus on recovery, stretching, etc., what happens is strength, recovery and renewal.


Just to recap:

With this amount of exercise, not just Intensity, but with everything else you are doing…why is the weight not coming off as fast as you would like it to?


What were you doing when the weight was coming off ? 

Did it go back up and why? 

What were the changes that led to that? Try to hunt that particular time down and duplicate what you were doing when you were seeing the results you want it and go from there.


I believe a large part of the answer n this case lies in overtraining, your body feeling it is in threat mode and your body’s set point adjusts to that as a form of self preservation. I have been there and it is difficult to rest and reset, but it can be done!


In no way are we asking you to answer any of this publicly. It is meant as introspection. Have a look at what you are doing inwardly and see if anything here can help, that is our hope. 


Our hope is also that others are helped by this posting string.


We appreciate you and everyone here; more than you can imagine and we are privileged that you not only chose to train with me, but that you took the time to post. We can already see by the little we know about you that your desire is to help and enrich others and be your best… it makes you an invaluable instructor and kind human being! 🙂









My Small Steps to ditch artificial sweeteners – By Susan Arruda

Last week I drank my first full size coffee without any sugar or sweetener. After picking up Marco from the airport in the very early morning following one of his whirlwind business trips, we found ourselves in a coffee shop upon just opening their doors. To fully appreciate this milestone, here’s a bit of background.

I was very much addicted to sweeteners in my past, especially diet pop. I recall making special trips to the grocery store specifically because I was out of pop – what a strong addiction it was! Upon making the decision to enter the world of fitness competitions in 2005, this spurred my desire to eliminate diet pop from my diet. I did it and never went back! Although I was successful in eliminating diet pop from my diet, I still relied on artificial sweenters (Splenda, which I learned was the best of the worst) to sweeten my coffee.  I know it wasn’t a healthy option but the thought of using sugar didn’t thrill me and like many, the bitter taste of pure coffee didn’t appeal to me at all.

The buildup and longterm effects of using using sweeteners is far from appealing and fitness and health is a journey of taking steps. I was finally motivated and ready to take the next step. Headaches and memory issues are a negative side effect that can plague those who consume artificial sweeteners.

At the onset of 2015, I decided I was going to commit to a 30 day challenge to break my morning coffee artificial sweeteners habit. My first challenge was to find a source of sweetener that would work for me. After experimenting with coconut sugar, date sugar, and a few others, I finally decided that organic cane sugar was the best choice; it didn’t alter the taste of my coffee and I could be ok with 15 calories per tsp. (I try not to cringe).  I started with a tsp. in my mug of coffee but I felt that calorie count just wasn’t sitting totally right with me so I went to 1/2 a tsp.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the taste but kept the faith and kept professing that I liked unsweetened coffee far more than sweet coffee (according to Romans 4:13).

I must admit there were days I wanted to throw in the towel and I didn’t exactly “like” it, but I stuck with it, none-the-less. Interestingly enough, I made a discovery one day when I ordered a coffee through a drive through and requested milk and a sweetener and I found it horrible tasting! I had finally gotten to the place where my taste buds were rejecting the artificial sweetener – SUCCESS at last! I’m now at slightly less than 1/2 tsp. of organic cane sugar and clearly on my way to making continual progress as evidenced by my first full sized unsweetened coffee!

I want to encourage the many of you who may be in a similar situation and are motivated by health to make a positive change, to stick with it and push through the time of discomfort to get to the other side. It really does start with making the decision and then backing it up with a plan of action. You CAN do it!

P.S.  Six months after writing this article, I went from having some sugar in my coffee, to no sugar at all with only a bit of 2% milk! – Small steps lead to success!