Lost Menopausal Weight Gain, Reduced Cholesterol & Added 3.4 Years to Life With Blue Zones Lifestyle

Following an emergency hysterectomy that thrust her into menopause unexpectedly, Lisa Gruenloh’s weight began spiraling out of control. And nothing she tried made a difference, until she took the Blue Zones Potluck Moai Challenge in Naples, Florida, last fall. She dropped 12 pounds, lowered her cholesterol by 22 points, increased her longevity by 3.4 years, and most importantly, committed to prioritizing her health.

Lisa, 51, explains what happened after her surgery in 2018: “I just started gaining weight and I mean fast. It really caught me by surprise. What was so frustrating was that I felt like I had no control over it. I was trying to adjust what I was eating, and just kept gaining.”

“I just started gaining weight and I mean fast. It really caught me by surprise. What was so frustrating was that I felt like I had no control over it.”

Great Support & Healthier Options Were Key to Lisa’s Success

After switching to a primarily plant-based diet, change was initially slow for Lisa. But the support she received from new friends in her Busy Bees Moai group and from her partner Dan Krause, the cook in their household, kept her on track. Having healthy food options available at work and Blue Zones-inspired meal options at many local restaurants also helped.

The Busy Bees members held each other accountable in a supportive way, Lisa said. “We all had the same goal. We all wanted to lose 10 pounds. So, it was great to get together. When we were sharing meals, we would talk about what was working and what wasn’t. It was helpful having people there to be your cheerleaders and encourage you.”

“It was helpful having people there to be your cheerleaders and encourage you.”

Dan has also been terrific support. “I’m very fortunate to have such a wonderful partner. Whatever lifestyle you’re doing together as a couple, that’s going to stick. If it’s just one person trying to do it, it’s more difficult,” she said. “I haven’t reached my ultimate goal yet, but I’m in a much better position to reach my ideal weight.”

Meal planning has always been Lisa’s biggest weight-loss challenge because she’s so busy. She works full-time and does homework for her master’s degree in public administration and policy in the evenings and on weekends. Now she has healthy food options at home, with Dan cooking more plant-based foods, at work, and when she eats out. “Having healthy food that’s affordable, easy and accessible is huge. Almost anywhere you go in Naples now, you can have a healthy meal.”

How Lisa Changed Her Diet

Lisa’s previous diet included a small amount of meat, but now is nearly 100% plant-based or meatless. She still eats eggs occasionally, but she used to eat them almost daily for breakfast. “Now I get oatmeal every morning on the way up to my office,” said Lisa, who works for NCH Healthcare System, which is the sponsor of Blue Zones Project of Southwest Florida. “At lunchtime, we have a salad bar and good-tasting vegetarian dishes available.”

Lisa no longer craves meat, eats more mindfully and accomplished a major milestone recently when she passed on the Thanksgiving turkey. “I was at my mom’s house and she made the same wonderful dinner that she’s made every year since I was a kid. I filled up my plate with vegetables and sides and it was great. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.”

“That was kind of a big deal because so much of our culture is based on food. We eat hot dogs at ball games, and turkey at Thanksgiving. We have many traditions and even expectations that we eat specific foods for certain cultural experiences. For me, skipping the turkey broke me out of that way of thinking. I know if I can skip turkey on Thanksgiving, there aren’t any food ‘rules’ I have to follow.”

Prioritizing Self-Care

Lisa’s most important discovery has been her awareness that she needs to prioritize her health. “I started putting more focus on self-care because I work full-time, I’m in graduate school, and I do a lot of volunteer work, so I’m giving a lot of my energy away, which I love. That’s important to me and it really fills me up. It’s always been an important part of my life. But your health suffers when your schedule gets overloaded. That’s really an important takeaway for me – I need to put more focus on me. I’m very disciplined with work and school, and now I’m getting more balanced with my health, eating and fitness.”

Lisa now meets regularly with a walking Moai that includes three friends from her potluck group. “We have community parks where we meet and walk together. It’s good to get out and move, but it’s also just nice to be outside. I spend so much time indoors because of school, so having a reason to get out and meet other people is good motivation for me.”

One of Lisa’s volunteer activities is facilitating purpose workshops for Blue Zones. She was also instrumental in bringing Blue Zones to her church, Unity of Naples, the first faith-based organization in the country to be Blue-Zones approved.



Lisa Oliver Monroe is a journalist and author of a travel book about  America’s Historic Triangle (Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown). Her writing has been published by Virginia Living, Boomer Magazine, Kirkus Media, Advance for Nurses, and Colonial Williamsburg,  among many others.

Related Articles