“When we give up dieting, we take back something we were often too young to know we had given away; our own voice. Our ability to make decisions about what to eat and when. Our belief in ourselves. Our right to decide what goes into our mouths…your body is reliable…if you listen, it will speak.” -Geneen Roth
If you’ve ever tried a diet and failed; you know the sense of defeat, guilt, and self ridicule that comes with the perceived failure. You started a new diet with the best of intentions; feeling crystal clear about your goals, inspired, and ready to take on a new way of eating. You create a list of do’s and don’ts, you shop new items at the market, and you break up with your beloved ________ (enter in the forbidden food you swore off). Week one is great, you feel inspired, you drop some water weight, and you tell everyone who will listen how THIS is the diet that works! Week two is exciting because you likely see results increasing. You enthusiastically head into week three awaiting huge success and suddenly BOOM; you fail! Why does it seem you can’t quite make a perfect 30 day streak with diet success?! I’ll tell you exactly why…
The very thing that women complain about more than almost anything else, may actually be the key to unlock all the glowing, body confident, toned muscles, cute curves, and inner strength you’ve been posting on your vision board for as long as you can remember- your period! Or more encompassing; your cycle! From the time we are a young girl, most of us are taught to loath that monthly visitor. We are taught the erratic symptoms of migraines, intense cramps, mood swings, break outs, sugar cravings, bloating, water retention and heavy bleeding are normal. Furthermore, we are often given birth control options to “fix” the flow, heavy duty meds to decrease the pain, and permission to eat whatever junk food falls prey to our cravings with abandon. More often than not, those options are simply band aides. I often remind my clients that our body is a reflection of how we’ve been treating it. Nagging symptoms are your body’s way of communicating “something isn’t working”. Instead of succumbing to the monthly agony, and assuming we are meant to suffer; wouldn’t it be better if we set a higher standard of how well we can actually feel and viewed the pesky symptoms as our body telling us that “something isn’t working”.
“And I said to my body, softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied. ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.'” – Nayyarah Waheed
The reason your diet, among other areas of your life may feel like they’re not working is simple. A female goes through a 28-32 DAY cycle and most of us set our expectations for a perfect 24 HOUR cycle. How often do you set a standard of perfection or accept failure for a 24 hour period of time:
“I messed up my diet today, but I’ll start again tomorrow”
“Today was a bad day, tomorrow will be better”
“I couldn’t get anything productive done today, I will tomorrow”
“Today is a cheat day, tomorrow I’ll eat perfect”
In her renown book titled In the Flo, Alissa Vitti explains, “Our foundational beliefs about our own health are largely informed by research done by men, on make subjects. Even our daily routines are all based on the 24-hour make cycle. Yes, men have a hormonal cycle too!”
Here is a sneak peak into a man’s 24 hour hormone cycle…
Morning: Testosterone and Cortisol are highest when he wakes up. Cue more energy, communicative, laser focused, super efficient at getting things done.
Afternoon: Testosterone declines. Cue the mood to socialize, great timing to pitch ideas, have lunch meetings, and network or meet up for a date.
Evening: Testosterone levels are lowest, making him more sensitive to his estrogen. Cue couch cuddles or other ways to quiet his mind.
Doesn’t this cycle sound a lot like an average day of expectations for not only men but women too?
Here is the issue: A women’s hormonal cycle is not 24 hours, it is 28 DAYS!
This is why some weeks feel like a breeze; the diet works along with most of your life, and other weeks feel like a train wreck and you abandon your diet (along with most of your life) in a hormonal upheaval.
As females, we can’t have the same levels of expectation every 24 hours. Instead we need to honor the cyclical seasons our bodies move through every 28 days.
If you educate yourself about the hormone cycle of your body, you will easily and effortlessly see the path to your ultimate level of wellness, productivity, and overall joy!
(Peak closely at this unedited photo. This was taken during a time I was struggling with cystic acne. No pill, powder, or treatment worked…little did I know I would figure out the solution by looking at my system instead of my symptoms!)
Here is a breakdown of the 4 phases of a female’s hormone cycle…
Phase 1 Follicular Phase (7-10 days): All hormone levels are low and slowly beginning to increase. Because this phase encourages openness it is a great time to try a new workout. Fresh and light foods help support your hormones during this phase; think salads, energy packed grains, and lean protein.
Phase 2 Ovulatory Phase (3-4 days): Estrogen and Testosterone are increasing which encourages verbal and social centers of the brain. This is usually the time of the month you feel more social, flirty, and fun. You will find yourself with extra energy during this time so go for the higher intensity workouts like a run, HIIT workouts, Bootcamp, and cycle. Because you will have an estrogen surplus, choose foods that help your body to metabolize and flush out the excess Estrogen. Go for fiberous raw vegetables, fruit, and lighter grains like corn and quinoa.
Phase 3 Luteal Phase (10-14 days): Your hormones reach their peak and then begin to fall to their lowest levels. This is a time where you will feel the desire to focus and wrap up projects. You may have more energy at the beginning and a little less towards the end as you get closer to your menstrual week. If you’re feeling the higher energy go for Pilates, a jog, Yoga, and strength training. As your energy dips you can switch to walks and more low key forms of exercise. B vitamins will help you fend off sugar cravings. Root veggies will help flush out excess Estrogen. Leafy greens will flush extra water retention.
Phase 4 Menstrual Phase (3-7 days): Hormones decline to their lowest levels during this week. If you play your cards right and pace yourself throughout the month then your period week should be manageable with a little extra self care and rest. If you stressed your system (intense workouts on repeat all month long, no carbs, too little sleep, etc) you will likely see the effects manifest this week with migraines, excess bloating, heavy bleeds, longer duration of bleeding, and even intense breakouts. It’s okay to rest extra, skip a workout, and even schedule some naps. If you do workout go for low key pilates, yoga, or walks. Foods that are nutrient dense will help support your system during this time. Go for protein, fats, and low glycemic carbs to help balance your blood sugar. You may notice your blood sugar is more sensitive during this time. Blood sugar dips cue cravings for excess sugar; like the infamous chocolate cravings during menstruation. It’s wise to be mindful about indulgences and focus on blood sugar stability so you are not boomeranging between highs and low crashes. For example, if you’re craving a few cookies have them with your lunch so the sugar is metabolized with a protein and fat; thus reducing cravings. If you crave chocolate try a 70% or higher dark and add nuts. I love getting organic 70% dark chocolate and dipping a square into peanut butter. The protein and fat in the peanut butter help to stabilize the bit of sugar. The dark chocolate at 70% contains a good amount of magnesium which has been proven to reduce cramping and regulate stress levels along with bowel movements.
Balancing blood sugar helps to balance overall hormones in a big way. Balanced hormones help your body handle stress and sleep in the best ways. When your stress is balanced and your sleep is quality, your adrenals, thyroid and energy levels are optimized. When these systems are optimized you decrease the chance of migraines, excess weight, acne, mood swings, anxiety and depression.
The key to Holistic Nutrition is addressing the entire body instead of just the symptom. A balanced body has no reason to store excess body fat, break out, have irrational mood fluctuations, or painful periods. When you fix the system, results are effortless!
Here are some simple tips I share with my clients to get them on the right track:
- Pay attention to your hormone cycle. Download the free app My Flo and read Alisa Vitti’s book titled In the Flo
- Get in tune with your body. Instead of beating yourself up over perceived shortcomings, think through the root of the problem. Trying to follow a no carb diet and do double workouts during the lower hormone sections of your cycle will set you up for failure. You can’t run on an empty tank.
- Eat every few hours.
- If you have coffee make sure you have it with a meal or try my hormone balancing coffee recipe on Instagram.
- Drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily.
- Exercise frequently but choose the type of workout according to your hormones cycles.
- Keep caffeine to a minimum.
- Keep sugar under 25 grams of added sugar daily (fruit doesn’t count so load up on fresh fruit) but pay attention to sauces, dressings, coffee creamer, and drinks.
- Prioritize sleep. If you suffer from sleep issues find a solution. There are so many natural sleep support supplements along with essential oils. I love vetiver and serenity on my feet and chest, and in my diffuser nightly. If I’m especially wired and can’t settle down I love taking Tranquil Sleep as needed.
- Mind over matter. Don’t get overwhelmed with the hormone fluctuation feels. Acknowledge if you don’t feel like yourself but also take a breath and tune into what your body is asking for.
“Let Food Be Thy Medicine, and Medicine Be Thy Food” …
Go get your glow on girls! xo!
Photos by the mega talented Trina Harris 🙂