The year is 2013. You’re wearing your Abercombie jeggings and the one push up bra you own from Victoria’s Secret. Your box died side bangs are getting in your eyes as you wait for your name to be called. You’re awkwardly with your Mom who doesn’t really talk about the fact you’re in the waiting room to be put on birth control for your “cramps”. Within 20 minutes you have your prescription, you’re finally a woman.
Does this sound at all familiar? Do you remember the day you went on birth control? It’s like everyone in the room was beating around the bush with the fact you were actually having sex…but within 20 minutes you’re heading to the pharmacy to fill that prescription. I don’t know about you guys but this was a female right of passage, I didn’t actually have ANY fucking clue what hormones I was pumping into my body – all I cared about was the fact that from now on I wouldn’t have to worry about disapointing my parents with a teen pregnancy like that shit MTV show ‘Teen Mom’. Growing up in a decently conservative household I always knew that I was going to be put on birth control at some point – you know when you have to awkwardly bring it up to your Mom? So cringe. But that’s just how it went. You go to your family doctor they perscribe you this drug and it’s done.
If you’re anything like me all you really knew was: if you have sex you can get pregnant. Being pregnant = bad. You get your period once a month. The “fancy” word for it was menstrual cycle. This is genuinely all I knew. The fact that I’m 24 years old and only realizing now that a woman goes through 4 cycles per month, that the chances of pregnancy are only during 1 phase – ovulation, and that being on birth control doesn’t actually mean your getting a period is mind blowing to me. After 8 years of mindlessly pumping hormones in my body and not even understanding what was actually going on makes me so sad and honestly just proves the case for the importance of sex ed in school and how bad of a job we’re doing right now.
But this isn’t a post written shit talking birth control because if I’m being honest I’m one of the few privileged women who have that opportunity to go on it, I’m lucky I have the option to take it unlike so many other women of different races, ethnicities, and social classes who have had unplanned pregnancies and can’t afford birth control and/or abortions. I am 100% well aware that the colour of my skin and my ZIP code play a major role in why I had such a great upbringing. But this also isn’t what the post is about. This post is here to bring a little bit of insight into what’s actually going on in their body during their cycles and how to optimize it using food because I didn’t even know half of these things existed.
I’ll spill a little secret. I personally didn’t get a period for 4 months after I stopped birth control. This is what sparked my interest in hormonal health. Something was off, I knew that getting my period was important, but it was when I realized that I literally knew nothing about what was happening in my body that I started freaking out…what is going on in my body right now that’s making me not have a period? It can’t be healthy to NOT be getting a period? Of course I thought it was a pregnancy scare, but after 4 months I pretty much ruled this one out. I started researching different foods I could eat and holistic methods I could use to help me get my period back. The hardest part for me was coming to the realization that all of these things I once thought were great for me, had no scientific backing for women like myself who are reproducing. I was reading that women shouldn’t be intermittent fasting because it causes our body to go into panic and actually hold on to stored fat vs in men, it helps them shed fat. I have been a ride or die intermittent faster since I read the first article 2 years ago, everything made so much sense…but interestingly enough, the moment I started eating breakfast and not fasting, I got my period back. There’s all this talk on Keto and IF but all the studies done on IF and Keto have been done on men and post menopausal women, yet they’re tailored to us in the media? Crazy, right? Before we get into this too deeply you obviously know I’m no Doctor, this is just what’s helped me feel like myself again. Kk??
Day 1-5: Menstruation
AKA: The only phase I ever thought existed, you know the part where you’re actually bleeding.
This is where we need all that iron and Vitamin C. Red meat, spinach, dark leafy greens. When were on our period we crave comfort. Think warm and cozy but through food – stews, soups, oatmeal. Warm, cooked foods like sweet potato.
Also, being a woman we feel a lot of pressure to help others…constantly, we always feel like we’re not enough, we push ourselves to workout because we think we need to to get skinny, when in reality thats just our body speaking to us telling us to chill the fuck out. On your period, think low impact – long walks, yoga, light pilates.
Day 5-13: Follicular
After your period, your hormone levels are still low and they’re prepping for ovulation (baby making) so think light, vibrant foods like salads, salmon, berries, kimchi, sauerkraut, flaxseeds, etc. You know how excited you are once you finish your period, you feel so good – like you’re ready to take on new beginnings, start new projects, you have all this energy. This is where cardio is great as a workout. Use it to your advantage.
Day 14-17: Ovulation
So if you’re attempting to get pregnant this is when you would do it. I’m guessing the majority of people reading this blog aren’t ready yet, so use protection during this phase. This is where the most detoxification happens so we really wanna support the liver: kale, onions, garlic, quinoa, lots of raw veggies and fruit to help eliminate excess estrogen.
Day 18-28: Luteal
This is where your hormone levels are at their highest – I can literally ALWAYS tell I’m about to start my period because the negative self talk is at an all time high, I get so bloated and honestly cry at commercials some times. But PMS symptoms occur only because we didn’t take care of ourselves in the right manner during the previous phases. So crazy right? Imagine a world with NO PMS symptoms? Here we need to focus on lots of B vitamins to help get rid of those sugar cravings. Leafy greens, no alcohol, no caffeine (sorry). Here we feel the most ‘unlike’ ourselves so we want to feel grounded – so think eating lots of roasted root vegetables like sweet potato, squash, etc. This is where we need to say no in our cycle and spend the most time thinking about how to put ourselves first. Set your boundaries. If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.
So, this is a very brief introduction to this topic. This is how it comes across in my mind so take it or leave it. I’m no doctor/dietitian, have 0 schooling in this field, I just enjoy doing my own research from credited PHD’s. I’m not here to explain all 4 cycles to you in detail, I’m here to spark the conversation and get you intrigued in the topic so you can do your own research.
Click here to buy Alisa Vitti’s books.
Almost 30 – #100: Birth Control, Hormone Health + How to Cycle Sync Your Life For Optimal Health With Alisa Vitti of Flo Living
The Genius Life – #90: Biohacking the Female Body to Feel Amazing, Kick More Ass and Have More Sex | Alisa Vitti
Bulletproof Radio – #665: The Birth Control Episode: The Pill Isn’t Bulletproof – Sarah Hill, Ph.D.