health

Period Taboo + Understanding Your Cycle

Last month, Miranda Popen (Period + Hormone Health Expert) and I co-hosted an IG Live, “Periods! The key to female health”. Watch it when you have a moment because it is seriously mind blowing how misinformed we are about our bodies, especially our lady parts!

See a few of the questions we covered in our conversation below! We took notes so you didn’t have to. 🙂

What are the 4 phases of female cycle?

Your body and brain change significantly throughout the course of a month. Specifically, we move through four distinct phases within the course of 28-days. They are:

  • Phase 1: Follicular (the 7 to 10 days after your period- estrogen starts to rise)
  • Phase 2: Ovulatory (the to 4 days in the middle of your cycle- estrogen and testosterone come together and continue to rise)
  • Phase 3: Luteal (the 10 to 14 days between ovulation and your period- estrogen, testosterone and progesterone all rise)
  • Phase 4: Menstrual (the 3 to 7 days of your period- all hormones fall to their lowest points = your period)

You talk a lot about the color of your period, what is the ideal period were all looking for and what do most women experience?

Period goals include a nice juicy cranberry red color that lasts 4-7 days. The consistency should be like unsettled jello mixture— not too thin, not too thick. Your sex drive will wane and you may feel a bit tired but ultimately, that is only what you are experiencing. Aunt Flow should come and go without disrupting your life. Any PMS symptoms or a period that shows up other than this cranberry red are all signs your body is trying to talk to you that something is off. The colour, consistency, and texture of your flow can reveal way more about your overall health than you realize. I want this conversation to continue for women all across the world because it is time to de-stigmatize this essential vital sign and start decoding symptoms. Think of checking your flow every month like being able to access free lab work for your hormone levels. Knowing the color tells you which hormones are in and out of balance and if your eating is synced with your hormones. Your period provides genius (and free!) biofeedback for you.

What does it mean to sync your body up with your period?

To sync with your cycle is to know which of the four phases of your 28-day menstrual cycle you are in at any given moment and then tailor your food, movement, relationship, work, and lifestyle choices to your unique strengths, weakness, and needs during that phase. That might sound like a lot of adapting and changing, week after week. But once you start tracking your cycle and getting an embodied sense of what each phase looks and feels like in your body, the tweaks you’ll make to your food, movement, and life will become intuitive. Once you get the hang of it, phase-based self care feels so natural that you won’t believe there was a time when you didn’t engage in it. Food and movement are two key components of syncing with your cycle, but they aren’t the only ones. You can bring this practice to every area of your life and experience even greater results.

When it comes to working out, how does the intensity of physical activity affect women and men differently?

Women are the biggest consumers of wellness-industry products and protocols. Yet most of the research behind these strategies are conducted on men, and women’s bodies work differently than men’s bodies. Women have unique biochemical needs that go unaddressed by exercise plans built around male- centered research. That leaves women to try different exercise plans, be disappointed, and then try some more. It’s a cycle that causes untold stress, energy, money, heartache, and sanity. The fitness industry has good intentions. But when different exercise strategies are sold to the public as great for everyone, it can leave women feeling like it’s their fault if they don’t get the results they want. We can start to feel like we must not have done it right or tried hard enough, or that we lack willpower. Lack of willpower is not the problem. The problem is that women are following exercise protocols that benefit men more than women — or work against a woman’s hormones and sabotage her health and fitness goals. 
 The key to biohacking your female biochemistry is to understand your 28-day cycle and to match your food and exercise to your natural hormonal shifts. When you sync your self care with your cycle, you’ll experience easier periods, less PMS, reduced bloating, clearer skin, and improvements in weight and body composition. By acknowledging your hormonal reality, you’ll finally be able to look and feel your best.

What happens to your body when you start exercising with your cycle?

You can expect to improve your PMS symptoms, lose weight and gain muscle more easily and sustainably, as well as prevent injury by varying your movement consistently. When you sync your exercise with your cycle, you’ll experience remarkable results. You will also deepen your intuitive sense of what type of movement your body wants and needs every day—and at every phase of your cycle.

What is the best workout for new moms?

For the entire fourth trimester, you are in an extended menstrual phase and your food and exercise should match what is recommended for that phase of your cycle. I know conventional wisdom – or at least gossip magazines – tell us that after giving birth we ought to crash diet and workout like crazy to lose the weight. Many women suffer with adrenal fatigue and thyroid issues postpartum and that’s because they push themselves way too hard and deplete their stores of nutrients, energy, and hormones. I recommend that any woman in the postpartum period first and foremost listens to her body. That’s the key! As you start to feel more energized and ready for movement, track your cycle with a period app and begin to move according to your cycle. Until then, rest!

Why are periods still so taboo? Half of the world gets a period, even girl to girl but then you get into guys and period sex etc…

Period blood is not something we’re taught to talk about. We’re basically raised to hide from it. Pay attention to any maxi pad or tampon commercial and all you’ll see is the same blue liquid over and over again. Young girls are taught from a young age they have to manage it privately and discreetly. When we don’t communicate this topic with our daughters at a young age— the worst idea being blood been seen, which leads to menstrual shame. Women would benefit from really understanding the highs and lows of their reproductive cycles. That might mean that they will be able to look at their life and say, “OK, yeah, maybe this week I’m going to have low energy, I’m going to need to take fewer trips to the gym and take on fewer responsibilities. But the weeks before and after it, I’m actually at the top of my game and that’s maybe when I should do longer hours and ask for that promotion.” It shouldn’t be a mystery of what’s happening in your body.

What foods should women be incorporating into their diet?

When it comes to food and the menstrual cycle, we often focus on what we want to eat and when, which comes down to the cravings and binges that usually happen during the premenstrual phase. We don’t often think about how to nourish our bodies when we’re menstruating. For most women, their appetite actually lessens during the actual period week and cravings can subside. Your body is doing an amazing thing during this phase, as it is throughout the cycle, and it needs your support! Your period should be a time of supercharged self-care and so much love for your body. When we talk about menstrual care we often just think about tampons and pads, when we really should be thinking more holistically and broadly about supporting our health and hormones. Try bringing in more nutrient dense foods like chlorophyll, bone broth, salmon and sea weed.

I hope this was super helpful and enlightening for you, Cowes! Share your findings with us here #InTheFlow.

xx

Coco + Miranda

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