Do you ever read a book that just completely blows your mind and leaves you thinking, “I can’t believe I’ve never thought of these things before!”
They come across my shelf only about once every two years or so, so I take very careful note when it happens.
I recently read Woman Code by Alissa Viti and all I can say is DAMN! (okay, but I’m actually going to say quite a bit more than that so hold on)
The book is all about mastering your hormones, connecting with your feminine energy, and taking control of your cycle. This is something I believe everyone with a uterus can benefit from.
I also found myself getting pretty peeved throughout my time reading this book. How had I never been taught these things before? Why is women’s health care so lacking in quality research or answers that treat the root causes of symptoms rather than just throwing birth control at it and calling it good enough? I’ve heard too many stories of people experiencing this same quality of “care” while experiencing the frustration of difficult hormonal symptoms without ever receiving any answers. This, plus my own infuriating experience with women’s health care had left me feeling somewhat defeated.
I literally just finished this book, and I’m still a long way from becoming anything close to a master of my hormones, but I feel a renewed sense of energy and insight. It will take months to really put a lot of the important takeaways into practice, but there was one particular point that stood out to me that seemed too important to not talk about.
I think that when people are focused on having a healthy lifestyle, we often think that we should feel the same way day in and day out– and often feel betrayed by our own bodies when this isn’t the case. This has been my thought process for so long, I hadn’t even consciously realized I had been living with this expectation.
In fact, the very thing that brought me back into a focus on my health was the fact that I felt like I was constantly riding a wave of highs and lows, unable to control my body or my emotions. I had visions of grandeur that I would one day be able to spring out of bed effortlessly and hop on my bike un-caffeinated, ready to take on the day, never experiencing an afternoon slump, never feeling restless, and at the end of the day I would fall asleep the minute my head hit the pillow and sleep for eight uninterrupted hours before starting the same kind of day all over again.
It was a nice dream to have. But I had spent the last two years feeling utterly betrayed by my body when I felt like I was giving it everything it needed and it still would not comply with my vision of effortless health. So much energy and frustration has gone into an effort to work against my body’s natural cycle. Why? Whyyyyy?! A light went off when I read what Alissa had to say about living cyclically and I immediately realized that what I had been expecting was not only unrealistic, but against nature.
Nothing is static. Everything functions according to a cycle. The days, the seasons, our hormones, and…. uh-huh, our menstrual cycles! I’ve spent so much of my life feeling like a slave to my cycle, feeling robbed and depleted, feeling betrayed by my body. Why ovaries? Why have you done this to me?
What if we instead worked with our bodies natural cycles rather than against them? Have you ever tried to force yourself through a HIIT workout of a 5 mile run the week before your period and convinced yourself that you must be dying because the same workout you did last week suddenly feels impossible? It’s because we naturally have less energy in the days surrounding our period. I think we all know this. But how many of us actually adjust our lives accordingly? What I would instead do is push myself through one terrible mile and go home to cry on the floor and convince myself that this was now my permanent state of being, I would never be able to run a half-marathon, I was dying, my thyroid was out to get me, and I needed to consume as many magical superfoods as I could possibly fit into a smoothie bowl because somehow that might “fix” me.
Yes, I tend to be somewhat dramatic.
Rather than abandoning my half-marathon goals to cry in the bathtub with a box of cookies and a season of Parks and Rec (seriously, again? Yes, again.) I now know that all I really need to do is adjust my schedule according to my cycle. Being pre-menstrual is the perfect time for things like yoga or other low intensity workouts. It is also the perfect time to harness all those delightfully dramatic emotions and do some really productive soul-searching.
Embracing something that we’ve come to view as a nuisance can be quite the undertaking, but I’ve already been convinced that it’s worth it. This idea of cyclical living can extend to so many other areas of life.
For example, last summer I was doing a lot of traveling, camping, generally being outside all the time… which was great, except that I had come to expect that I should keep going to the gym at least a couple times a week.
The problem with that was that I just could not force myself to be in a stale, humid gym when I would have much rather been climbing dunes or paddling a kayak. Looking back, I see no problem with that at all. Those things are just as much of a workout as anything else, and a hell of a lot more fun. But I had gathered this idea that I needed to have a “gym routine” and if I didn’t, I would somehow fall into this slump and never workout again. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted on the idea of “routines” as the backbone of healthy living.
It’s not that routines are necessarily bad, but I do think they can take the mindfulness out of your days. Rather than asking, “what does my body need right now in the moment” you just continue doing what made you feel good last week. However, what made you feel good last week might not make you feel good this week.
I used to get so frustrated by this inconsistency, thinking that it would be impossible to ever have a succinct relationship with my body– my body that functions cyclically. There was the problem.
These things are normal. It’s not your body’s way of telling you that your routine has stopped working and you should give up what you’re doing– it’s just that bodies aren’t meant to function in the exact same way day in and day out.
The more we embrace this, the better we set ourselves up for happier, healthier lives.
My challenge to you is this:
What routine are you holding on to that is clearly not working for you week after week, and how can you ease in some flexibility to nurture your body’s natural cycle? (ie, trail running now that it’s warm instead of doing hot yoga, choosing lower intensity workouts when you’re feeling tired, or even just adjusting your skincare to suit the day to day needs of your skin rather that using the same products every day)
Pick just one thing to try and let go of and see how much freer you feel!