Originally I wanted to title this post ‘how I used to think I ate healthy but really wasn’t’. It’s still a good place to start.
About one to two years ago I had some hormone related health issues. Back then I had no idea where they came from or what to do about them. I was pretty sure I was healthy in most ways - I went for morning runs almost every day and ate lots of fruit, salads and veggies. Looking back now I can tell that exactly those things contributed to my issues in big ways.
A usual day for me would look something like this (I’m focusing on exercising and eating here): get up at 6am, go for a one hour run, have breakfast and a cup of coffee. Get to work and have another cup of coffee, then lunch later (probably couscous and salad or veggies), and salad again for dinner. I sure was into my salads and regular morning runs. Sometimes I might skip a proper meal for dinner if I didn’t feel like cooking or for some other reason, and just eat something small, like an apple and kiwifruit.
Around the same time I heard of Alisa Vitti’s book Woman Code. Last year I finally started reading it. I love her book so much now, it’s literally changed my life in so many ways. I’ve passed it on to friends, and those friends have passed it on to their friends as well.
I’ve come to some exciting realisations of what’s really healthy and good for our bodies. They’re all based on Woman Code, and experienced on my own body and so so many other women’s bodies. I’ll cover the main areas she writes about here, but there’s so much more I’ve learned which I’ll talk about in future posts.
Before I get into what I’ve learned in more detail, I want to point out that there most likely is at least one “issue” you’re dealing with that you don’t realise stems from your endocrine system not functioning properly. The endocrine system is the ‘collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things’ (see here). So don’t just skip this post thinking it doesn’t apply to you. If you’re experiencing any of the issues listed below, it comes back to your hormones and is worth dealing with at the core, rather than treating symptoms. These are all related, and none of them should be seen as “normal”. There’s no reason why we should feel like we just have to deal with some of them because we’re a woman and have been conditioned to think they are normal experiences.
- Any kind of period and cycle issues
- Mood swings
- Lack of sexual drive
- Elimination problems
- Weight gain
- Thyroid issues
- Skin problems
- Bad body odour
- Headaches + Migraines
- And more
So let me get into the four main areas of how to balance your hormones.
1. Regulate your blood sugar levels
This is something I really wasn’t aware of back then. Some days I might not have had breakfast for three hours after waking until after my run. Or I might have waited five hours between meals. Eating regular meals (around every 3 hours) and having my first meal of the day BEFORE working out (and within 1 hour to 1,5 hours after waking) is what’s made a huge difference.
I also eat way more carbs (to fuel my workouts), healthy fats, and protein. And I feel good about it. It almost seems strange to point this out since carbs, protein, and fat are macronutrients and you’d think every meal naturally consists of at least two of them. But it just wasn’t obvious to me back then and there were some foods I didn’t eat at all (e.g. nuts).
Apart from adding vital nutrients to my diet, I now also eat foods that keep my blood sugar stable for longer. I cut out most dairy and soy products, white sugar, and white flour, since they rapidly increase your blood sugar levels and shortly afterwards make them drop, so you’ll be craving food again - it’s a vicious cycle (and that’s just one out of a number of reasons for why I cut them out). There are so many other amazing carb sources out there that slowly release energy and lots of them are gluten free as well.
2. Keep your adrenals at bay
Our bodies don’t know the difference between real and imagined stress. Mental stress and anxiety affect our hormonal balance, but irregular blood sugar levels and too much exercise as mentioned above add to the stress as well.
You’ll likely notice adrenal fatigue if you’re feeling low on energy in the morning and find it hard to get going. Perhaps your energy levels rise at night when they should quiet down. Naturally we’re supposed to wake up feeling energetic and get another boost of energy around midday (which makes sense - waking up with the sun, and another boost at noon when the sun is at its highest).
You might also be putting on weight and trying hard to lose it again without much success. A change in lifestyle and - counterintuitively - exercising less (and less intensely) are a couple of things that can help to get your adrenals back to normal. As I said, this is just a quick summary, I’ll share more on this soon.
3. Eliminate toxins
If you’re experiencing skin issues, constipation or other digestion issues this is related to your organs of elimination. We put so much toxic stuff and chemicals in our bodies through food, cleaning products, self-care products, etc. - likely without even realising it. If we don’t support our liver and intestines to get rid of those toxins they interfere with our hormones, and so our bodies will try to get rid of them through other exits, such as our skin (think sweat and skin breakouts).
As a starting point to help your body go through the process of eliminating toxins, try to get enough fibre in your diet and drink at least one full glass of warm water in the morning before eating.
4. The four phases of the menstrual cycle
This point is definitely for the girls out there. Have you ever thought about how amazing your body is for going through four different phases every month and how they each affect you? I certainly wasn’t aware of it, I barely even understood what was going on in my body each month, or what was supposed to go on if it was all in balance. No week is the same, so why are we supposed to feel, do, and eat exactly the same every single day and week? Why should we ignore the fact that our body goes through change and might need different things at different points during its cycle?
I’ve learnt so much about how our bodies change and how we can nurture and support them in the best way possible to get the most out of every day. This shift in awareness has made a huge difference on how I live, treat my body, work out, and on what I eat. It’s worth a completely separate post. For now I’ll mention that changing the foods I eat roughly once a week (in line with my cycle) is what has had the most impact on my health and - along with points 1 to 3 - healed my hormonal issues. After only one month of syncing my meals with my cycle, my health issues pretty much disappeared. And all it took were a few adjustments around the food I ate and the way I exercised.
Getting your hands on one of Alisa Vitti’s Woman Code books will help you in so many ways! This post isn’t sponsored, I just truly believe in the power of this book and the ways it can change your life for the better. Like I said, it’s the most impactful book I’ve read in my life so far, without exaggeration.
My plan for this blog is to share more insights into the different topics above, as well as relevant “cycle recipes” I’ve created and tested along the way.
Let me know if you can relate to anything I share in this post. Have you ever experienced issues in any of those areas, or have observed your body’s reaction to different foods and lifestyle?