No Wellness Wankery

71: The power of your period: How your cycle impacts cravings, weight, body image and so much more

August 01, 2023 Lyndi Cohen
71: The power of your period: How your cycle impacts cravings, weight, body image and so much more
No Wellness Wankery
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No Wellness Wankery
71: The power of your period: How your cycle impacts cravings, weight, body image and so much more
Aug 01, 2023
Lyndi Cohen

At first, Lyndi said it felt weird to track her period everyday. But because of what she has learnt and how it has transformed her health, she would do it all over again. 

You’re not imagining it, my friend.

  • Some days it’s easier to be confident or fall asleep or manage your cravings.
  • Some days are better than others for going shopping for clothes or taking a photo you like. 
  • Some days are perfect for making plans while other days work out best when you make no plans at all.

She never felt this connected to her body.

Deciding to track her period, allowed Lyndi to start working with her period, not against it. And with this comes a truck load of new self-compassion and kindness. 

It's so much easier to forgive yourself for not being perfect…for being moody, or for disliking your body or for wanting to eat the entire kitchen!

So if you're thinking, what would you learn about yourself if you tracked your cycle, too? Let's see what Lyndi found out and how you can get started. 

💃 Unhappy with your body and weight? Even if you’ve been hating your body for years, a few simple strategies can help you feel healthier and happier in your skin.  Download Lyndi's free Body Confidence e-book

💜 Want help with binge or emotional eating? I think you'll get a lot of value from this free 5-day course, in which you'll learn strategies to help skip the cravings and feel in control around food. The course will be delivered via email straight into your inbox.

Want to feel more in control around food? Check out my Stop Struggling With Food Guide, currently on sale for 40% off.
You’ll also find 50 of my favourite recipes to get you inspired!

Get my Free 5 Day Course to help you stop binge and emotional eating. 

Looking for more support to feel in control around food? I'd love to support you in my Binge Free Academy


Come follow me on the gram at @nude_nutritionist (no nude pics, sorry).

Want to share some feedback or have an idea for an episode, I'd LOVE to hear from you - hit me up at hello@lyndicohen.com

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

At first, Lyndi said it felt weird to track her period everyday. But because of what she has learnt and how it has transformed her health, she would do it all over again. 

You’re not imagining it, my friend.

  • Some days it’s easier to be confident or fall asleep or manage your cravings.
  • Some days are better than others for going shopping for clothes or taking a photo you like. 
  • Some days are perfect for making plans while other days work out best when you make no plans at all.

She never felt this connected to her body.

Deciding to track her period, allowed Lyndi to start working with her period, not against it. And with this comes a truck load of new self-compassion and kindness. 

It's so much easier to forgive yourself for not being perfect…for being moody, or for disliking your body or for wanting to eat the entire kitchen!

So if you're thinking, what would you learn about yourself if you tracked your cycle, too? Let's see what Lyndi found out and how you can get started. 

💃 Unhappy with your body and weight? Even if you’ve been hating your body for years, a few simple strategies can help you feel healthier and happier in your skin.  Download Lyndi's free Body Confidence e-book

💜 Want help with binge or emotional eating? I think you'll get a lot of value from this free 5-day course, in which you'll learn strategies to help skip the cravings and feel in control around food. The course will be delivered via email straight into your inbox.

Want to feel more in control around food? Check out my Stop Struggling With Food Guide, currently on sale for 40% off.
You’ll also find 50 of my favourite recipes to get you inspired!

Get my Free 5 Day Course to help you stop binge and emotional eating. 

Looking for more support to feel in control around food? I'd love to support you in my Binge Free Academy


Come follow me on the gram at @nude_nutritionist (no nude pics, sorry).

Want to share some feedback or have an idea for an episode, I'd LOVE to hear from you - hit me up at hello@lyndicohen.com

Lyndi

Host

00:01

Hello everyone and welcome to this weeks episode of No Wellness Wankery. I'm your host, Lyndi Cohen, dietitian, nutritionist and human and mum and person All these things and today this is an episode with anyone with a cycle. It doesn't matter how long your cycle is. It could be 28 days, your period, and that's what I'm talking about. I don't want to be aloof. 

00:26

I feel like I spent the very early part of my adolescence feeling really ashamed about having a period. You know, I'd have to run off to the bathroom and I'd hide a tampon down my sleeve lest anyone thought that I was actually menstruating. It was so much shame around it, and so I want to help, you know, break that down, because I'm now a grown-ass woman and I don't want my daughter or anyone else to have to feel like periods are shameful, because they're certainly not, and I think that's perhaps why we have failed to have better conversations around our periods how they influence our health, and I'm not just talking about our physical health. They seem to have a huge influence on every single aspect of our well-being, something I found out when I did a little experiment, and this was a few years ago. Now was 2018. And I was in the south of Spain on a holiday with my husband and this is pre-kids A simpler, a simpler time and I was lying by a pool, overlooking this valley with all these beautiful old buildings, and I was just free to do whatever I wanted. And yet, here I was, lying next to the pool and my brain kept coming back to how much I hated my body and I just felt really down on myself. And you know, the thing I kept reminding myself is my body hadn't changed and two weeks ago I was really vibing myself Like I remember I'd gone out. I put on this really cute outfit and it's like a thigh high leather boots, like you know. I was feeling myself, and yet here I was looking just the same and I should have been loving how I was looking, and yet I was like this doesn't feel right. I checked my calendar and what do you know? I was close to getting my period, and so it got me thinking how much of things like body image or bowels, or mental health or energy are tied into our periods. And so I began tracking my period for nine months, and I share this in my book. Your Weight is Not the Problem. I do talk about how I did this, this process. 

02:40

I never intended to start tracking my period for nine months. I thought I'd track it for maybe a cycle. I was hopeful that I might get some interesting data out of it and, honestly, I wasn't entirely scientific about it when I first started. It just was done as better than perfect. I opened up my calendar app and I just started writing down different metrics for how I felt on a whole bunch of different health parameters, and I'll share with you. It was mood, body confidence, skin symptoms like pain or cramps or discharge. I was tracking hunger cravings. I was tracking my exercise, my bowels, sleep and sex drive. So there were several things that I was tracking, about 10 things that I was trying to track, and every single day I'd log in, I'd say what day of my cycle is it? And then how was I performing on these different metrics? I wanted to see if there were any trends that I could discern. 

03:30

Now what I found after doing this. After, somehow, once I started doing it for a month, I was like, wow, this is interesting. I wonder if it would replicate. Over the next month I did it again and after nine months, I could certainly see huge swings and swings is the right word, because what was happening to me on day 28 of my cycle was completely different to what was happening on day 14. Now this makes perfect sense. Once we start to look into what is happening during your period and why does it matter, it starts to kind of enlighten to us why all these huge swings are happening. 

04:03

So if you just bring it back down to basics, a period is typically 28 days. It doesn't have to be. It could be shorter or longer and still be within the realm of normal. You can bleed for anywhere between three, seven days, 10 days. That, I think, tapped 10 days, might be normal. And this is all. Just this is how a period goes. My cycle is a 28 day cycle and so I just used it like that. Day one is the day that you first get your period, so first day of bleeding and then you just track along day two, three, four. 

04:35

Typically ovulation would happen middle of your cycle, but not always, but typically it's on day 14. And that's when we're getting that real like peak in hormones and then, once we hit that peak on day 14, we were ovulating. I don't want to say we go downhill, but we start to notice a complete shift and I think it's almost like I want to start to reframe that period, because it's like when you know when it rains and you think, oh, my plans are ruined and everything's raining. What if you, now that I'm older, I'm thinking, oh, it's raining, oh, at least the plants get a water and at least it's nice and cozy inside, and that down feeling that we have after, you know, when we start coming off ovulation or we start moving back toward getting our period again, there can be a whole bunch of reduction in energy we have might have mood swings or increased kind of cravings. It could be unfun, but I just want us to maybe try and change that dialogue, because if that's the way we perceive that, then half of the month we're going to be feeling pretty miserable. So it's time for a bit of a reframe. 

05:37

But what's happening during this 28 day cycle I'll call it 28 days for simplicity is we're getting a whole bunch of hormones for main hormones that are really fluctuating, so your follicul stimulating hormone, your estrogen, which you probably know, luteinizing hormone, lh and progesterone, and these are going up and down depending on what point of the cycle you are, and so you have different stages that are going to define each of the stage. Think about it as four quarters in the 28 day period. So you have seven days, seven days, seven days, seven days and each phase is typically you know, they sometimes talk about them as being different seasons, like spring, summer, autumn and winter, and I think that's kind of a nice way of thinking about it because, yeah, let's get into what we typically found, or what I found during the nine months that I tracked my period. So mood, so my mood is seriously affected by my cycle and perhaps your mood is also. 

06:37

Now I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety and throughout my 20s was something that was really a huge part of what I was saying I struggled with and I found that on the first part of my cycle, the first maybe three weeks of my cycle up to day 21, I was typically in a pretty good mood, but it was around that last week coming up to my period, that PMS week, where I was noticing that I was more anxious than usual and that's when we start to see this peak and progesterone happening. That could be related to why this is happening and I was feeling like I'd be snappy or a little bit moody and I used to get really down on myself, saying why am I feeling this way? This really, this really sucks, but simply knowing to myself okay, oh, you know what, it's day 21. Of course, I'm feeling this way. This typically happens every month. It's almost like I could realize that it wasn't my fault. It was just my body doing its thing and I could forgive myself for being moody or irritable or unmotivated or a little bit more sensitive. And this bit of compassion was really really helpful for me, because I knew this is just a short little blip that was going to happen. 

07:48

And what it really encouraged me to do was not to plan too much on that week before my period. And this is what I started doing. Once I knew I was going to get my period, I actually blocked out a whole week in my calendar where I didn't do things like podcast recording, I didn't put huge tasks where I had to go and socialize and be with other people. This was very much my week to come inward, and this is, I guess, what we refer to as that winter period where we kind of go into a bit of a hibernation. I wanted to be left alone, I wanted to be with myself, and so I did not make plans. My husband knew he also had got a calendar invite to say do not make plans. He was welcome to go out, but it was just not something that I wanted to do and what I noticed is really did help me with my PMS anxiety and it became one more tool that I used to help me manage my anxiety. 

08:43

Another thing that was deeply influenced was my body confidence, and I think you know I've alluded to this before in the intro, where I talked about how much it influenced my body image, but no one else I'd ever seen had been talking about this. And of course this is interrelated with mood and it's also interrelated with bloating. So with that surging level of progesterone, we're going to get an increased amount of bloating happening. This can impact our body image, but we're also going to have that mood shift and we're also going to get a reduction in our energy levels, so we might not feel as sexy. They've done a very interesting research around how appealing women typically, how flirtatious they might be during their ovulation. And we're way more flirtatious typically during ovulation, which is day 14 of the cycle, and by the time we're getting into this winter period, you know, out of our spring summer period. Coming into winter, we tend to go oh. 

09:35

I feel a little bit more doubtful and I think this is very important to realize, because the temptation to diet the week before my period was always strong. This is when I was down on myself and I would feel that I was such a victim of diet mindset. If I saw something, I could very much easily be swayed to go oh, this whole non diet thing, this doesn't make sense, I'm just going to go on a quick diet and quick fix. But if I was able to just sit it out and realize this is just a temporary period in time, a week later I would emerge from it like the cocoon that become the butterfly that I am and realize I'm actually just fine the way I am. So during this time when I go, oh, I feel really fat that's typically a phrase I would say to myself. I feel really, I feel like my body. I just really, really need to lose weight. This is when I would be the kindest to myself. I would notice this negative thinking and I come in as much as I can to be kind to myself. Now, it is very hard to be kind to yourself. It is very hard to like your body in a world that's constantly telling you that you don't weigh, you weigh the wrong amount, that you're too big, that you're wrong, that you're too thin. And so I have a body confidence e-book that I created and I would love for you to have. I want to leave it in the show notes so you can get it for yourself, but it's really just those tips that I keep coming back to to go oh, how am I going to navigate this bad body image time, knowing this honestly. 

11:01

That I was more inclined to go on a diet the week before my period really really helped my skin was another thing to change. So I would get acne days before my period. There's an incredible hormonal shift happening. There's progesterone, esterine testosterone all these different things are really influencing our cycle and it's very normal to have breakouts during this time. On day 21, I would pretty much and I still do I consistently get these small little breakouts around my chin, which tend to be a bit more of a hormonal acne. Now that I'm 33, I thought oh, I thought I wouldn't get acne anymore. That's lies. Will you still get acne? That's still normal. You get acne and you get wrinkles. It all gets really fun, and you know what I think, just knowing that it doesn't matter. I was a little bit less down on myself and just knowing that it was typically a temporary thing that by day 14 again I was going to be in a slightly different phase with my skin, that was incredibly helpful as well. 

11:57

Hunger and cravings was another thing that changed. So, like the week before my period, chocolate was constantly on my mind and I wanted more. And what I noticed is if I was craving more chocolate and I said to myself you're not allowed to have chocolate, chocolate's bad, we should. You know all those kinds of diet things the craving did not go away, except now my thirst, my desire for chocolate was now even more insatiable than it had been before. So I think this is a trap that many of us fall into. We do get the surge in craving. We think it's an irrational craving, even though it is very clearly linked with our hormonal cycle and it makes perfect sense. And yet when we fight against it, we're actually creating a bit more of those food demons, the dieting kind of nonsense, and that screws us up over the long term. 

12:45

So either this craving for chocolate is going to be a short temporary phase or whatever you're craving. It could be something really salty, but it could just be a temporary phase, something that you eat the food and you, freaking, move on with your life and it's just, it's a non-issue. Or you can let it become, or, you know, your brain will turn this into something that spirals out of control and, instead of it just becoming something for that last week just before you get your period, it can continue and continue and become a bigger and bigger thing than it needs to be. So I decide that I have trust for my body. I trust that my body will tell me what foods it needs. I trust that if I have a little bit of chocolate and I allow myself to have the chocolate and I mean fully allow myself, not just say I can only have a square, I'm only allowed to have a little bit, because all it'll do is make me want more. 

13:32

It is normal to have these increased cravings. I respond to it and as long as I respond to it without judgment, I feed it what it needs. These cravings go away. They are short term, they are temporary and they're not there permanently. It's also very normal that you could be super hung, super hungry, and that hunger is going to change. For me. 

13:50

My hunger was very much around my ovulation period. So I get cravings just before my period, but when I was ovulating on day 14, middle of my cycle, this is when I'd be really, really hungry. And if I let that in a talk, say you shouldn't be that hungry, you shouldn't eat this much. This is way more than you usually eat. If I let that happen then I would definitely get sucked back into that diet mindset Somehow. Knowing this is my hungry part of the month. It allowed me to fulfill my body's needs, my body's cravings for how much energy it needs, and as a result, there was far less of the judgment, less guilt, because I could just have compassion for this short period of my time in my month where I was going to eat more than I probably normally would. And I think if you're struggling with intuitive eating, this is a very nice thing to recognize and it helps you lean a little bit more into that trust that your body has your back. 

14:44

If you're feeling like you, this all sounds really foreign and your hunger and your cravings feel like they control you and you're ending up going. I want to reintroduce these foods, but that feels too scary or I don't know where to start because I've been eating all the time. I do have a free five day course, but if you haven't done it yet, I would recommend doing it. I'm going to leave a link to do it in the show notes, so it's basically a step-by-step guide to help you stop binge and emotional eating. If it's something that you're struggling with, and find in the show notes, and give it a go if you haven't yet before. 

15:17

The other thing I would find during my ovulation period really is the change in my energy levels. So once I had my period on day one, it's like I was coming out of the period cave. It's weird because on day one of your period you think well, this is the time where I'm bleeding, this is menstruation, this is. I mean. It is a bit unfun to have to deal with it, but this is when you start to actually feel better. So it's almost like as soon as you get your period, I now get to a point where I go yay, I got my period, hooray, we've broken the ice and I can start to come into spring. So spring is when we start to notice our increased levels in energy and my mood would almost instantly feel a whole lot better. My bowels would also re-regulate. I'll talk about bowels in a little bit, but let's focus on exercise for the time being. 

16:08

So now that I've come out of my period cave, with day one of bleeding, what I noticed is up to day 14, this is when my energy would go up, up, up, up, up up, so that day 14, I was at my most springy, most likely to exercise time. In fact, not only was I most likely to exercise, but I found that the types of exercise I was keen to do would shift during the month, and I think this is something that women who we grow up in the male dominated world that tells us that men typically live on this 24-hour hormonal cycle For women have this monthly hormonal cycle. For a man, he might go well. I exercise the exact same way during the entire month and as we go well. That doesn't quite feel right. So if you feel like you're struggling to be consistent with exercise, perhaps it's worthwhile going. Well, what if I started to sink in with my cycle a little bit more? So it doesn't feel like such a burden. So it doesn't feel so hard, because when I'm ovulating, this is when I am most keen to do high intensity. 

17:08

I'm most likely to go for a run. Right now, for example, I'm on day 15 and I'm just loving running. I can't get enough running. I crave doing a hit session. But during the time where I'm going into my autumn and my winter, I'm definitely going to be slowing down. I'm going to be enjoying yoga, pilates. I did a yin yoga class a couple of weeks ago actually, when I was at that point, and that's what felt really good. 

17:35

So my question to you is do you change up your workouts to kind of sink in with how you're feeling? And all of this plays into intuition. You don't need to track your period for nine months or however long you want, though you can, and I do encourage it because it's kind of fun and fascinating but you can just check in and go how am I feeling today? Where is my energy level? Is that today? And if it's not, you're not feeling super energetic. Can you respect that and say you know what's going to feel good for my body today? Is a gentle walk, is yin yoga, is something very slow, maybe even some stretching, and notice that those feelings, that the energy is going to shift throughout the month and allow it to so that you can be a little bit more intense when you feel like you want to be a little bit more intense. 

18:18

This ties in nicely with sleep. So I was definitely finding that. You know, of course, with my mood being a little bit more anxious the week before my period, it was a bit trickier for me to fall asleep. But I definitely had much better quality sleep when I was in my, you know, spring, summer and even my autumn phases. When I was in my winter phase, which is that hibernation phase, ironically, I was not sleeping so well and that would also have a flow and effects, which is just another reason why I say I did not make plans during that time. Now that I'm a mum, it is very hard to say I don't make plans, but I don't need to make additional plans. You know, I think being a parent is busy enough. I don't need to then go well, let me socialize on those weeks or those weekends even. Perhaps those are the weekends or the weeks where you're going to stay in a little bit more, because you know that your sleep is maybe going to be a little bit more impacted. 

19:10

Let's talk about bowels. Bowels are incredibly linked with hormones. I don't think people realize this. A lot of people have come to me and said I think I've got IBS. I've got IBD, I've got these flare ups. They're very unexplainable. I oscillate between diarrhea sometimes. I've got constipation other times and I don't know what it's all about. And I don't think people are aware so much that your hormone levels, things like progesterone, when it's peaking during that winter phase, the week before your period, that you might find that you get diarrhea or you get constipation and that is probably going to be all over the place. It shouldn't be lasting for a long time. 

19:50

If you're noticing these bowel symptoms, you might get a. You know one or two days where your bows go one way and then they go the complete opposite way as your progesterone levels change again. But I want you to just be mindful of the fact that, yes, of course, on top of, like, the crappy skin and the body image hating stuff and the swollen boobs and the swollen glands and everything else, you might be feeling that you're probably going to have a whole bunch of crazy bowel symptoms as well. Potentially this isn't about food and it's much more likely that it is just about hormones, and I don't want you really nearly just pulling out foods or thinking you've got IBS, when really it's okay just to have a little bit of fluctuation in how your bowels are, particularly provided that you do come back to that baseline of normal, regular, not too hard, not too soft bowel movement. So it's a very important thing and also a very underrated way to measure how healthy you are is by being cool with the stool, and I think I should trademark that. I should create a t-shirt being called to be cool with the stool. Let me know if you would like to buy it. I think that's my next business idea. 

20:54

And just to kind of finish us up on sex drive. So certainly my sex drive is different during different parts of your my cycle. So when you're ovulating, that's definitely something to consider. That you might have increased sex drive might be a time to make plans with your partner. If you have make plans with yourself, if you're into a little bit of self love, and I think that I think realizing that was actually really helpful for having just more intimacy. I'm not necessarily talking about sex, but I feel like I have a much more of a desire to be close to people, for physical touch, to have intimate conversations, and I noticed that week before my period. I kind of want everyone to leave me the F alone. I don't know if you're the same, but as a result, I do try and sync my life up with this to some degree, and I think that's very helpful. There wasn't very interesting research. They looked into sex workers and they found that they actually earned a lot more money during ovulation by doing absolutely nothing differently. We know that there is a pharomone change. That happens as well during ovulation. So you know you are you typically are more attractive to the opposite sex or the same sex just more attractive, and and I just think that's just an interesting thing to be mindful of. 

22:11

Now, what am I saying about all of this? Well, for me, I never felt more connected than when I started to realize that all these things were interrelated, that it wasn't my fault. Now I'm not suggesting, as I said, that you do do all this tracking, and I certainly don't architect my entire life around my period. I have too much shit going on for me to be able to do that. But there are definitely moments throughout the month where I am aware of it, where I'm just doing a little check and being like, okay, but you know I'm on whatever day it is. In fact, I've got my Fitbit and my Fitbit will say you've got this many days left on your cycle or whatever's happening, and I go back into my iCal and I actually add those days. So I so I had these signposts. So I say day one, day seven, day 14, day 21, and then day 28. So I know when I'm entering into a new phase of the month. I mean, I typically can feel it these days. 

23:03

But the other thing you can do is send a calendar invites to your partner. I think that is very helpful. My partner's definitely asked me to do that for him so he knows where I'm at, so I can leave, so he can leave me the F alone no, I'm joking, but he can also time things so that he's also working with me a little bit more, which is incredibly helpful. I hope this has been helpful for you. I don't know if it is. I'm glad we're having these conversations and I'm keen to hear how it feels for you. Please let me know about it. I would love to know. 

23:36

And if you do have any questions that you'd like answered on the podcast. I don't know if you've seen, but I'm doing a real chat series as part of the podcast, where I'm interviewing real humans, real lovely people like you so well. I don't see clients one on one anymore. I'm doing this clinical work where, if you're happy for a session with us to be filmed and would be recorded and filmed, it's something that I'd like to be able to share with other people who are probably going through what you're going through at the moment. You will benefit from it, that's my hope, and other people by listening will benefit from as well. So if you would like to partake in that, I do still have a few sessions at the moment that I would like to offer to people, so please reach out. My email is hello@lyndicohen.com.  Or you can reach out to me on Instagram and let me know that you're interested. I'll just get you to fill out a little form and we can take it from there. 

24:34

Anyway, I really appreciate listening to today's episode. If you haven't yet and you do like this podcast, I would love you to leave a review of this podcast ideally five stars and tell everyone else that you love it so that more people can find out about a non dieting message and start to be a little bit more in tune with their bodies. Because this is what all of this stuff is it's about trusting your body. It's about listening to your body. It's about being less in your head about what you should do, shouldn't do, and more trusting and saying my body's got my back. My body loves me even on the days where I don't love it. Thanks for listening. I'll see you next week.

Menstrual Cycles' Influence on Health
Understanding Hormonal Changes and Intuitive Eating
Sleep, Bowels, and Sex Drive Connection