I swear to god, when I was emerging from the haze of a very disordered relationship to food and my body—I found the phrase "listen to your body" to be... infuriating.
"hi. yes. hello. um... body? hiiiiiii. I am.... talking to you, and all these people keep telling me to listen to you... so like... hi? whatchu got to say to me?
Y'all, I heard zip. I honestly didn't know if my body was hungry or full half the time, and it felt like an all or nothing smorgasbord of food, restriction, over exercising, exhaustion, fatigue, and INFURIATING FRUSTRATION.
Does that resonate with you? If so... yeah, I hear you. Definitely don't feel alone on this one.
It was through yoga teacher training that I realized I had a total disconnect between my mind and my body (by the way, I see this repeatedly with the women I work with, so, again, you aren't alone if this is hitting home).
As far as I was concerned, my brain was in control, and my body was, according to my logic brain, subservient. I was convinced I COULD CONTROL MY BODY WITH MY MIIIIIIND AND MY WILLPOWERRRR.
Funnily enough, that did not work, because my body is smarter than me and it knows how to do things like breathe and circulate blood and send messages from my brain to my insanely complex spinal column in order to tell my body exactly what to do, whether I want it to or not. Guess what? Your amazing bod does that, too. (And thank goddess, 'cause otherwise we'd be dead because we couldn't possibly CONSCIOUSLY tell the disparate parts of our bodies what to do all the time. That would be some over the top multi-tasking, and how would we ever get to watch Handmaid's Tale or read Brene Brown's latest book?)
So when I lost my period for five years, I FOUND IT INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING. I thought I was doing everything right when it came to food and exercise, and I'd even started practicing yoga and meditating AND studied Integrative Nutrition, so like... I WAS AN EXPERT SO WHERE WAS FLO?
It took me a minute to realize that my ego and what I thought was best for my body was actually the opposite of the best for my body... so that looked a little bit like stepping into what I call: Wild Abandon, the third step in The Soul Food Project's Ten Steps to Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Mode, which is defined as:
If you’re ready to uncover a more soulful way to eat and move and live, then it’s time to abandon willpower and control and bravely step into experimentation. You’re ready to try new things. You’ll challenge food beliefs, exercise beliefs, and truths you’ve come to believe about yourself and the world that maybe aren’t actually true. This is where we step into nutrition knowledge to clarify food confusion and begin practicing daily yoga. Yes. Daily yoga.* All you have to do right now is abandon yourself to the process. Are you in?
*Note: yoga doesn't always happen on the mat
So, yeah. I stepped into wild abandon style experimentation. But... you can't step into experimentation without tracking data and noticing what's working and what's not.
So what kind of metrics do you track when it comes to your health and wellness?
Well, luckily, us ladies have a very particular tell: the menstrual cycle.
Every month, we have a very complex dance of hormones going through some very specific and amazing choreography, all related to serving up a Queen Egg and then either gettin' her fertilized or lettin' her... well... disintegrate, actually. Sounds kinda morbid when I put it that way...
This dance is controlled by the endocrine system; the endocrine system is so intricately connected, affected, and reciprocally involved with the immune, reproductive, neurological, etc systems that we can actually begin to detect imbalances simply by noticing changes in our cycle.
Unless you've had cause to explore your menstrual cycle in depth, be it in school or perhaps navigating your own body journey, it's possible you've not fallen down an internet hole of tracking your cycle. Lord knows I hadn't, and when I was diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and found my doctor's description of what was going on (and recommended course of action: the pill) unsatisfactory, I once again hit the books and began reading and investigating and becoming my own advocate.
The human body is actually incredible, and my goal today is to help you get one step closer to understanding yours. I've put together a cycle tracking demystifier for you that walks you through the four phases of your cycle, the hormones that are at play in each phase (and what that means for your body), and recommended lifestyle tips to make each phase more bearable.
Because the reason you spend more money (and should maybe avoid shopping) at certain times of the month may be due to hormones, and the reason you can't stop carb craving at others may not have anything to do with willpower (hint: it definitely has nothing to do with willpower). And also, PMS doesn't HAVE to hit you every month.
Those symptoms like bloating, moodiness, and cramping? Those may just be your body talkin' to ya.
Grab your Little Red X: Your Cycle Demystified (so named for the red "x" my mom told me to put on the calendar on the day I started my first period to track it, which, by the way, I literally never did... because teenager) here!