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Dieting around your menstrual cycle

Dieting around your menstrual cycle.

We all know that your menstrual cycle affects your hormones. One day you’re fine, the next day you’re acting like a crazy bi**h with zero energy and crying in to a tub of ice cream. But you’ve probably never really gave much thought to how your cycle can affect your gym performance and/or weight loss goals.

By knowing where you are in your cycle and what hormones are prominent at certain times, you can start to work around this and hopefully overcome any issues it’s causing.

What are the different phases of your cycle and what’s important for you to do during each phase?

So your cycle essentially has 4 phases:

Phase 1 – menstruation – day 1- 5 give or take, some women have shorter and some longer periods. As you lose blood your iron stores deplete. So the most important thing for you during this time is to replenish your iron stores. You can do this by increasing red meat, green veg, nuts, beans and lentils. You can often feel tired in this period so increasing iron intake, as well as getting enough sleep, will help.

Phase 2 – the follicular phase – day 5-14. During this time the brain sends chemical signals down to the ovaries to tell them to release an egg. The hormone oestrogen also starts to increase. Oestrogen is essentially a feel good hormone, during this period you’ll probably feel like you have more energy and find it easier to diet. So this is a really good time for you to be training hard!

Phase 3 – ovulation – day 14-16. This is where you egg releases. During this period you are the most fertile so if you’re trying for a baby you will probably want to get some extra cardio in here, if you know what I mean 🤣.

Phase 4 – the luteal phase – days 16-28. As we get in to the second half of the cycle your body will see a rise in progesterone . Progesterone is the hormone which prepares body for pregnancy, however we still have a relatively high level of oestrogen in the body so you have a lot of hormones present at this time. This has an Impact on training and eating. At this point (days 14-21) our metabolic rate increases. Science says you will feel hungrier! So look to increase your calories by 200-300 a day. As we get toward the end of the phase (21-28) This is where we start to get sugary cravings, can go a little crazy with our food and undo all the effort put in, in the previous weeks to stay in a calorie deficit. So here we need to try and eat more complex carbs such as beans, whole grains and vegetables, this will help to curb the cravings. You could also try adding in a couple of pieces of fruit per day. You’ll start to feel all those PMS-ey symptoms- bloating, irritability etc. SUGAR MAKES SYMPTOMS WORSE, so reaching for the bag of haribo isn’t doing you any favours. Watching our refined sugar intake allows our blood sugar levels to stay more stable and in turn helps us keep our mood a little more stable. Hydration is also important here as we lose sodium and feel very lethargic. It’s even more important when your exercise.

You can simplify these phases in to 2 phases, days 1-14 (oestrogen phase) and days 15-28 ( progesterone phase) .

Should you change your calories during each phase?

So as mentioned above, it’s easier to diet during day 1-14 and your metabolic rate increases and you generally have more cravings during day 15-28 , so changing your calories can help .

Day 1-14 can be your calorie deficit phase, you’ll probably find you can stick to it better here. Day 15-28 can be more of a maintenance phase. As discussed earlier, you should look to increase your calories by 200-300 or take them back up to Maintenance , taking your focus off trying to lose weight and put more focus on eating the right things can really work well here. You’ll probably find it also makes your workouts a little easier as you should feel slightly less lethargic with the increase in cals.

So over a 12 month period you’d essentially be in a calorie deficit for 6 months and a maintenance phase for 6 months. Trying to stick in a calorie deficit all the time can be hard and if you go a little crazy during weeks 3 & 4, you probably feel a little guilty and like you’ve undone all your hard work which can be bad for you mentally. Taking this approach will probably make it easier for you to lose weight as it allows you to be more consistent and not have to worry too much about trying to stick within a deficit. Remember it’s normal for your hunger levels to increase at certain times during your cycle!

Should you exercise on your period if you suffer with bad pains?

Yes! If you’re suffering badly with pain try taking some paracetamol before heading to the gym. Exercise can actually help relieve period pain, however you often feel tired when you’re on so weight training can be a little tricky. You might want to try some gentle cardio such as biking or walking instead.

If you have any questions after reading this feel free to drop me a DM!

Sian xo

Reading list

Tai MM, et al (1997) thermal effect of food during each phase of the menstrual cycle

Davidsen L, et al (2007), impact of the menstrual cycle on determinants of energy balance: a putative role in weight loss attempts

Solomon SJ, et al (1982), menstrual cycle and basal metabolic rate in women

Orthorexia: the fitness industry’s hidden eating disorder??

So yesterday I posted on Instagram that 10% of eating disorders (ED)sufferers have anorexia and 40% are bulimic. So what about the other 50%? The other eating disorder people can be diagnosed with is binge eating disorder. But you can also be diagnosed with OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorder.) This essentially means your symptoms don’t specifically match anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. However, OSFED is just as serious as the the three mentioned disorders.

One that is becoming increasing more well known is orthorexia. Orthorexia, is not recognised in a clinical setting, meaning you can’t be diagnosed with it, so it falls unders OSFED.

Orthorexia is an obsession with eating ‘healthy’ or ‘clean’ food. People who suffer with it may be obsessed with tracking calories and macros. They may also cut out particular food groups in an effort to stick to the rules they have created for themselves regarding food. They may have convinced themselves they’re intolerant to lactose, gluten or something else without an actual diagnosis from a medical professional. You’ll never catch them eating a donut, because it’s ‘not clean’. And if they do ‘slip up’ they feel intense feelings of guilt and anxiety. You’ll find this person also probably has an increased focus on their diet. They’ll probably have to eat at set times.They also probably judge other people’s eating habits a lot.

The scariest part of this illness is that it can be easily masked as ‘healthy living’. There’s plenty of ‘clean eating’ advocates about on social media (Thank god Alice changed her name)and this is what makes it so so hard to detect in your friends/family etc. You probably think ‘wow I wish I was that healthy all the time.’ But the truth is it’s not healthy. Consistently counting every macro isn’t healthy, never ever eating junk food isn’t healthy, skipping out on nights out/meals because it doesn’t fit in with the rules said person has made for themselves regarding their diet IS NOT HEALTHY.

Now I’m not saying for a second that everyone who eats really healthy is orthorexic. Not at all. I eat really healthily, but I also love pizza and biscuits and will have them when I feel like it.The point where this becomes orthorexia is when someone is OBSESSED with all the things I’ve mentioned above. They’re using this obsession to cope with feelings and emotions, or to feel in control. This is an eating disorder.

If you are worried about yourself or someone head to the beat website http://www.beateatingdisorders.co.uk for more info or to get help.

Beach bodies revealed

I arrived for an appointment yesterday and was lead to the waiting room. As I sat down the lady who had shown me in said ‘there are some magazines to read whilst you wait.’ You know the type, the celebrity gossip magazines that usually have headlines such as ‘(insert celeb name here)’s love dilemma’, ‘BAFTA’s best dressed’ and ‘beach bodies revealed’. Basically the kind of stuff I have no interest in reading at all, I don’t really give a shit about what ‘celebrities’ are doing.

But I couldn’t help but be drawn towards the cover of one. It had celebrity women in bikinis plastered all over the front page and it got me thinking. Who the f**k do the media think they are!? These celebrities are humans. They have feelings and they have the same insecurities we do. Imagine being on holiday and getting home to see your arse spread over two pages in a magazine.

Women, in general, hate their bodies. Even if you like your body, there is probably at least one or two things you don’t like. The fact is , women hate their bodies because of the Patriarchy and the media. We’re constantly bombarded with media telling us we should be thinner. We should have bigger butts/boobs. We should have smooooooth skin, and if you happen to fall in to the small percentage (90% lol) of women who have cellulite we will god damn airbrush those dimples out to make you smooth.

Imagine if we all started loving our bodies. Imagine how many industries would go out of business. Imagine how powerful we would be if we stopped tearing each other down for the way we looked. Imagine if we were no longer judged on our appearance. We would be confident,powerful. The patriarchy would shit themselves because really, getting women to hate their bodies is a way to oppress us. Who said man could pick the ideals of beauty for the past 5000 years?

Love those butt dimples. Love those wobbly bits in between your thighs, love your saggy tits, flabby arms and belly. The most beautiful part of a woman is her feminine energy. The feminine energy that make us wise, compassionate, intuitive, healing, whole, sexual, passionate, empathetic and understanding. Let’s not let our energy be oppressed by allowing ourselves to be judged on the way we look.

And throw them god damn magazines in the bin.

Xx

Seed cycling : how to balance your hormones naturally

What even is seed cycling?

If you’re reading this thinking ‘seed cycling what the he…’ you’re not alone. I too, had never heard of it until I recently attended a seminar about balancing your hormones through diet and it was mentioned. I went home and researched it like crazy and thought why isn’t this common knowledge!?

So what is it? Seed cycling is consuming different seeds during different times of your cycle to help balance your hormones better. Not only are seeds rich in vitamins and minerals but they contain lignans which bind up excess hormones and the seed oils contain fatty acids which your hormones love. There are 4 seeds you’ll need:

FLAX/ LINSEED seeds (same seed it just has two names)

PUMPKIN seeds

SESAME seeds

SUNFLOWER seeds

Why though ?

Seed cycling can help with hormonal imbalance symptoms such as heavy bleeding, fatigue, sleep issues, pls, headaches, weight gain, cellulite, hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and irregular periods. It can also aid fertility and help support the body with more serious conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis and ovarian cysts. Sounds good right! It can also help women going through menopause.

How to do it?

Your menstrual cycle consists of two phases the follicular phase and the luteal phase.

The follicular phase (1st phase)

This phase runs from day 1-14 of your cycle ( from the first day of your period to ovulation) and is your oestrogen dominant phase.

For this phase you’ll need 1 tablespoon of flax seeds and 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds per day.

Flax seeds help to block excess oestrogen and the pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which helps prevent the estrogen from converting to testosterone and gets your progesterone levels ready to rise as you approach phase 2 of your cycle.

The luteal phase (2nd phase)

This phase runs from day 15-28 of your cycle ( from ovulation until the day before your period ) and is the progesterone dominant phase of your cycle.

For this phase you’ll need 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds per day.

Sesame seeds help to block excess oestrogen and sunflower seeds contain selenium which aids In progesterone production and helps to balance out your hormones.

But my periods aren’t regular/I don’t have a bleed/ I’m peri menopausal ?

Now this is all very well and good assuming you have a regular period cycle. Unfortunately most women don’t, or if, like me,you use a progesterone only contraception you might not have a bleed at all ( yes I am a lucky one!).

But you can still implement seed cycling to balance your hormones and you can use the moon to help. Yeah that’s right, the ocean isn’t the only tide the moon affects, it affects the one downstairs too.

In ancient times, back in the time before electricity when there was only natural light , every woman’s natural rhythm was to menstruate under the new moon and ovulate under the full moon.

So if your gift from Mother Nature isn’t regular you can start the first set of seeds on the first day of the new moon and the second set two weeks later on the full moon. Check a moon Calendar online to find out moon cycle dates.

How to prepare your seeds

You’ll need to grind your seeds up, as whole seeds pass straight through the digestive system, so you don’t absorb all the nutrients. Seeds oxidise when ground so you need to eat them pretty quickly after grinding them, don’t grind batches as they won’t last. Keep your seeds in the fridge. You can add your ground seeds to porridge, smoothies, stir fry, soups and salad.

Changes won’t happen overnight, you’ll need to do 3-4 cycles before you start to see the benefits. Be consistent and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards of naturally balancing your hormones!

Sian xo

Are you eating mindfully?

You may have heard of mindfulness but what does it actually mean? 
Mindfulness is an ancient buddhist practice. It’s a technique which focuses on bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training. Mindfulness is now used in psychology to help treat depression, anxiety, eating disorders and many more.

As modern day first worlders we are constantly busy. You’ll probably find yourself most of the time, thinking about what you’re doing next. Or at 3pm. Or tomorrow. This means we don’t spend a lot of time living in the present moment.

We can all be greedy emotional eaters. You might only do it sometimes or you might do it often, but at some point we have all eaten something we didn’t really need because of the way we felt. This of course, is a problem if you are trying to lose weight. Learning to eat more mindfully can really help with your weight loss. Below are some tips to get you started.

Are you eating because you are hungry or are you emotionally eating? 

Mindfulness is all about listening to your body and how it feels. A lot of the time we eat to respond to emotional signals. Feelings of stress, upset or boredom are often reasons we grab something to eat. 

What we should be listening for are physical signals of hunger. Is your stomach growling? Do you feel light headed? These are usually signs of physical hunger and the ones we should be listening for. Get to know your own physical symptoms of hunger and try to eat only in response to this. Every time you eat ask your self ‘am I eating because I’m hungry or because I’m sad/stress/Lonely ?’ Try to only eat when you are physically hungry. 

Tackle the ’20 minute signal.’

Now I’m sure at some point you’ve eaten a meal and still felt hungry straight afterwards and someone (probably your mum) has said to you ‘ It takes 20 minutes for your belly to tell your brain it’s full blah di blah.’ Sorry but mum is right ( mums are actually pretty much always right, annoyingly). So, by slowing down with your food you can give your brain a chance to catch up with your belly and know it’s full. How can we do that? Sit down to eat. Chew each mouthful 20 times before swallowing. Put your knife and fork down In-between bites. Drink water with your meals.

Distracted eating

Do you eat whilst you’re doing something else such as watching tv or scrolling through your phone? This can make it hard for you to listen for your body’s signals about whether you are full or not. So next time you sit down to eat, turn the tv off and put the phone down. Just focus on your meal and nothing else. Take the time to enjoy what you are eating and try to really focus on the taste, textures and smells of your food. Make sure you are eating in a good environment, try to sit at the table with a plate, not standing up out of a container.

These are just a few tips to get you started. Remember that mindfulness, or any other form of meditation can take you a while to get your head around it properly. Start by incorporating these tips just once per day then work up from there!
Any questions feel free to drop me a message.
Sian Xx

 

How to conquer trigger foods

Everyone has a trigger food. A food you have no self control over. It’s that food you just can’t stop with once you start and end up seriously bingeing on it, and overeating to the point of feeling sick. I guess that’s where Pringles got ‘once you pop you can’t stop’ from. Don’t worry, you’re not crazy for doing it (even if you feel like that after you’ve binged.) And you’re not alone, we all do it.

Trigger foods can often have a cycle. My big trigger food used to be pizza. When I was in recovery for bulimia one of the counsellors I used to see asked me what my worst trigger food was and I said pizza. I guess when you have a trigger food you have a love/hate relationship with it. You love it so much you will gorge and binge on it. Then you’ll hate it (whilst probably hating yourself) and swear off it for a while. You’ll swear of it for so long you start to crave it so bad, then you’ll give in and have a big binge. See, it’s a big old mean cycle.

So how do we break that cycle? Because really, you love your trigger food so much and you want to be able to eat it in a normal human sized portion and feel fine about it, rather than a hippo sized portion and cry yourself to sleep after right?

Remember who’s in control

At no point in my pizza struggle phase was the pizza in control. That’s right, at no point did the little pizza ( lol joke extra large obviously) grow little pizza arms and hold me up at gun point and demand I eat all of him. I’m not saying it’s easy to stop yourself after one serving, god no it’s hard as hell. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. So when you feel and say you ‘lost control’, did you really? No you didn’t. The pizza didn’t grow legs, jump in your mouth and slide down your oesophagus. You always have the choice/option to not take another bite, it’s just learning how to manage and resist the urge.

So how do you manage your trigger food better?

1.Don’t keep it in the house

This is a bit of a weird one because we don’t want to restrict the food completely but this can help. Let’s say for example your trigger food is crisps. If you buy Multipacks for the kitchen cupboard and have a bad day at work you’ll probably get home and eat more than one bag. So rather than buying the multipack, stop at the shop on the way home for a single bag. It’s a good way to combat overindulging. You still get to enjoy your crisps but don’t have the temptation of eating more than one portion. It’s okay to not have a food in the house if it’s too hard for you to control.

2.Find a healthier alternative

Try swapping chocolate biscuits for chocolate rice cakes. Ben and Jerry’s for frozen yoghurt. Milk chocolate for 85% dark chocolate. By doing this, not only are you consuming less sugar, but chances are you aren’t going to overindulge on these foods because, well, the just don’t taste AS good.

3.Introduce it back in within a controlled environment

For me, introducing the food in smaller portions in a controlled environment worked well. The first time I tried this, a friend and I went to pizza express. It was out of the house so I guess you act in a more civilised way in public. She agreed to help me by sharing a pizza. So the portion size was smaller. We then went for a drink. Adding an activity after can help you to take your mind off wanting to overindulge. I felt really good after I’d done this. I’d proved to myself I could successfully eat one portion rather than ten. Every time you do this you’ll gain more confidence in yourself. You can stop at one slice/portion.

Your eating behaviours and expectations go hand in hand. If you expect to lose control it’s probably going to happen. If you tell yourself you’ll just have one portion before then occupy yourself straight after with another task, it will probably happen. It’s not easy and it will take time to conquer a trigger food. There’s not right and wrong way to do it but try the tips above and see if they help.

Good luck trying to conquer your trigger foods.

Sian x

Why you shouldn’t compare yourself to others on Instagram

Social media has literally taken over people’s lives. Especially Instagram, pretty much everyone is on it, and whilst in some ways I think it’s helped more people to get in to fitness, I also think it can be very, very unhelpful for self esteem. There’s thousands, probably millions of ‘fitness models’. You know the ones I’m talking about, perfect small tiny waists, big peachy bums and thousands of followers. And you probably look and think ‘ I wish my waist was like that’ or ‘ I wish my legs were that toned’. Or ‘they go on the gym ‘everyday’ and eat super healthy all the time’. Whilst it’s great to admire someone else’s body it’s not so great to compare your own.

Firstly, a lot of these models ( now I’m not saying all but A LOT) pose to make their figure look better. And whilst there is nothing wrong with getting a good angle, they realistically don’t look like that. Take the famous hip pop pose, I think that’s what it’s called anyway, the kind of side on pose were said person is pushing their hip out so far it must hurt, in order to make their bum look bigger than it actually is. And you probably look and think ‘I wish my bum was like that’. Well don’t… because they don’t look like that in real life.

Also, I’m pretty sure photoshop and other similar apps are used a lot to make people look better. If their waist is super small in comparison to their hips, it’s probably photoshopped. If their skin is perfectly smooth all the time, it’s probably photoshopped. Basically what I’m trying to say is, not everything you see on instagram is real. People fake things.

For some reason, a lot of society have become obsessed with likes and follow from people they don’t even know. People are so hungry for social media validation. I know of people who will actually delete posts if they don’t get enough likes. That is so f**king messed up. Why does the validation of complete strangers matter so much? I know people who have a large amount of followers and will actually post, either on their story or as a photo, a screenshot of somebody saying something mean to them. Now, whilst I don’t agree with trolling (that’s equally just as messed up, being hurtful to somebody you don’t know for no reason, hello get a grip) I find it hard to understand why the opinion of somebody you don’t know matters so much that you need to share it with the thousands of followers you also don’t know.

Everyone has insecurities and that’s fine, but if you want to be truly happy you have to find ways to work on those insecurities yourself. No amount of followers or likes are going to make you feel less insecure. In fact, it’s probably going to make you worse.

Remember that you are you. You are not in competition with anyone else. Your only competition should be ‘past’ you. I hate the thought of anyone feeling bad about themselves because they are comparing themselves to something that has probably been ‘improved’ in some form for appearances. Remember that Instagram is a highlight reel. Everyone posts things that make them look super perfect or super happy and leave out all the shitty bits. But that doesn’t mean that everyone else’s life is perfect. It’s all a perfectly created illusion.

So the next time you start to compare yourself, stop and take a second to consider everything I’ve mentioned here.

You are perfect the way you are.

Sian x