By Adrian Schirr of Forum Health Clarkston
Do you ever wonder why your emotions seem to change with the wind or why you’re totally together one week and then positively unraveled the next? As women, since we started our periods, our entire lives have focused on one specific week of the month. We were taught that one week was the only week we were excused. But what about the rest of the month? I don’t know about you, but I’ve always chalked my rampant emotions up to total psychosis the rest of the month. Something is wrong in my brain. It’s that simple. There are days I can take on the world. I am woman and all that. Then, without a single external change and nowhere near my period, I want to collapse into a ball and swear I could stay there for life.
Judy Bloom, where are you? It’s me~Every woman in the world.
Enter Alisa Vitti, an integrative nutritionist and the founder of FLOLiving.com. Vitti began researching menstrual cycles after being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (POS). She wanted to find a way to resolve her symptoms naturally. What she found sent her on a quest that would stretch over 15 years as she explored mainstream diets and fitness plans that were designed as one-size-fits-all and not tailored for the hormonal ups and downs the female body experiences over the course of a month.
Why are hormones significant?
The rise and fall of estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, and progesterone affect the whole body so much that it simply does not work or respond the same way every week. Unlike a man’s body, a woman’s body is a rhythm of many ups and downs that all create a meaningful pattern. With this in mind, Vitti designed and trademarked a way for women to track their cycle and pinpoint exactly how and when they should eat, move, and even socialize.
Do you want to get everything you can out of eating plans and workouts? You’re in the right blog. The ultimate female rockstar, Alisa Vitti, has uncovered a miracle in her cycle hacking, and I’m going to share it with you.
Four Phases of Cycle Syncing
An average 28 day cycle is broken up into four phases that span roughly over four weeks:
Duration: 3–7 Days
Hormonal happenings: Hormones are at their lowest levels during this phase.
How you are feeling physically: At the beginning of this phase you likely feel tired, achy, and less social. As the phase progresses and estrogen rises so will your mood and energy levels.
How you are feeling mentally: With your hormones at their lowest concentrations, the greatest communication is occurring between your two brain hemispheres (left analytical and right emotional). You are in the best position to articulate how you feel about situations and make sound decisions on how you handle them. The best course of actions will be determined in this phase.
Duration: 7–10 Days
Hormonal happenings: Hormone levels are still a little low during the start of this phase, but estrogen is rising.
How you are feeling physically: As estrogen rises, you’re getting your mojo back. You should start feeling confident, full of energy, strong-willed, adventurous, and maybe even a little sexy.
How you are feeling mentally: As new eggs mature in the ovaries, you are creative in this phase and open to new beginnings. You’re willing to try new things and setting new intentions. You think BIG in this phase.
Duration: 3–4 Days
Hormonal happenings: The largest surge of estrogen happens during this phase, and testosterone also rises.
How you are feeling physically: Energy is at its highest here. You feel your strongest. At the end of this phase, however, as the estrogen begins to fall, you start to feel sluggish, moody, and slightly constipated.
How you are feeling mentally: As testosterone continues to rise, the verbal and social centers of your brain are stimulated. Communication and collaboration are at the forefront of your goals. Your work game should be strong here. This is the phase to pitch an idea at work, negotiate, and work with teams.
Duration: 10–14 Days
Hormonal happenings: Testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen peak in this phase, but begin to fall to their lowest before bleeding begins.
How you are feeling physically: This week is tough as it is otherwise known as the PMS week. You’re probably irritable, moody, and having intense cravings for foods you should be avoiding.
How you are feeling mentally: With hormones at their peak in the start of this phase, you might be feeling somewhat social. As your hormones fall later, you might be more in the mood to keep to yourself. It’s okay to say no this week. Organization and completing tasks feels really satisfying right now. Use the alone time to get things done for yourself.
If your cycle is irregular or even non-existent it may seem impossible to know which phase you’re at. Try using the moon. I’m serious. That whole werewolf tale came from somewhere, right? Women, by nature, are lunar. Think: Menstrual cycles are synced with the waxing and waning of the moon, which occurs around every 28 days. Try starting day one of your cycle on the same day as the next New Moon and then go from there.
Cycle Syncing and Food
You should always eat real food. Real, WHOLE foods, as close to nature as possible. Yes, the typical American diet does present a few obstacles in that goal, but it is attainable. If you’re unclear as to what I mean by that, here’s a tip: Always avoid foods that are high in sugars and carbs, preservatives, fast foods, pre-packaged foods, processed or refined foods with a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce, dirty and processed oils, deep-fried foods, high fructose corn syrup, etc. These trouble foods do nothing but wreak havoc on the body, cause autoimmune disorders and chronic disease, and make you feel terrible.
To feel and be your best, cook your own foods with real, organic ingredients full of protein, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables.
And don’t forget to sync your cycle:
What to avoid: Limit raw fruits and vegetables, cold and frozen foods.
What to eat: Your body needs lots of nutrients. Foods rich in iron and vitamin C for better iron absorption do wonders to your diet during this phase. Try to eat more proteins like fish, chicken, lean beef, and Greek yogurt. Strawberries, pineapple, mushrooms, and leafy greens are all essential comfort foods for this cycle phase. Cook your veggies in warm soups and stews.
What to avoid: Alcohol and tobacco.
What to eat: You need a variety of muscle-building high protein, high healthy fat foods as well as good sources of folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin E like avocados, coconuts, eggs, fish, lean beef, berries, green tea, leafy vegetables, and chickpeas.
What to avoid: Carbs and grains will only make you feel more sluggish.
What to eat: You need a variety of fiber-rich fruits and veggies with high water content along with fermented and detoxifying foods to flush any excess estrogen that usually peaks in this phase. Try foods like lemons, garlic, ginger, artichokes, broccoli, celery, cucumbers, strawberries, and watermelon.
What to avoid: Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine add extra burden to your liver that’s already working to detox any excess estrogen. Limit raw fruits and vegetables, cold and frozen foods.
What to eat: Foods rich in Magnesium and B vitamins such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, bananas, pears, carrots, and potatoes can help stabilize hormones and control cravings.
Cycle Syncing and Exercise
While women have the most unique biochemical needs, most of the research behind a lot of today’s popular fad products and protocols are tested on men (Vitti). Yep. You read that right. Routines labeled as fit for everyone are not so, which tends to leave women a little discouraged when they don’t achieve the results everyone else seems to get. In the world of physical activity, even though it gives us girls great satisfaction, the goal is not to think like a man or even to keep up with the boys—it’s to know your own extraordinary female body and find what works for you. How do you do that? It’s time to embrace methods designed to work with the unique biological distinctions of your own female body.
How do you begin? You guessed it! Sync your cycle.
Alisa Vitti’s Suggestions for Cycle Syncing Your Workouts
Workout: Walk – keep workouts mild, even if you feel amazing.
When: An evening stroll is the perfect way to end the day and get some simple movement.
Workout: Run or other cardio
When: Mid-day – estrogen will be low and cortisol levels will be just right for a challenging cardio burst.
Workout: High-intensity interval training or bodyweight circuit
When: Early morning – Testosterone is higher during this phase, so you’ll have tons of energy. Definitely take advantage of that natural high and go all out.
Workout: Pilates, yoga
When: Keep it early during the first half, and then transition into the early evening. You might still feel full of energy during the first days of your luteal phase, so Vitti suggests to keep doing more intense workouts early in the day as long as you feel the energy. If you start to experience PMS symptoms in the days before your period, it’s time to tone it down and switch to Pilates or strength training in the early evening. Restorative (yin) yoga before bed is helpful in combating issues like moodiness and bloat.
Would you like all of this information in one place? It’s available, with just the swipe of a finger. Track your own cycle with Alisa Vitti’s app, MyFloTracker.
The Trouble with Hormonal Birth Control
Being on the pill is not ideal for cycle-syncing, since hormonal contraceptives block the natural hormonal patterns in your system. On top of that, the pill causes blood clots, damages gut health, increases inflammation, suppresses ovulation, and leads to micronutrient deficiencies. It also doesn’t treat or solve anything. Like most medications, the pill is a bandaid solution that doesn’t get to the bottom of an underlying issue. It simply covers it up. As time goes on, the issue is still there, unaddressed, and possibly getting worse. Yes, the pill gives women a sense of freedom they actually had to fight for the right to receive at one point. Believe me, I get it. I also know that there are other natural ways to avoid pregnancy and that every underlying issue should be resolved. Women are extraordinary creatures who thrive on the beautiful rhythm of their hormones. The pill only replaces those vital hormones with chemical endocrine disruptors that do more harm the longer they’re taken. It is possible to avoid pregnancy without the pill by using methods such as cycle syncing and Fertility Awareness (FAM).
If you’re interested in ditching your birth control pill, Alisa Vitti has a wonderful protocol in her blog, “The Right Way to Quit the Pill.”
It’s time to get to know your body. Through the ups and downs of hormones, the only way a woman can feel and be her absolute best is through cycle syncing. This method truly goes much deeper than simply losing weight and gaining muscle. With cycle syncing, you will eventually find a deeper intuition and sense of what your body needs every day. You will find a connection between your hormones, how you move, how your body works, and even how your brain responds—at every phase. At Forum Health, we specialize in women’s health issues and work specifically with women who are dealing with PMS and Menopause, as well as Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovaries. Through individualized health consultations and evaluations, we develop personalized nutrition plans that improve a woman’s overall sense of health and wellness. Find a Forum Health Provider near you.