I was reading The Chalkboard Magazine the other day and came across this article entitled Period Coaching is a Thing. Here's Why We Highly Recommend It.
I had to click on that. It was a straight-forward, well-written article about a woman who is, no kidding, a period coach and her thoughts on menstrual cycles and what women need to know, can do to help avoid issues and thoughts on keeping ourselves healthy and balanced.
All of this comes from reproductive women's health expert Erica Chidi Cohen, a doula, author and co-founder of LA's LOOM. Over at LOOM, you can get personal period coaching along with a whole host of other women's health-related services including breastfeeding coaching (I could have used that), parenting coaching (um...I can still use that), support groups for experiencing loss and wellness classes including yoga, meditation and more.
I kind of wish I lived in LA.
While this type of thing is easily mocked, I have to say, I could have used something like this when I had babies.
I was living away from family when my first child was born, and I remember driving away in the car with my week-old daughter, weepy and afraid and recovering from a harrowing birth and ultimate c-section. Readers: I was a mess.
I struggled immensely with breastfeeding, and many of the women I turned to at the time hadn't breastfed their babies or couldn't really explain exactly how to do it, what I might be doing wrong or why I was so upset about the whole thing. I spent hours in tears, my breasts bleeding and swollen and my baby screaming.
My husband would bring me bottles of cold water and give me inspiring pep-talks including, "You're doing great. Just remember: failure is not an option."
He was truly trying to help and support me, but somehow I ended up feeling more like a failure than ever.
I finally went to a used-clothing store and sat there, in the middle of the store, with my shirt pulled down, begging the owner for help.
In the end, I rented a hospital-grade breast pump, hired a lactation consultant and got through it. And then, two years later, I did the whole thing again when my son was born. You'd think I wouldn't have had to go through it twice, but I did. Luckily, I knew then that I could find help, but with my first baby, the feeling of being alone and struggling to figure it out on my own was really depressing, overwhelming and scary.
I think there's a message in our society that women should just sort of know how to do things like breastfeed, mother, cook, manage a house and somehow look good and have heaps of energy while doing it. Expectations are high and help/education is low. No longer are we at home with our own mothers or even in our childhood communities, with people who can come into our bedrooms, whisk our babies away for a bath and bring us a cup of tea when we're exhausted, let alone teach us the football hold or how to properly swaddle our newborn infant.
If I had had a place like this, a place that had answers and knew that women needed help and didn't mock new mothers or roll eyes or send the message that there was something wrong with a woman because she couldn't manage to figure out breastfeeding her own daughter...I think that would have been a haven.
And it's not just new mothers or pregnancy that relates to women's health. Our bodies aren't made just to have babies and then feed them and rear them. Our bodies are sexual and intellectual and emotional, too. So to see the issue of women's health go beyond Advil, birth control pills and antidepressants is a welcome change. I'm all for Advil, birth control pills and antidepressants, but I'm also keen to go beyond the current medical norms and look at women's health beyond this paradigm.
But what does all this have to do with a Keto Diet?
So, toward the end of the article on period coaching, Cohen writes about the fact that women need fat and carbs. The article notes:
Erica explained that a lot of the most popular diets are designed for male physiology, and we have to remember that as people who cycle we need more calories and more carbs to do the work our body is designed to do. Carb and calorie restricted diets really impact periods because when you’re not getting enough it can start off a starvation response in the body. This tells the body that there isn’t a safe environment to release an egg, which will interrupt the hormone that signals the release of lining and can cause missed periods.
What stands out to me here is when Erica says that many popular diets are designed for male physiology.
I first heard about the ketogenic diet from a man, and his results were stunning. He'd lost something like 60+ pounds and felt and looked great. I decided to try it. I mean, just feeling more energized would have been great, and I'd felt much better when I cut gluten from my diet.
So, I got busy totaling up my carb intake and whittling that down.
Readers: it was awful. I was cranky and tired, but that wasn't even the worst of it. The worst part was that low-carb (super low-carb) made my migraines worse and gave me INSOMNIA.
I would wake up for the day at 3 or 4 AM. At first, I thought it was a sign that my body just didn't need to sleep so long because it wasn't processing so much junk, but after a few days I realized: this mama needs 7 hours of sleep no matter what I eat.
I was miserable and quit.
A few months later, after hearing that many people get over this 'keto flu' hump, I tried again and had exactly the same results.
What I've seen, personally and anecdotally, is that keto works well for men but not so great for women; yet when I say this to people, they roll their eyes and give me the look that says: you're just not committed.
Is it that hard to imagine that men and women may need different diets?
I appreciate Erica Cohen's explanation for why I feel better eating carbs and including fat in my diet, and I think this subject merits more explanation and exploration.
I think for far too long diet, exercise, sleep and wellness in general has been viewed through some pretty slim prisms, and I'll go out on a limb and say most of that perspective has been male. I'm not knocking doctors or saying men have no say in women's health, but I do think it's time we come full-circle, back to women learning from and exploring these issues with other women.
I don't feel I need a ton of period coaching at this stage in my life; though with peri-menopause on the horizon, I could be wrong. Maybe this is just what I need: someone to sit and talk with me for an hour or two about the changes I can expect, how to address them with suggestions I may not have heard and how to embrace these changes without fear or trepidation.
Finally.....wouldn't this be a great gift for a young woman? I know many young girls/women who may not full understand all of this and may not be comfortable talking to their moms about some of it.
I wish LOOM would write a book for young girls - a hip, no-nonsense guide to periods and women's health that has all the answers in a supportive, kind, intelligent and genuine way. I'm tired of skirting women's health, of glossing over and talking around issues like periods, orgasms, fertility and aging. And I love the idea of women connecting with each other, spending time together and swapping stories, tips, advice and the names of great mentors who can help us when we need to know why our periods are changing, what's going on with our hormones or how exactly to get the baby to latch on already.
Would you ever consider period coaching?
Have you ever struggled with a women's health issue and couldn't find the answer?
And has anyone else fallen off a keto wagon, all wonky and tired?
With that, I'm off to eat some carbs and make sure I have enough fat for the day. Happy Tuesday!