Yes! I do have PMS. Right now actually (I think). So I was pleased to come across this interview from Well+Good today. Even though we know that diet and lifestyle affect our hormones, being reminded by a health practitioner is, well, reassuring. And it also gives back a bit of a sense of control, which is nice too.
What affects your PMS?
Here’s the interview:
Many women assume that the awful PMS they endure—complete with cramping, headaches, lower back pain, and breakouts—is just par for the course.
But Meg Richichi, MS, LAc, an integrative women’s health practitioner, says that it doesn’t have to be that way. While out-of-wack hormones account for PMS symptoms, the cause of their wackiness could be your diet.
New York women’s hormones are constantly under attack, says Richichi, by a combination of culprits—stress, lack of sleep, and especially unbalanced diets.
Why is diet such a big deal? “Eighty percent of who we are comes through our gut,” says Richichi. “The building blocks of our hormones are what we eat, assimilate, and eliminate.”
Instead of masking the symptoms with Midol, Richichi recommends getting your hormones under control. Here’s where you should start:
1. Stress less.
When you’re super stressed, the nutrients in your body that create healthy levels of estrogen and progesterone are are busy just keeping your body in survival mode. “The signal that tells you to stress is the same one that tells you to ovulate,” says Richichi. If it’s all tied up, you’re going to have issues.
2. Sleep more.
A good night’s sleep will help with stress. But more importantly, sleep is a crucial time for hormone regulation. The longer and sounder you sleep, the more time your hormones will have to reset. And close the blinds—the light from a street lamp can disrupt the process.
The other night at yoga, my teacher did something unusual. Normally, at the beginning of class, she tells us to offer up our practice to someone other than ourselves. I love this part of class, because I think if there is even a one-in-a-million chance that a simple dedication can alleviate suffering in another person, then it’s worth doing it (duh). Thinking about someone you care about is also a great motivator when you’re on your third wheel and you kind of want to kill yourself.
But the other night, instead of the usual dedication, she said:
“Now think of another being, a non-human being, and offer up your practice to them.” Curveball!
I’m totally not an animal person. I used to fancy myself a bit of a cat whisperer, but the last time I spent any amount of time with them was when Alexandra and I lived together with, like, 10 kittens and a couple of other girls, more than a decade ago. So there I am scanning my mind, trying to find an animal that moves me. Cat? Nah. Dog? Definitely not. Whale? I mean… And then it hit me: Bluefin tuna! This is going to sound weird, but as soon as I pictured the tuna, I kind of felt like crying. That’s how I knew it was a good choice.
As you may or may not know, tuna are in trouble. (Paul Greenberg is the guy to read on the topic: his book, Four Fish, or any of his New York Times pieces, including the excerpt they ran of his book last year.) I’ve been thinking about them and other fish a lot lately, because I’d swung back into a fish phase and, knowing what I know about the ecological impact of high-yield fishing—to say nothing of the moral issues associated with eating animals—I was sort of, um, beefing with myself over the fish thing.
As Alexandra and I have said, our diets have been mostly vegetarian or vegan since we were teenagers, but in the last few years we’ve both gotten into fish because they’re nutritious and tasty. We’re far from black and white about these things, and there’s no telling what I’ll sample off another person’s plate at a restaurant. At the end of the day, what each of us chooses to eat is deeply personal and often the result of a complicated calculation of price, convenience, ethics, taste and, being real, feelings.
It’s the ethics and feelings part that’s been catching up with me, and the universe was now conspiring to get me in step. Which is why I shouldn’t have been surprised the other day when, on my way to meet my environment-writer friend for lunch, I got a text message from a nonprofit about—yup!—bluefin freaking tuna. When it comes to fish, I’d become the woman who knows too much. As my friend pointed out, it’s exactly what happened with beauty products. You can know something intellectually, but when it really clicks—when you really know it in your core—well, then you have some tough decisions to make.
Experts I trust say that that the best thing we can do to protect the oceans is to keep people who fish responsibly fishing—because they set a blueprint for how to do so sustainably, and because it’s unrealistic to expect the whole world to stop eating sea animals. I agree with that, but I’m already very careful about the fish I eat, favoring abundant species from small fisheries, and organically farmed ones.
So what’s a crying-for-bluefin girl to do?
My next step in embracing a clean, kind life is going to involve abandoning the vegetarian-who-isn’t-a-vegetarian-because-she-often-eats-fish thing. Because as far as I can tell, when something, anything, in life stirs our heart in a truly visceral way, it’s worth our attention.
We’d like to discourage quibbling about ethics here because, as we said, these things are so personal, and we respect everyone’s differences. But since we know many of you are motivated by living an environmentally responsible life (while also looking beautiful and using lovely products), we want to know: Do you eat meat of any kind? Do you limit it to a couple of days a week? How do you feel about it?
According to research done by Dr. Ian Stephen at the University of Nottingham, eating more veggies means you will look better. And yes, these no-real-science studies are kind of silly but hey, this one is the truth. Cause veggies make you glow! From the article:
Dr Stephen explained: “Eating five more portions [of fruit and veg] ups your carotenoid levels giving your skin golden tones.”
Carotenoids are antioxidants which soak up damaging compounds that the skin encounters in daily life.
Students at the University’s Malaysian campus, where Dr Stephen is based, ate five extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day for two months.
Afterwards students examined a variety of pictures where their skin had different pigmentations and deemed themselves more attractive when they had increased their vegetable intake.
Dr Stephen explained: “In humans, the more red and yellow tones found in the skin, the more attractive the people were found to be.”
The middle shot is the subject’s regular skin tone, whereas the left is a suntan, and the right a vegetable tan. Of course, I’m wondering about the racial diversity of the subjects and if effects are as visible on darker skin. Perhaps some readers can weigh in on that. I definitely see a difference in my skin tone and quality (or so I imagine) since I’ve started throwing back the green smoothies.
Have any of you seen a relationship between vegetable intake and your skin?
I kid you not, I was just about to sign up for another month of early morning virtual yoga classes (back to that in a moment) when I noticed a New York Times article about a new excercise study in another window called The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast.
As a rule, we love these kinds of studies, but I’m finding this one particularly compelling. According to the article here’s how it went:
“Researchers in Belgium recruited 28 healthy, active young men and began stuffing them with a truly lousy diet, composed of 50 percent fat and 30 percent more calories, overall, than the men had been consuming. Some of the men agreed not to exercise during the experiment. The rest were assigned to one of two exercise groups. The groups’ regimens were identical and exhausting. The men worked out four times a week in the mornings, running and cycling at a strenuous intensity. Two of the sessions lasted 90 minutes, the others, an hour. All of the workouts were supervised, so the energy expenditure of the two groups was identical.”
But then things got interesting: Of the two active groups, one group did their exercise before eating in the morning and the other after some high-carb-and-fat breakfast bonanza. Their overall calorie intake and expenditure for the day was the same for both groups though.
After 6 weeks, the no-exercise guys had obviously gained the most weight; they’d also developed insulin resistance, and started storing fat between their muscle cells. That can’t be good. Those who exercised after breakfast also gained weight, though about half as much as the sedentary group, but they too had the other negative side effects.
And, drum roll please… The group that exercised before breakfast, not only didn’t gain the weight, they also didn’t suffer the other ills associated with the terrible diet. Pretty crazy, right?
The prevailing theory seems to be that when you exercise—and in this case rigorously—in a fasted state, the body is forced to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. And if you burn fat it doesn’t get stored in your muscles. Makes sense. What’s more is that the group showed an increased level of a certain type of muscle protein that actually helps regulate insulin levels. So, really, good news all around for early morning go-getters.
Do you exercise in the morning? If not, will you now?
This one is bound to be blazing across the Internet. Yesterday CNN and others reported that Mark Haub—a professor of nutrition, no less—lost 27 pounds over two months eating nothing but Twinkies every three hours. Oh and some Doritos, Oreos and other convenience store fare.
His point? To prove that calories are king when it comes to weight loss: Haub only ate about 1,800 on his junk food regimen, down from about 2,600. Over the course of the experiment he managed to move his BMI from overweight territory into the “normal” category. But here’s what everyone’s talking about: Other indicators of health actually improved too, like his cholesterol levels and so on. Hmmm.
So, here’s what I think we can learn from the Twinkie diet: 1. The dieting industry is full of crap, and I applaud Haub for proving it (though I’m wary of a possible Twinkie diet fad that could emerge). 2. Weight itself plays a huge role in overall health, and this is a funny reminder to us health fanatics that we don’t always have to be so serious about what we eat. Nonetheless, I’d have to be pretty ravenous to eat a Twinkie. 3. This experiment is not healthy! Yes Haub lost weight by cutting calories, and shedding those pounds showed an immediate positive impact on his health, but can you imagine the longterm consequences of this diet? In my unprofessional opinion, he’d be a skinny man with diabetes, terrible mood swings, scurvy and some serious acne.
Haub himself is not out to say Twinkies are good for you, of course. Hopefully that message won’t get too lost in the hoopla about his weight and cholesterol levels. Now that he’s stopped the diet he should probably check out exactly what’s in a Twinkie. Here’s a hint: It has 37 ingredients and very few of them are food.
What do you think about this Twinkie tale?