Enjoying the Process of Healing Hormones

When I first started trying to balance my hormones after coming off the pill, I looked for immediate results. I lost my period for over six months; my acne significantly worsened, I had no energy and felt like a shell of myself. I was continually trying a new way of eating, a new supplement, getting new lab tests done, etc. I was always looking for the next thing and a new problem to solve. I was lost.

The problem is that I was continually looking for information and changes outside of myself. If I didn’t immediately have better energy/get my period/see skin improvements, I felt like whatever I was doing wasn’t working, and I was onto the next.

I was missing the big picture and wasn’t looking at healing from a long-game perspective. I’m not the most patient person (ask my husband), but going through the hormone healing process myself and supporting hundreds of clients doing the same, has taught me to be more patient. Changes don’t happen overnight, and often you feel worse before you get better.

Let’s walk through three areas that I find especially helpful to recognize during the healing journey.

Vitamin P: The Metabolic Power of Pleasure

How many times have you eaten food you don’t like because you feel like you should? Diet culture has taught us that eating healthy means eating foods that don’t taste good. What if eating foods you enjoy could improve how you break them down and use them?

Good news! Enjoying the food you eat has a positive metabolic effect on the body. Marc David from @eatingpsychology has a great article that outlines this that you can read here. 

One of the most enlightening parts of the article was the section on the study of Thai and Swedish women. This study is from the Tufts Nutrition newsletter and had the women eat foods from a different culture that were not flavored like they are used to. They also took the food that was enjoyed and digested well by both groups of women and then put it in a blender to change the texture. Eating food they didn’t enjoy the taste of and eating meals in a less palatable form both results in reduced absorption of nutrients from those foods.

“Swedish and Thai women were fed a Thai dish that the Swedes found overly spicy. The Thai women, who liked the dish, absorbed more iron from the meal. When the researchers reversed the experiment and served hamburger, potatoes, and beans, the Swedes, who like this food, absorbed more iron. Most telling was a third variation of the experiment, in which both the Swedes and the Thais were given food that was high in nutrients but consisted of a sticky, savorless paste. In this case, neither group absorbed much iron.”

This is an important reminder that enjoying our food is a good thing. It helps improve the digestion and absorption of that meal and even sends chemical signals to our brain that we are satisfied. If you’re struggling on your journey when it comes to your nutrition and aren’t enjoying your food, I highly recommend trying to evaluate that.

Slowing Down & Evaluating Other Areas of Your Life

Healing is about so much more than food and supplements. You can be eating “perfectly” and taking all of your supplements, but if you’re mentally stressed and unhappy in certain areas of your life, it will be incredibly difficult to see progress.

This is when slowing down and taking inventory of your day to day and overall happiness is helpful. This is something I do each week on Sundays. I sit down with my planner and calendar and look at my schedule from the last week and what’s coming ahead. I reflect on how the previous week went, how I felt most of that week, and how I feel after finishing it. I then use this information to plan my week ahead.

If I am feeling exhausted, I look at the last week and try to figure out why. Is it that I had too much on my plate, didn’t prioritize food/sleep, didn’t set aside time for myself, and I look at where I am in my cycle.

If I feel balanced, fulfilled, and energized, I do the same thing so I can make notes and try to replicate that. Again, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about paying attention. Are your needs being met? Are you living a life with purpose? Is your day to day hindering your health? These are hard questions, but they are essential to living a mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy life.

Feeling Worse Before You Feel Better

This is probably the hardest part of the healing journey for many. When the body goes from being in a stressed state using lots of cortisol to a less stressed state with less cortisol, you won’t feel good. Cortisol is anti-inflammatory. It takes glucose from the liver and puts it into the bloodstream to provide energy and puts the body in an alert state.

This is why when people are fasting, they feel they have more energy. Their bodies are stressed and making more cortisol. When you start to reduce that cortisol, you can go through a transition of not feeling so great. Your body is slowing down and rebuilding, which is a good thing. Try to keep that in mind when you first start making nutrition changes, especially if you’re transitioning to eating more food/more balanced meals.

When we are under-eating, and our bodies are under chronic stress, we don’t use energy the same way. Our cells are not functioning optimally, and it takes longer to get the nutrients from our food inside the cells. This also happens when our thyroid isn’t working properly. Eventually, our cells do get the energy they need to improve how they function, and we create more energy, which leads to us feeling better. This can take time, which is why it can be helpful to monitor other things.​

A great example of this is monitoring your basal body temperature. When this starts to increase, it’s a sign that you are using the energy from your food better. You may not notice an immediate change in energy or something that feels significant enough to motivate you, but seeing that temperature rise lets you know you’re going in the right direction. ​

I hope this helps you on your healing journey!

Here is a great podcast episode I did that also discusses this topic, Body Image & Food Fear While Healing with Fallon and also check out this podcast episode about How to eat to support your hormones.

reminder: i’m currently taking on 1:1 clients. if you’d like to explore what it would be like to work together and if we are a good fit, fill out this form to get more details!​

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

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