Lose weight by honouring your cycle.
Knowing how to work with it, rather than against it.
From a TCM perspective, a woman’s cycle demands respect and intricacy. Knowing what your body can handle during your various cyclical phases is integral to your body flowing freely, or not.
A woman’s body ebbs and flows with her cycle. From peak strength to exhaustion – yet this western world we live in really only has one motion – and that is ‘go’.
Of course, this is not conducive to a woman’s wellbeing. HIIT classes during ‘Luteal phase’ (just prior to and during your period) – well, we all know how exhausting that is. And this exhaustion leads to weight stagnation, weight gain, digestive issues, low energy, poor skin… the list goes on!
TCM Dr. Daria Sheptitskaya explains how as women, we can work with our cycles – not against.
TCM Dr. Daria begins;
“As women, we are so lucky that we have our menstrual cycles, because when something in our bodies is out of whack, there is almost a 100% chance it will show in our menstrual cycles! Think of them as your fifth vital sign.”
So, if imbalances in our bodies can show up in our cycles, then why can’t we use our cycles to treat these imbalances?! Now, let’s get back to the pressing issue: what exactly does it mean to live with your cycle and how will doing this help you lose weight?
“Our cycles consist of four phases: menstruation, follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase. Your body goes through delicate hormonal changes and processes during each phase and each of these phases are so unique, requiring completely different treatment approaches at my clinic.”
If each phase is so different, why would you continue doing the same strenuous exercises day-in-day-out?”
Let’s look at what you can begin to implement now during each phase, to support weight loss and hormones.
HIIT classes during menstruation? A strongly recommended no!
“The menstrual phase is associated with Winter. It is the first day of bleeding and day one of your cycle. Like winter, this is a time of rest and hibernation, and is no difference between nature and your body.
During this time, progesterone rapidly decreases, causing the endometrial lining to shed. Throughout these first few days of bleeding, you may feel tired, down and withdrawn. This is the time to give back to and reconnect with yourself. Clear your calendar of social events and make time for reflection and cozy nights in. In the modern day it may seem impossible to simply take a day off. If you are someone like this, try introducing a few minutes of quietness, deep breathing and warm herbal tea into your menstrual phase.
Despite social media telling us “We can do anything on our periods!”, exercise during this phase should be kept to a bare minimum, or none at all. It should only include gentle stretching and walking. It is perfectly normal to sit out of your PE class – I ENCOURAGE YOU TO!
What if you exercise during your period? Well that can leave you at risk of depleting your life force, or Qi. Your hormones are at their lowest during menstruation, your cervix is open and you are losing blood. You are at your most vulnerable stage, so protect yourself!
You should eat warming foods like soups and stews and include some beetroot, goji berries and red dates to help nourish your body and blood during this delicate time”.
The phase where HIIT classes can be a little more palatable for your body – only if your system is feeling strong enough.
“The follicular phase is associated with Spring. This is a time of emerging from hibernation, growth and renewal. During this time, your oestrogen and testosterone levels increase and your follicles are maturing for ovulation.
The rising hormone levels give you a boost of energy and increase your libido. Now is the perfect time for planning, connecting goals and visions and taking action on them. Schedule time with friends and be outgoing.
During the next week, you can slowly start to increase the intensity of your workouts. Lifting heavier weights, doing more reps and participating in your favourite HIIT or boxing class is all on the table”.
HIIT classes? Alright, if you must!
“The ovulatory phase is associated with Summer. This is where your body secretes the luteinising hormone and you release a matured egg, causing a rise in progesterone and your basal body temperature.
Similar to the follicular phase, this time is perfect for socialising and going out. You feel confident, so now is the ideal time to take action in any plans you set during the follicular phase.
Your hormones are at their highest and your Yang energy is at its peak, making ovulation the ideal time for strenuous activity. This is the perfect time for you, gym junkies! You can up your game at the gym for the next week”.
HIIT classes? Not recommended.
“The luteal phase is associated with Autumn. This is the time to start cutting back and winding down in preparation for Winter. By now, your oestrogen levels would have dropped and another hormone is on the rise – progesterone. It has a calming effect, causing your mind to slow and energy levels decrease. You can do things like sort the wardrobe or plan the next steps in your life.
This period is also a time where some women can experience PMS symptoms, which could usually be a sign of hormone imbalance and lack of progesterone.
The luteal phase is an opportunity to practice self-care like meditation and healthy eating, which will ultimately assist in your PMS symptoms and regulate hormonal levels.
Exercise during the luteal phase should be starting to wind down in preparation for your period. The next week should be a mix of lighter weights and less reps, yoga or pilates.”
Here is a quick summary of the perfect exercise during each phase:
Menstruation – no exercise, or bare minimum like walking
Follicular phase – slowly increase intensity
Ovulation – anything is on the table!! Heavy weights, HIIT, boxing, etc.
Luteal – wind down. Yoga and pilates are great.
As you can see, your body is not perfectly linear. It flows with the natural environment around you. If you learn to respect this internal cycle, you will understand why you feel the way you do during each phase and truly maximise your weight loss goals! When you grasp this concept, it will be the key to expanding your potential in all areas of everyday life”.
Yours in cycles,
Traditional Chinese Restoratives
Image via @pantone