The Vanishing Period

This is the story of losing and regaining my period. I am sharing this tale in the hopes that my story will resonate with a friend or follower who currently doesn’t experience her monthly bleed. I challenge that woman to take an interest in reclaiming that power and health. You can also read along if you’re simply interested, for whatever reason. 😉

The Beginning

My first “visit” arrived in the 5th or 6th grade. I really can’t pinpoint my age, but I do remember calling for my mom from the bathroom while still sitting on the toilet. “Mom, I got my period!”. She entered the room, looked at me sympathetically and said, “Okay, no big deal!”, then handed me a pad. I know she was just trying to make me feel comfortable, but I couldn’t help feeling awkward and unsure about becoming a “woman”. Little did I know I wouldn’t become a “woman” again until I was nearly 30…

The Vanishing

As far as I remember, I had normal, light periods throughout junior high and high school. Although, I’d be surprised if I didn’t experience anovulation (sporadic missed periods due to not ovulating) here and there. Fast forward to late college though- I’m managing a salon, attending classes full-time, and paying private out-of-pocket tuition all by myself. I wasn’t sleeping well, maybe 4-5 hours a night at best. On top of all of this, I was barely eating. I recall going through a phase of only consuming 1 plain packet of oatmeal for breakfast (made with water), working a 12 hour shift, then maybe having a snack before bed. I was starved and stressed, and so was my reproductive system (the last thing on my mind at the time).

This chronic stress caused me to develop hypothalamic amenorrhea (the absence of your period for 3+ months due to hypothalamus insufficiencies). I didn’t think much about my missing period. Heck, I thought it was kind of awesome not getting one in my early 20s. I didn’t have to buy tampons, so I saved money there. I also escaped the monthly woes of the dreaded bleed, including mood swings, cramps, breakouts, cravings, etc. Bonus points for not having to worry about it interfering with sex! Hey-o! Not getting a period was great, or so I thought.

A Story Within a Story

I met my husband in the winter of 2011. We did long distance from Chicago to Nashville for about a year, and then I moved to Tennessee to be with him. In the following years, I started training for marathons. Boy did I love running and the stress release it provided. In fact, I still do. When training for and running my first marathon, I could barely finish due to under fueling. I was incredibly tired and drained. Plus, my recovery was killer from the lack of nutrients and depletion. I’m actually shocked I didn’t injure myself that first training cycle, especially because amenorrhea can have adverse effects on bone density (something I wasn’t aware of or cared about at the time).

As my training and experience progressed throughout my 9 marathon training cycles, I came to realize that I was not going to get faster without proper fueling. This realization, a couple of injuries, and the desire to recover from my eating disorder made me dive deep into nutrition research,  purchase my favorite “Run Fast. Eat Slow.” cookbook, and it even inspired me to major in nutrition & dietetics! 🙂

I proceeded to learn how to properly fuel my body and ALL of its systems with what it needs- macro + micronutrient- wise. I gained a bit of weight, and guess what? I ran my fastest race and qualified for the Boston Marathon! In April 2019, I PRed at Boston with a 3:21.. Do you know what else? I had regained my period a couple of years prior leading up to that, which I attribute to my bone health, injury prevention, hormonal balance, increased energy levels, a quicker recovery time and improved athletic performance. Regaining my period was a blessing in disguise, and I never take its presence for granted now. Here’s more info on Why You Shouldn’t Dread Your Period, and to even embrace it for what it’s doing for you, your overall health, and your ability to conceive if you so wish.

The Takeaway

What I have learned from my hypothalamic amenorrhea was that just because it didn’t appear to be doing damage, the absence of a period can cause long-term health consequences. These consequences include, but are not limited to: infertility, osteopenia or osteoporosis, thyroid issues, adrenal disorders, PCOS, and hormonal imbalances. I was lucky that my running injuries were fairly minor and that I didn’t suffer any stress fractures. The plan is to get a DEXA scan to check my bone density. I’m hoping there is no serious damage or signs of onset osteopenia/osteoporosis.

While amenorrhea occurs naturally while pregnant and breastfeeding, it should be taken seriously as a health concern when caused by an eating disorder, extreme exercise, being underweight, medications, stress, and sometimes birth control (among other causes). Many OBGYNs claim that there is nothing wrong with the absence of a period while on birth control, but I strongly suggest that you educate yourself on how birth control works and what that means for your body. For example, hormonal birth control suppresses ovulation (an entire phase of your cycle) and therefore induces a “withdrawal bleed” during your placebo week. In other words, you are not getting a real period on birth control. This is something to think about.

My last message about amenorrhea is to not take it lightly like I did in my early 20s. Having the mentality that you are saving money on sanitary products, avoiding period symptoms, and changing the game with your lifestyle and sex schedule can be detrimental and negligent to your long-term health. I know it is difficult to adopt a new perspective after learning new information, but I promise you it’s worth the investment in yourself and your health. If anything, do me a favor and educate yourself, continue to learn, then make changes that are right for you and your body.

Please feel free to reach out without questions regarding amenorrhea, and check out my previous post, “I Don’t Have a Period. Now What?“.

 

Disclaimer: The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

 

🌵Nemi “Cactus” Holisticks 🌵

🌵Nemi “Cactus” Holisticks 🌵

Regina Trillo. She is the woman so brilliantly responsible for the creation of Nemi “Cactus” Holisticks. You heard that right- cactus sticks for snacks! 🌵😋 And boy are they DELICIOUS + NUTRITIOUS! 🙌🏼

I discovered Nemi at my local boutique grocer that carries local and artisanal foods and beverages. I absolutely love exploring there. Intrigued by the packaging, I picked up a snack-size bag of Nemi earlier this spring, and I read “plant-powered crunch snack made from cactus and amaranth”. I was SOLD on the spot. I am a sucker for trying new foods, and I had never had cactus before!

It was love at first bite of the Spirulina + Lime flavored bag. I have tried every flavor since, and I’ve seen her business grow in popularity over the last few months. She just received an award that “recognized [her] as a business helping to build a more equitable society” AND she is Chicago-based! Win win win win win, imo.

On a scale of 1-10 with explanations, here’s what I rated each category of this product.

Texture: 10/10

If you like crunchy snacks (I’m not sure who doesn’t), you will LOVE the audible *crunch* you get from these snack sticks! They are the perfect balance between having resistance and that easy to bite factor. No one wants a snack that makes you worry about your teeth now. Plus, the exterior is coated in amaranth and other healthy and sustainable-sourced ingredients, which gives it a bit of grainy texture. Swoon!

 

Flavor: Depends on the flavor we’re talking about…but the average was a 9!

Spirulina + Lime: 9/10

Smoky Chipotle: 10/10

Churro- Date and Cinnamon: 7/10

Chili + Turmeric: 8/10

Hokay! So obviously my favorite lava flavor is the Smoky Chipotle. It’s what’s pictured on the cover photo and pairs PERFECTLY with the sriracha tahini sauce. Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing about the flavor profile.

The Spirulina + Lime is right up my alley too, not just with those ingredients, but the pop of citrus in your mouth with every bite! Wowsa! I knocked off a point because I wanted to taste a touch more of the spirulina. Although, i can see how that would be difficult to incorporate without messing with the other ingredients.

Churro- Date and Cinnamon- Not my cup of tea. I was accustomed to the savory delivery of the first two, so I didn’t expect nor welcome a sweet cactus stick. I could taste the attempt of a churro flavor, but it just didn’t do it for me. It was too sweet and didn’t really meld well with the crunchiness and nature of the dehydrated cactus sticks. When I think of churros, I think warm and soft with a slight crust of an outside, so I wouldn’t get this flavor again.

Chili + Turmeric was pretty good too. I wish it was as strong as the chipotle kick and you could detect a little more of the turmeric without that being overpowering. Once again, could be difficult to find this balance.

 

Nutrition Profile: 9/10

Calories: 150 kcal / bag- amazing for a small + quick snack! I do wish the bag was just a bit bigger though. I want more cactus goodness!

Fat: 3.5g/bag– No sat fat and comes from the chia seeds + flaxseed oil. Great sources of healthy fats!

Carbs: 20g/bag –Amazing!

Protein: 6g/bag –Can you say macro boner?

Fiber: 4g/bag – How can this nutrition profile for a crunchy snack get any better?

Added sugars: fricken zilch!

*Plus, 2mg iron + 57.1mg potassium 🙂

Here’s a screenshot of the baseline ingredients:

Screen Shot 2020-07-31 at 3.41.05 PM

Ingredients vary depending on the flavor, but I admire Nemi’s transparency with real and sustainably-sourced whole food ingredients. Nopal, the type of cactus used, is actually regarded for lowering blood sugar, healing wounds, and reducing cholesterol by Medical News Today, so the health benefits are pretty great!

Cost: 9/10

You can buy a 6-pack of these snack bags on their site for $24.00, so it’s roughly $4/bag. It’s a little pricey for a quick snack, BUT, you get what you pay for in this case. The ingredients are stellar and you’ll be supporting a female-owned, Latina, Chicago-based company friends!

 

Overall Score: 9/10!

 

I cannot recommend Nemi Holisticks enough. The founder, Regina, is a doll and is a strong, Latina looking to promote cultural health food. She is the embodiment of #womensupportingwomen and truly cares and engages with her customers. And can I please stress the deliciousness of these unique-as-hell cactus sticks?! Order them NOW! You won’t be disappointed- promise. 😉

Perfect Bar: Lemon Poppy Seed

Perfect Bar: Lemon Poppy Seed

Hello, hello! Here are a few updates on my end…

  1. I officially start my dietetic internship TOMORROW! Eeeek!!! I had my orientation this past Monday and Tuesday, so I already accrued 40 hours between that and numerous projects we were assigned. Only 960 more hours to go, then I will sit for (and hopefully pass) the RD exam in Feb/March, and THEN I will be a Registered Dietitian!
  2. I have decided to incorporate product reviews in my rotation of posts because I absolutely adore some health food brands that I would love to support and promote. Plus, I won’t have the time to be developing new recipes to share all of the time (aside from the ones I’m cookin’ up for my cookbook!). Take ‘um or leave ‘um, but I hope some of you find these informative and useful.

Here it is- my first product review!

Perfect Bar Lemon Poppy Seed

I must disclose that I have been a Perfect Bar fan for YEARS now. I truly believe in their genuine approach to delivering whole foods in a convenient way. Plus, their bars are just dreamy, and if you remotely like nut butters of any sort, then you’re bound to love their nut butter-based bars that taste like solid peanut/almond/cashew butter gold!

So, you may see that I’m already biased, but hear me out…this new limited edition bar is fireeeeeeee. On a scale of 1-10 with explanations, here’s what I rate it each category.

Texture: 9/10

The consistency is soft (but still holds form), smooth, and creamy- pretty much your ideal protein bar. However, I deducted 1 point because there is an ever so light coating of oil that keeps its consistency intact.

 

Flavor: 10/10

I am not a pushover when it comes to taste. In fact, I’m kind of picky and particular about what’s in my food and how the flavors play off one another. I have not given a perfect score to this perfect bar without much contemplation. The lemon zing is just enough- not overpowering and refreshing- and the poppy seeds balance it out just right! Now, the cashew butter (and peanut butter) used as the base are very complimentary to the lemon and poppy seeds because they aren’t too overwhelming with flavor either. It’s a party in your mouth and had me reminiscing over drinking lemonade as a kid in the summer.

 

Nutrition Profile: 7.5/10

Calories: 310 (great for a snack or light breakfast/dessert/additive to any of the above!)

Fat: 19g (24%) – fairly high, but still okay depending on your nutrition goals

Carbs: 25g (9%) – as expected

Protein: 12g – decent

Fiber: 2 g – meh

Added sugars: 10g – a little higher than I would like, but hey, what doesn’t kill ya 😉

*1 bar also provides 140mg calcium and 380 mg potassium 🙂

Here’s a screenshot of the ingredients:

Screen Shot 2020-07-19 at 6.09.45 PM

I am amenable to all of these ingredients, but I’m not crazy about the addition of sunflower oil and sesame oil, but hey aren’t deal breakers. 😉 I gave the nutrition profile a 7.5, with 1 point off for high fat content and added sugars, plus a half point for the oils.

 

Cost: 10/10

I paid $32.00 for a variety pack of 12 bars- half lemon poppy seed, half cherry pie. That equates to $2.67/bar. That’s pretty good, considering the ingredients that are in each bar. Plus, I received 15% off my first purchase with Perfect Bar and the shipping was FREE! By the way, Perfect Bars are usually $1.99 at Trader Joes.

 

Overall Score: 9/10!

 

At the end of the day, I would recommend Perfect Bars to anyone looking for a filling, delicious, flavor-packed snack or quick on-the-go brekky. Their Lemon Poppy Seed addition was the ideal summer drop to lighten the mood and days ahead. Plus, they’re nutritious. Check um out at perfectsnacks.com . You can also find them at Traders, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and many other convenient and grocery stores! Enjoy!

Changes in Appetite and Weight Gain are Normal When Self-isolating

Changes in Appetite and Weight Gain are Normal When Self-isolating

Uncertain times. Self-isolation. Social distancing. COVID-19. Pandemic. All words or phrases we can go the rest of 2020 (or our lives) without. The harsh reality is, all of these things currently describe our social climate, and this climate and environment are not what we’re accustomed to. As a result, our routines have changed, habits have been broken, and new rituals have been adopted. Eating is at the forefront of these changes, and many have struggled with their relationship to food and eating since lockdown.

I have spoken to many friends who have made self-deprecating comments about their weight gain over these past few months. While all I want to do is comfort them with “Oh no, you look great!”, I also want to relay the reality that it is okay if you’re not moving as much, eating more, or have gained weight in self-isolation. Here’s why.

1. Your routine has changed.

The fact is, all of our schedules have changed. Your Sunday meal prep may no longer be because it is no longer necessary. You can make your meals day to day since you’re home. You might not be waking up as early to eat breakfast, or you might be snacking later on in the day. A small grab-and-go breakfast with your nonfat latte is no longer, neither is your salad you used to have 15 minutes to scarf down at work. THIS IS ALL OKAY.

Embrace the change in your routine. Realize that while normalcy as we knew it has now evolved for the time being, we can still be empowered and take control of our meal prep, eating habits, and how we choose to accept that things are different. We can even try new things in the kitchen!

2. You’re likely not moving as much.

Replay your pre-COVID work or school day in your head. Go ahead. Take a moment to do this. Did you bike or walk to your destination? Climb the stairs to your office or the train? Walk or run with a family member, friend, or your pup? The point I’m trying to make is that we were much more active prior to all of this. It’s tough to say and acknowledge, but it’s true, and this is also OKAY. But why is this okay?

It’s okay that we’re not moving as much because this means that those who are still under the shelter-at-home order are abiding by the guidelines. It means we care about people and are showing it by social distancing. It means we’re doing our due diligence for society and the greater good of public health. While people are still getting out for runs and walks, it may not be as far or as long. Of course, there are the few exceptions for those who are still self-motivated to do at-home workouts. Kudos to you, my friends, but you must admit it’s still not the same as intense as gym workouts. We have to give ourselves and others grace, exercising or not.

3. Your sleep pattern may be off.

We no longer have to be in bed by 11PM since we no longer have to answer to our 6AM alarm. A lot of us are staying up and sleeping in later. Some may still be getting the suggested 7-9 hours per night, but many are not due to stress, anxiety, insomnia, and/or “quarantine dreams”.

When an individual is chronically sleep-deprived (less than 7 hours per night), ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases and leptin (the satiety hormone) decreases. When this occurs, you eat more. Dr. Michael Grandner from the University of Arizona shared at the Food and Nutrition Conference of 2019 that those who are chronically sleep-deprived tend to eat 300-500 more calories per day than those who sleep well.

Here are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation on how to achieve a better night’s sleep.

4. Your hormones are out of whack.

In addition to an increase in ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and decrease in leptin (the satiety hormone), epinephrine and cortisol are released when the body is under stress. Worrying about finances, anxiety about contracting COVID, and the psychological effects of self-isolation all qualify as stressors.

When epinephrine (aka adrenaline) is released, your body breaks down glycogen (stored glucose/simple carbohydrate) in the liver. When cortisol is released, your body actually produces glucose in the liver. Yes! Our body is so incredible, it can produce glucose when the body is in need. Any fight-or-flight response instigates both hormones to be released. Having more glucose, or sugar, in the body actually decreases appetite because our body is considered “fed”, so people in isolation may be experiencing waves of no appetite followed by ravenous bouts.

5. Objective or perceived life stress (PSL) can lead to binge eating.

According to a study about isolation and eating habits, “perceived social isolation [is] associated with greater binge eating”. Isolation means we’re alone and/or separated from society- our friends and family- those who bring us joy and meaning to life. With a lack of socialization, loneliness increases, and behavioral changes ensue. Behavior is directly correlated with eating habits, thus, these behavior changes and possible cognitive distress can trigger binge eating. Another study concluded that perceived life stress (PLS) and cognitive restraint can lead to stress eating comfort food. This type of stress eating can be addicting and difficult to break because this behavior can give a false sense of emotional relief and control over something.

Psychologically speaking, eating can be about control. For those with eating disorders- behavioral  issues, trauma, stress, and perfectionism can all be reasons for their existing condition. You can see how self-isolation, losing a job, or the unknown would all be fairly aggressive triggers for these disorders- worsening the condition or causing one to relapse. If you or someone you know is struggling with their relationship to food, check out this article titled, ” Binge Eating Disorder and Isolation: How to Break Out of the Cycle”.

Here are some other resources to seek help. In addition, please contact your physician or a local eating disorder clinic for better care and guidance.

NEDA: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support

NIMH: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/education-awareness/shareable-resources-on-eating-disorders.shtml

In Summary…

A change in appetite and weight gain are normal when self-isolating. Our minds and body’s adapt and meld to our environment and social climate. This adaptation might involve eating more and moving less. It is our bodies response to stress, change, and boredom (which I failed to mention earlier). Please be kind to yourselves, give yourselves grace, process and feel your emotions, and reach out to loved ones or medical professionals if you need help. I am always here as a listening ear should you need one.

Love you all. Stay safe and take care. Xo Danielle