So many lovely things going on this week!
First, I am doing a giveaway, partnered with Cyndi Grasman of Bad Pickle T Shirts (for the Foodie in All of Us)! Cyndi has generously offered to giveaway one free T shirt of your choice to the winner of this contest!
There are three steps:
1) Step 1: LIKE Bad Pickle Tees on Facebook.
2) Step 2: Post on Bad Pickle Tees Facebook wall which shirt is your favorite.
3) Step 3: Win!
Click here to view the T shirts!
Contest closes one week from today, on Wednesday November 7!
Second, my inspiringly altruistic and courageous friend George Bryant, who was recently featured on the Live. Love. Eat. podcast talking about his history with bulimia, has now written about his experience at his blog.
Third, my lovely friend and brilliant colleague Karly Randolph Pitman has written a guide to navigating the (sometimes) frightening waters of Halloween and Sugar Mania. Jump at the link for her post, her work, and her wide variety of programs designed to help you overcome sugar addiction with radical compassion. See the post here.
Finally, I’m going on vacation! I’ll be leaving my computer under the bed for almost a complete 10 days, starting Friday. I’ll check in from time to time, mostly to manage any issues that might come up with PCOS Unlocked downloads or questions, but that’s it. And then I’m on to WAPF! Weston A Price 2012 in San Jose. Huzzah!
Menopause is inevitable. It happens to every person near 50 years of age, and nothing we do short of serious medical intervention will ever stop it. The body has supremely intelligent biological clocks in it. When the time comes to stop, it stops.
Yet through experimentation with serious medical interventions, we have learned more and more about the precise nature of that clock. We have known for some time that estrogen supplements mitigate menopause symptoms. This is because menopause is largely tied to decreases in estrogen levels, and most of menopause’s irritances such as hot flashes come from having low estrogen levels. Yet what causes the clock to spring and estrogen to decrease in the first place?
Scientists have recently begun exploring a method of feritlity extension that deals primarily with ovarian implants. Surgeons can now surgically extract tissue from a woman’s ovaries in her twenties or early thirties, and then re-insert slices of it at regular intervals in later life. What this does is it keeps the ovarian tissue pumping estrogen. While sounding vastly unnatural, this is actually a better and more natural method of menopause delay than estrogen supplementation. This is for two reasons: 1) the estrogen is completely natural, produced by your own body, and 2) this method actually prolongs fertility in addition to acting as a bandaid to symptoms, which is the only thing estrogen supplementation can do.
These experiments have demonstrated that it is the state of tissue health and egg availability that determines the onset of menopause.
The female body starts off with around two million eggs. By puberty, this number has decreased to 300,000 eggs. It then releases these eggs slowly over time, with each menstrual cycle. Usually in the mid-thirties, women’s fertility naturally decreases. By age 35, 5 percent of women are already infertile. This means that fertility drops off before menopause symptoms set in, a stage called perimenopause. This is important for all women thinking about having children into their later 30s and 40s to take note of. Menopause symptoms might not settle in until until your 50s, but perimenopause can be a significant reality by 35.
Factors that accelerate ovarian aging include…
Smoking (by about two years)
Never having children, or having children later in life
Having short menstrual cycles
Low socioeconomic status
A vegetarian diet (by about two years)
That’s right! According even to conventional wisdom, vegetarian diets are linked to increased ovarian aging at nearly the same rate as smoking! No one knows precisely why, though it may have to do with nutrient status, with fiber content of the diet (high fiber can decrease estrogen levels), soy intake, or correlations with restrictive behavior. None of these ideas are proven– they’re just hypotheses I am posing.
Shortening menstrual cycles and decreasing the age of and amount of time a woman spends pregnant ages the ovaries because it makes them work longer and harder throughout life. Having a shorter menstraul cycle increases the amount of eggs released over time. This accelerates the onset of both perimenopause and menopause.
Factors that delay ovarian aging include…
Irregular menstrual cycles
High socioeconomic status
Giving birth early and/or frequently
Moderate alcohol consumption (correlation?)
Longer menstrual cycles
All of these factors act in contrast to those listed above. They promote longer menstrual cycles and/or a decreased amount of menstrual cycles, which means they can decrease the amount of eggs released over a lifetime. This both prolongs fertility and postpones menopausal symptoms.
Factors that have unknown effects
Age of menarche (onset of puberty)
Oral contraceptive use
Endometriosis and/or estrogen dominance
All of these questions are exacerbated by the fact that we’re looking at two slightly different phenomena. Perimenopause is the onset of infertility characterized by decreased egg production and fluctuated estrogen levels. Menopause is the cessation of menstruation characterized by very low estrogen levels and almost entirely absent egg production.
Postponing perimenopause requires optimizing the health of your ovaries, preserving eggs, and decreasing amount of menstruation enacted throughout a lifetime. This means it is entirely possible that having a condition such as hypothalamic amenorrhea–which halts egg production–early in life will delay perimenopause, presuming that the woman has recovered between then and now. The effect that PCOS might have on this is tricky because each woman is individual. Some women might still produce a lot of eggs with PCOS, but others might not.
One this we do know with absolute certainty, however, is that increased health, stabilized hormone balance, and decreased stress are all key players in postponing perimenopause.
Postponing menopause, on the other hand, requires not just optimizing the health of your ovaries but optimizing your estrogen production. How do you do this? How do you optimize estrogen production?
This means that having a low estrogen condition such as hypothalamic amenorrhea might accelerate the onset of menopause. On the other hand, having a high estrogen condition such as estrogen dominance or endometriosis might do the opposite. This is why eating soy can be helpful for women struggle with menopause symptoms. It replaces estrogen where otherwise it has gone missing.
Yet, again, those are uncertain phenomena, and no one knows the precise effects of PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea, or endometriosis on menopause. What is certain is that optimized health, reduced stress load, having happy adrenal glands and a normal range of body fatness are all significant boosts to menopausal wellness.
So does the paleo diet help?
Yes. Being happy and healthy seems to be the best way to simultaneously delay perimenopause and menopause. The paleo diet is also supremely good for hormone balance, for healthy egg development, and for a regular and fertile menstrual cycle. This is because a diet built around evolutionary foods evades the insulin-poisoning effects of high calorie, high sugar, and inflammatory meals. It avoids soy, which is complicated, but can be definitively detrimental to fertility status. It decreases the risk for reproductive diseases such as PCOS, endometriosis, and hypothalamic amenorrhea, as well as metabolic and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and celiac. And it is finally because paleo foods maximize nutrient status, which is necessary for reproductive success (for example, without sufficient calcium and vitamin D, a woman’s eggs will never full develop).
Stress reduction and play are also crucial. I consider these a part of the evolutionary framework–what does my body demand of me? Yes, it does demand laughter– so we can throw that on top of the paleo wagon as well.
All of which is to say that a wide variety of factors influence the onsets of perimenopause and menopause. But the specific health- and reproduction- enhancing and balancing effects of a paleo diet are a serious help. No studies have come out so far as I can tell that deal with whether or not the average ages of these events have changed in recent years. I wouldn’t be surprised at all, however, if in coming decades we find out that the landscape of menopause and perimenopause shifts along with the rapid decline in public health.
Anger is destructive. It’s hurtful, and it’s isolating, and it’s nasty feeling. It breaks up relationships, poisons politics and salts the Earth. But it also happens to be one of our most powerful motivators. Think of all the people tying themselves to trees in the rainforest or risking their lives flying bags of rice to sub-Saharan Africa. Absolutely they are motivated out of love. But they often also feel passionately that an injustice deserves righting, and they are going to fight tooth and nail in order to make that happen.
So today’s hack is not about simmering in rage, and allowing it to consume you. Please know that. I love love and peace and forgiveness above all other things. This hack is, in fact, hardly about anger at all, but instead only about indignance when it is elected, rather than out-of-control, and easily let go of, and nothing that boils over. This post is about being indignant, about standing up for ourselves, about acknowledging the terrible injustices raging in our world. It’s about the power of seeing a right and seeing a wrong, and refusing to enable the wrong anymore. It’s about passion, about righteousness, and about taking a glorious, unapologetic stand.
The Hack: Get indignant.
One of our biggest problems with disordered eating is that we blame ourselves. How come I wasn’t strong enough? Why can’t I think I’m beautiful? Why can’t I lose this weight? 85 percent of moving beyond that is forgiving ourselves, and being radically compassionate with ourselves. We need to be as loving and humane with ourselves as we are with others. This is easier said than done, but something that we have been working on in this community and with Food & Love Fridays for quite some time.
But the final 15 percent lies, I believe, in acknowledging that it’s not our fault. Our negativity? Not our fault. Our cravings? Not our fault. Our behaviors? Not our fault. No, we don’t want to give up our responsibility. That would be wrong. It is today within our power to change our lives, and no one else’s, period. But all of these things came from somewhere else. None of us were born disordered eaters. None of us were born hating ourselves. None of us were born sugar addicts, craving cakes and pies and what-not at every turn. None of us chose to be obese, or weak, or sick.
Powerful forces at work in the world were what molded those parts of ourselves.
So it is up to us to move beyond them. They are never going to stop. Magazine ads with 6 foot lithe models, TV commercials with 100 calorie chocolate indulgences… they turned us into deprived, self-loathing machines. (well, you know, at least a little bit.) And they will be around for ages.
In order to heal, we need to acknowledge the powerful role these forces have played in building negative behaviors and thoughts into us, and then we need to change our current response to them.
The reason I suggest indignancy is because I think it is powerful. I am a big time believer in love, and positivity, and just letting all the negativity in the world role off of our shoulders. But an indignancy kept at a low flame that empowers us to spot an injustice and to identify it right away, and to see it always as an external phenomenon that is doing it’s best to keep us down — well, indignancy can help us lift ourselves up.
We were raised in a vicioius cultural machine: companies make money by selling things. Food is one of them. Beauty products are another. And everything else, besides. Advertisers know that when people feel bad about themselves they buy things. So we are made in sometimes enormously subtle ways to think less of ourselves– to worry about our status and our appearance– or to labor endlessly to be as pretty or successful as what is promised us in the ads– in order to buy whatever it is that is being sold to us.
Moreover, we live in a culture in which we are constantly bombarded with foods that are explicitly designed to make us addicted to them. And which we are told time and time again are “healthy.” Then we are shown clips of lithe, clear-skinned women “indulging” in big Macs all the while remaining “perfect.” Can’t I have that, too? Can’t I “indulge” in this thing that you have gotten me hooked on and that will make me feel better, and still end up prettier in the long run? Why can’t I have that, too? Why can’t I? Why can’t I? Why can’t I?
We are made to feel deprived. We are made to feel less. And it’s not our fault. These are wickedly powerful machines, and damage has been spread far and wide.
So for this reason I advocate indignance. No, I don’t believe simmering in a rage and blaming others is going to get us anywhere. But when we have a negative thought about ourselves, indignancy arms us with pride and righteousness. “No! I’m tired of letting you into my brain! You’re not a part of me, advertising agency, and I won’t let you control me. You’ve done enough! Now get outta my way!” Being indignant gives us fire, and power, and sometimes we need that moving forward. Sometimes we need to not just be wholly self-loving but also fierce beings standing up for ourselves in the face of monstrosities.
Sometimes we need fire. We need conviction. We need raw power to throw off the heavy mantle of negativity. We need will, and strength, and deeply rooted beliefs that what we are doing is right, and what has been done to us was wrong.
So this hack is a dicey one. You’ve no doubt noticed that I danced around in previous paragraphs with a lot of warnings about anger. And I’m still not sure, honestly, how I feel about this hack. Am I actually encouraging people to have an emotion that can so easily be something unhealthy, and destructive? Really, am I?
Hm. Yes, I am.
Don’t use it if you think it would be harmful for you. Be thoughtful about moving forward with a tool like this.
But then do it.
Tell American culture to go bury it’s head in quicksand. When painful thoughts and advertisements start inching into your head, recognize them as external right away, and throw them off without giving them a second thought. Insist on your independence. Insist on your inherent worth. Insist on your radiant beauty, and do not give any other voices the time of day.
Negativity has no place in your soul. Refuse to let it. Recognize that these external forces have created something hurtful inside of you, and stand up for yourself. It’s not your fault that you have this in you. It’s that external thing’s fault. And it will not, it cannot, have power over you any more.
You have an inherent light that is powerful and luminous, so bright it is blinding and searing to the touch. This is a pure thing, a radiant thing, a sexy thing. Guard that thing, and do so with pride. Nothing has any right– no right whatsoever– to dim your light. You are a woman, and I will be damned if i stand by while negativity tries to tame you. I invite you to do the same. Refuse to be tamed. You deserve far, far more than that.
External forces have played a big role in making you who you are. Some of that has been powerfully positive, but other parts of that have been powerfully negative. Recognize those forces, and kiss them goodbye. Observe where they have latched onto your soul, and resolve to handle them one by one. You will overcome them in time. It may not be right away, but that’s what the indignancy’s for. Allow the power of your conviction to propel you forward, and to remain firm in your progress and pride.
Marshalling indignancy is not always the appropriate way forward. Definitely not. But that is why I pose it as a tool. Use it when it feels right. Allow it to inform you, and to fuel your conviction when you are feeling weaker or in need of support. Sometimes we need more power in order to move forward. Sometimes we need fire. Sometimes we need ferocity, and community, and justice, and indignance, and pride.
External forces are powerful.
But you are moreso.
Ferdinand Foch says: “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”
Matt and Stacy, the two authors over at Paleo Parents and of several books (here, here, and here), have graciously invited me to write a blog post at their site. Because the topic of weight loss, and especially from obesity, is so near and dear to their and their readers hearts, I thought it fitting to write about fitting weight status properly into our visions of health.
The post can be found here!
And two brief excerpts, here:
In July 2012, I wrote a guest post at the Whole 9 blog titled: “How Perfect is the Perfect Body?” The answer, fairly definitively, was “that depends.”
This is because a stereotypically ideal body does not in fact indicate anything definitive about the individual’s health. It is entirely possible to be a lithe, shiny machine of a human being, but still have some sort of internal metabolic disaster. It is also possible to be overweight and to have a healthy internal environment.
There are three primary phenomena that make this possible: first, many health markers other than weight status are crucial for lifelong health. Secondly, the conditions for women are a bit complex: having more fat can be healthier (within normal ranges), and fat loss can be less easy because of hormonal set-points. And finally, a person’s health status can never be truly understood without the context of her history.
Each human being is constructed out of two things: a genetic blueprint and environmental triggers. Unfortunately for us in today’s world, both of those factors can be easily and powerfully deranged.
The vast majority of children in America today are raised on processed, sugary, toxin-filled foods. This puts these people at an immediate disadvantage. No matter what sort of genes they are born with, the ways in which they treat themselves (and so often at no fault of their own) can permanently damage their health.
Consumption of trans fats, for example, has been linked to a long-term reduction in the ability to burn fat.
And seriously restricting calories has been shown to permanently increase the number of fat cells and the rate of fat storage in dieters.
Looking for more around weight loss? Click here for Weight Loss Unlocked, my book on healthy weight loss for women.
Episode eight of Live. Love. Eat. has now been posted! In it I had the enormous honor of speaking with George Bryant, an enormously kick ass soul and dear friend of mine, who also happens to be super famous and to run the website Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations, as well as the new e-Cookbook, Caveman Feast.
In this episode, George and I discuss his history with eating disorders, the damaging effects of weight regulation in the military, what it means to be a man with body image issues, the lessons a recent car accident taught George, and why he no longer cares about looking hot.
Each episode of Live. Love. Eat. is an interview with someone who has stepped up to share the story of her (or his) relationships with food and with her body. She may be a disordered eater, he may be a paleo dieter, she may be totally at peace with her body or not. The whole point being that I can do all of the writing on my blog here that I want, but I will never be able to do something as empowering, comforting, and inspiring as sharing with y’all the beautiful and brilliant lives of others.
Search on iTunes or download and/or subscribe from iTunes here. We’d appreciate it if you left a review whether you like it or not.
If you’re not into iTunes, click here to download and/or subscribe.
George Bryant is a self-taught chef, cookbook author, and creator of Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations, a Paleo recipe blog with a passionate following and over 30,000 facebook fans. George believes in having fun in the kitchen and letting your love and happiness come through in your food.
You can also find his brand new e-Cookbook full of delightful photos and recpies, and published with health and fitness tips by another paleo rockstar Abel James, here at Caveman Feast.