I remember the day in March 2010 when I stood in the yoga room at Gold’s in front of my soon-to-be trainer in my skimpiest Victoria’s Secret bikini and heels. (Holy first meeting…) As he’s describing my eventual competition suit as needing to be “much skimpier”, I blurted out, “Sweet Jesus, this sport is going to give me an eating disorder!”
As it turns out…fortunately, I was completely wrong. Just the opposite. Bodybuilding has balanced me hormonally and increased my knowledge of nutrition ten(million)-fold.
Prior to competing, I took pride in eating clean and maintaining my athletic physique for teaching group fitness classes and looking good in a suit…a business suit. I felt it was important to look and be at my best, and that meant following a lifestyle of fitness 95% of the time (i.e. 5% wine). I never felt confident in a bikini, though…and not just because I am as white as a ghost…my belly is where I hold water and any excess, so I preferred to cover it up! When my trainer glanced over my food journal on that first day, I was expecting my diet to be slashed. Instead, he surprised me and said, “OK, you can keep all this. Just add some extra virgin olive oil to your veggies. We need to soften you up a bit.”
What? Soften me up? Soft body + skimpy bikini…umm…doesn’t sound like a good look! But, his girls were famous around the gym and I trusted him completely.
As I progressed through my next two seasons to the national stage, my diet became more refined and my knowledge of food expanded. I kept thinking, if only I knew all this when I was skating!
Changing trainers last year, though, was a pivotal moment in my fertility. My new trainer had different nuanced ideas for holistic nutritional training, incorporating more variety in my meals, replacing my pre-/post-workout supplement with superfoods, emphasizing alkalinity, massage & recovery, and working with my chakras. I embraced the variety and began to pick up on signals within my body to recognize cravings as a deficiency of some sort…physical and/or emotional. I noticed my physique was changing, too. Yes, I was still adding muscle, but my body looked curvier…more feminine in the way I was holding my weight.
My favorite superfoods: maca powder, chia seeds, berries, avocado, flax oil, multi-color bell peppers, raw unsalted crunchy almond butter, spinach leaves, mushrooms, cacao nibs, walnuts, cinnamon
After North Americans last August, my fiancé and I decided to go off the pill and stop “not trying” to have a baby. I was 37 years old and had been on the pill since the age of 20. Before that, I had never really had a “natural” cycle for any length of time. When I was touring with Disney On Ice after high school, my period would arrive either when I was on the road or at home on break, but not both. After I left the show and my period was non-existent for 6 months, my doctor said, “well, let’s just put you on the pill.” I was entering college, it was a no-brainer from his perspective.
Fast forward to 2013, no pill seemed to equate no period. Checking in with my doctor, she looked at me with annoyance and said, “why did you wait so long to try to get pregnant?” Feeling similarly annoyed, I replied bluntly, “because I never wanted to have a baby before now!” Seemed like she couldn’t fathom what I was saying, but it was my truth. I never did. And, I think there are more women like me than the world realizes…
At that appointment, my doctor wanted to put me on progesterone and possibly explore other fertility options…without knowing anything except my age and menstrual history. She also said, “It wouldn’t hurt for you to put on a few extra pounds because gaining weight is one easy way to increase estrogen. You can stop exercising so vigorously, too.” I politely said, “no thanks” biting my tongue not to comment on her weight problem.
If there’s some sort of hormonal imbalance in my body, I didn’t want the quick fix of taking hormones, putting on extra pounds, or stopping my favorite activities. I knew that my weight and body fat levels were at healthy levels thanks to competing in the NPC Bikini division, and my body was well-conditioned and adapted to my class & workout schedule. I had confidence in my trainer to address my hormones through nutrition and a healthy dose of…patience…because my top priority was not to get pregnant…it was to be healthy myself. I felt strongly against any chemical orchestrating or manipulation of my body for pregnancy. Literally, “Mommy first”!
The mind that plans is thus refusing to allow for change. ~ A Course In Miracles
The irony is I found out I was pregnant during one of my most intense training periods – eight weeks out from Nationals – when, in addition to my nine classes and two training sessions a week, I was doing 40 mins of cardio (including sprinting) before breakfast 6x a week and following my competition diet strictly. My body was responding well and I was feeling balanced and healthy. So, when I saw the double line on my at-home pregnancy test, I was only surprised in that I was feeling so good! In hindsight, I am grateful it happened this way because I proved to myself that getting pregnant didn’t mean I had to stop being who I am. I just needed to have patience and perseverance in pursuing balance of all sorts.
“Statistics reveal that almost 80% of women suffer from some kind of hormonal imbalance resulting in a slew of physical and mental health challenges.” 4 Causes of Hormonal Imbalances
Side note: As I’ve been working through queasiness this week, I’ve discovered DigestZen essential oil blend by doTERRA. I diffuse 1-2 drops with olive oil and massage it into the soles of my feet or on my belly. This is a natural remedy that works, is safe for pregnancy…for kids & hubbies, and even appeals to my ultra-sensitive pregnancy nose!
Bottom line: Fixing your hormones is possible without a pill or a shot. No quick fixes here. Begin by patiently recognizing your imbalances — caring for them by attending to your deficiencies, working with a professional who understands the interplay of diet and hormones. Notice how time & attention can heal anything…with willPower & grace.