Let it shine: Embracing inner summer aka the ovulatory phase

It’s been a while since I shared my experiences with menstrual cycle awareness practice and part of the reason is that it has become such a habit for me to live this way that I don’t consciously think about it as much as I used to. Menstrual cycle awareness is exactly that, living with a conscious awareness of your menstrual cycle. I’m not sure I really like the term but at least it does what it says on the tin. In their book Wild Power, Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Wurlizter use the term “Menstruality” which I also love as it brings in the elements of spirituality and mysticism which are directly tied to this practice.

Today I want to share about my experience with inner summer aka the ovulatory phase. Usually the second half of our cycle gets the most attention because PMS and difficult periods can be the most disruptive to our lives and therefore the luteal and menstrual phases are the ones we tend to focus on. Ovulation is usually forgotten about, until we decide we want to get pregnant and then it becomes the holy grail and something to be measured, analysed and hunted down. However, I think there is such a beauty in the ovulatory phase even for women like me who are not ready to have children yet, or those who have already passed this phase of life.

To begin with the science, ovulation is the process of releasing an egg from one of our ovaries. Ovulation itself can be considered as the main event of the menstrual cycle because if we do not ovulate, we do not menstruate. Yes, you can still experience a bleed during an an-ovulatory cycle but you will not be fertile and it is not considered to be a true period. To me, ovulation is the creative miracle of feminine energy and something to be celebrated. Ensuring healthy ovulation is an important part of my holistic health coaching practice as it brings so many benefits on all levels of our being: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

The ovulatory phase begins a few days before ovulation and lasts until a few days after. It can also be considered the “fertile window” for women practicing fertility awareness method as these are the days when we are most likely to get pregnant if we aren’t using contraception. At the beginning of the ovulatory phase, we are dominated by the hormone estrogen but we also experience spikes in Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinising Hormone (LH) which cause a mature egg to be released. Progesterone levels remain low until after ovulation as this hormone is released from the ovary at the site the egg was released.

Image credit: Hello Clue app

For me ovulation brings with it this sense of expansion and super-human capacities. In a good month, I can feel energised and radiant and like I can handle anything life throws at me. There is this almost fizzing creative energy where I feel inspired and have many ideas for creative projects, my business and life in general. It’s also a time when I feel most social which as an introvert I embrace whole-heartedly. Often I find being around other people exhausting and I need time to recharge afterwards but around ovulation my social capacity increases a lot! I feel like I have more energy for my close relationships and a greater capacity to put myself out there in challenging social situations.

It’s also a time when I feel my most physically attractive and confident. At this time of my cycle I love wearing clothes which feel feminine and taking the time for self-care routines which make me feel beautiful like taking time to style my hair or painting my nails. At other times in my cycle my self-care is more focused on the emotional level like meditation, journalling and relaxation. During ovulation I feel more liberated and comfortable in my body but there is also this sense of magnetism which I think runs even deeper than the physical level. I think as women we just have this energy during ovulation that attracts others, whether that is sexual partners, friends, work connections or even children.

Before I started to practice menstrual cycle awareness, I did notice these subtle differences but I didn’t understand what I was experiencing. I distinctly remember one week feeling on top of the world and the next feeling it come crashing down around me. I would wonder what was going wrong and point the finger of blame towards others or towards my own body. In reality the shifts we experience are perfectly natural and more gradual like a tide moving in and out throughout each month, the waxing and waning of the moon or the changing of the seasons. When we have present awareness and consciously go with this flow rather than fighting against it, life can be a truly beautiful experience.

Although awareness is always the best place to start, actually making lifestyle changes can be tough. One of the ongoing problems I have with this phase of my cycle is that I think that I can do it all. I start multiple projects at once and then either don’t finish them or burn myself out trying to finish what I started. I struggle to decide how to spend my energy, whether to focus on work or play. I fill up my diary for the next few weeks without realising that once my inner autumn aka pre-menstrual phase arrives I am more likely to want to chill at home with a book or spend time writing rather than going out dancing or hosting workshops. This is why using a period tracker app or calendar can be a useful tool because it helps you to think ahead and plan accordingly!

I find that channeling the increased energy of the ovulation phase into one or a few projects is the best way to feel fulfilled rather than overwhelmed by the end of the cycle. It can be extremely satisfying to see a creative project or a specific task through from start to finish over the course of the month. If we germinate ideas and set goals after our period and focus our energy throughout the cycle, we really can achieve great things. Just like we have this sense of closure and preparation for hibernation at the end of summer, it brings us a sense of fulfillment to tie up lose ends as we approach our next bleed and we can surrender to relaxation knowing that we have put our creative energy to good use.

If you are interested in learning more about living in sync with your menstrual cycle, take a look at my other posts in the menstrual cycle awareness category and definitely consider reading the book Wild Power which I recommend to all of my female health coaching clients. Discovering and syncing with this inner rhythm has helped me so much to understand and connect with my body, my feminine energy and nature itself. It’s something that is rarely talked about and we are not taught in school but yet it is a current that runs under the river of our lives and affects everything we do. Living in a female body comes with many challenges but I would never change it for the world.

Over to you…

Do you currently track your menstrual cycle? What is your experience of ovulation aka inner summer? Is it a time you are consciously aware of or would like to be in the future? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Like this post and follow my blog for more posts on nutrition and yoga for healthy, balanced hormones!

If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me or check out the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I am a qualified Public Health Nutritionist and hatha yoga teacher and my specialty is helping women to balance their hormones and heal their body and metabolism after restrictive dieting. I would love to work together with you to move past any health blocks and get you feeling your best again!

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Why is understanding the menstrual cycle phases important?

Getting to know your menstrual cycle and understanding the menstrual cycle phases is not just for women who are trying to get pregnant, it is an amazing way for any woman to connect with her feminine body and develop on a psychological and soul level. Our menstrual cycle is the rhythm of our life, like an under current which is always present whether we are aware of it or not. Each month we shift through four menstrual cycle phases, each with subtle but distinct effects on our energy levels, mood, desires and abilities. Learning about these menstrual cycle phases and starting to track your own menstrual cycle is the first step along a path of becoming a truly healthy and connected woman.

When I first started my periods as a young teenager, I had no clue about my menstrual cycle and how to work with it. I saw it as a monthly inconvenience that either took me by surprise, risking embarrassment at school every time I stood up from my chair, or warned me of it’s arrival through horrible mood swings and painful cramps. When my menstrual cycle stopped due to undereating and over exercising, part of me was glad because I didn’t have to deal with the mess of my periods and the fear of getting pregnant. But after a while, I started to feel kind of lost and unfeminine without it and when I finally got my period back after 8 years of having no natural cycle I was overjoyed and found I had a whole new desire to understand and connect with my menstrual cycle.

Whilst trying to recover my period I read a lot from inspiring female leaders in the field of menstruality and cycle synching including Alexandra Pope, Sjanie Wurlizter, Miranda Gray and Alissa Vitti. They opened my eyes to the magic of my hormones and helped me to understand the menstrual cycle phases. I could finally see how my hormones were impacting me on a day to day basis and it gave me a framework to understand some of the seemingly random physical symptoms and mood changes I was going through each month. I’d always known about the dreaded PMS and “shark week” when I could be moody and snappy as hell. But what I didn’t know that these were also times where I was primed to see through the BS to view things as they really are, stand up for myself and others and be more open to spiritual connection. Women have been trained to see the abilities of these times as negative and disruptive when in reality there are hidden gems there too.

Same goes for the start of a new menstrual cycle. I always had some awareness of the relief I felt after my period was over and I could get back to “normal” but I didn’t know how to move slowly and gradually build up my momentum to avoid burning out and reaching ovulation feeling depleted and unmotivated. In fact I didn’t even know what ovulation meant, outside of the biology textbook definition that is! I didn’t know that the ovulatory phase brings with it it’s own powers of sensuality, magnetism and the ability to make things happen in the world. I wasn’t ware that that ovulation is a phase of the menstrual cycle where we are primed to connect with others and build strong relationships both in our personal and work life, or that this isn’t a state we should expect ourselves to be in continuously but that we should appreciate it and enjoy it while it lasts each month.

I used to wonder why I could feel fine about my life for three weeks of the month and then when the pre-menstrual phase came around I would start to doubt and question everything. I felt like the menstrual cycle gremlin was invading my mind each month and disguising my true thoughts and feelings under this veil of negativity. I would get so emotional, triggered into an hour of screaming frustration or soggy tears and wonder where the hell it came from. But after learning about the menstrual cycle phases and becoming more aware of my hormonal changes throughout the month I started to understand that during the follicular and ovulatory phases we are more outward facing and we can more easily tune out our inner world and deep emotions. However as we cross over into the pre-menstrual phase, those inner lights become brighter and we can’t help but look at them and sometimes be blinded by it.

4 phases of the menstrual cycle infographic

Understanding the menstrual cycle phases can help us to accept and appreciate the many different parts of ourselves, both the ones that our praised by society and the ones that give women a bad name. I think it’s a shame that we weren’t taught how to connect with our menstrual cycle from a young age and I think teaching girls this now will help to raise a generation of strong, powerful women. In my health coaching practice and yoga classes, I hope to share some of this wisdom with other girls and women, to encourage them to embrace their feminine nature and live with this mindful awareness of their inner rhythms.

Unfortunately, so many women are experiencing hormonal imbalances and infertility these days and I think a big part of this is that we are living so out of tune with our menstrual cycles. This is not to say that we have to go back to the old days and lose all of the progress we have made in empowering women and opening up new opportunities. Rather, we can now take the next step and be modern women doing all of the things that we desire in society whilst maintaining a respect for our feminine bodies and an understanding of how to take care of ourselves and meet our needs.

I hope you enjoyed this post on the importance of understanding the stages of the menstrual cycle. For a summary of the four menstrual cycle phases, check out this post and my other posts on menstrual cycle awareness and cyclic living!

Over to you…

Let me know in the comments below how you feel about your menstrual cycle, do you feel connected to it or is it something that you wish you could forget? Like and share this post to support my business and follow my blog for more on menstrual cycle awareness, yoga and holistic health.

If you are interested in learning how to connect with your cycle, you can enroll in my health coaching program Prepare for Pregnancy where I will teach you how to nourish your body using nutrition, intuitive movement, stress management and menstrual cycle awareness. I would love to work with you to help you connect with your feminine rhythms and restore your natural health and vitality!

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cycle tracking day 1 menstrual phase

Stress and the menstrual cycle: Self-care tips for the menstrual phase

Today is the first day of my period and day 1 of a new menstrual cycle – yay! I love the menstrual phase or “inner winter”, not only because it brings a relief of the tension of the pre-menstrual phase but because it is the time of the month when I honour myself with rest and self-care. The last couple of cycles have been pretty messed up for me with all of the craziness going on in the world. Being stuck in lockdown working super hard then quitting my job and moving abroad then going into lockdown again here in Greece.. it’s been pretty stressful to say the least and it showed in my cycles. I had 3 cycles which were 35-37 days long, intense period pains and stagnant blood (this shows up as brown colour with the texture of dirt). So I’m happy that this month things seem to be back to normal with a 30 day cycle and a healthy red flow.

This is one thing I love about menstrual cycle awareness practice. When something isn’t quite right in our lifestyle, often our menstrual cycles are the first place it shows and if we’re not paying attention we can totally miss it. Tracking your cycle length, flow quality and any symptoms showing up throughout the month is a great way to get to know your cycle and tune into the state of your health. Intense pain, excessive PMS symptoms or irregular cycles can all be a sign that something isn’t quite right internally or in your environment. If you notice something strange or unusual, that is a red flag and a hint for you to get quiet for a moment and ask yourself what is going on.

Stress alone can be enough to throw a spanner in the works when it comes to our cycles. This doesn’t have to be a traumatic event but it can be the build up of small stresses due to living in the fast-paced high pressure society that we do. If we don’t have an outlet or a way to manage these stresses, this can lead to chronic tension in the mind and body which affects our overall health, including our hormones. In this post I explain how you can reduce stress and balance your hormones using minimalism, journalling and meditation. Using these techniques, or anything else that helps you to unwind and relax are important all throughout your cycle but even more so during your period. Yin yoga sequences are perfect and I am planning to share more here soon so watch out for that if you’re interested!

Today I was lucky to have the space for a slow morning. I made one of my favourite menstrual phase breakfast recipes, banana oat pancakes and swapped out my morning coffee for a warming chai herbal tea. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of dry body brushing for the last month after reading about the benefits but I’m not always good at remembering to do it. This morning though I decided to pamper myself a bit and took the time to dry body brush, have a long relaxing shower and moisturise from head to toe. I even straightened my hair and put on a bit of make up even though I have no intention of going anywhere today! This afternoon I was teaching a yoga class so I had to prepare for that and do a bit of house work but I did my best to move at my bodies’ pace and take it easy. I made the class a really relaxing and grounding hatha flow and I put on some calming music while I worked.

Now I am feeling peaceful and comfortable in my body – a welcome change from the agony of the last couple of months! I was feeling inspired to share a bit about my experience of the menstrual phase and a few of my tips for looking after yourself during this time. I’m aware everyone’s experience is different when it comes to periods and that conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS can make menstruation a difficult time. However, I’m sure that taking as much time as you have available, whether that’s ten minutes or three hours, will help you to make your period as comfortable as possible. A few months of practicing this and you never know, you might even start to love this phase too.

My top 5 tips for self-care during your period

  1. Wipe 3 things off your to do list – delegate them to a day in the cycle when you have more energy

2. Slow down – even if you have tasks you can’t avoid, try to do them at your bodies’ pace

3. Pamper yourself – whether that’s a luxurious shower (try to avoid hot baths while you are bleeding) or wearing your favourite body lotion, do something to nourish your body

4. Nourish your body – make yourself some nutrient dense, yummy foods. See here for my tips on nutrition for the menstrual phase

5. Rest – take a break from intense exercise and focus instead on light stretching, walking or yin yoga. Your body will thank you for it!

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this short post on stress and self-care during the menstrual phase. Please like this post and follow my blog for more on healthy hormones and holistic health.

  • Let me know in the comments below if you try out any of these tips or any other self-care you practice to feel better during your period
  • If you are looking for support and guidance in balancing your hormones and looking and feeling great, contact me for further information on the health coaching packages I offer. Together we will set you up with a plan to get your hormones balanced and you feeing your best mentally and physically.

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Yoga and the menstrual cycle / Yoga for women

Today I decided to post my first video on Youtube – eek! I really wanted to share how yoga can benefit women and how we can modify our practice to align with our hormonal cycles. I’m not very confident with speaking in front of a camera but I’m sure that will improve with time and I hope you enjoy the video anyway. I have summarised the main points underneath the video too for anyone who wants the short version.

There are so many benefits of yoga on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. For example yoga:

  • Increases strength and flexibility of muscles and joints
  • Strengthens bones to reduce risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduces tension from the physical, mental and emotional bodies
  • Calms the nervous system and the mind
  • Boosts mood and reduces anxiety and depression
  • Helps to connect with something larger than yourself through meditation

Practicing specific yoga asana and pranayama throughout the different phases of the menstrual cycle can also help women specifically by:

  • Regulating cycles or bringing back a missing cycle
  • Normalising menstrual blood flow
  • Reducing pain in the pelvis, lower back and thighs during menstruation
  • Creating emotional and mental stability especially during the pre-menstrual phase
  • Reconnecting with feminine nature and yin energy
  • Boosting creative and sexual energies

There are 4 main phases of the hormonal cycle to be aware of which can be referred to as the “inner seasons”.

Menstruation (inner winter) – A time to rest and recharge. Focus on gentle yin and restorative postures and meditation rather than intense standing poses or dynamic sequences. Use props to support the body and conserve energy. Avoid standing backbends and inversions (where the hips are raised higher than the head) as well as intense pranayama. Focus on abdominal or yogic breathing instead

Follicular (inner spring) – Time to rebalance the body. Bring in some inversions in the days following your period. Pay attention to your energy levels and start to increase the intensity of your practice as you move through this phase. Include flowing vinyasa sequences if you have this in your practice and enjoy moving your body more dynamically.

Ovulation (inner summer) – Focus on building strength in the body. Now is the time to experiment with more challenges asana to find your edge and increase fitness and flexibility. Use pranayama breathing exercises to calm down the nervous system if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or frazzled by this high intensity phases.

Pre-menstrual (inner autumn) – Time to slow down again. Notice when your body sends the signal that it needs more rest and adjust your practice accordingly. Towards the end of this phase start to shift the balance of your practice towards more seated and lying postures, in particular the few days before you start your period. Make sure to reconnect with your meditation and pranayama practice if you have been distracted during the busier first half of the cycle

Riding the wave of inner spring

This week I have been feeling really good. After a couple of weeks of feeling tired, unmotivated and confused about everything going on in the world, I was able to rest deeply for a few days during my period and I emerged on the other side feeling fresh and ready for life again. I am on day 10 of my cycle now, so well into the follicular phase, and I am definitely feeling those inner spring vibes. If you aren’t familiar with the seasons of the cycle then watch this video and you will get the idea but I do plan to write a post about that soon (I can’t believe I haven’t already!).

I did hit a stumbling block around day 4 – I felt energised and ready to go out into the world, accidentally overdid it and had a min crash. This is the hardest part of the cycle for me.. I am definitely a “masculine energy” type of girl which is pretty common in your 20s as we just want to go out and do all the things and make our mark on the world. But the cross-over from menstruation into the follicular phase (inner winter to inner spring) needs to be navigated gently and slowly to protect and preserve our energy for the rest of the cycle. We don’t want to go from 0 to 100 in a day and totally fry our system.

Luckily this time I was able to catch it early and went back into my cave the next day to rest. After that things have been plain sailing, my energy levels and motivation have been climbing higher and higher, I have been feeling light and free, I have ticked a lot of things off my to-do list and spent time with friends and my boyfriend too without becoming overwhelmed. I even had the energy to go to the gym for the first time in months! We are moving to Greece in less than two weeks so I have been busy packing up the house, finishing off work tasks and trying to catch up with friends before I go. It’s been intense but right now I am enjoying the challenge.

Something else I have been working with this season is uncovering some old, deeply held emotions. I had my first somatic experiencing therapy session last week which was really interesting and I have had a lot to process since then. I feel like my journal has been my right arm which is unusual for me as usually I get reflective during my inner autumn and winter and neglect my journal the rest of the cycle. It’s been painful to go back and relive some old memories and actually feel the emotions rather than squash them down but I know it’s something I need to do. I have been listening to guided meditations from The Mindful Movement every day too on letting go of emotions, developing self-love and compassion and nurturing your inner child.

Inner spring is actually a great time for inner child work as we are at our most innocent and fragile at this time of our cycle and can more easily connect with the maiden archetype and our younger self. I feel at my most playful and childlike during this phase and can more easily let go of some of the seriousness of life and take things more lightly. But old childhood wounds can definitely come up too and I can be easily triggered into feeling guilt, shame or inadequacy. When I notice my inner critic rearing it’s head in my inner spring, I can question it and go into the feeling rather than beating my self up for not being good enough.

Since I have been working with my cycle in this way I have so much more acceptance and understanding of why these things come up and how to soothe myself. Not to say I don’t ever fall into the trap but I am strengthening that self-compassion muscle with every cycle that passes and feeling more confident in myself and my abilities. In Wild Power one of the tasks of the inner spring is to cherish and nurture yourself like a newly hatched chick. I love this image of a fresh new self being born out of the cosy cave of menstruation and us needing to care for it and protect it from the real world until it’s protective shield is fully formed and able to defend itself. This starts with the way we speak to ourselves so this is the time to use kind words and not beat yourself up or pressure yourself too much.

I feel like I am rambling a bit here, my energy is pretty high right now and I have lots to say! But I hope you get the idea and can relate in someway. Leave a comment if you want to share your experiences of your inner spring ❣

menstrual cycle awareness cycle tracking

Menstrual cycle tracking: My number one self-care tip for women

With my health coaching clients we look at many things that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle including nutrition, movement and stress-management. But the most important self-care tip that I recommend from day one is to start to become familiar with your menstrual cycle. This can be either through a cycle tracking app or using a regular journal.. how you do it doesn’t matter but becoming aware of your own unique hormonal cycle and how it affects you can be the key to getting your health on track.

Why? Because our hormonal fluctuations affect how we feel, think and act on a daily basis. Many of the “random” changes we see in our moods, energy levels and desires are actually related to the varying levels of hormones in our body. Our hormones affect our appetite, metabolism, social needs, sexual desires, creativity and motivation to work. Simply paying attention to these things is a mindfulness practice in itself which can help you to develop a greater awareness and connection with yourself. Understanding these fluctuations helps us to understand and work with them rather than against them and allows us to get into a healthy flow in all areas of life. You can learn to tune into what your body needs as you move through your cycles which in turn can help you to make changes in other areas of your lifestyle.

For example with nutrition, you might be wondering why you do great on your new diet for a couple of weeks and then “fall off the wagon” and want to eat everything in sight.  This often occurs when we ignore our natural appetite and try to force ourselves to eat a certain amount or certain types of foods which go against our cravings. When we can learn to listen to what our body is asking for at different times of the month we can develop a more flexible approach to our diet and naturally lose weight if that is our goal. Or you might notice that some days your digestion is perfect after eating all the veg and other days you feel bloated and gassy after a few pieces of broccoli.

Trying to adopt a fixed diet plan of eating the same number of calories and types of foods day in day out just doesn’t suit our feminine nature. And if we don’t allow ourselves the freedom to “go with the flow” we can end up working against rather than with our bodies and always wonder where we are going wrong. Menstrual cycle awareness can help us to understand what we need and to be kinder to ourselves when our cravings don’t match what we think is the “perfect diet”.

It’s the same with moving our bodies. Ever wondered why some days you can’t wait to get outside to walk or run or feel exhilarated after hours of dancing and other days you want to curl up on the sofa or just need a good stretch? Obviously there are lots of things that impact your energy levels and motivation to move your body but your hormonal cycle also plays a role here too. We are naturally more energetic in the first half of our cycle and higher intensity exercise might be exactly what we need but this doesn’t mean we have to push ourselves all month long.

Using your journal to track how you feel throughout your cycle: what your energy levels are like, what activities you feel like doing and how you feel after any exercise you do is the first step in developing an exercise program that works for you and your body. Despite the adverts that show women can “do it all whilst bleeding”, you aren’t lazy if you choose to take a rest day (or 3) while you are on your period. It’s perfectly natural to want to rest and recover during this time. On the other hand, you might find that you love gentle yoga or some other type of exercise as it helps ease period pains. There is no one size fits all approach here!

So grab yourself a journal or download one of the many apps and have a go at tracking your menstrual cycle for a few months. If nothing else it will give  you a few minutes each day to check in with yourself, ask how you are feeling and what you need.. at best it could be the key to developing a personalised self care plan for yourself and taking your health and wellness to the next level!

journalling menstrual cycle awareness self care practice

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this post on my number one self-care tip for women. Let me know in the comments if you try it out or if you already track your cycle.

  • Like this post and follow my blog for more posts on holistic health, menstrual cycle awareness and hormone balancing
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

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what to eat during the ovulatory phase - fresh fruit berries

What to eat during the ovulatory phase

Final post in the how to eat to support your menstrual cycle series! This time we are looking at the ovulatory phase aka the “inner summer”. 

What is ovulation? When is the ovulatory phase?

For those who enjoy being active and productive, ovulation can be the phase of the cycle where you feel most at home. For others, the high energy can be overwhelming and unsteadying and hormone imbalances may cause symptoms such as acne or anxiety. But whatever your experience, nourishing your body with the right foods can bring balance and harmony.

Once we finish bleeding, our hormones and energy levels steadily rise during the follicular phase and peak around ovulation. At this time we experience a surge in estrogen as well as luteinizing hormone which causes our ovary to release an egg. For a 28 day cycle, ovulation typically occurs at the mid point of the cycle, around day 14. Depending on your unique cycle, the ovulatory phase itself can begin a couple of days before ovulation and last for 4-7 days.

What is the ovulatory phase diet?

The ovulatory phase diet is designed to:

  • Help you to feel fresh and light in your body
  • Support your natural detoxification processes
  • Flush out excess estrogen from your system
  • Cool your body during this “hot” phase of the cycle

How much should I eat during the ovulatory phase? What to eat during the ovulatory phase?

Similar to the follicular phase, around ovulation we usually have more energy and need less support from heavier calorie dense foods. What we want here is nutrient dense foods like fruits and veggies, lighter grains and proteins. Up until ovulation, we are still in the “yin energy” part of our cycle meaning that cooling, water rich foods will help to support our body. Juicy fruits, fresh salad greens and herbs are all great at this time. The fibre in these foods will also help to keep your digestive system moving and flush out any excess estrogen which can lead to symptoms such as acne showing up at this time. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and kale are the best for clearing out estrogen.

Now is a time to choose lighter ways to prepare your food such as steaming and include more raw foods. Think about the types of foods you might crave in actual summer! Big rainbow salads and smoothies are great at this time to provide our bodies with all the nutrients it needs and to help with detox and cleansing of the system. If you live in a cold climate, your digestion can’t handle too many raw foods or you just don’t enjoy them, go for lighter soups or salads with lightly cooked veggies instead and you will still get all of the health benefits. Raw fruits are amazing as snacks just check whatever is in season locally to save money and maximise health benefits.

We need less of the density from fats and proteins during this time but it is still important to include them in your diet. Think cold pressed oils on a salad or seeds sprinkled on a soup during the winter. If you want to experiment with a plant-based or vegan diet, ovulation is a good time to give it a go or for a mini-cleanse each month to give your system a break from animal products. You could get your protein from the veggies you are eating plus beans and seeds such as pumpkin and flax seeds. Otherwise, white meat and yoghurt are good sources of protein for the ovulatory phase.

What are the best foods to support ovulation?

My top recommendations:

  • Fruits – berries, citrus
  • Veggies – salads, tomatoes, spinach, asparagus, peppers, courgette
  • Carbs – quinoa, sweetcorn, wheat (small amounts)
  • Proteins – white meat, yogurt, beans, pumpkin/flax seeds
  • Fats – nuts and seeds especially pumpkin and flax seeds

Meal ideas for the ovulatory phase

Any finally some examples of some easy meals for inspiration. Some of these are repeated from my last post and that’s because there are no fixed phases of the cycle.. in reality they flow from one to the next and aren’t clearly defined. The most important thing is to learn to tune into your body and see what it needs each day.

  • Fresh fruit salad – strawberries are great during this phase. Add ground seeds for some healthy fats and proteins
  • Zuccini noodles aka “zoodles” with creamy or tomato based sauce
  • Pasta salad with peas and green beans

Foods to avoid during ovulation

In the same way as during the follicular phase, we can also consume less fatty foods during this time to give our digestive system a break and choose healthy plant fats such as avocado, seeds and olive oil. Save the roasted foods or higher fat animal products for later in the cycle when you might need that comfort and warmth. Experiment with cooking styles that feel light and fresh in your body and keep it simple! Enjoy the natural tastes of plant foods without too many added condiments and spices and this can be a great time to connect with nature and re-sensitise your taste buds each month.

Over to you…

I hope this article gave you some inspiration on how to eat to feel fresh and light during the ovulatory phase! If you’re interested in reading more about nutrition and the menstrual cycle check out the posts linked below. Like this post and follow my blog for more recipes and posts on how to eat to support your menstrual cycle.

  • Tell me in the comments below what are your favourite foods or meals to eat during this part of your cycle?
  • If you want to work with me to get healthy and balance your hormones, contact me for more information about the nutrition and health coaching packages I offer.

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Learning from my mistakes

I’m on day 6 of my cycle and have just come out of a deep, challenging bleed. I had a lot going on last month. As well as my day job, I had a deadline to submit a nutrition article to a scientific journal which fell on day 23 of my cycle, so for the two weeks prior to that I was pushing myself and working hard. I was relying on a morning coffee to get me going for the day which was a habit that took me a long time to break and I think I am super sensitive to caffeine. I was also sat at my computer for 12 hours a day and some of my other self-care practices fell by the wayside because all my energy was being pumped into my project. I made all the mistakes and really paid the price for it.

On day 24, the morning after I submitted my article, I woke up at 4am feeling sooo crappy. It was the weekend but I was so exhausted and in a bad mood, I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything fun and just sat around feeling sorry for myself. By the time I went back to work on Monday I was feeling so tired and anxious, my whole body was aching and even short walks were leaving me feeling depleted. I ended up taking a few days off work because I just didn’t have the energy and was struggling to concentrate. As my bleed approached, my moods were all over the place too. I was crying over everything. My neighbours cat got hit by a car and I cried for a whole day. I also got angry a few times over tiny things which really isn’t like me.

 

I just felt so sensitive and irritable, I lost all motivation and started questioning everything in my life. I know this sounds extreme but anyone who has suffered severe PMS or PMD will understand this feeling. It’s as if this feeling of doom comes over you, something takes over your brain and you almost feel like you are losing your identity. My period came late too, on day 33, and I had nearly 10 days of PMS symptoms including headaches, insomnia, mood swings, sore breasts, aching muscles and joints. I’ve experienced all of these before but it’s not my “normal” so I know it was due to me not taking good care of myself this cycle. Even though I knew it already, this has really highlighted to me the importance of listening to my body and practising cycle syncing as best as I can.

A tip I learned from Alisa Vitti, the author of “In the Flo”, is to assess your to do list each day and reflect on whether this is in line with the phase of your cycle you are in. Any days that there is a clash (e.g. if you have to do a big presentation at work on day 1 of your cycle) then she recommends to make sure to fit an extra self-care practice into your day to support your body. I think this is a really good idea and I am going to try and put it into practice this month. My absolute favourite self-care ritual is to have an epsom salt bath with essential oils, listening to a feel-good podcast or music then give myself a full body massage with some yummy smelling body lotion. I also love spending time outside in nature although this is a bit tricky with the lockdown right now!

Another good idea is to really pay attention to the “cross-over days” of the cycle. These are the subtle shifts in energies as you transition from one phase to the next. In this case I totally blew past the shift from inner summer (ovulation) to autumn (pre-menstrual phase) which is one of the most important points of the cycle as it’s when the tide turns and we move from the outward facing, masculine, doing energy to the feminine, being energy. The other key one is the transition from inner winter (menstruation) to spring (follicular phase) when the opposite energy shift is happening. It’s key to bring awareness to these points in the cycle and register any signs from the body that its time to shift gears. Otherwise we can end up swimming upstream, living totally out of alignment with our natural rhythm.

It can be very hard to practice this when we have so many distractions and demands from the outer world. But even just observing these energy shifts and bringing awareness to the subtle changes we feel can have a huge impact. I know if I’d listened to my own advice and realised that my deadline was going to fall in the second part of my cycle, I could have taken better care of myself and maybe avoided the crash and burn that I experienced this month. Right now I am hyper-aware that I am in the winter-spring crossover. I have spent the last few days resting and recharging and my energy levels have started to improve, now I am taking care to move gently and not blow my fuse too quickly. It’s really tempting to rush to get out there and do things, catch up on work that  missed when I was off, but I’ve been taking it slowly and trying not to overdo it. 

Listening to our bodies can definitely feel frustrating at times, especially when our mind has its own agenda. But instead of seeing it as a betrayal when my body doesn’t feel like doing the things I had planned, I am trying to lean into my cycle and learn from it’s messages. I know this works as I’ve been in a really good place with cycle syncing before but I have kind of lost my way the last few months because life got in the way. I know that menstruality is a practice, an art even, and it takes a lot of patience and perseverance. But it’s teachings are sooo worth it and I am excited for the months ahead!

Reconnecting with menstruation, rethinking menarche

Do you remember when you got your first period? How did you feel.. empowered? Afraid? Ashamed? Energised? Powerful? Disappointed? Excited?

For me it was a pretty forgettable experience. I don’t even remember the exact age although I know I was around 11-12 years old. I couldn’t tell you whether I was at home or school at the time, whether it shocked me or I was expecting it. I remember telling my Mum and her being very supportive, showing me where she kept her supply of pads and how to use them. At school I think I told my closest girl friends but we never really spoke about it and it wasn’t a big deal. My periods were fairly regular from day 1, I had typical mood swings and pain but I never suffered with heavy bleeding or intense cramps. When I did have pains I was told to use a hot water bottle or take painkillers. I never had to miss school or other activities because I was bleeding I just carried on with my normal life. All in all I’d say for the first few years my cycles were about as uneventful as you can get!

I guess you could say I had a fairly “good” experience of menarche compared to many girls. There was no embarrassing situation, I didn’t feel ashamed to tell my parents and it didn’t really affect my life in a negative way, or in any significant way at all really. But herein lies the problem. Although there was no outright issue, there was always the underlying message that I now carried a secret with me. I was supposed to hide the fact that I was bleeding and not let it affect my life or the lives of others around me. I remember times when I started my bleed in school, quietly bending down under the table to take a pad from my bag and slip it into my jacket pocket so that I could sneak off to the toilet without anyone realising why. I remember being glad when I moved into year 10 as we were allowed to wear black skirts instead of grey and I no longer worried about bleeding onto it without realising. I remember dreading having to do sports lessons when I was exhausted and crampy and just wanted to be curled up in bed.

My dad, although also supportive, did the typical male thing of blaming our female hormones whenever me or my mum were moody, snappy or irritable. He never meant any harm, he was only teasing and making fun of the situation. But I didn’t know about the different phases of my cycle back then and this reduced my experience of menstruation to only two aspects: PMS and blood. I was glad each time my period ended because it meant I could get back to “normal”. The pain went away and my mood would lift again for another month until my next bleed. I rejected this part of me and saw it as a shameful secret rather than something to be proud of. In effect, the monumental milestone of me becoming a woman just faded into the monotony of daily life. I was never taught to acknowledge the significance of my period and saw it more as an annoying inconvenience than anything.

Once I turned 16 and wanted to start exploring my sexuality for the first time, I was terrified of getting pregnant. I asked my mum if I could go onto the contraceptive pill and with her permission I was prescribed it straight away by my doctor. I’m sure you don’t even need parental permission these days and can easily get a prescription from a sexual health clinic. I’m not going to go off on a tangent here about whether this is the right thing or not but the point I want to make is that the decision for me to take medication to disrupt my cycles was so easy for me to make (aside from the embarrassment of having to admit to my mum that I was sexually active). I didn’t have any awareness of the importance of my cycle and what I might lose by pumping my body with artificial hormones on a daily basis.

Although I was made aware of the risks of taking the pill in terms of increased risk of various cancers and blood clots, no one ever told me what the pill would do to my body. As I was taking the pill with a break week each month, I thought I was still getting a period and somehow the pill just stopped me from getting pregnant. Now I know that it was only a fake period from the huge drop in hormones for the week I wasn’t taking the pill. I was so out of touch with my body that I didn’t notice the loss of my natural rhythms and only experienced the negative “side effects” of the medication such as intense mood swings and increased acne. I went back to my doctor and was prescribed a different pill which might “suit my body better”. Eventually after 12 months and 3 different pills I heeded the warning signs  that the pill was harming my body and accepted that I had to come off it.

After I came off the pill, my natural cycles didn’t restart and I struggled with what’s known as Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) for 8 years! For most of this time I didn’t care and was actually quite glad that I didn’t have my period. It relieved me of the inconvenience of having to buy tampons and worry about my periods impacting my plans. I could have sex without worrying about getting pregnant and I didn’t have to deal with annoying hormonal acne, bloating or cramps. But still something didn’t feel quite right. Somehow I felt so disconnected from myself and felt like life was happening to me rather than me living out my purpose. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I didn’t understand it at the time but now I can see that all of this was related to being totally disconnected from my body and especially my womb space.

I think this is something that many women experience through being on the pill but it often goes unacknowledged as we don’t really talk openly about these things. Because most girls are not taught to appreciate and engage with their cycles from a young age, we don’t really know what we are missing when we suppress our natural rhythm either through contraceptives or just by not paying attention to our bodies. The deep knowing of the womb still speaks to us so we have the feeling that something isn’t quite right but we don’t understand it and often feel like there is something wrong with us. I think that this disconnection is also partly responsible for why so many women suffer with conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis as we are so out of touch with our intuition that we end up doing things which disrupt our hormonal balance. I think if girls were taught to celebrate and embrace their bodies and feminine nature, these issues would be much less prevalent.

When I regained my cycle, my second experience of menarche was so so different. I had been actively trying to recover my cycles for years and had been deep in the recovery process for 4 months. In that time I had read so much about female hormones, how they fluctuated throughout the cycle and the different phases. I was aware of the mood changes and physical symptoms I could expect and was on high alert for any positive changes I saw in my body. There was an excitement as I became aware of my body temperature rising, the changes in quantity and texture of my cervical mucus, the subtle shifts in my mood and energy levels and my libido. When I was about to bleed for the first time I just knew it, I could feel the buzz in my womb and the heaviness of my breasts for a whole week before and I couldn’t wait to see if I was right. This is how all girls should be able to feel.. the anticipation and exhilaration of becoming a woman rather than fear and shame.

I was actually on holiday when I started my bleed, something that I would have dreaded when I was younger as I would have thought it would stop me from going in the sea and ruin my trip. But I was so happy I didn’t care. I called my mum to tell her the news and actually cried with joy. Ever since then I have been thankful each time that I get my period and will never take it for granted again. I am still in awe of the power and magic of the female body to create life and I am fully aware of how my hormones are affecting my experience of life from day to day. I can’t ignore the messages and signals my womb sends anymore and although my period doesn’t completely dictate my life I do consider them whether I am working with or against my hormones with every decision I make.

I wish that all girls could have a positive experience of menarche, one that affirms their magnificence as a women and gives them a boost of confidence and self-esteem. Many tribal cultures such as Native Americans have embedded the celebration of menarche in their culture with powerful rituals and coming-of-age ceremonies but it’s something that we have lost in the UK and other Western countries. I think it’s time that we reconnect with menarche and develop our own ways to celebrate this time, not just for girls entering womanhood but also for all the women reconnecting with their cycle after years of ignoring it, hating it or suppressing it with contraceptives. I know the trend of “period parties” is starting to take off with parents celebrating menarche with their daughters and women generally feeling able to speak more openly about all things period related. I hope really it continues and we move into a more period-positive time!