What This Integrative Nutritionist Actually Eats In A Day To Balance Her Hormones
When clients first come to me for hormonal healing, they're often intimidated by the idea of changing their diets. I get it—the thought of saying goodbye to a favorite food (or foods) is scary, and "diet" has become a four-letter word for most people. That's because many "diets" involve restricting calories and/or adding in a torturous workout regimen.
The first thing to know about restricted-calorie diets is that they don’t necessarily work for weight loss or for hormonal harmony. Cutting calories can trigger weight loss in the short term, but studies show that the weight almost always comes back on. And these diets are a trainwreck for hormones.
The first step in healing hormones with food—and losing weight as a wonderful side effect!—is redefining the word "diet" to mean the things you can eat each day to nourish your body instead of the things you can’t. This will begin to transform your relationship to food. Trust me: I’ve lost 60 pounds twice in my life, once in my early 20s after healing my polycystic ovary syndrome, and again after giving birth to my baby daughter.
But the most important change I made to lose weight and balance my hormones was to start eating specific foods to help support the hormones at each phase of my cycle. It's not just what you eat but when you eat it that is the missing factor in most eating plans designed to balance your hormones and help with weight loss.
The secret to healing your hormones with food.
Most conventional and fad diets are based on research that doesn’t account for the mood, energy, and appetite shifts that naturally occur throughout the menstrual cycle. In fact, most scientific research is done on people with male sex organs, which leaves women with a lot of unanswered questions about what works for anyone who gets a period. Our hormone cycles are very different from those of people who don't menstruate, and I'd argue that in most cases, our diets will look different too. To make this easy for my clients, I designed a program called The Cycle Syncing® Method, and it’s the defining characteristic of anyone who comes to see me one-on-one.
So the first step in cycle syncing is to get familiar with your unique cycle—the menstrual cycle. The next step is to eat in ways that support your body's unique needs during each phase of your cycle. This allows your body to get the nutrients it needs to restore hormonal balance and rev up your metabolism.
How cyclical eating works.
Cycle syncing is based on the principle of regular shifts and adjustments in your eating to accommodate and enhance your natural hormonal rhythms. And it's simple: For each phase of your hormone cycle, which usually lasts about a week, you will eat a different set of meats, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits.
You'll experience big shifts in how you feel by starting with just one food. I'm going to walk you through one food to add in for each of the four different phases of your cycle. And if that piques your interest and you're ready to dive deeper, I recommend downloading the MyFLO app; it tracks your period, but in addition, it gives you lifestyle suggestions for the period phase you're currently in.
What a month of cycle syncing with food looks like.
During the month, you'll eat a variety of nourishing whole foods (not just vegetables), but I want you to focus on getting one or some of the following veggies during each corresponding week of your cycle:
Your menstrual phase (your period).
This is when your hormone levels are at their lowest. During this week eat protein to provide your body with extra amino acids to make more hormones.
Your follicular phase (before you ovulate, after your period).
This is when estrogen and FSH begin to rise. During this week, eat sauerkraut to help your gut reset for the big estrogen surge ahead.
Your ovulatory phase (when you're ovulating).
Your ovulatory phase has a huge surge of estrogen and FSH. During this week, eat raw veggies to help detox excess estrogen.
Your luteal phase (before you have your period).
Your luteal phase introduces progesterone, which requires greater caloric intake. During this week, add slow-burning carbs like grains and sweet root veggies to stabilize blood sugar and energy.
I'm a hormone expert: Here's what I eat in a day.
Bonus! Curious for a taste of what a day in the dining room of a hormone expert looks like? Here’s a sample menu I put together for my follicular phase (the week or so between the end of my period and ovulation). This is the time of the month when estrogen is rising, so the best foods to eat are packed with gut-healthy prebiotics and 3-indole-carbinol (think fermented veggies, broccoli sprouts, and artichokes). Whole grains and healthy fats are essential too! Here's a peek into what a follicular day might look like:
Oatmeal With Cashews, Goji Berries, and Cinnamon
- ¼ cup organic steel-cut oats
- ¾ cup water or unsweetened almond milk
- small handful of cashews
- small handful of goji berries
- dash of ground cinnamon
- dash of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and cover.
- Place in refrigerator and let soak overnight.
- In the morning, transfer to a pot and cook on medium heat until fully heated through.
Lentil Salad With Chopped Artichoke Hearts
Makes 2 servings
For the salad:
- ½ cup cooked lentils
- bowlful of arugula or other mixed baby greens
- 5 to 7 artichoke hearts (from a jar is fine)
- handful of halved grape tomatoes (optional)
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice or 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- dash of sea salt
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- Combine dressing ingredients in a shaker bottle or food processor and blend together.
- Arrange salad ingredients in a bowl and toss with dressing when ready to serve.
Eggs With Sauteed Zucchini
Makes 1 serving
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ onion, chopped
- ½ zucchini, sliced into rounds
- 2 organic eggs, beaten
- dash of Herbes de Provence
- Heat olive oil in a medium-size pan and saute onion and zucchini with Herbes de Provence.
- Remove zucchini mixture from pan and set aside.
- Add more olive oil if needed, and pour beaten eggs into the pan.
- Once the bottom of omelet is mostly cooked, add zucchini mixture to one side.
- Flip the other side over to cover the mixture.
- Let omelet cook for about 1 minute on each side.
And I’m not gonna lie: I’m a big fan of adding a square of dark chocolate for a decadent dessert at just about any time of the month!
If you're ready to transform your relationship to food and finally fix your hormones, eliminate your symptoms and lead you to your best life, sign up for Alisa's webinar!
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