How Amenorrhea Prepared Me for Quarantine

Listen on Podcast Episode 21 on Kier Here

Having amenorrhea was a blessing in disguise, honestly. It was a signal from my body telling me my hormones were not balanced.

Some people are not as lucky to have such a clear sign. Some people don’t have any signs so they don’t even know something is wrong. If I didn’t lose my period, I’d have kept going on the path that I was on which could have resulted in things much much worse. 

So I went “all in” to fix it and the approach of going “all in” means to stop intensive exercise except for walking and optional light yoga and to eat more.

Well, you guys, I took that to heart and I didn’t take up that light yoga. Why? I don’t know. I should have. I mean if that was the only exercise I could do, why didn’t I take advantage of it? Maybe I felt like I didn’t deserve to? Maybe I was too busy crying and feeling sorry for myself? Honestly. I don’t know. I didn’t think it mattered at the time and now I absolutely regret it. Here’s why…

I took a full 3 months off from all activity except walking.

This caused my body to tighten up but I didn’t even realize it because I wasn’t even moving enough to feel it.

But I certainly feel it now. I’m not nearly as flexible as I was last year. I don’t move as fluidly. I actually feel really awkward and clumsy when I do certain movements. I legit feel like an old stale rubber band. Like I want to stretch and bend and that’s what I was made for, but its tougher and just not the same. When I get out of bed, I feel like an old woman because my back and my feet ache.  When I go hiking, I barely trust my legs and my feet.

I even developed plantar fasciitis from NOT moving. Yea, trip on that one. Runners typically get plantar fasciitis. I stopped running and got planter fasciitis. Something I never saw coming.  

Sometimes, I legit feel like I’m living in someone else’s body. All because I stopped moving for 3 months and gained weight.

Even with 3 full months of exercising again, I feel very rigid and very tight! I feel much better now than I did when I first started exercising again, don’t get me wrong. BUT it’s taking me a hell of a lot longer to bounce back than I thought it would.

If there’s one thing I could go back and do differently during my 3 months of recovery it’s that I would have done low impact movement (not necessarily workouts) but extremely low-intensity exercises like stretching, foaming rolling and mobility movements like dynamic stretching- and maybe even that yoga!

These are all things that wouldn’t stress my nervous system and keeping me from getting my period but they would allow me to move. I’ve been doing all these things now but it’s much harder to start them than it is to maintain them. 

Not everyone goes through HA recovery, but everyone is going through this corona virus quarantine and the first thing most people do is stop moving. When you’re confined to your house and can’t really go places, we easily become sedentary.

Who knows how long this quarantine will last? It’s almost been a month, Who knows if it will be 2, or 3, or more!

When I was in recovery, I felt very much like I was on house arrest. I couldn’t go to the gym and that made me feel very isolated – which is probably what you all are feeling right now!

Don’t land yourself into my shoes. Move. Stretch. Do something active DAILY. Don’t just wait for the gym to reopen. You have full control of what you do right now. There are so many fitness professionals and mobility specialists giving free workouts away and that’s a great place to start. And if you need help finding the help you need or coming up with a routine I’d be very happy to help. Just message me on instagram @funsized.nutrition

And to anyone who is going through HA right now or even if you have something else going on and your doctor told you ‘no exercise’ – there are still movements you can do to keep your machine well-greased so that everything doesn’t tight up and lockup on you.

And if you’re going through HA recovery or you’re hesitant about starting your recovery journey, you are so very lucky that it’s not just you who can’t go to the gym, it’s EVERYBODY else too. I know we’re all social distancing but that probably doesn’t make you feel so alone about what you’re doing – or not doing.

In a very weird way, I feel like My HA recovery journey has prepared me for this uncertain time that we are experiencing in quarantine. It helped me look at everything I thought I knew about fitness and nutrition in a new light. I relearned what self-care really means; deliberately showing love and respect to your body through with plentiful food, restorative exercise and a safe environment.

Had I not gone through what I gone through, I probably wouldn’t know how to handle this lockdown situation right now. I probably wouldn’t have the mindset to handle being away from the gym, I probably wouldn’t have the knowledge of the right kinds of exercises to be doing at home, I’d have been doing tons of high intensity exercises and I probably would have drastically cut my carbs thinking omg if I’m not lifting, then I don’t need this fuel and I probably would give my clients the wrong advice too.

But now I know differently! Now I know that I can absolutely survive without the gym and I’m not stressing about it. If I could go 3 months without any exercise – I can easily go more than 3 months doing home workouts without a gym. 

I don’t regret what I did and what I had to do to fix it. I’ve learned so much but I’ve had to learn the hard way. And I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I did so that’s why I share my story and my feelings.

I feel pain now but again if I my body hadn’t given me a signal pain, I wouldn’t have known what to do better. The body is amazing. It’s smarter than we are. It knows what it needs and we need to do our part of decoding the signals.

I know I just kinda vented about the bad things but I want to counter that. It’s a little practice I’ve been doing to stay positive. Every time I think of a negative I try to follow up with a positive. So here goes…

My body is so resilient. It does so much for me. My feet have walked me to some of my favorite places, my belly has been full with my favorite foods, my legs have held me up when my mind didn’t feel strong enough to stand. My body has been there for me since day one. It loves me and I love it too.

I hope that you can find the beauty within it to because we all deserve to move and be happy.

ex-FEAR-ience

Listen to Podcast Episode 17 on Kier Here!

Fear of doing something new or different is no joke. I know for me most of the fear comes from not doing something right or not doing something perfect or not knowing what to do.

My podcast was put off for years because I was so afraid that I wouldn’t know how or what to do and what if it sounds terrible and what if nobody listens or cares?!

That fear of starting something new never really goes away until it’s done. Even after everything I’ve done, I still get that fear. I started an online business, I put my most vulnerable moments out there almost everyday -like this one. And sharing these stories are still scary sometimes. 

And what’s worse than my fear of doing the damn things is my fear of asking for help. I’ve come a long long way, don’t get me wrong. I used to seriously believe I could do everything on my own. Now I know there’s nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know something and asking for help but sometimes it’s tough to admit. 

I think it’s one of my best qualities that I’m so self driven and willing to try things on my own first and then from there make a decision to get help or not. But other times that best quality can get me into trouble because I put off asking for help until I find myself in a hole and absolutely. For example, I recently broke down before my last period. (There’s a story there too so make sure you listen to podcast episode 15 on Kier Here). But I ended up asking my boyfriend for his help.

Just to put things in perspective for you…. my boyfriend, Justin,  is 13.5 years older than me. 13.5 years a lot of time to have learned new things so he not only has the age thing going for him, but he’s got the knowledge that comes with it. And, I have to say, the guy is flat out brilliant. I’m so attracted to his brain is not even funny. 

I’ve always thought of myself as intelligent. I mean I was always in the honor roll in grade school, graduated with honors in college and always seemed to be the more well rounded than my previous boyfriends. Not this time. My boyfriend intimidates the shit out of me almost everyday…. in a very good way, let’s just get that straight. I love it because he pushes me to be better and he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. He inspires me and I’m constantly asking him questions about marketing and business because that’s what he does for work and he’s really really good at it.

In fact, he’s really good a lot of things and way better than me at most things. Like he’s a better cook then me, he’s better with technology, politics, movies, reading, talking, socializing, everything. I love him and I’m a lucky girl for sure but there are times where the deep dark voices in my head are like “he’s better then you”, “you’re not good enough.” Now I know that’s not entirely true. There’s a a lot of things I’m really good at too. I know a relationship is not a game of who’s better at what …but if we’re playing then I’m way better at weight lifting than he is. Just saying! 

Anyway… getting back on track here… Sometimes I feel really annoying when I ask him for help especially since he’s busy practically running the marketing team of a billion dollar company. When Justin suggested the idea to make video recipes to post on Instagram and YouTube, I was pretty excited but hesitant because I didn’t exactly know how to get started.  

I think fear can come from thinking we have to know before we get taught.

With his idea, the recipe and the food is the easy part. I could come up with those for days. The hard part is setting up the camera, getting the right lighting and the angles, and I need a script and to do my hair and makeup and then oh my god how long is this going to take me to edit? I have so much on my plate with this podcast and my clients, how am I gonna manage another thing all by myself???

And so I had this fear and this hesitance about it. We talked about it some more and agreed that this weekend he was going to show me how he would do it with one of his recipes and then I could just use his camera set up and copy the format and do it with my own recipe. Amazing right? Sound so easy. Monkey see, monkey do. 

He set everything up for his recipe which was banana bread. From the camera, to the lighting, to the set. And then he hit record, looking and sounding as natural as possible, and even if he make a mistake, he’d act like it was all part of the skit and roll with it. He finished in one try and I was so proud of him, it was so cool to watch from behind the scenes!

But I couldn’t stop thinking “there is no way in hell that mine would come out that perfect” I would need like 7 run through a before I got it right and by that time I’d run out of ingredients. So when he turned to me and said okay now its your turn, I kinda shut down and was like I can’t do that. It’s so overwhelming and I don’t know what I’m doing and what if I mess up?!

ALL THAT FEAR just came to the surface and stopped me dead in my tracks. I didn’t do my recipe that day because I let my fear get the best of me. And guess what? I felt awful about it. There I was, asking for help, he gave me help and I was still too scared to just try! 

So the next day he was like come on, let’s try again but let’s do a different format where you don’t have to be on camera and you don’t have to talk! I liked that idea so much better but I still had this heavy resistance like I don’t know what I’m doing! He verbally guided me to push all the buttons and do all the things and would grab the camera when he needed to show me how but basically he just walked me through every little step because that’s exactly what I needed. I needed the entire thing to be broken down into pieces instead of just looking at the big picture. And when we finished I was like omg, that was it?! Okay! I can do that for sure! And within an hour and a half I had a fully finished and edited video to post for you guys! 

So please check it out on my Instagram @funsized.nutrition. I’ve posted quite a few already and I’m happy to say I’ll be creating more now that I feel like I know what I’m doing! The very first one I did was protein puppy chow. You might know it as muddy buddies. All the recipes are also on my YouTube channel. They aren’t perfect, but I like them and the recipes are just so freaking simple. The series is call short and sweet. How on brand, right?

I’m so proud of myself for pushing past the fear and resistance because I definitely feel like I can do it now! I’m so glad that Justin gave me a little extra pushing to get past my fear and I’m so glad that I had that fear in the first place because if it weren’t for the fear, then I would have this amount of reward in the end.

In essence, what I’m trying to say here is that we will always have fear and resistance towards new things that we are unsure about and things we haven’t learned yet. That’s never going to really go away until you do the thing. But asking for help from someone who know what they are doing and who cares about your success, is a sure way to not only learn the thing, but to do it right the first time around rather than trying to do it all on your own and messing up several times and losing the confidence before you find the right one.

I think that’s exactly how my clients feel just before they hire me to coach them with nutrition and fitness. The whole thing seems overwhelming and scary and like there are so many moving parts — and there definitely is. But here’s the thing, I know that, and I know what it takes for me to learn things and feel confident in them and if you’re anything like me, you need the step by step customized guidance like I do!

I coach my clients exactly how I would want to be coached, with unlimited support, because life’s too short to be living in fear of what ifs. I’m here to help get you out of your comfort zone and get you into a new one that you’re proud of. If you’re curious about my one-on-one customized coaching program shoot me a message on instagram @funsized.nutrition.

The Female Brain

To listen instead check out Kier Here Episode 15 : The Female Brain

My brain is changing everyday.

And if you’re a relatively healthy female yours is too.

I’ve been doing a ton of reading on the human brain lately. I loved my Psychology courses in college and it always interested me and secondly, y’all know I’ve been through some pretty tough shit within the last year. Between HA experience (listen to episode 12) and moving across the country – it’s a lot of heavy change !

And then I learned about this brain changing everyday thing. It’s not wonder I’m feeling all out of sorts!

And if you’re feeling all out of sorts, stressed out one day, cool as a cucumber the next day, you’re really going to enjoy this…

You might know that when a human takes an additional hormone testosterone, they seem to become this entirely different person. We see this with male bodybuilders a ton. They are more aggressive, etc. Well it’s from actual physical changes in the brain.

Hormone levels change the size and function of the human brain. Sooooo it only makes sense that the female brain would change almost daily because her hormones are different every single day of her menstrual cycle.

Our testosterone is not nearly that of a mans but we do still have it and when our estrogen rises and decreases and our progesterone rises and decreases, all the hormones are received in the brain at different ratios and thus, the female brain is different every single day.

This explains why we can have the uproots confidence one day and none what so ever the next! It’s not that we aren’t strong enough to keep our confidence. It’s because it’s physiologically out of our control!!

We process and feel our emotions different on different days of the month. That’s why one small comment can set you off one day but on another day you shake it off like it’s nothing. It’s not always the situation or who said it, it’s your brain. 

Men dont have this because their hormones are not fluctuationing nearly as much as females are. They are for the most part, at this kind of constant level of hormones and processing emotions. The parts of the brain that control emotions are actually larger in women than men due to more estrogen in our bodies and so it’s no wonder we feel things more.

Before I was diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, I was searching for the reason as to why I didn’t have a period. I had my hormone levels tested several times. The results always came back the same with low estrogen and low progesterone but everything else was normal. Which would mean that the ratio of testosterone and the other hormones I was still producing was being received in my brain much higher than an average females would. And because my hormones were not cycling because my hypothalamus wasn’t producing enough estrogen and progesterone to induce ovulation, my brain was not changing everyday like a normal females would. So I was always at this very constant level of emotion (much like a dude). Which leads me to believe I had this kind of hybrid brain for a while where the emotion processing parts were smaller than they should be because there wasn’t enough estrogen. 

I originally assumed the problem was in my ovaries but it was actually in my Hypothalamus (hense hypothalamic amenorrhea). And now that I’m recovered and hormones are cycling again (and knowing what I know now), not only is my body a different shape now and my lifestyle so different, but my brain is actually physically different now than it was this time last year. MIND BLOWN! Literally!!

The week before my period starts.

The final days before my periods start are absolute hell on earth. Even the most silly things can trigger hours of crying, feelings of hopelessness, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and more uncontrollable bouts of crying. I feel so jerked around by my hormones that I literally cannot work or speak to anyone without bursting into tears or biting their head off. I feel like most days of the month I’m super engaged and productive but the week leading up to my period leaves me hating myself and those feelings are so very real even though they are solely coming from hormonal shifts in my brain. And then as soon as the hormonal tides change, I’m back to my normal self.

It seems I haven’t gotten a grip on my confidence and I’ve been beating myself up because I haven’t been able to behave myself as much as I used to when my hormones were not fluctuating. One week it’s high and I’m crushing it and the next I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. Everything I thought I knew about myself has come undone once my hormones began to cycle again.

It’s almost as if I’m experiencing puberty for the second time! I shouldn’t be so hard on myself for having such intense emotions because my brain is doing exactly what it should be doing as someone who’s just starting to have active hormones. And that’s a relief because that means there’s nothing wrong with me afterall! Except for maybe having to go through this a second time at 28. It’s like I’ve been given a whole new set of extension cords and need to figure out which one plugs into which outlet. 

All this time, I thought I’m not strong enough because it can’t control my emotions or out of control behavior or that I should be able think a certain way because that’s what therapy tells us we need to do – but we aren’t actually hard-wired that way. 

Instead of beating ourselves up about not being able to process our emotions like men, we need to embrace our differences and use them to our advantage!

And maybe if we stop beating ourselves up over not having high confidence everyday, then we can give ourselves that grace and actually have the confidence to be okay with that! Because that’s what our brains naturally do!

Having this understanding about how we are wired is the key to our success. When you’re aware of what’s happening, it’s so much easier to cope with and explain to our partners and friends what’s going on. These hormonal changes aren’t excuses for poor behavior but they are explanations and I think that is so powerful!

So if you’re a female in her reproductive years who feels moody and off sometimes and can’t seem to get a grip on your confidence. You’re completely normal and your are not alone. You are stronger than you think, you are hard-wired to fluctuate this way. Let’s embrace it, and give ourselves some grace. In a few days, it all all be okay! 

If you want to learn more about this topic I highly recommend the book called “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine 

How to get a Flatter Belly

Listen to my podcast episode here

We all want a flat tummy, especially us petite girls because it doesn’t take much for us to be as round as we are tall. Well, the truth is there’s no way to target belly fat. Your genetics get to decide where the fat settles in your body, but here are a 5 things I have found particularly helpful for my me and my petite clients

  1. MANAGE STRESS

When you’re stressed out, you body wants to protect you. Your most prized organs are in your midsection and not your limbs and that’s why we seem to store body fat there first. On a deeper level it has everything to do with the release of cortisol. You’ll never completely eliminate belly fat until that stress calms down. That’s one of the reasons why self-care is such a popular thing these days.  Unfortunately, we live in a time where every little thing as simple as an alert on our phones, can release that coritsol so that leads me into my next tip:

2. SUPPLEMENT with Vitamin C & Magnesium 

Supplementing with vitamin C regularly has been shown to keep cortisol levels more relative – and not making harsh spikes. Also, every time your body releases that stress hormone, it depletes its magnesium stores. Some of our foods have magnesium like leafy greens and salmon but its not enough to make up for how much is lost so it’s wise to supplement with magnesium. I noticed so many benefits from supplementing with magnesium such as better sleep, regular bowel movements, and less peanut butter cravings – all of which helped me get rid of that unwanted lower belly pooch.

NUTRITION

Have you ever heard that saying ‘abs are made in the kitchen? Well, it’s so true. Of course, this goes without saying: eating a whole foods diet and eliminating processed foods will help decrease belly fat. But futhermore, You’ll want to eliminate foods that typically cause bloating. This includes Dairy, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, sugar (yes even fruit sugar). Towards the end of my clients programs when they really want to push their results to the limit, I suggest removing dairy and they are always surprised by how good they feel. Of course, it’s hard to live life without cheese and ice cream so they eventually introduce it back in smaller quantities and seem to have less of a reaction to it. But I personally always eliminate it a couple weeks leading up to my modeling events because it just makes me feel a tad bit tighter. 

EXERCISE

There is no particular exercise that targets belly fat – but there’s proof that consistent exercise- no matter what, will not only aid digestion, but also help manage stress. So exercising is a big piece of the puzzle. My reccomnedation is lifting weights because by building muscle, your body will eat away at the fat. Also don’t be afraid to use resistance on your abs. I think people fear getting a blocky midsection but your abdominals are muscles just like the rest of your body and you’d benefit from using some resistance. For females under 5’3”, You only need 3-10lbs of resistance. 

Wear a SWEAT WRAP belt when doing cardio

An abdominal sweatband will help you sweat more. Does it really work? Well, it’s hard to tell. There are studies saying no, there are studies saying yes. The way I see it is that it really can hurt right? And if anything, it’s a placebo type thing. If seeing the extra sweat makes you FEEL like you’re burning the fat, that feeling and belief in yourself will transfer in the long run. Call me woo-woo but I truly believe in the power of the mind. Only use this during cardio and don’t use during lifting workouts it can hinders the use of your abdominal muscles.

***IMPORTANT*** None of these things are going to work overnight. It takes consistency. It takes months to sometimes even years. And you don’t want to do these things ALL at once. You don’t want to through all your tools into the bucket.

My funsized formula includes ALL of these aspects

If you’re not sure exactly what you should be doing, I encourage you to check out my one-on-one signature coaching program where I customize EVERYTHING for you – from macros and food choices, strength training, cardio, supplements and anything else I feel would benefit you the most. 

If you’d like to hear more about this topic and personal stories, check out my podcast episode: 13. How to get a Flatter Belly

Safer/Cleaner Personal Care

About this time last year, a fellow NTP friend, told me about this company who creates cleaner and safer personal care and beauty products. She told me she would send me free samples.

I was hella skeptical. I was like ugh this is just another bullshit way for people to make money like herbalife or those thrift patches that have really good marketing but their products are crap. And when I think ‘cleaner/safer/healthy’ I automatically think of products that don’t quite work.

After trying the products and a little further back and forth talk, we decided grab coffee and chat more about our girl issues (amenorrhea) and just connect on a personal level because we felt like we had so much in common.

Before leaving, she lent me some full-sized products to try for about a week. I was BLOWN AWAY. First off, that was an extremely nice gesture of someone I had just met and second, I actually couldn’t wait to put the products to the test. Thank god, I didn’t reject right off the bat.

After using the products for a week and being pleasantly impressed, that’s when I started to research the company and take a closer look. 

I had never heard of Beautycounter before so I felt extremely curious but that led me to learn some things about the beauty-industry that I couldn’t unlearn.

Here are the eye-opening facts that terrified me

  • There hasn’t been a U.S. law passed since 1938. There is a complete lack of regulation and all the loop holes when it comes to the ingredients companies are allowed to use — and we put those ingredients on our skin everyday! And they get absorbed into our bodies!
  • The United States has introduced over 80,000 chemicals since WWII and only 10% of those chemicals have safety data.
  • There are 1,500 chemical ingredients commonly used in U.S. skincare products that are banned in the European Union.
  • Toxic chemicals , especially fragrance, can mess with your hormones, potentially causing infertility, and many of the ingredients in conventional skin and beauty products have been linked to cancer.

And that right there  is what made me go ok, I really should look into my products. So I downloaded the EWG (healthy living app) and started to scan all my products. From shampoo to makeup to household cleaners and laundry detergents.

I was SHOCKED to see that most of my products clocked in as an 8 because of the fragrance. And all I could think is omg, could this be the reason I’m not getting a period?

So I went for it by making the cleaner swap to Beautycounter because you know what? it just made me feel better.  I couldn’t look at my old products without feeling gross and liking I’m harming my body. I know it sounds crazy but when you learn something that powerful, you can’t really unlearn it. 

Honestly you guys, I knew I was going to invest in a ton of Beautycounter products so I became a consultant to get the 25% discount. And I figured since I do have a large health and wellness following, why not educate them and provide a resource of safer products for them too. If I make some extra cash, great but I certainly don’t depend on it or push it till you get annoyed.

The thing I love about beauty counter is that there overall mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone.

And I love that it’s founded and run by strong, passionate women trying to make a difference. 

And alsooooo they aren’t a cult. We aren’t like omg you should only ever buy beauty counter. No, you should buy safer products and if another brand is creating safer products then GREAT! That means even more people are going to live healthier. Remember, we vote with out dollars so if you’re spending money on crap, the industry is only going to make more crap. If we spend money on high quality clear products, there will be more companies providing safer products for us!

Beautycounter is on a mission to change the industry and I fully support that!

If you’re interested in learning more about beauty counter go to beautycounter.com. If you make a purchase, make sure you choose me as your consultant at check out!  and if you’re interested in becoming a consultant to get a 25% discount on all products and make some extra cash you can message me @funsized.nutrition or email me at kierstincifelli@gmail.com it could be a great business venture for you if you put the time into it but for me, its simply a little perk and way to spread the information!