Read this. Period.


If you’re a woman who works out, or a man who associates himself with women who work out, you need to read this. PERIOD.

See what I did there? Haha. Feeling uncomfortable? That’s okay, you’re allowed; talking about the curse has been kinda taboo for a long while but I’m here to tell you we NEED to talk about the ups and downs of the female hormone cycle, because most of us could stand to understand it better. Not talking about it and pretending it doesn’t make a difference isn’t working too well for us, because guess what? IT MATTERS.


Sisters, let’s have a show of hands: how many of you have gone into the gym feeling great, like you’re really going to have an awesome workout – maybe even lay down a PR – and then everything just feels H E A V Y and you just don’t have the steam you usually do? OR, you’ve gone into the gym feeling fierce and happy, caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, thought something mean and shitty about yourself that you just can’t get out of your head, and instead of having a great workout you end up dripping angry tears all over your barbell? Your menstrual cycle isn’t wholly responsible for those day-to-day changes in your performance, but they are definitely a factor.

Now, everyone (male AND female) has low-energy days, but if you’re female chances are good that when that happens, you’re a) within a few days of starting your period, or b) right smack in the middle of ovulating. Our monthlies can mess with our physical and mental performance in a myriad of ways but there are strategies we can employ to minimize the flames and wreckage.

***Note: I recently had a conversation with a bunch of male trainers, most of whom professed to specialize in training women, where the subject matter turned to shark week and most of them started squirming like worms on hooks. I didn’t bother to change the subject though; I kinda think that if you make a living training women you need to be comfortable talking about that stuff. And if YOU are the one to bring up the subject, demonstrate that you know something about what happens to your female clients’ bodies every month, and be somewhat mature and sympathetic about it, your female clients will thank you. Trust me.


Let’s make like tampons and dive right into it. (Too far? Maybe just a little – sorry.) Menstrual cycles are like snowflakes – no two are the same. They vary just a little bit (or a lot, sometimes) from month to month and from woman to woman. On average they last about 28 days, so we’ll speak to that average as we go through what happens during a hormone cycle. Ready?

Days 1-3 (Follicular phase): Hormone levels drop like they’re hot and the blood and tissues lining the uterus start to break down and shed. The muscles surrounding the uterus can cramp and cause significant pain and/or discomfort. Bleeding is usually the worst between days 1 and 3.

So, days 1-3 are not going to be awesome workout days. The hormones that keep us energetic and mentally balanced have peaced out. This is not to say that we shouldn’t work out during the heavy days – on the contrary actually; working out will ease any physical pain or discomfort that is happening – but they are not the time to go after PR’s. Work up to about 85-90% and be nice to yourself.


Days 4-6: Bleeding lightens and most ladies start to feel markedly better. Estrogen levels rise, our hemoglobin levels start to return to normal, and we feel more energetic and optimistic. We can start pushing a little harder in the gym; this is a relief after the last few days of feeling like our undercarriage will turn inside out if we put out maximal effort!

**Usually there is a big change in vaginal PH levels around days 4-5 which means that yeast infections are something to watch out for, especially in women who are on the move all the time. Slipping into clean underthings after a hard workout is always good but extra important right about now.

Days 7-12: The follicular phase starts to wrap itself up – by now bleeding has stopped and estrogen levels are on the rise. Our bodies are preparing for pregnancy: the uterine lining starts to thicken again and the ovaries are preparing to release an egg for fertilization. Hormonally this is smooth sailing time: estrogen is still rising steadily and testosterone is staging a comeback. We’re feeling sane, strong, and optimistic. As long as you’re healthy and rested you should have pretty close to peak performance in the gym over this whole week.

Days 13-15 Ovulation! Whee! When ovulation happens there might be some twingy cramps or some spotting because life is just that rude sometimes. If you’re trying to get pregnant now is the time; also if you’re looking for a PR your body should be primed for it right around now.

Days 16-18 That egg is just hanging out waiting to be fertilized. Estrogen is still high and progesterone will start to rise as well. With the appearance of progesterone in our systems, brain fog and forgetfulness can get worse. Be mindful in the gym –  focus on control and maintaining the mind-muscle connection, keeping one rep in the tank at the end of every set. You will want to train to failure especially if your athletic performance was amazing just a few days ago, but resist! At this point in our cycle we are at our most injury-prone. PMS is right around the corner, and if you can’t train because you’re injured life will suck big equine schlongs.

Days 19-22 (Luteal phase) Danger, Will Robinson! PMS is starting. For the love of goats and all other bearded creatures do not get on the scale right now; it will ruin your day. Thanks to a sharp rise in progesterone our bodies will retain more water than SpongeBob Squarepants. I’d say don’t sweat it, but sweating is your friend – it will help you shed that extra water and give your mood a boost at the same time…and you’ll be better equipped to outrun the zombies when they come. Make sure you get a wide variety of mineral sources in your diet and drink lots of water.

Days 22-24 Estrogen levels will start to drift down and progesterone is at its peak. PMS-related bloating and moodiness are at their worst. Take extra care to look after recovery and nutrition if you’re training hard; your body needs it. Be kind to yourself and keep tissues handy in the gym just in case you start playing the comparison game in your head or the pressures of trying to be all things to all people get to be too much – stress may start leaking out your eyeballs.

Days 25-28 Period’s coming any day now – cramps and headaches and brain fog, yay! Our estrogen and testosterone levels are headed to the basement and progesterone is also on its way down. You may feel like your energy and drive are just. Not. there. And that’s okay – stick to the program and do your best; this is not the time to change goals or make any big decisions. Hang in there; in a few days you’ll feel better!




Boob Noob

I was going to start this post with a warning to some sensitive or squeamish souls, that there might be TMI in this post…but then I thought nah, fuck that; most of you have learned to expect and appreciate that you’re gonna get overshares and f-bombs in this neck of the woods. So no more TMI warnings!


Now that that’s out of the way and we are all on the same page, let me tell you about what happened today. First, context is important: women have these pots of fat on their chests that, for whatever reason, have established themselves as symbols of womanhood and sexiness (which is a mystery to me; they are for feeding babies and seem to be of no other use whatsoever.) But, we tend to define ourselves, our femaleness, and our worth as women, at least in part by the appearance of our breasts. So it comes as a bit of an insult when, if we lose a bunch of weight in pursuit of leanness and strength and better health, our breasts take a proportionally bigger hit than the rest of our bodies.

Now, if you’re like me and have gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years (not even exaggerating a little bit there), have done pregnancies, childbirth, lactation/nursing, and are closer to your fortieth birthday than your twentieth….your girls have some mileage on them. A lot of mileage. They’re tired and need some serious support.

Lately I don’t pay much attention to my boobs, except when I’m working on Olympic weightlifting in the gym and I am trying not to slam the bar into them. (Most of the time I avoid it but I have on occasion laid a beating on them that leaves all three of us crying a little bit.) Years ago I discovered the one sports bra that seems to work for me, I have a few of them, and I wear them every damn day. I don’t own a single dressier, ‘normal’ bra…or rather, I didn’t – until today.


What changed, you ask? Well, lately I’ve been noticing that my bras don’t fit me the way they used to, which is to be expected since I’ve lost, oh, pretty close to fifty pounds since I last went bra shopping. It was time. I gathered up my courage and headed to the mall.

Let me stress here that I hate shopping. I hate it. My usual action plan is to swoop into whatever store I am SURE has what I want, grab it without any thought to shopping around or getting the best deal or whatever, and get the fuck out of there as fast as I can. I followed the usual formula today: scoot into Victoria’s Secret, grab a couple of sports bras in the style I always buy but one size smaller, and go line up to check out…except that this little voice in my head whispered “psst: you should really try those on – what if they’re the wrong size?

That little voice had a point, so back to the fitting room I went, where a very tiny, very helpful girl named Debbie (honestly I can’t remember her name so that’s what I’m calling her) offered to measure me and make sure I was trying on the right size. This seemed like a solid idea, so I obliged…and was surprised to learn that I’ve actually dropped two sizes instead of one. She brought me a couple of ‘fitting bras’ just to make sure we had the sizing right (one fit and one kinda didn’t) and asked me some questions about the bras that I normally wear. I confessed that I’m a trainer, I live in sports bras and didn’t actually own any, you know, ‘normal’ bras.


This piece of information was unacceptable to Debbie. She whisked away and was back in a flash with an armful of lacey hardware which she deposited in my fitting room, saying things like “I’m SO excited for you to try this one…SO pretty…push-up padding…unlined lace…blah blah…and here’s a sports bra since you look like you’re shopping for those too.”


Okay, I thought. Be a good sport. Clearly there’s a thing called a push up that doesn’t involve using your arms and pectoral muscles to push your body off the floor. Keep an open mind and maybe this will be fun. I picked up the first one and put it on. It was kind of a basic T-shirt bra – not bad at all. I can do this, I thought. Next I put on the sports bra – also okay but it was a two-layered thing with a front closure and then a zipper on the outer layer. Wait, a zipper? On a bra? Nope, I thought – not feeling that one. I moved on to a padded thing that squished my girls up under my chin. Huh – this would take some getting used to but…maybe? I moved around a little bit and promptly fell out in all directions. Next? A lace demi-cup bra that looked pretty on the hanger but felt scratchy and awful with human tatas in it. One by one I tried on all of them, and by the time I was done I was sweaty, exhausted, and hated the sight of my poor, sad, almost forty-year-old breasts. Also I felt guilty for what I was putting them through – they were red and scratched and didn’t belong in any of those strangely-shaped packages I was forcing them into. Enough already. I put on my two-sizes-too-big-sports bra and was about to get dressed, when Debbie knocked at the door.

“How’s it going? What do you think of them? Any winners so far?” she asked eagerly. I opened the door and she entered with another armload of bras. “Here’s one I think you’ll really like…blah blah..GORGEOUS…you’re going to love this one…blah blah.” I replied weakly that the t-shirt bra was okay but the rest weren’t really me. She hung up about twenty more bras on the wall and enthusiastically entreated me to show her how they looked once I had them on. “Okay, awesome! Thanks so much!” I heard myself say.

Now. Let me stress here that Debbie was damn good at her job. She also clearly enjoyed helping people find something pretty they could like themselves in. She had all the right motives and I appreciated that about her…which is why I couldn’t make myself say “actually, I’m done – no part of me wants to hang out in here, half naked, judging and comparing the appearance of my boobs in different underthings.”  I didn’t get the feeling that she’d understand that I stay sane by actively avoiding looking too closely in the mirror, and that thought, when it hit me, sounded just…sad. What had happened to me? When did I get so…fuddy duddy? What happened to my joie de vivre?

Dammit, I am going to do this and like it, I thought. I grabbed the first bra and put it on. It was an unlined lace balconet – again, pretty on the hanger but reminiscent of a large reptile in a tutu on me. Tears threatened. Nope, I thought. Done. How do I explain that I cannot do this anymore and get out of here without hurting her feelings or dissolving into a weepy mess myself?

Somehow I made it out of there – I scored a couple of sports bras that fit properly AND I made Debbie happy by selecting a couple of rather basic-looking but pretty everyday bras which I can even see myself wearing someday. Added bonus: bra shopping is done for at least another year. Fingers crossed.


Brutal Honesty about Fat Loss

I’m gonna put my asshole hat on and rant a little bit at y’all today. So if you’re feeling sensitive and special and snowflake-y, you may want to just close this window and find something else to read…because guess what? You are not a special snowflake. Nobody is. Not as far as your body’s chemistry and composition is concerned, anyway.


Want to change your body composition? And what I mean by that is, lose fat and gain muscle? Maybe not in that order, but that’s what I hear from most people in some combination – and hey, who doesn’t want to get ripped and shredded and sexy as fuck? If you’re overweight though, I have a news flash for you: you are not accomplishing your goals because of what you’re eating. No, you probably don’t need to go to your doctor and no, there’s probably nothing wrong with you. If you do decide to go see your doctor because you are convinced there is something wrong with you, they will probably tell you to get more exercise. That’s bullshit. The problem is what you’re putting in your face hole. Not that more exercise will hurt, but sorry docs – more exercise (especially if you’re already exercising regularly) isn’t going to help you lose weight.


Want to know what else won’t help you lose fat? Diets that eliminate entire food groups, including (but not limited to) Paleo, vegetarianism/veganism, keto, etc. Also on the list of shit that won’t help you are, plans/companies/MLM’s that will charge you a million bucks to put you in a huge calorie deficit and jack you up on stimulants so that you love the whole freaking world while you lose alarming amounts of body weight (and watch out, because your body’s going to munch up your muscle tissue for fuel on those plans so it won’t be fat that you’re losing primarily). These are the real wolves in sheep’s clothing because yes, you WILL lose a lot of weight very quickly if you stick to the plan, but the minute you stop paying for the plan and go back to “normal”, you’ll put all the weight back on and then some. In short order. Know how I know? I’ve done those plans and diets myself – just about all of them. And after 7 years of nutrition coaching I have seen it happen firsthand enough that the results are firmly entrenched in my world view. Yes there are outliers, but not many.

What does stop people from being able to lose fat is physics: if you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Hold up, coach, you might be thinking: there’s more to it than that, OR on the other hand you might be thinking, THANK YOU – calories in vs calories out is all there is to it. Well, guess what? Both of those knee-jerk reactions are kinda right but also kinda wrong. Here is the real skinny on fat loss, hormone imbalances (real and/or imagined) and special snowflake-ness.

When a new nutrition client comes to see me and tells me that they eat perfectly and that their lack of fat loss is due to some mysterious underlying health condition, the first thing I recommend is that they see their doctor to rule it out. (Sorry, doctors. Sorry, overworked health care system. But coaching people with actual health problems is outside of my scope of practice and it would be irresponsible of me to keep going with someone who does have an issue.)

You know how many people have actually come back with a diagnosis that makes weight loss impossible?


You know how many people come back pissed off because their doctors told them they just need more exercise?

Neither do I because I’ve lost count.

So the next step is to have people track what they’re eating, just for a few days, so we can take a really honest, hard look at their intake. The results are usually eye-opening – not for me but for the client, who is used to eating whatever’s going to make them feel better with little thought to the consequences. See, those tracked results are not an accurate picture of what they are actually eating on a regular basis; they are the results of actually PAYING ATTENTION to what they’re eating for a few days. Those few days usually yield a couple of pounds of weight loss as well. Tracking WORKS.

Let’s talk hormone imbalances for a minute. I’d say that hormone imbalances are the number one reason people think they can’t lose weight…but guess what? If that’s you, you’re wrong. Maybe you do have a hormone imbalance (and if you’re more than thirty pounds overweight let’s be real, you probably do just because of the extra weight you are carrying around). Those motherfuckers are not your friends as far as fat loss is concerned, but not for the reason you think. If you are not overweight, but have looked at an overweight person and made a snap judgement about their character or discipline based on their appearance, this applies to you too because you are in need of some education, so keep reading.  Anyway, hormones: carrying large amounts of excess fat around for extended periods of time can really mess them up in a variety of ways (including but again, not limited to, conditions like low testosterone for the guys, PCOS for the ladies, hypothyroidism, etc.) BUT these conditions on their own do not stop people from being able to lose fat.

Here is what nobody talks about: being overweight is depressing. Being overweight causes brain fog. Being overweight makes you fucking tired. You’d do just about anything to get rid of that extra weight fast, which spurs lots of people on to extreme diets, crackerjack supplements that cause more problems than they solve, injections, pills, pyramid schemes, meal replacements, and in extreme cases pathological restriction and binging and purging. And let me tell you, after a day (or days) of exercising control, depriving yourself of the fuel your body needs in order to thrive in favor of shitty shakes or pills, and being judged and marginalized because of your body shape, it is really hard to give a rat’s ass about sticking to a diet. So you eat a bunch of stuff that doesn’t do your body any good, and you start off the next day thinking that you have to make up for last night’s mistakes.


Now, if you add an actual hormone imbalance to that mix, for example low T or PCOS (to cite the most common one in each gender) you have to add in MORE brain fog, MORE depression, MORE fatigue, and (potentially) fear of infertility into that mix of stress. In a nutshell, developing an obesity-related hormone imbalance just throws gas onto the fire of insecurity and self loathing that is already merrily burning. Having trouble believing that fat loss is possible? Congratulations, now you have another hurdle to get over. Still, a hormone problem won’t stop you from losing fat. It will slow you down; you’ll have to be veeeery consistent for a longer time before you get the results you want. But stick at it: you can’t be in a calorie deficit for too long before weight loss is inevitable – that’s science!


Here are some unpopular truths about fat loss. If it’s going to last, it takes time. Lots of learning has to happen and you have to get your head on straight so that you are in a position to absorb the lessons that your body is teaching you. Your relationship with your food may have to do a complete 180. You’ll have to be super consistent for a long time – maybe six weeks (or more if your hormones are doing the funky chicken) before you see any changes on the scale at all. The hardest thing, especially if you have been telling yourself that your weight has nothing to do with the way you live, will be assuming responsibility for the way things are, because yes, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. I’m not saying it’s a character flaw or a fault…but look at it this way: if you aren’t responsible for the way things are, how will you own any success you have?

It’s not easy – but doing it slowly and changing your mind while you change your body is worth the investment, you know why? Because the changes you make to your beliefs, and then to your outlook, and eventually your lifestyle, ARE the new normal.