Health & Fitness Our Monthly BFF

Our Monthly BFF

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When considering the issue of body image for women, I can’t help but think about the young women who come to my office for their first time. Struggling to wrap their heads around the enormous changes taking place in their body and mind, these teenagers have many concerns that often directly relate to how they view their body.

What is interesting to me is that, whether I am discussing healthy body weights, heavy periods or birth control, I know there are women of all ages with the same concerns. Most of the time, those concerns stem from a perceived lack of control surrounding their own bodies. I have learned, through working with my patients, that when provided with information and options, women can feel more in control of their bodies which in turn makes them feel better about their bodies. This goes for women of all ages.

For instance, take the monthly period. When considering body image, the menstrual cycle has an incredible impact.

It seemingly comes out of nowhere each month. There is little you can do to stop it. It causes bloating, aching and cramping. When you combine menstruation with the symptoms of PMS, it can feel like the period controls you all month long. However, having some information about what happens inside your body throughout the monthly cycle can make you feel better about what is happening.

Throughout the month, your hormones ebb and flow depending on which day of your cycle you are on. Beginning on the first day of your period (day 1), your estrogen hormone levels increase until they spike around day 12 and then decrease until day 22 when they rise slightly and decrease again. When estrogen levels rise, you can feel more energized, less hungry and more outgoing and confident. Conversely, when the estrogen levels decrease (at mid-cycle and toward the end of your cycle), you may feel more irritable and depressed.

Progesterone hormone levels increase dramatically within the last week of the cycle to prepare for a pregnancy. When progesterone levels rise, they can make you feel tired, depressed, and more likely to eat more calorie-dense foods.

With this information, you can see why the week before your period begins, you may be a little crankier and perhaps a little more likely to binge-eat those brownies. However, having this knowledge can help you through this time because you know in a few days, you’ll be back to yourself again.

Bloating is another symptom that comes every month and afffects how we see ourselves. Your body retains fluid a week or two before your periods in preparation for a possible pregnancy. Physical activity, limiting salt intake and ensuring you have enough calcium and magnesium can help alleviate some of your bloating symptoms.

Lastly, when it comes to the period and body image, one topic nobody really likes to discuss is the blood. I would be willing to guess nearly every woman has had an experience with some form of leakage or staining during their periods. Some women have difficulty inserting tampons because they don’t realize their vaginal canal tilts instead of going straight up and down. Others have extremely heavy periods that make it hard for many feminine products to work. There are many options for women to consider – from simply learning the geography of their vaginal canal, to trying out some of the newer vaginal cups and period underwear on the market, to considering birth control to better control the flow. When it comes to monthly periods, women should not just settle for leakage. There are ways to help that problem.

One important piece of information women need to know is they are not alone when dealing with their periods. While the emotional roller coaster, bloating and cramping are often normal, if a period seems too painful, too heavy, too far apart or close together or too emotional, check with your OB/GYN to see if there is anything that can be done to help alleviate these issues. There are options.

While periods may be one of the more obvious issues related to body image, other ways women can take control of their bodies include: learning what a healthy body weight is and healthy habits to get there; finding a method of birth control that works best for an individual’s needs; preparing your body for a safe and healthy pregnancy; and avoiding and treating sexually transmitted infections.

All of these actions can improve how you view yourself and your body. If you don’t feel like your body is your own, and within your power, it can be easy to lose appreciation for all the wonderful things your body can do.

I spend a significant portion of my day talking about all of these issues with my patients. The more you understand about your body and the options you have to ensure you are making the best choices for yourself, the more in control you feel. The more in control you feel, the more confidence you have. The key to a good body image is education.

and then decrease until day 22 when they rise slightly and decrease again. When estrogen levels rise, you can feel more energized, less hungry and more outgoing and confident. Conversely, when the estrogen levels decrease (at mid-cycle and toward the end of your cycle), you may feel more irritable and depressed.

Progesterone hormone levels increase dramatically within the last week of the cycle to prepare for a pregnancy. When progesterone levels rise, they can make you feel tired, depressed, and more likely to eat more calorie-dense foods.

With this information, you can see why the week before your period begins, you may be a little crankier and perhaps a little more likely to binge-eat those brownies. However, having this knowledge can help you through this time because you know in a few days, you’ll be back to yourself again.

Bloating is another symptom that comes every month and afffects how we see ourselves. Your body retains fluid a week or two before your periods in preparation for a possible pregnancy. Physical activity, limiting salt intake and ensuring you have enough calcium and magnesium can help alleviate some of your bloating symptoms.

Lastly, when it comes to the period and body image, one topic nobody really likes to discuss is the blood. I would be willing to guess nearly every woman has had an experience with some form of leakage or staining during their periods. Some women have difficulty inserting tampons because they don’t realize their vaginal canal tilts instead of going straight up and down. Others have extremely heavy periods that make it hard for many feminine products to work. There are many options for women to consider – from simply learning the geography of their vaginal canal, to trying out some of the newer vaginal cups and period underwear on the market, to considering birth control to better control the flow. When it comes to monthly periods, women should not just settle for leakage. There are ways to help that problem.

One important piece of information women need to know is they are not alone when dealing with their periods. While the emotional roller coaster, bloating and cramping are often normal, if a period seems too painful, too heavy, too far apart or close together or too emotional, check with your OB/GYN to see if there is anything that can be done to help alleviate these issues. There are options.

While periods may be one of the more obvious issues related to body image, other ways women can take control of their bodies include: learning what a healthy body weight is and healthy habits to get there; finding a method of birth control that works best for an individual’s needs; preparing your body for a safe and healthy pregnancy; and avoiding and treating sexually transmitted infections.

All of these actions can improve how you view yourself and your body. If you don’t feel like your body is your own, and within your power, it can be easy to lose appreciation for all the wonderful things your body can do.

I spend a significant portion of my day talking about all of these issues with my patients. The more you understand about your body and the options you have to ensure you are making the best choices for yourself, the more in control you feel. The more in control you feel, the more confidence you have. The key to a good body image is education.

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