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Food for Thought

This week, we’re getting real about our relationship to food, and how we envision a better version of ourselves and our uteri when we are eating well. Please read with caution if you have or are currently struggling with an eating disorder.

Elise: Dear My Culinary Hero,

Following last week’s post about Self Care for our Vaginas, I wanted to follow up this idea of diet that we both mentioned. I began researching to find out exactly what foods should be eaten in the week before our period starts. I began thinking only in terms of what’s ok and what’s not to eat. I began to feel myself falling into the habit of desiring a diet. This stems from so much guilt. Guilt around the appearance of my physical body, guilt around the foods I habitually eat, guilt around how I turn to food as a stress relief. Guilt that the foods I eat are not included in my rough draft of how to get to enlightenment.

Sitting with myself now, I have to recognize that I’m still not comfortable enough with food and diets to craft a diet around my period. Any thought or attempt to follow a list of foods I should eat spins me into a tizzy. Even when the list is well-meaning, the culture of restrictive eating that I am still very overwhelmed by distracts me from the benefits that can be gained from simply intentionally seeking out certain foods.

So, instead of a list of foods, I’m going to describe a food daydream that I have. Fortunately, our Chica Week is the week before we start bleeding, the same week that I may want to seek out hormone balancing foods, so Chica gets a feature! This exercise also allows me to reconnect my love of food and eating to be taking a moment for self-care and pleasure instead of anxiety that I will eat incorrectly.

……Rise by Solange plays…….

I open my eyes and, what’s that? A glass of water? WOW, that’s never there. I drink, contemplating how grateful I am that my past self is the best damn lover I could have fallen asleep with the night before. She really went out of the way to think of my needs before me. More water = happier vagina and my plants (Solange and Ivy) get watered! While I’m showering and getting dressed, I sip on ginger tea because ginger is one of my favorite flavors, and ginger is an anti-inflammatory that can lead to a reduction in prostaglandins. (Prostaglandins give us cramps when there are too many of them in the lining of our uterus.) Downstairs, I decide to abandon my usual bowl of oats for scrambled eggs with sauteed greens and sweet potatoes. Dark greens provide magnesium, which can balance our blood sugar and help keep our muscles relaxed. Unbalanced blood sugar can be the culprit of many unpleasant period symptoms, such as bloating, headaches, and sugar cravings – so it’s especially important for me to make sure I’m eating whole meals instead of surviving off of snacks and free pastries. The sweet potatoes are included because they are one of my favorite foods, and they contain B6, which helps our bodies increase progesterone, one of the three important hormones in our menstrual cycle (the others being estrogen and testosterone). Increasing progesterone will help lower estrogen, potentially reducing some cramping! To top off this meal, I bite into first one, and then a second Chica, and fully enjoy the moments of creaminess and dark chocolate. I eat Chica with breakfast because I want to and because I often don’t return home until after midnight, so eating Chica in the morning guarantees I won’t forget! The dark chocolate in Chica gives my body another boost of magnesium. And for the sake of time, I’m ready to get the fuck out of the house! (Yes, I do my dishes).

…….Excellent by Princess Nokia plays…….

What’s your dream meal??

Love,

Elise

P.S. – My resources for planning my breakfast: Flo Living, Integrative Practitioner, Activation

Cassidy: My Dearest Carb-y Barbie,

I have so much respect for your vulnerability in this letter. It takes immense courage to not only recognize your painful relationship with food, but to respect it enough to let yourself be when the pressure to change it becomes too much. I know you are constantly receiving the feedback that you need to just self-care better, but baby, you’re doing just fine.

And please don’t get me started on diets–diet culture pisses me off. It is insidiously promoted by the same consumerism it appears to be pitted against. It is heavily curated for purely aesthetic purposes. It is rarely actually healthy. And it reinforces the anxiety and shame that many people, especially women, have already internalized about their bodies. So I also respect the move to not craft a Chica diet. Sharing food daydreams is much more fun.

For me, food should be a source of celebration. So my dream meal is one made with passion, and shared with the people I love. Dim sum immediately comes to mind, not only because it contains a happy multitude of flavors, but because it is best when served at a big table. Some of my best childhood memories are steeped in the sounds and smells of trolleys stacked high with steaming baskets. But that doesn’t answer your prompt, because it has less to do with my body’s relationship to food.

Food in its simplest sense–as an essential vessel for nutrition–holds no interest for me. Objectively, I have ultimate respect for food. But not for my body. So feeding myself takes last priority too often, and when even the act of eating becomes a source of stress, I’ll avoid food for days until it becomes physically painful. And then I find refuge in a box of mac and cheese.

I inherited a strong metabolism and a thin frame, so I have the privilege of passing as “healthy” even when I’m not. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot do better. Chica has become an important resource for engaging with my health more critically, specifically, and actively, but it also cannot exist in a vacuum. So here’s my vision for a Chica Week ritual (also a morning vision, because mornings are important):

I begin my day looking and feeling like Bruce Lee, because I practice my Wing Chun first thing. This is essential to move and center my qi. Traditional Chinese medicine often focuses on invigorating qi–vital energy–when addressing the menstrual cycle, because problems like cramping arise when the blood and qi are weak or stagnant.

As I get ready, I sip hot water with lemon, honey, and ginger (you know I’m in love with ginger too). This A+ combo is detoxifying and warming, which supports my body’s natural transition as my uterus prepares to literally tear itself apart. In this daydream, I don’t need caffeine. We will entertain this idea because stimulants like coffee restrict blood flow and increase stress and anxiety.

My breakfast will be a love note from my past self, just like a glass of water was from yours. She knows I won’t cook a nutritious meal if left to my own devices, so there is a root veggie mix of beets and sweet potatoes hanging out in the fridge, as well as some leftover brown rice. I don’t fuck with brown rice taste-wise, because I have this perception that it doesn’t absorb flavor as well, but it helps support yang/warm energy–as do the root veggies. (I’m going on about warmth because it is important for and before your period: your circulatory and digestive systems will be slowed down by cold and cooling foods). To finish up my morning snack attack, all I need is some scrambled egg action for protein and I’m ready to go. My Chica is tucked in my bag for later.

I eat my breakfast surrounded by sunlight and lots of plants. They are happy and watered. I am on time. We are at peace.

Lots of love,

Cass

Poria

Fungus & Root

Scierotium Poriae Cocos / Fu Ling / 茯苓 Scierotium Pararadicis Poriae Cocos / Fu Shen / 茯神

Poria calms the heart and soothes nerves, helping with anxiety and insomnia. Additionally, Poria drains dampness, an excess of moisture that the body collects in the wrong places and makes us feel heavy and fatigued (hello moodiness).

Chinese Salvia

Root

Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae / Dan Shen / 丹參

Salvia root nourishes the blood and heart, and calms the spirit. Salvia works with Schisandra and Zizyphus in Chica Chill to help relieve insomnia.

Rehmannia

Root

Radix Rehmanniae Preparata / Sheng Di Huang / 熟地黄

Rehmannia root is your Yin nourisher, supporting calm and cold in your system. With its additional ability to help cool blood, increase fluids, and clear heart fire; Rehmannia is a star herb for soothing and preventing heat flashes.

Polygala / Thin-Leaf Milkwort

Root

Radix Polygalae Tenuifoliae / Yuan Zhi / 元志

Polygala root nourishes the Heart, and helps soothe nerves and restlessness.

Schisandra / Chinese Magnolia

Berry

Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis / Wu Wei Zi / 五味子

Schisandra berry is famous for featuring all five flavors of Traditional Chinese Medicine: bitter, sweet, salty, sour, hot. This means that Schisandra is completely energetically balanced, promoting overall health and vitality. Schisandra helps relieve night sweats, insomnia, and hormonal imbalances. Schisandra is also rich in antioxidants that are thought to protect from free radicals and other toxins in the environment that may cause cellular damage. 

Platycodon / Balloon Flower

Root

Radix Platycodi / Jie Geng / 桔梗

Platycodon root is a neutral balancing herb, meaning it is not especially Yin or Yang. Platycodon is nourishing for the lungs, which in TCM, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Scrophularia / Figwort

Root

Radix Scrophulariae / Xuan Shen / 玄參

Scrophularia root nourishes Yin, drains fire, and cools the blood. Scrophularia is particularly soothing for irritability.

Ophiopogon / Dwarf Lilyturf

Tuber

Tuber Ophiopogonis Japonici / Mai Men Dong / 麦门冬

Ophiopogon tuber works with Asparagus to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.

Stemona

Root

Radix Stemonae / Bai Bu / 百部

Stemona root is a balancing herb in the Chica Chill formula. Stemona is nourishing for the lungs, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Licorice

Root

Radix Glycyrrhizae / Gan Cao / 甘草

Licorice acts as a unifier, balancing the formula and amplifying the properties of the other herbs.

Zizyphus / Sour Jujube

Seed

Semen Zizyphi Spinosae / Suan Zao Ren / 酸枣仁

Zizyphus seed nourishes the heart and calms the spirit. Zizyphus helps relieve insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.

Ginseng

Root

Radix Ginseng / Ren Shen / 人参

Ginseng root, one of the most famous herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is known for its ability to strengthen Qi and support life vitality. Ginseng nourishes the Heart and calms the spirit, helping reduce anxiety and insomnia.

Acorus / Grassleaf Sweetflag

Rhizome

Rhizoma Acori Tatarinowii / Shi Chang Pu / 石菖蒲

Acorus helps relieve internal heat and is a favorite herb for reducing frequent insomnia.

Eucommia / Chinese Rubber Tree

Bark

Cortex Eucommiae Ulmoidis / Du Zhong / 杜仲

Eucommia bark balances the Chica Chill formula by offering Yang properties. Eucommia is also nourishing for the heart, and has been featured in research in Western medicine for its ability to help lower blood pressure.

Angelica / Dong Quai

Root

Radix Angelicae Sinensis / Dong Quai / 当归

Angelica root is sometimes described as the “female ginseng,” due to its fame for supporting a healthy and regular menstrual cycle. Angelica root strengthens blood and energizes circulation. In Chica Chill, Angelica root balances the herbal formula with its Yang properties.

Biota / Arborvitae

Seed

Semen Platycladi / Bai Zi Ren / 柏子仁

Biota seed benefits memory and promotes restful sleep by nourishing the heart and calming the spirit.

Chinese Asparagus

Tuber

Tuber Asparagi Cochinensis / Tian Men Dong / 天门冬

Asparagus root works with Ophiopogon to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.