Urban Light

Sunday, November 4, 2018

 
Urban Light, Elie Wiesel, Temple
photo credit: Joshua Franzos

Title: Urban Light
Artist: Chris Burden (1946 - 2015)
Type: Assemblage
Year: 2008
Dimensions: (320.5in X 686.5in X 704.5in)
Location: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

photo credit: Experiencing Los Angeles Blog

God, I think, is a son of a bitch. You can call me a heretic, but you can't say I'm not a believer. Two Born Agains ensured the vital roots of my belief with tactics that would probably violate the Geneva Convention. After my father died and my mother grew terminally ill, a question arose that has challenged my faith since college: If God exists, how could God allow so much atrocity to occur in this world? While there are and have been beautiful things in my life, there are and have been deeply tragic and evil things in my life too. Something doesn't add up. I have fallen into a religious bergschrund, somewhere between the church and atheism and I can't seem to find the surface. Id est, if God and I had a Facebook relationship status, it would be: It's Complicated.

The tragedy of the believer, it is deeper than the tragedy of the non-believer.  - Elie Wiesel


God and I may be on the outs, but it doesn't mean you and God can't have a lovely relationship. I think we all know how some relationships are easy and some, well, they repeatedly test every ounce of our sanity, so we ignore their calls and dodge behind objects to avoid them. Art, on the other hand, is easy for me. I regard art with a reverence significant enough to be near spiritual. If you watch me walk into a gallery or museum, my hands automatically clasp behind me. Positively supplicant. So when I found myself at Chris Burden's Urban Light installation on Wilshire Blvd, the fact that 202 historic streetlamps (originally lighting the Southern California streets in the 1920's and 1930's) were arranged in the form of a classical Greek temple was not lost on me. 

And what is a temple? The dictionary calls it a building devoted to the worship of, or regarded as the dwelling place of a god or gods, or other objects of religious reverence. In this temple of salvaged streetlamps, I felt the same awe, safety, and peace a Jewish person might feel when they go to temple. 

October 27, 2018. Eleven temple goers - people seeking community, perhaps some praise songs, and perhaps also an uplifting message from their Rabbi- were gunned down and violently murdered by a hate-filled lunatic in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. It was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack on US soil, ever. The pain of the friends and families of the victims is excruciating. The Jewish community was rocked to its core. Pittsburgh was too. Ditto the world. Suddenly temples no longer feel safe.

When innocent blood has been shed, something doesn't add up. It never does. It is not surprising that I find myself drawn, but uncomforted by the words of Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel.

"Some people who read my first book, Night, they were convinced that I broke with the faith and broke with God. Not at all. I never divorced God. It is because I believed in God that I was angry at God, and still am. But my faith is tested, wounded, but it's here. So whatever I say, it's always from inside faith, even when I speak the way occasionally I do about the problems I had, questions I had. Within my traditions, you know, it is permitted to question God, even to take Him to task."
I did not pray to God this week. I had nothing nice to say to him. Instead, when I needed peace, I revisited Urban Light temple in my mind, and when I looked up the artist's statement for the Urban Light installation,"it is a statement about what constitutes a sophisticated society - safe after dark and beautiful to behold." Wait. Did God just slide into my DM's?

Squirrel Hill and Pittsburgh have some work ahead. As a people, we cannot be complacent or fall into despair. We need to leave our respective silos and strive for inclusion...nay, we must *active fucking verb* INCLUDE! INCLUDE! INCLUDE! because it is the bedrock of a sophisticated and progressive society and because of it, we will be something beautiful to behold.

May our faith in what our temples stand for, wherever we find them, continue to inspire us to fill the dark corners of this world with goodness and light. And for goodness sake, VOTE.


VOTE ON TUESDAY!!!!



go to temple, tree of life
photo: Joshua Franzos

the stooges tshirt, band tshirt
photo: Joshua Franzos

white chuck taylors
photo: Joshua Franzos

photo: Joshua Franzos
photo: Joshua Franzos

photo: Joshua Franzos

photo: Joshua Franzos

photo: Joshua Franzos
In an effort to find my new normal, I'm getting back to some of the things that regularly happen or give me joy, even if it feels a little weird to talk about fashion when there are greater problems looming in the world. Last week my workplace was in pure triage mode, working very hard on the logistics of last week's funerals and shivas for the victims, coordinating with media etc, but we are also working very hard on the security and resiliency needs of the Jewish community into the future. It feels good to be doing boots on the ground work in the wake of this tragedy. If you are able to donate to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh's Victims of Terror fund, that link is here. If you just came here for the pictures and the fashion (outfit details are below) but some how got roped into reading my words, thank you. Thank you for reading my blog this week.






What I Wore: 

Sunnies: Ray-Ban aviators, here!
Faux suede motorcycle jacket: past season Bar III
Stooges t-shirt: here!
Pleated skirt: Mango, here!
Purse: vintage Carlos Falchi
Sneakers: Nike Lunarlon/ Converse Chuck Taylor collaboration, similar here!




Your bosom friend from Pittsburgh, 








S&M

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

photo: Joshua Franzos

Fall weather finally arrived in Pittsburgh and I'm just not feeling it. Not feeling any of the fall trends: head to toe animal prints, shearling, oversized coats, plaid suits, logomania. Not feeling the pumpkin spice. Not feeling the apple cider. Not feeling the shorter days...I think I left my heart in Santa Monica three weeks ago. 


photo: Joshua Franzos
photo: Joshua Franzos

Don't get me wrong, I love fall, but I love summer more. There, I said it. I know you aren't supposed to pick a favorite child, but now it's on record. I love the long days and the informality of it. I love the fresh produce, I love the time we take for easy living and backyard grilling. I love writing while the sun is at it's highest and catching the golden hour with my husband later. I love summer's perceived freedom and I love jeans and a good pocket t-shirt.  

photo: Joshua Franzos

Summer has been lasting longer and longer for a few years now, going well into October before it finally loosens it grip. I'm always late to fall fashion because I'm reluctant to let go too.  But I'll get to the hygge eventually. Isn't it ironic that I fell in love with a pair of Scandinavian jeans this summer? I saw them on instagram and knew I had to have them. I didn't care the cost. I didn't care that they weren't sold in the states and that I would have to use a translator to order the correct size and ship them to me. Luckily it all worked out and they fit me perfectly. I've lived in them this summer and as fall creeps up on me, I will continue to. I'll just add a scarf and a woolly cardigan and sip hot, spiked cider while something savory burbles away in the slow cooker. I'll get pumpkins for the porch and decorate our mantel with candles and our cast iron owl luminaries, but I'll be thinking about the sunny evenings walking on the beach with husband. I'll be thinking about that until it's time for California and summer, my favorite season, my favorite place, to come around once again.




What I Wore: 
White t-shirt: Ann Taylor Loft 
Shoes: Chuck Taylors with Nike Lunarlon soles, here
Purse: vintage Carlos Falchi






photo: Joshua Franzos


Your Bosom Friend in Santa Monica,

Swimming at Chateau Marmont

Sunday, September 30, 2018

 
photo: Joshua Franzos

I can count at least four times now that I've booked a vacation and forgotten to pack a swimsuit. But if travel teaches us anything, it teaches us to roll with the punches and the delays, and an ever growing swim suit collection. I found my camo Melissa Odabash Swimsuit in the window of Santa Monica boutique, Hiptique. The cut and the fabric camoflage and flatter in the best ways possible.


photo: Joshua Franzos
photo: Joshua Franzos

As you may know, I've been dealing with infertility. I have been advised to do (or not do) a lot of things, including gaining some body fat in an effort for optimal hormonal balance. Part of me is really starting to think it's busy work, just a delay tactic and another example of pinning "you must be doing something wrong" on the woman. Then another part of me thinks, what if that really is the thing holding you up? Then enter thirty other recommended things that you could be doing or not doing that could be THE THING standing in the way between you and a chubby baby in your arms. So you do or not do the things and your thoughts for the entire day are consumed by the doing or not doing of things (see my last post.) Welcome to my neurotic and unsustainable world. Anyway, it hasn't been that hard to gain weight as avoiding the gym is easy when progesterone supplementation makes you feel like a human slug. Or when getting your monthly period feels like a dementor sucking all the optimism out of you. Ergo, I have gained some weight and because of that I certainly did not have any plans or desire to do a swimsuit blog post. Come to think of it...I've never done a swimsuit blog post... Even at my stomach's flattest, largest thigh gappest, wrinkle free facest...I don't know about you, but I never seemed to be good enough or fit enough to attempt it. There's always an excuse isn't there? In retrospect, that's an utter shame and lately, I've had quite enough of not being enough. Or too this. Or too that. Societal expectations are often so ingrained that we create our own sort of Azkaban, but it just so happens that I'm running low on fucks to give.

Photo: Joshua Franzos
photo: Joshua Franzos

I do not know what the future holds for me, but it's starting to sink in that there may be some experiences I just may never be intimate with. In understanding that, I know that all other experiences that come my way I will wholeheartedly devour like a hungry lioness. I don't mean to minimize or make this emotional journey I've been on sound so logical and mechanically processed as to become a trite tale of making lemonade from my lemons. It's certainly not and never will be so neatly packaged as to conveniently fit into a blog post; it has literally filled volumes trying to wrap my head around it. However, (here comes the bloggy hook) when the stars align and you get a classic pin-up bathing suit and you're staying at the legendary Hollywood hotel, Chateau Marmont, and they upgrade you to a cottage next to the pool...you let your hair down, toss your green tasseled room keys on the lounge chair, have a poolside bourbon with your husband, and let yourself forget your self imposed cages. Where does the confidence come from you ask? It's called having a wardrobe to help get you in character, it's called having a director of photography that knows your best angles, and also it's called acting, darling. It's the Tinseltown way. Promise me you'll do it so well you believe it too.

photo: Joshua Franzos



Your Bosom Friend in Hollywood,










What I wore:
pin-up suit: Melissa Odabash.
Sandals: summer '17 Mossimo.
Sunnies: Ray-Ban here!



How Do You Make a Hormone?

Friday, July 27, 2018

Talking about hormones and hormone balance today, and it isn't just for menopausal women. It's for everyone. Hormones weigh into all aspects of our health and well-being, from the mental to the sports performance, to weight loss, and of course, to the reproductive. It's not talked about a lot in the States because our westernized medicine, unfortunately, often focuses on treating symptoms rather than finding underlying causes, and many times at considerable expense. Hello invitro fertilization (IVF). So let's dive in. 

This is the book that got me started down the hormone trail and researching, researching, researching. If you are dealing with endometriosis, PCOS, or unexplained infertility, I highly recommend it. 


Click to buy at Amazon


It has taken me years to realize that my hormones have probably been unbalanced since I got my first period at age 12. You know the typical PMS symptoms: mood swings, hormonal acne, painful cramps that feel like you uterus is being wrung out like a wash cloth, sore, tender breasts, bleeding for 4+ days, an overall short cycle (23-25 days)...I thought that those PMS symptoms were just my lot in life. I just thought it was all part of being a woman. Turns out, these are all symptoms of being progesterone deficient. When progesterone is low and fails to counterbalance your estrogen levels, this leads to estrogen dominance and produces various PMS symptoms like the ones I've described and more. And because I've been monitoring all this stuff as of late, I've realized that my shorter cycle with a late ovulation in the mix, is not long enough to support a pregnancy. So guess what? That means my unexplained infertility suddenly has an explanation, and I have some homework to do at getting my hormones balanced. It sounds totally woo woo and crunchy, doesn't it? I'm probably the third farthest thing from crunchy, but I'm beginning to understand that hormone balance and living your best life go hand in hand. While prime fertility is my goal at the moment, that is only one of the benefits of balanced hormones. But believe me, I will gladly take shorter periods, no menstrual cramps, breasts that don't get sore, and clearer skin. Especially no hormonal chin and jawline acne. Box that up, I'm taking clear skin home.

So what does this mean? How do we get there? This is even grayer than the already gray area of hormone balance. The reasons behind our unbalance, or the root of the problem, can be environmental, lifestyle choices, genetics, age, stress..., a little of column a, and potentially a little of column b, c, d,e, f....


Here are the hidden things that contribute to estrogen dominance and hormone imbalance.

-alcohol consumption
-caffeine consumption
-dairy consumption
-soy consumption
-wheat consumption
-conventional meat consumption
-plastics
-synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and chemicals in personal products, cleaning products, laundry detergents and dryer sheets.
-unmanaged stress
-pollution

Unfortunately, many of the bullet points on the above list have estrogen like properties that add to our troubles when they are either consumed or simply in and on our face everyday. So while pollution is something we kinda have no control over, the rest of the stuff we do. Look, I HATE to admit that I'm not tough, that I actually don't eat deck screws and whiskey for breakfast and can't survive on sheer will. I HATE that I am in fact, a fragile canary in a coal mine that is having trouble conceiving. I hate it, hate it, hate it,  but there it is and it is what it is.

So why are there other women that can do or eat whatever they want and have perfect skin and get pregnant when they want (or don't want)? The short answer is because they're very lucky. That's not fair! you say. You're right, That's not fair at all. I'm sorry friend, but you and I, we're sensitive creatures, environmental sponges that greedily suck up pollution, estrogen, and the free radical emotions around us. If we want optimal health, balance, and thus, fertile bodies...we have to be the ones to bring about the change we want to see in our worlds. 

Where to start: 

-Understand

 When women hit the tender, young age of 35, our body's ability to make progesterone plummets. Progesterone is the hormone that counters estrogen and when our body is no longer making enough to counter our own estrogen production (as well as the estrogen mimickers in our environment), we start feeling out of wack and our skin may freak out too.


-Cut Wheat and Soy out of your diet.

Wheat germ and soybeans have phytoestrogen compounds (plant estrogens) that mimic the estrogens in our bodies and these estrogens can be stored in our body fat sites because that is where excess estrogen lurks (belly, thighs, butt, upper arms...). Livestrong says, "Estrogen levels have a direct impact on fat cell storage, especially abdominal fat. Fat cells produce extra estrogen, then the excess estrogen signals your body to store more fat cells. This exchange often creates a vicious cycle of estrogen imbalance and weight gain around the midsection." The benefit of eliminating wheat from your diet, your fat sites will start shrinking, as will your excess estrogen stores, this = healthier you. I have been wheat free, except for a few special times a year, since about 2011. The first two weeks are hard, but eventually you will just feel much, much better that you don't even miss it. Another interesting study showed that nearly 6% of women with unexplained infertility had celiac disease, where your body creates an immune response when gluten is consumed. So, something as simple as eliminating a food can have a tremendous impact on your health and hormone balance. As for soy, the only thing I think I regularly consume that is soy, is the condiment tamari (soy sauce w/o wheat) when we eat Asian food. As a part Asian (Hapa) who is an absolute nut for all things salty, I'm working on eating less of this condiment, and exploring other food cultures so I don't stray back to my soy-saucey comfort food too much. But we all should definitely watch out for soy in salad dressings, prepared foods, baked goods, cereals, and condiments; it's often snuck in there! I just found soy in our Earth Balance butter substitute (wth). So start checking the list of ingredients on labels. Not only does soy have estrogen mimicking properties, but it also is one of the US's largest production crops, i.e. GMO and liberally sprayed with pesticides (known carcinogens and hormone disrupters.) So think twice about reaching for that edame or using tofu as a meat substitute. If you have to indulge in soy sometimes, absolutely make sure it is organic.


-Cut dairy down to one serving a day, then a few times a week, then eliminate it entirely or to just special, infrequent occasions. 

Other living creatures have hormones, especially ones that give birth and milk feed their young. Especially cowish ones in America that also feast on an unnatural GMO diet of soybeans and wheat grain (which we already know are full of phytoestrogens and potentially pesticides), so yes, dairy is definitely a source of extra estrogen that should be eliminated from diets. Things that were/are difficult to give up for me: cheese. Whole milk in my coffee or tea. 
There is no delicious substitute for cheese, and I've read that if we absolutely must have a piece of cheese, make it goat's milk as opposed to cow. For reason's I can't get into for a succinct and short(er) blog post, goat milk just has SIGNIFICANTLY less estrogen than cow. Read more here.  
I have found a really delicious substitute for milk though, Elmhurst cashew milk. I haven't tried all of their products, (hazelnut milk?) but I hope too one day. If you have nut allergies, I've even seen them do a peanut (a legume) milk in stores too. (Also, if you're eliminating dairy, be sure to supplement with calcium! (or better yet, eat more whole, calcium rich foods that aren't dairy listed here)
Click to buy at Amazon


-Cut alcohol consumption waaay down, and out of your life/ reserve only for infrequent, special occasions.

Doctors always say drinking increases the risk of breast cancer, but they never say why it does. Here's why: Alcohol makes estrogen rise and progesterone fall, and left unchecked, too much estrogen can cause infertility and at worst, feed cancerous tumors, like breast cancer. Consuming alcohol changes the way our body metabolizes estrogen, ie. our livers are preoccupied breaking down the alcohol and not the estrogen. Further, the substances which wine, beer, and bourbon are made from, contain phytoestrogens, so double whammy. That NIH research can be found here. I read a medical study where women consuming just two drinks per day upped their estrogen levels by 32%. Come on....NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Not my bourbon and red wine! F#@%!! 
The sad truth is, yes. Someone once said, "The change we resist the most is often the change we need the most." I have nothing but middle fingers for that person, that saying, and the misogynistic fact that I can't drink like a man.  So boogers. 
No drinks per week is best, no more than 3 drinks per week is recommended. (And believe me, this was YUGE for me.) I associate wine with family and friends and good meals and pleasant, moonlit evenings on our deck. Then there's bourbon. Bourbon is New Orleans and straight up vice for me. This was the biggest lifestyle change for me. When I initially cut it out for my treatments, I craved all aspects of it. The taste, the post-work ritual, the socializing. Still kind of do, but I've taken to drinking sparkling water in a champagne flute when Josh and I have our daily post work happy hour, and I've actually come to crave that now. My favorite is lemon flavored Bubly. I've found I really don't like sugary drinks, so this unsweetened sparkling water is perfect for me. And always remember, alcohol isn't the life of the party, you are. 
click to buy at Amazon


-Cut your caffeine consumption dooooown. Manage your stress.

On a day where I've had adequate sleep, a 1/4 cup of coffee is more than enough. On super subpar sleep, 1 1/2  cups at most. I just can't consume a lot of caffeine before I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack on the toilet, but I know a lot of my friends chug it like it's going out of style tomorrow. Caffeine gets the cortisol flowing. There is is two pronged problemo. Your body has ingredients to make either a progesterone cake or cortisol cake, but not both. So if you give yourself a reason, your body will make the cortisol cake. We all know cortisol as the stress hormone. Feeling a little buzz is great to get the daily momentum going, so you can get your stuff done, but in high doses, cortisol triggers the fight-or-flight response, which shuts down functions that will not help us kick someone's ass or run away from a lion, like digestion and reproduction. If you are constantly in fight-or-flight mode, your body is going to assume you are fleeing lions instead of road raging at the jackass that cut you off on the freeway. Therefore your bod will go ahead and make the executive decision that now is probably a bad time to create another life, or digest your last meal, leaving you with an upset stomach. Further, your liver metabolizes caffeine, so when it's doing that, it's not metabolizing, you've guessed it, your rising estrogen levels. I'm learning to manage my anger over the stupid things: basically name your modern day stressor and insert it here. One meditation guru on my Insight Timer meditation app, pointed out to us grudge holders, that holding onto anger is like holding onto a burning coal. It's only going to hurt you, so throw that burning coal away as fast as you can! (really puts things in perspective, huh?) So all in all, I'm trying to be a zen cow. I've been meditating and sipping green tea (three times less caffeine than drip coffee). One day I hope to make it to hot water with lemon level. (*I can't really believe I just wrote that. smh. you gotta do what you gotta do.)






-Stop buying conventional, commercially raised Cattle and Poultry Meats.

These American animals are fed diets of estrogen-like hormones as well as actual growth hormones to make them bigger, better, and ready for the meat market quicker, and all those hormones are passed onto us unsuspecting humans. There are some atrocious living conditions for animals that become mass market meat, so to keep them disease free, they are also fed millions of pounds of anti-biotics every year and that further disrupts the human endocrine system. Look, I hate paying so much money for grass-fed meat too. When I look over and see meat that appears to be the same, but for dollars and dollars cheaper, it's crazy. I love meat, I'm a total carnivore. Cheap protein used to make me happy because ignorance was bliss. Now that I know better, I can't look back. Our household will be substituting more and more wild fish and, gulp, vegetarian meals into the mix and any meat we do get will be responsible and relished to the point of near fetish. 

*Also watch out for other products that come from meat, like when you buy soup stock (meat bones are boiled in water to flavor that) so make sure it's organic and grassfed! 

*Also if you're a skincare enthusiast, you may be on the collagen peptides train, so know that all supplemental collagen absolutely comes from animal parts, so again, make sure the collagen is obtained from organic and grass fed animals. There are no vegan or vegetarian collagen peptides.



Click to buy at Amazon

-Get as much plastic out of your food and life as possible.

BPA and phthalates in plastics mimic human hormones and that is not good. Throw out your plastic food containers, and get a set of glass containers with the snap off lids.
Click to purchase at Amazon

NEVER microwave food in plastic, ever. Not even, and especially not melamine because it contains BPA. Please, please, PLEASE stop using the crock pot or slow cooker plastic liners. While you may save a few minutes scrubbing dishes, you are doing yourself and your families an incredible health disservice. Josh and I are going to ditch plastic wrap and try these Etee beeswax reuseable wraps. 

Click to purchase on Amazon



Here's a nod about plastics from Harvard Health publishing, here, but I have to admit that I still find this article too trusting of the FDA, which I believe doesn't do enough to protect American consumers. Think I'm a paranoid kook? My disappointment in the FDA was further confirmed by another Harvard study calling the FDA's ethics out because of big pharma corruption, that here . If Big pharma money has corrupted the FDA, who's to say Plastic manufacturers haven't? And geez, who would've thought there'd be so much drama and intrigue about food, beauty, medicine, and public welfare? Segue to the next topic...

 

 

-Toxic Beauty

I always assumed that everything on store shelves was safe, because we live in America, but I've spent a lifetime with eczema and dermatitis and other allergies caused by awful chemicals that are put into personal care products. Once I realized that we live in America, a country that favors the fiscal health of companies over the actual health of the individual, I suddenly knew where I stood. I had to start taking my preventive care and maintenance into my own hands. Once I finally stopped using even the 'sensitive skin' personal care products that are readily available in drugstores and supermarkets, most of my skin and allergy problems abated. A lot of people aren't a sensitive as I am, but that doesn't make these chemicals any less awful. Read this Huffpost article on the the top 10 toxic beauty ingredients to avoid. There are ways for companies to hide these awful chemicals in their products due to a legal loophole in the form of the antiquated "Fragrance trade secret." Because a fragrance is the thing most likely to be a product's "trade secret" companies don't have to disclose what goes into their "fragrance." So even though a product ingredient list looks relatively harmless, those offensive chemicals (that are most often used to prolong the product's shelf life) can be hidden in the "fragrance" ingredient listing. So in summation, always be wary of the generic, Fragrance, on an ingredients list. Want a free Environmental Working Group (EWG) pdf on how to make better choices regarding beauty products? It's here. There's a lot to avoid, but parabens and phthalates are among the worst for us. EWG has a database where you can look up how toxic some of your favorite products are. I have to say it is eye-opening. My favorite NARS blush was a 7 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being most toxic). I have been scanning product ingredient lists for years now, but clean beauty is becoming more and more of a thing, and businesses like GOOP, Credo Beauty and local gem, Rad Ritual, are doing the research for you and only offering safe products. I highly recommend them. Even Sephora is getting into clean beauty and marking their clean beauty items with this logo.




-Are you working out a lot? Or doing the trendy "Intermittent Fasting"?

More than the average woman? Be honest.Triathalons? Marathon prepping? HIIT cardio and Weight Training 4x week or more? *Raises hand.* Yeah. I love a rigorous workout. I love the way I feel in the head when I'm done working out and for many years I have been really fit, really happy with what my body could DO, and really happy with the strength I portrayed in my physique. My BMI was at the lower end of normal, I would never describe myself as skinny, because I have too much muscle, but I was very lean. One shocking body fat test from my gym said I had 16% body fat. That's quite low for a woman. I've come to understand that there is a vestigial reproductive switch within us, if your body is super lean, food must be scarce, therefore, not a good time for making another life, reproductive switch toggled off. Same thing for intermittent fasting, which is famine mode according to your body. Just don't do IF if your goal is take the train to Babyland. I know, I know. It is so annoying to be told to lower the intensity of your work outs and fatten up if you're lean. As a woman, it is a terrifying. Anyway, hormone harmony and fertility are apparently best in the sweet spot of not skinny or too lean, and not overweight...but even medical research indicates that overweight women have an easier time reproducing than lightweight. So, yuh know. If you're a skinny/lean machine, sleep in more, do lower intensity exercises instead, and love the curves you may need to acquire. Think of it as baby fat.





Ok. So there's plenty of stuff not to do and to stop consuming, but there's also plenty of stuff you can proactively do, or at least talk to your health care professional about how to help balance your hormones. 

+Pre-Natal Vitamins

Just take them. I like these because they include probiotics to make these easy to digest, as we all know that many prenatal vitamins often make for an unpleasant experience. These also contain sprirulina and kale and aren't full of corn syrup like the gummy ones. (Don't get me wrong, I love the gummy ones, but high fructose corn syrup is super processed and there are chemical contaminants from the manufacturing process, like friggin mercury, which builds up in your body. I think we're all aware of how toxic mercury is).

click to purchase on Amazon


+Acupuncture

 Acupuncture is the ancient technique of Chinese medicine. By placing needles at key channels of energy, certain organs (including glands) can be stimulated and a person’s qi redirected. A skilled, licensed acupuncturist will evaluate an individual’s condition and qi flow, then select the appropriate meridians and points for the imbalances uncovered. Sounds weird, but there are medical studies that show the benefits of acupuncture when combined with IVF rates. IVF on it's own has about a 35% success rate, but when combined with acupuncture therapy, the success rate raises to about 50% -so Qi, or whatever the hell it is,is definitely something. But it's not something I can tangibly see. So I'm still on the fence. I've had about 4 acupuncture sessions at $100/pop. Needles don't frighten me. Most of the needles felt like a mosquito going in and then were quickly forgotten about. But there was one needle that was stuck in the hard cartilage of my ear that throbbed. THERE'S. A. NEEDLE. IN. YOUR. EAR. REPEAT. THERE'S. A....the entire session. It was tolerable, but not exactly pleasant.


+Self Pelvic massage

There are lots of (not necessarily scientific claims of) the benefits of massage, but ask anyone that has ever had a massage - Is massage a good thing?- and I'll bet they'll tell you it is. Massage is a great thing, in theory and in practice, ergo a self pelvic massage to inspire hormone balance and fertility, can't be that much more of stretch, right? right? (I suppose there is a slippery slope to all of this crunchy self-care stuff isn't there? And I've sipped the kombucha kool-aid to a degree haven't I?) While the benefits aren't exactly quantitative, I can say giving yourself a daily abdominal and pelvic massage with a little castor oil is nice. Of the plausible benefits, bringing more circulation to your reproductive organs and gastro intestinal tract, it really can't be bad. So why not? You can read more on the manifold benefits here, or watch this quick video on how (and when) to do it yourself.



 

+essentail oils 

Clary Sage, Rose Otto, Geranium, and Sweet Fennel are all excellent oils that are known for their hormone balancing properties. I don't know if they do anything, but I love to put them in a room diffuser because they smell nice. Maybe smelling nice things reduces stress, maybe not. Anyway, nice smelling placebos are cool in my book. However, if you should become pregnant, you should discontinue use of these essential oils, as many of them can cause uterine contractions. 

room diffuser, click to purchase on Amazon.



+/-Supplement with Maca Root 

Maca has been touted as an ancient Peruvian miracle root for infertility - it just naturally and magically adapts (it's called an Adaptogen) in your body to produce more of what you need, progesterone or estrogen. It can be found everywhere, even at Trader Joe's. Ok, so I don't completely believe or trust the recent hype of this supplement. The trouble with just buying a bag of this from Trader Joe's for medicinal fertility purposes, is you don't know how to correctly dose yourself for your desired outcome. Guesswork can be dangerous.  And be forewarned, Do not take this while undergoing any hormonal fertility treatments or if you are on hormonal birth control as it will interfere. Do your research on possible drug or health condition interactions before taking any and all supplements. If you really want to try this, it is probably best to work under the guidance of a herbalist/naturopath to understand when and how much you should take (if at all). Estrogen levels spike and fall depending on the particular days of your cycle, so if you take Maca at a low estrogen level time (during your period, among others) it could actually raise your estrogen levels, which if you are estrogen dominant/progesterone deficient, is not at all what you want. I recommend not doing this.



+/-Supplement with Vitex/Chaste Berry

Vitex,Chasteberry, monk’s pepper, or Agnus Castus is the fruit of the chaste tree. It is native to the Mediterranean and has been used for gynecological and fertility issues for over 2,500 years. If you are not pregnant, not on hormonal birth control, not currently doing fertility treatments (i.e. IVF or aggressive clomid/femara/letrozole treatments), are progesterone deficient, and have a luteal phase defect, this supplement could help. It can take up to 6-12 months for an observable difference in your condition, but I've been taking Vitex for a month (alongside a few months of the above mentioned diet and lifestyle changes) and have noticed that my cycle is getting longer, my periods shorter, my skin is clearer, and I'm ovulating a few days sooner than I was several months ago. Herbalists recommend that 2,000mg of Vitex be taken first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach from the day you ovulate (roughly day 12-15 of your cycle) until you get your period, then stop until you next ovulate and repeat. But again, Do your research on possible drug or health condition interactions before taking any and all supplements.


I prefer this brand of Vitex. Click to purchase on Amazon.

+/- Progesterone Cream

This is a mad scientist hack for those that don't produce enough of their own progesterone and need to in order to hold onto a potential pregnancy. You can buy an over-the-counter cream with progesterone synthesized from wild yams to supplement your own, but as always talk to your health care professional first. I like progestacare because one pump gives you a measured dose, 20 mg of Progesterone (important because I believe mad science experiments should be controlled). Progesterone creams are typically rubbed onto your face, chest, abdomen, inner arms or inner thighs (rotate to different part each day), once or twice a day from ovulation until about 15 days later (or until your period comes or you test for pregnancy). If pregnant, don't stop the progesterone until you talk to a medical professional (they'll probably advise you continue it for the next 10 weeks (or may want to put you on different form of progesterone in a pill, shot, or suppository form).) If not pregnant, stop taking progesterone until you ovulate again. I'm going to be honest, unless you are looking to get knocked up and become with child, I wouldn't go this route. Progesterone creams (and the suppositories I was prescribed during my failed clomid treatments) all have the same side effects that I'm not at all crazy about (constipated pooping several times a day, tired all the time, sleep you do get is not restful, indigestion, depression...) In fact, taking progesterone can be pretty disruptive to your life  and it is the thing I hate the most about trying to conceive because it really messes with my head and all the stuff I want to accomplish. But it could also be the thing that is needed, so for now I'm continuing it, but I don't know how long I can keep it up. I buy my progesterone cream through Amazon.


Click to purchase at Amazon




General Disclaimer: I have provided links to products that I am using in my fertility journey, if you click or make a purchase, there's a small chance I might earn a commission (but after four years of blogging, I haven't yet!) So if you are inclined, click away, but please know that I am no expert, just another weary traveler trying to figure out my body, but still clinging to the tried and true safety net of western medicine. Please consult the advice of your health care professional and make the most informed choices for yourself, your health, and your family. That includes doing your own research on possible drug or health condition interactions before taking any and all supplements, procedures, and remaining a healthy skeptic about everything, except vaccines. That shit works for real. If you have any questions, or have something you think I should try, holler at me in the comments. Be well. Be vigilant.



Your Bosom Friend in Pittsburgh,







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