Plot Twist

Plot Twist | StephGaudreau.com

Plot twist (noun): a radical change in expected direction.

This post is bound to be a ramble because I’ve gotta get out all the stuff that’s in my head, but the tl;dr is that things are a-changin’ round these parts.

I’m closing down the blog and active content creation – for the forseeable future – here at StephGaudreau.com…

…and shifting it, along with my energy and message, back to StupidEasyPaleo.com.

I know, probably not what you expected, right?!

I’m so excited, and I want you to join me.

(If you found me through SEP and followed me here, the good news is that you won’t have to check two sites and two sets of social accounts to get your daily dose of Steph-ness.)

I’ve gotta say this up front, because I know there’s a chance you wrinkled your nose at the p word (paleo). If it’s not your jam, that’s totally cool…but hear me out:

I believe in nourishing your body, and every body is different.

I believe context is more important than rigid dogma.

I believe in making humans harder to kill.

I believe in helping you become stronger so you can achieve your full potential.

And all that goes way beyond food or a strict dietary regimen.

What we want to believe is like this…

Plot Twist | StephGaudreau.com

…is actually more like this:

Plot Twist | StephGaudreau.com

Stick with me, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a chance to explore how to make yourself resilient and strong and badass.

But let me back up, because every plot twist needs a back story.

In 2011, I started my blog and began posting recipes for the world so I’d remember them. I wrote however the f*ck I wanted because, well, like three people were reading it.

And then in 2013, I left my 12-year teaching career to make Stupid Easy Paleo my full-time gig. (Yes, scary. Yes, exciting. More on all that in a soon-to-be-published post.)

Risk is a funny thing.

In a way, you’d think that taking a flying leap into entrepreneurship would mean charging forward with that “write what I want, do what I want” spirit.

Well, as the stakes rose, I got more concerned with stuff like web traffic, SEO, and email subscribers. Naturally. If you start an online business, that tends to be a logical progression.

But I started softening my voice and my opinions. What I gleaned from the “biz world” lead me to believe that I had to vanilla-fy who I was to appeal to more people and “be successful.” (That was what I took from it at the time. I was wrong, obvi.) If you look back at blog posts from the 2013-15 period, it’s there. I got lured by the siren song of trying to appeal more broadly…

…and mid-2015, I knew I was going to head straight into the rocks if I didn’t do something.

I’d created this pretty big website with a great community and social following, but I’d painted myself into a corner, afraid to express what I really had on my mind for fear of losing what I’d created.

A very small percentage of comments coming in were complaints…about only wanting recipes – not all the other stuff that goes into a healthy lifestyle – or objecting to my very occasional use of wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap words.

And I let it change me.

I didn’t stick to my guns. I didn’t listen to my gut.

Hindsight is always 20-20.

Looking back, I should have had the cojones to keep writing about what I was passionate about…yes, food but also fitness and mindset and how to not take yourself so seriously.

But instead, I ran away and created another space for myself. Here. A “safe” place where I could say what I really wanted.

Everything I was reading, business-wise, at the time was saying, “Niche down. Get specific. No, more specific than that.”

Okay, so Stupid Easy Paleo would be about recipes. And all the other stuff would go here.

If I could go back to July 2015, my first urge would be to slap myself in the head…

…but then again, that’s all part of the process…trying things out, making mistakes, keeping what works, and pivoting. I really admire my pal Dave Conrey for his skill at doing exactly this. (If you’re curious about pivoting, read Rework by Jason Fried & David Hansson.)

So I can’t say I regretted the split. Not at all. It’s taught me a shit ton.

I’m a child of divorced parents, perhaps like many of you. I know what it’s like to divide time and have two parallel tracks and feel conflicted about where you fit in, what the rules are, and what’s expected of you.

Here’s the thing: For some people, splitting their businesses makes sense. And I’m not here to tell you that’s wrong. (I always joke with Z that if I sold Pokemon cards, I’d definitely make a different website for that.)

But what I ended up with was a divided heart and mind. Not to mention a confusing, logistical nightmare.

I launched this site in January 2016…and on the daily, I’d think, “Should _____ post / program / thingie go on Stupid Easy Paleo or here?”

If I wanted to say something on social media, should it go on this Instagram or this one?

Instead of solving my problems, it created more of them.

And if it was confusing for me, I can’t even imagine what y’all were thinking…other than, “What the hell is Steph doing?”

The reality is that both sites are aspects of my philosophy. It became impossible to separate them effectively.

I spent a whole year agonizing over what to do. So much precious mental energy, down the drain.

And at one point, I thought I knew.

I got really close to moving the last 6 years of Stupid Easy Paleo here, keeping a lot of it and pushing self-destruct on the rest.

Starting this new site has been hard…building it and everything that goes with it from zero.

I have seven email inboxes, two different e-commerce systems, two badass coaching programs on two different websites, and two completely different sets of social media accounts.

Tired yet just thinking about it?

Some people could probably manage this just fine, but it’s been a huge challenge.

But last week, while on a call with my business coaches, I had a huge lightbulb moment. (Yes, even coaches need coaches.) I’d invented a problem where there wasn’t actually one.

(It’s worth noting that nothing changed except how I chose to view the situation. Powerful lesson in mindset, indeed.)

Yes, there will always be the minority who complains – right before announcing to the world that they’re unfollowing. #ByeFelicia

Yes, some people may never get on board with being harder to kill because they’re turned off by the paleo word. They’re probably not My People anyway. (h/t Dallas Hartwig.)

No, I can’t please everyone. No, I’m not responsible for how others perceive and react to my work.

But damn, that’s taken a long time to sink in.

It’s easy to say you know something. But to really believe it and live it, that’s another level. It’s a process.

Anyway, my dominant feeling this past week has been RELIEF, followed by excitement. I’m so psyched to share my philosophy and really go deep about how to make unbreakable humans on Stupid Easy Paleo. Without fear. Without holding back. Unapologetically me.

Plot Twist | StephGaudreau.com

So, What Now?

Basically, all the things you’ve come to know and love about the blog here will move to a new spot, streamlining the process. If this split and merge have been confusing for you, I am really, truly sorry…sometimes the learning process isn’t linear.

This merge will mean more energy for me to invest in creating more stuff you love…instead of constantly dividing my time. And you’ll find a large community of like-minded people who you can learn from, too. The more, the merrier.

It’s going to take a little time for the full merge to happen, and I’m pumped about bringing the Harder to Kill lifestyle to the forefront of Stupid Easy Paleo. Over there, I’m going to tweak things a bit to reflect that as this year plays out.

Details:

  • This site will remain up, but will become more like an author bio page instead of an active blog. My SG Instagram will also remain up, but soon, I won’t be posting there. Follow me here on IG.
  • Stupid Easy Paleo will include more content than just recipes going forward, which I’m really jazzed about. I LOVE teaching and coaching about a holistic approach to health. (I’m not getting into racecars or knitting or underwater basketweaving, don’t worry.) Follow me there and jump on my newsletter for weekly updates.
  • If you’re a Strength School member, you’ll continue to access the program and login here. Eventually, I’ll be moving (and rebranding!) it. I’ll email you when that happens.
  • If you’re on my SG newsletter, I’ll be transferring that to my SEP newsletter. I’d love for you to stay on, and I’m going to send an email out about that very soon.
  • I’m planning on another summit later this year. If you’re Women’s Strength Summit All-Access member, nothing’s going to change for you. Continue to access all the interviews as you have been. Stay tuned for details on the new one!

Alright dudes, that’s the true story, the plot twist, and the new direction.

If you know me, you’ll know how much this meme encapsulates so much goodness because I’m a crazy cat lady:

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My hope is that being vulnerable and honest will help someone out there reading…

…maybe it’ll help you take action on something in your life, to change things up, or to have the courage to move beyond the fear of “what if.”

My wonderful friend and coach Allegra Stein has always impressed something upon me:

You can’t know-for-sure if something’s going to be a spectacularly epic success or a flaming-pile-of-poo-failure until you do it. Until you act. Until you live it.

The paralysis of trying to “make the right choice” can keep you absolutely stuck and tortured by your own thoughts.

So here’s my story of taking a path and deciding later on that it didn’t work out like I’d hoped. And everything’s gonna be just fine.

In fact, no: Everything’s gonna be fucking great.

F*ck The Hustle (Before It’s Too Late)

The Hustle.

F*ck The Hustle | StephGaudreau.com

It seems particularly appropriate to talk about busyness and The Hustle at this time of year, when the madness of the holidays is in full swing.

There’s parties to attend, presents to buy, and planes to catch. And while it can be fun and exciting, it’s also wicked stressful.

Family relations, bank account balances, and taking time off work on top of normal obligations can make you feel like a hamster trapped on an accelerating wheel.

But it’s not just the holiday season that’ll get ya.

No, The Hustle is something that’ll strike you down any time of year, often when you least expect it…

…so in this post, I’ve got three reasons to f*ck The Hustle before it’s too late.

Defining The Hustle

According to the Googles, “hustle” is defined as…

Hustle /ˈhəsəl/

(verb): force (someone) to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified direction

(noun): busy movement and activity

Now, you could argue that inherently, neither of those definitions is particularly nefarious. “Hey, what’s wrong with being busy or occupied?”

Nothing. But The Hustle I’m speaking of is more a mentality and a lifestyle than is portrayed in any dictionary entry. (That’s why I capitalize it as a proper noun.)

You get clues to it in the meaning of the verb: Forcing, being hurried along, and overall, a really dark, negative, frazzled energy.

When it comes down to it, The Hustle means pushing harder, doing more, and resting less because you think it’ll help you get ahead.

And it’s all a grand fucking illusion.

Last month, I posted a revision to a quote that Think Grow Prosper put on their Instagram:

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-4-33-45-pm

I mean, come on.

Think Grow Proper’s original post pissed me off enough that Z and I dedicated Season 2 Episode 1 of Harder to Kill Radio to the topic.

My post got over 1100 likes and dozens of comments from people like you who are sick of this kind of “motivation” too.

And while I can sort of see an angle here – be persistent, have grit, etc. – if you’re drained, you’re not doing yourself any good by pushing through it. (Plus, sometimes quitting is a sign of strength, too. But that’s another post for another time.)

Being tired is one thing. We’ve all been there…when we give ourselves the ol’ pep talk to make it past a looming deadline or finish the semester strong.

But being drained, hanging on by your last nerve, and wrecking your health in the process is sheer lunacy. We’ve got to stop making it okay to Hustle ourselves into the ground.

F*ck The Hustle (Before It's Too Late) Click To Tweet

Here are three reasons to f*ck The Hustle:

#1: Everyone’s Quite Shitty at Multitasking

Multitasking is for computers, not humans. Study after study has demonstrated that people are really terrible at it. And even though you might think you’ve mastered it, you haven’t.

It’s pretty typical, when you’re deep in The Hustle, to juggle 8271 balls at once. You hop from task to task, desperate to get a little bit done for each.

And while you might be busy, you’re unlikely to be effective at what you’re doing.

Here’s what typically would happen to me:

I’d spend all day skimming the surface of my work tasks (let’s not even add in everything else that goes along with life) for several straight hours. I was occupied, but I wasn’t really getting anything done. And to top it all off, I finished feeling drained and stressed, like no matter how fast I went, I couldn’t keep up.

Ever heard of “switching cost?” It’s fascinating. Basically, it’s the degradation in accuracy, speed, and even safety that results from multitasking. That article links to primary journal sources if you wanna jump in deeper and get nerdy.

It’s bad enough to hustle your way through “brainless” tasks like email, but the effect is even more detrimental to creative tasks that require real brain power. It takes time and focus to descend into the kind of space that allows for effective problem solving.

Not only that, but hurried, hustled thinking means you’re hanging out in a stressed state which closes your mind off to other possibilities.

#2: The Logic of The Hustle is Flawed

F*ck The Hustle | StephGaudreau.com

The Hustle often gets heavily defended in entrepreneurial circles, as if doing it is the way only way to succeed. Recently, I even heard an argument for The Hustle, like it’s some sick rite of passage.

It usually goes something like this:

“Mr. X or Ms. Y runs a 7-figure business. They worked hard to get there. So, if you want a successful 7-figure business, you’ve gotta Hustle, too.” (By the way, it’s not good enough to just have a 6-figure business anymore, in case you hadn’t noticed.)

Fuck that.

Let’s deconstruct this logic.

First, let’s go with the assumption that just because someone heads a million dollar enterprise means they Hustled to get there. We just don’t know that for sure. It’s easy to look out into the Internet and make up all sorts of stories about how people earned their success.

Maybe they didn’t Hustle at all. Maybe they’re a trust fund kid. Maybe they know the right people. Maybe they had an Oprah moment. Maybe they paid for it. Or maybe their success is a result of consistent but reasonable hard work over years.

My point is, you have no idea unless you know them personally. Most people you see at the top of the game have been at it a long time. They’ve made mistakes. They’ve put in the work.

Don't confuse The Hustle with Consistent Hard Work Over Time. Click To Tweet

Secondly, let’s assume they did engage in The Hustle, burning the candle at both ends 24/7, forsaking their health and well-being for the sole purpose of finding “success.” Just because they did it doesn’t mean it’s 1) necessary, 2) right, or 3) worth it for you. Just because they Hustled doesn’t mean it’s the only path to success.

The culture online entrepreneurs are creating, the unspoken work ethic, the push for making it to the top at all costs, is insidious, and it’s common to fall victim unless you’re vigilant.

Thirdly, how do you define success? Get really clear about success looks and feels like to you. Is it how many zeros are tacked onto your bank account balance? Is it living into your purpose and leaving the world a better place? Is it both? Neither? Something entirely different?

Do you deserve to make money whilst helping others? Of course. I’m not advocating working for free.

But think about whether the cost of The Hustle is worth it for you. Be honest about what you’re likely to give up, and determine whether the image of success you’re driving so hard toward is something you actually want. Or would you happy with a little less money and a lot more health, peace of mind, or space to live the life you’re hell bent on creating?

Working hard and having goals isn’t stupid. Hell, I’ve been working on my businesses for over five years now, chipping away, showing up, messing up, and changing direction.

Am I in the 7-figure club? Nope. Do I want to be? Not if the tradeoff means I’m chucking my health, wellbeing, and quality of life out the window.

The thought that you can have it all – the piles of money, the success, the fame, great health, peace of mind, and bangin’ body – is so pervasive in our culture that we rarely stop to question if it’s really possible.

#3: Your Health Depends on It

F*ck The Hustle | StephGaudreau.com

The Hustle is bad for your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Again, you aren’t a machine. Your biology is governed by cycles, waves, and rhythms.

And it just makes sense that when you have periods of higher energy expenditure, it’s got to be followed by periods of rest and recovery.

To paraphrase Tony Schwartz in The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: Humans are built for sprints followed by rest, not marathons of constant output.

Moderns humans live in discordance with our biology in staggering ways including how we sleep, eat, work, and hustle about our day. We’re constantly bucking Mother Nature, and it’s starting to take its toll in the ever-rising incidence of metabolic diseases, mental illness, and cancer.

If you’re the average Jane, the deck is already stacked against you, and much of what Western culture values and how it operates isn’t your fault. You probably didn’t create the corporate structures of your workplace or choose the hours of your child’s school day.

All of this boils down to stress load versus the quality of recovery, and The Hustle just pushes the needle ever in the direction of stress overload.

Individual tolerances, genetics, and environment can buffer some of it, but when you push too far and Hustle too hard, something will break.

You will break.

A few months ago, a friend posted an article on Facebook about the hidden mental costs of entrepreneurship. I got into it with a guy who considered himself quite the successful businessman (with the zeros at the end of his bank balance to prove it).

His success came at a huge cost: diabetes and obesity.

He admitted to Hustling himself into disease.

And the crazier part is that he was okay with it because he had lots of money as a result. I guess folks like that can’t be reasoned with.

Ultimately, going against the status quo of Western culture takes conscious choices on a daily basis. You’ll feel like a rebel at first, but then you’ll come to see that everyone is so busy worrying about themselves, they probably won’t even notice what you’re up to.

How To Recognize You’re Deep in The Hustle

F*ck The Hustle | StephGaudreau.com

In all fairness, sometimes it’s really hard to realize you’re deep in The Hustle because it so quickly becomes a “normal” way of being.

My purpose here isn’t to just point out what’s wrong: It’s to offer you some insight, coaching, and help when you need it most.

Signs you’re in The Hustle:

  • Feeling emotionally triggered or defensive by reading this post.
  • Feeling as if the pace of life is spiraling out of control.
  • Proclaiming, “I don’t have time for that,” on a regular basis.
  • Making little progress despite working harder and longer hours.
  • Believing that if you slow down, you’ll fall behind.
  • Feeling the constant crush of keeping up with others around you. Aka FOMO.
  • Being unable to sit still for more than five minutes.
  • Skipping work breaks. (Or if you’re self-employed, failing to give yourself breaks throughout the day.)
  • Skipping meals to keep working.
  • Suffering from comparison-itis: the belief that you’re so far behind everyone else, that you can’t stop or you’ll fall further behind.
  • Requiring sugar, caffeine, and other stimulants to make it through the work day.
  • Multitasking as your primary workflow.
  • Frequently getting sick.

Of course, there are more. And if you’re feeling generally stressed out day after day, you’re probably in The Hustle, too.

6 Ways Counteract The Hustle

F*ck The Hustle | StephGaudreau.com

So, if you’re in The Hustle, what can you do to ameliorate it?

1) Take more frequent breaks.

Ideally, take 30 minutes of restorative break time for every 90 minutes of work. If that’s not possible – no hate mail, I know some people have jobs where that’s impossible – make your breaks truly restorative. No, answering emails or scrolling social media is not restorative. Whammy.

2) Be quiet & unplug.

Devote some time each day to sitting quietly or meditating. If you say you can’t do five minutes, you need it even more.

3) Define your own success.

Is it a state of mind, a financial goal, a contribution to society, a type of lifestyle? Write it down.

4) Nourish your body & mind.

That includes eating real, whole foods a majority of the time, moving and strengthening your body, renewing your energy daily, and practicing positive mindset.

5) Say no. 

The great illusion is that you must do all and be all, all the time. Learn how to say no. If others are disappointed, that’s on them, not you. You’re not responsible for other people’s feelings. EVER. Use your new-found free time to do more of the things above. Nobody gets to the end of life and says, “Well, I wish I’d worked more.”

6) Opt out. 

Time to put on your big girl pants. You get to decide how to run your life. Society will do it if you don’t. Opt out of the bullshit that’s not working. Don’t let others decide what’s right for you.

To Summarize

Hard work is great, but you need to counter it with plenty of rest and recovery.

The Hustle is a monstrous lie. Multitasking is crap, successful people don’t always Hustle (especially not 24/7)…

…and even if they do, it doesn’t make it good or right.

Learn to recognize when you’re in The Hustle, and use the six strategies above for exiting out.

Your health and wellbeing is precious. Guard it ruthlessly.

Thoughts? Add them to the comments below.

Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control

Over two years have passed since I opened my last packet of pills and quit hormonal birth control.

Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control | StephGaudreau.com

In this post, I’m going to share why I quit hormonal birth control, what happened afterward, and what I use instead.

But before I dive in, I need to heavily preface this post so I don’t get a shit-ton of hate mail.

This post isn’t meant to be a sociopolitical or religious conversation. It’s not a medical conversation either. I’m not a doctor – I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night – nor am I a medical professional of any kind. I’m not trying to make a statement about feminism or women’s rights, and I’m not trying to tell you what to do with your own reproductive health.

With that in mind…

If you told me a few years ago that I’d be blogging about my birth control, I probably would’ve squirmed a little bit in my seat. Fact is, in the side conversations I’ve had with friends or the email exchanges I’ve had with other women since I quit hormonal birth control, something’s become apparent:

It’s just not something that a lot of people are talking about, and women are curious to learn more.

The choice to quit hormonal birth control is a very personal one. I was at the place in my life where it made sense to seriously start questioning what I was doing and whether it was good for my health or not. As a 35-year old married woman in a stable and committed relationship, that was my reality, so I began asking around.

But let’s go back a ways first.

Let’s Just Say I Bloomed Early

Gag. I hate that term.

At 10 years old, my body went from chubby pre-teen to menstruating young woman overnight. My mom gave me a book about periods – probably because she noticed I wasn’t flat-chested anymore – and I read that a period would feel like a “low, itchy sensation.”

Well, when I was graced with menarche, it felt achy, not itchy. (Note to self: Get better at skimming.)

Not that being the first to get your period and braces is bad enough for a 5th grader, but every month I got sick. Really sick.

I hate to be graphic, but when I got my period, I’d spend the first 24 to 48 hours vomiting until bile came up. Going to school wasn’t an option, so I’d stay home and writhe in bed. After a while, mom realized this wasn’t normal, and so around age 12 – I think…my memory is a bit fuzzy – I got my first pelvic exam. Hooray!

The concern was that my cousin was dealing with a severe case of endometriosis and perhaps I had it, too. “Not to worry,” the lady doctor said, “you don’t have it. It’s just raging hormones, and you’ll outgrow it.” To be fair, I’m paraphrasing, but that was it. You’ll grow out of it.

Well, I really didn’t. And I always had a feeling something wasn’t right.

I remember calling mom to come pick me up from school once because my period started. I’d popped some Advil (knowing it wouldn’t do anything), and willed for her to get to me as fast as possible. We lived a half hour away, and I could feel myself going downhill. As she drove up, I hurled into the trash can in front of the school doors. I was 16.

At age 19, a college sophomore, I went on birth control pills.

And They “Worked”

Yep, hormonal birth control worked as promised.

I wasn’t getting as sick. I avoided pregnancy. I took my little blue pills each day like my doctor told me, and my period was very predictable.

So what was the problem?

At first, nothing.

(I did have a short break from hormonal birth control after my divorce, and when I was off them, I felt so much better, but I went back on them soon after.)

But then, at age 33, my gyno definitely diagnosed me with endometriosis after doing a tissue biopsy. FFS. As far as I know, my endo is mostly confined to my cervical area (the location of the biopsy), but I’ve never had a exploratory laparoscopy. To be clear, I don’t desire motherhood, and while some women reading this might be horrified that my fertility status could be affected by my endo, I’m not stressing about it because I don’t want children.

All those years, I knew something was wrong with me, and I was right. To say that I felt vindicated and confused all at the same time would have been accurate. But I was starting to pay more attention to my health – I went paleo two years prior to the diagnosis – and putting things in my body that were working better for me.

Around the same time, my birth control prescription had to be changed, and the hormones increased. I started to feel like crap, and the side effects began to pile up. Moodiness, weight gain, low energy. Despite feeling pretty good for the previous couple years, I knew this decline was due to the change in my pills.

In the summer of 2014, a full two years after my endo was discovered, I decided enough was enough.

Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control... Click To Tweet

Considering My Options

I started considering what other options I really had because I wanted to quit hormonal birth control altogether.

To me, it was a natural evolution. I’d already been working on nourishing my body, getting stronger, sleeping better, and using fewer “chemical” products at home and on my body. Z and I were married, and I felt terrible despite the few different prescriptions I’d been switched to.

I’d also changed doctors – my old gyn wouldn’t allow an IUD because I was still “of reproductive age” even though he knew I didn’t want children – and the new one was willing to do a copper IUD. (Yes, I was fully aware of the risks.)

In fact, I felt really excited at the prospect of finally being off hormones (as pumped as a woman can be at the thought of having a little T-shaped piece of metal shoved up her hoo-ha)!

Well, despite the doctor proclaiming my uterus “measured perfectly” and going through with it, I was absolutely crushed when I went back for a checkup the following month and it had dislodged.

She asked me if I wanted to come back in another 4 weeks and try again. When I said no, she wrote me another prescription for birth control pills. I walked out, tore the slip up, and went on a mission to find a better way.

I decided to quit hormonal birth control because I was tired of the side effects, I knew there had to other ways to manage my fertility that worked with my lifestyle, and the risk factors just weren’t worth it anymore. Frankly, I was also really pissed at mainstream medicine for becoming a pill-and-hormone pushing machine, unwilling to help women manage underlying lifestyle factors.

I was really pissed at mainstream medicine for becoming a pill and hormone pushing machine, Click To Tweet

Creeping Around Other Women’s Social Media Profiles

Turns out, my research was short-lived. I remembered reading something Liz Wolfe posted about how to quit hormonal birth control, so I did what any normal human would do: I creeped her Facebook page for more info. (Liz and I are actually friends, so it’s not as weird as it sounds.)

When I found her Facebook post about it, I just bit the bullet and asked.

Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control | StephGaudreau.com

Yep, that’s a screenshot of the actual message I sent her.

Liz was a great sport and filled me in. I’m so grateful for her because this still seems like something women don’t really talk about. Add to it the fact that many doctors – though not all – seem hell-bent on prescribing hormonal birth control as the contraception default, and it’s no wonder women are confused.

Side story: I now have yet another gyn, a lovely woman roughly my mother’s age. When I first met her, we had the following conversation:

Doctor P: What are you using for birth control?

Me: I track and chart my basal body temperature plus other signs of ovulation.

Doctor P: Isn’t that a lot of work?

Me: No. (Looking puzzled.) I lie in bed for a minute every morning and take my temperature.

Doctor P: Do you know you could still get pregnant?

Me: As you can with any other form of birth control. I follow the rules for avoiding pregnancy. I don’t want to take hormonal birth control.

Doctor P: Have you considered Mirena? (Mirena is a type of IUD with “low dose” hormones.)

Me: Mirena still has hormones. (And it has a higher risk of blood clots than many other forms of hormonal birth control. No thanks.)

Doctor P.: (changed the subject)

As much as I liked Doctor P, I absolutely loathed being treated like a dum-dum who didn’t know anything about my own fertility. And it galls me that women the world over are 1) being presented no other options besides barrier methods or hormones and 2) that hormonal birth control is being used to treat the symptoms of other bigger health issues. More about that later.

Enter: FAM

On that fateful July day two years ago, Liz told me about FAM (Fertility Awareness Method), and it’s changed my life and health for the better. I’ve been off hormonal birth control since then with great success.

What is FAM?

In a nutshell, FAM is a combination of approaches that allow a woman to track and chart when she is ovulating. By measuring basal body temperature (BBT) – recorded with a special thermometer – and tracking other signs like cervical fluid, cervical position, ovulation pain, PMS symptoms, etc., a woman can closely pinpoint ovulation. There are some basic rules about when to abstain from sex or use a back-up barrier method (if you don’t want to get pregnant) or when to have sex (if you do want to get pregnant).

Note: FAM is not the same as just assuming that women ovulate on day 14 of their menstrual cycle.

While 14 days is an average, it’s not absolute, and it may not apply to you during every cycle even if you do tend to ovulate at 14 days.

Case in point, last month I got tattooed on Day 12 of my cycle. Because of the physical stress, I actually ovulated 4 days later than normal. Had I assumed “everyone ovulates around 14 days” and had sex without a barrier, I could have gotten pregnant. Luckily I have tracked fertility signs for two+ straight years and knew that my ovulation was delayed. In the past, I’ve also ovulated late after a very long international flight and while I was sick with food poisoning.

How FAM Works

Like all other forms of birth control, there are detailed and specific rules for doing FAM. I used the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.

Every morning when I wake up – before getting out of bed – I lie there and take my temperature orally with a special basal body temperature thermometer. This takes a minute or so. (If a doctor tells you this is harder than taking a pill every day, gee, you might rethink your choice of providers. I did.)

Then, I log my temperature with a fertility tracking app. I use Fertility Friend because it’s the one I found two years ago. There are other ones without all the pink and purple flowers if you like your fertility tracking without the stereotypically girly motifs.

I also log other signs like cervical fluid changes, breast tenderness, etc.

If you’re sitting here thinking you could never do it because that’s “gross,” I have to say this: Having knowledge about how your body works is not gross. It’s empowering, and it’s your right. For too long, women have been prescribed hormonal birth control that allows us to be completely oblivious to what is happening in our bodies. Periods aren’t talked about. Or when they do, they’re often joked about or seen as taboo.

Have you ever completely freaked out because your period was late? I have. Tracking actually gives you the power to know if / when a late period could really be a pregnancy.

Have you ever panicked because you had vaginal discharge? I have. Turns out, discharge around the time of ovulation is normal. Tracking can help you know if that’s normal for the time of month or if you could have an infection.

Have you ever felt a sharp pain in your side around the middle of your cycle and thought you could be having an appendix problem? I have. That could actually be ovulation pain.

My point is that so many women are disconnected from what is normal in their bodies and what’s not. To me, FAM is a tool that allows me to be more in sync with what is happening from month to month.

So many women are disconnected from what is normal in their bodies and what's not. Click To Tweet

FAM is not perfect. If you don’t follow the rules, you can get pregnant. (I’ve seen estimates of 0.6% failure rates if followed exactly.) But I’d rather deal with that risk compared to the shitty things that hormonal birth control does to a woman’s body and how terrible it was making me feel.

After I Quit Hormonal Birth Control

Within two months after I quit hormonal birth control, I had normal cycles. Maybe I’m lucky? Maybe I had worked hard on improving my foundation of health prior to quitting and it paid off? I like to think it was more the latter. Everyone is different, and I acknowledge that 1) not every woman is an ideal candidate for FAM and 2) there are other non-hormonal methods besides FAM that work well for other women.

But I have to make this plea:

If you’re dealing with hormonal issues (PCOS, endometriosis, acne, irregular periods, amenorrhea, female athlete triad, etc.), hormonal birth control is often a band-aid that covers up the problem instead of heals it.

The pill and other hormonal birth control methods have so many downsides that women have come to, frankly, put up with because it’s often presented as our only viable option.

I used to think I needed hormonal birth control to make my skin better or make my periods less painful. Turns out, that was not true. I may get a pimple here or there, especially around my period, but my skin is great thanks to a nourishing, anti-inflammatory diet, good sleep, the right amount of exercise, and reducing my stress. I do take Advil on the first day of my period, but I don’t vomit anymore. My pain is very manageable. Yes, there was a transition period where I had a little more acne, for example, but that wasn’t enough to make me run back to the pill.

Note: Endometriosis is now gaining recognition as an inflammatory disease. That means that factors that ramp up inflammation in the body (ex: certain edibles like gluten, dairy, and sugar; poor gut health; environmental toxins; and more) can make endometriosis worse. When I consider my family health history, especially my maternal line, I see several autoimmune / inflammatory diseases present: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, gout, and endo to name a few. People may think paleo is a fad, but for me it’s meant a significant reduction in the amount of inflammatory foods I consume.

Please learn more before you just stop cold turkey.

Click here for a quick primer about how to quit hormonal birth control.

I highly recommend the following resources:

Not only are both women personal friends of mine, but their depth of knowledge and their passion for helping others improve their health is palpable. Go check out their work. There are far more downsides to hormonal birth control than what I listed here, especially when used to manage other hormonal / health problems. (Get Dr. Briden’s book to learn more.)

In the two years since I quit hormonal birth control, not only have I amassed a lot of data about my menstrual cycle, but I also feel like I’m far more in tune with my body than I’ve ever been.

For example:

  • I always know which day I’m going to get my period once my temperature drops back down.
  • I know that the week before I get my period is not the ideal time to lift really heavy (more about that in an upcoming post), and if I’m having an “off” day around my period, it’s normal.
  • It’s been far easier to build and maintain muscle mass now that I quit hormonal birth control.

Every woman’s transition of hormonal birth control is different, and my story might not reflect yours. However, staying on hormonal birth control just because coming off it was uncertain stopped jiving with me.

In Conclusion

Quitting hormonal birth control is one of the best things I’ve done for my health, but it may not be for everyone. Flashing back to age 19, FAM (fertility awareness method) probably wouldn’t have been the best choice.

FAM has pros and cons, like every method of pregnancy prevention, but for me the benefits far outweighed the downsides.

Talk to your doctor and educate yourself so you know what your choices are. Your self-advocacy can help make all the difference.

Hormonal birth control methods, though often used to “treat” other problems, are not cures. They are synthetic analogues to your body’s natural hormones and are not without risk. Repairing your hormonal imbalances can be achieved through work with a cooperating practitioner and lifestyle changes. Sometimes, traditional methods must be used when more natural treatments fail. It’s not a failing on your part, and it’s not necessarily wrong, but you should at least be aware of natural treatments before being pressured into surgery or other interventions. My goal here was to share my own story of finding another way.

We covered a lot of ground in this post, and I said a lot of adult words like vaginal, sex, and discharge that might make you squirm, but you stuck with it to the end.

I hope this post about why I quit hormonal birth control empowers you to consider your best options and make the best possible choice for your health.

Use the share buttons so spread the word about Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control and help continue the conversation!

Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control | StephGaudreau.com

How to Avoid Getting Bulky: Expert Tips

Avoid getting bulky.

It’s something women the world over have spent years in absolute dedication to. This post explores some of the best practices wannabe internet experts often miss when help womankind everywhere in this pursuit.

[Note: I was raised in New England, land of real maple syrup, Friendly’s “Cone Head” ice cream sundaes, Fenway pahk, and wicked sarcasm. Only continue reading if you have a sense of humor.]

How to Avoid Getting Bulky: Expert Tips for Women

If I had a dollar for every blog post, magazine article, or celebrity trainer espousing the correct training method women must follow to achieve the elusive Goldilocks level of muscle – you know, enough to look mildly tube-like but not enough to scare the dickens out of little kids – I’d be sipping coconut water on a Balinese beach instead of chained to this laptop.

Truth is, these so-called experts often completely miss the mark. I’m here to set the record straight for these internet trainers with the very best tips for avoiding this dreaded “muscle bulk.”

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #1: Only lift dumbbells that weigh less than your head.

Fun fact: The average human head weighs approximately 10 pounds, so only lift less than that for the rest of your life. Even after you’ve developed a really solid base of good movement patterns and mobility, it’s best to only ever hold a heavy weight if you have the opportunity to pose for photos.

Bonus points if you apply the best advice from other celebrity trainers found in pithy single-paragraph magazine blurbs, such as this gem on staying feminine:

How to Avoid Getting Bulky: A Modern Woman's Guide

In fact, it’s best to just keep your arms by your sides at all times to avoid creating those masculine muscles. Don’t want to end up wider than a semi-truck! For optimal smallness, you’ll want to use an exercise program that doesn’t encourage you to put your arms over your head.

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #2: Eat less than a toddler.

For maximum bulk-avoidance, be sure to use a giant dinner plate and appoint it with 3 cubes of chicken breast – any and all bits of fat meticulously removed with the skill of a brain surgeon – 2 celery sticks, 1 cherry tomato (tomatoes are high in carbs after all), and a glass of air.

And if you want to speed up the slimming process, cut out 1/3 or more of your daily calories. Sure, you’ll lose any muscle mass, but who needs that anyway? All it does is increase your metabolism and burn fat, the exact thing you’re trying to do when you “tone.” The horror!

How to avoid getting bulky: expert tips you need to know Click To Tweet

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #3: Sleep is for dummies.

Why languish for 8 hours or more wasting time in bed when you can be doing other things like applying the newest Snapchat filter (butterfly crowns, duh) or binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix?

After all, sleep is known to help improve health and – gasp! – build muscle.

For best muscle avoidance, regularly stay up past 11 p.m. and wake up before 5 a.m. to do allthecardio. Pro tip: Do all of this on an empty stomach and only drink coffee until past noon each day. Who needs adrenal glands, anyway?!

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #4: Stress the shit out of yourself.

Perhaps the best-kept secret of bulk-avoiders everywhere is to be stressed about everything 24-7. With all the cortisol coursing through your veins, you’ll ensure you don’t accidentally venture into Bulky Land.

How does this sorcery work?

Since, as a woman, you only have a tiny fraction of a healthy male’s testosterone levels, ramping your cortisol up all the time will tank your test to practically zero. And since we all know that testosterone makes your muscles magically quadruple in size if you so much as glance sideways at a weight, anything you can do to stress yourself out all the time means you won’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of growing muscle. Win-win.

Which kinds of stress count toward this muscle blockade? My favorites are worry about:

  • Eating too much fat. (See Tip #2.)
  • Eating too many carbs. (Also, see Tip #2.)
  • Eating your macros to the exact gram. If you’re +2 over on fat, well…
  • What everyone thinks about your body.
  • Thighs that touch together.
  • Cellulite…shudder.
  • Having abs even though getting them means you’re miserable.
  • What you look like in shorts or anything with less coverage than a $2 plastic rain poncho.

The above are just a sampling! The possibilities are endless.

Avoid Getting Bulky Tip #5: Contract Avian Bone Syndrome.

If all else fails, you can go the route of Phoebe from season one of 30 Rock and contract Avian Bone Syndrome to avoid getting bulky.

Phoebe’s hollow, bird-like bones were one surefire way to avoid getting bulky at its absolute epicenter. Sure, she had to avoid most human contact, but for the hard core bulk-o-phobe, this goes beyond just atrophied muscle. Why only lose muscle mass when you can lighten your bones, too!

In Conclusion…

This post is totally satirical, and it’s the most sarcastic thing I’ve ever published. I’m not intentionally poking fun at you if you struggle with anything listed above. It’s a commentary on all the crazy, BS things I see internet coaches recommend to women.

I’m so sick of so-called experts treating you like garbage for caring about your own health.

While it was funny to write on one level, it pains me as a nutritionist and weightlifting coach to know that women keep falling prey to these types of damaging practices in the pursuit of a “hotter body.”

It takes the convergence of some very specific factors and a huge amount of effort to produce women who have bodybuilder levels of muscle. Lifting heavy-ish weights a few times a week is simply not enough to bulk up.

If you do lift weights and feel like your clothes are getting tighter, it’s quite possible you had sub-healthy levels of muscle to begin with.

I repeat: If you lift weights and your clothes get tighter, you may not have had enough muscle to start with.

Remember the scale and your weight only tell part of the story. If you want to track whether your body is changing for the healthier, at the very least take photos every few weeks and get a DEXA scan once a year to measure important factors like bone density.

Track your health in a myriad of ways. Get your mind right. Nourish your body. Manage your stress. Move with purpose…and thrive.

A healthy body is what matters.

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How to Avoid Getting Bulky: Expert Tips for Women | StephGaudreau.com

How Kristen Ended Years of Negative Self-Talk

Kristen R WSS Negative Self-Talk Success Story

Negative self-talk is something you probably do without even noticing. You might even feel like your mindset is the thing that’s really holding you back from finding a healthy relationship with your fitness or diet.

I know that the way I used to approach eating better and working out definitely came from a less-than-healthy place of guilt and shame.

Whether it was wanting to do harder and harder fitness events to “prove my worth” or cutting out allthecarbs because I was afraid of gaining fat, I knew this wasn’t the best way to approach my health. I pushed myself to do more only to feel worse about it, and I ended up at my lowest weight, still feeling unhappy about everything.

My real life friend Kristen (who happens to also be my attorney) and I have a lot in common.

  • We’re both go-getters and successful business owners.
  • We both used motivation and negative self-talk in unhealthy ways to try to change our bodies.
  • The harder we both tried, the more despair we felt.

Luckily, Kristen and I both discovered that healing our mindsets was the answer.

I’ll let Kristen describe in her own words how the Women’s Strength Summit gave her the tools to overcome her negative self-talk and get on the road to mental freedom and true happiness.

(Take it away, Kristen!)

I suppose I should start this post by explaining my overall nature. I’m a lawyer by trade, so my crazy anal-retentive attention to detail, type-A, overachieving characteristics suit my chosen profession well. However, I can safely say, as a person, I’ve been suffering under the weight of my own personality for as long as I can remember. Yes, I’m very fun, outgoing, crazy, with a minimal brain-to-mouth filter, and I swear like a sailor. But inwardly, I’m intensely critical, judgmental, stressed, and full of anxiety.

I always thought these traits sort of went hand-in-hand, and I’ve always used my perceived “negative” personality traits as a means to drive me toward what I believed to be success. Over the course of my career thus far, I’ve told myself that the reason I’m being so hard on myself was to keep me motivated. To keep my eye on the prize. To keep me pushing myself forward. Any attempts to relax, take a day off, or just BE, resulted in me sternly telling myself I was being lazy, worthless, slovenly, and definitely UN-successful.

How Motivational Self-Talk Can Hurt

This has always been the case – not only with work, but also when it comes to my own self-improvement. By referring to myself as “fat,” or pointing out my physical flaws, I was not only simply acknowledging what others had to “see” too, but I was also driving myself toward my perceived notion of physical perfection.

For those of you who don’t understand this (lucky you), the negative self-talk goes something like, “Gross. You’re fat. Get your ass up and go to the gym. This is what’s best for you. Get moving. Come on. Don’t be lazy. Don’t let the laziness win. Get up. NOW!” 

I never felt that this kind of talk was the same as the commonly understood “negative” self-talk, but rather as motivational self-talk. I mean, how many of you have seen memes like these?
Kristen R WSS Negative Self-Talk Success Story

“Rest Later!”

“Don’t stop when it hurts, stop when you’re done!”

“Make yourself stronger than your excuses”

“No pain, no gain!”

The list goes on and on.

The underlying tone of these messages are clearly negative, but instead, we perceive them as motivational, not intentionally mean or picking you apart. So, clearly, if I decided I needed sleep instead of going to the gym, or if I decided to eat a piece (*ahem, bar) of chocolate slathered in almond butter, I was “allowing” myself to let the excuses take over. I wasn’t putting my mind over matter. I was letting something taste better than skinny felt, and all the rest of that garbage.

My Own Enemy Was My Thinking

For most of my teenage years, and throughout my twenties, this is how I approached self-improvement. If I didn’t see the scale move, if I didn’t eat the “right” foods, if I didn’t work out the “right” number of times per week, I was “letting myself go.” If I didn’t get every project done at work, or didn’t jam-pack my schedule, I wasn’t passionate enough or somehow “asked” to be stressed.

I was still convinced this was not really negative self-talk, because I know that outwardly, I’m not what people traditionally consider as “overweight” and my business bank account is healthy, so I’m not about to close my doors. I am incredibly active, fit, healthy, and all-around average when it comes to my size.

However, I truly believed that because my body didn’t look the way I believed it could, that I was fat FOR ME. If I didn’t meet a certain business goal in a particular month, I was FAILING. I know we always talk about not caring how others perceive you, but we rarely talk about how to handle a warped self-perception. How do we separate the difference between motivation and harmful mindsets?

Part of the reason I focus my law practice on helping those who help the world, i.e., socially conscious, sustainable, aware businesses, is because I want to not only help my clients reach a broader audience and spread their messages, but also so I can learn from them. Enter one of my first clients, Steph Gaudreau. Steph had told me she was putting together an online summit by women for women to address all aspects of building strength, be it mental or physical. She asked if I’d be interested in checking it out, and of course I said yes.

Kristen R WSS Negative Self-Talk Success Story

How My Negative Self-Talk Started to Change

Steph’s Women’s Strength Summit came at the heels of me deciding that 2016 would be the year I would speak differently to myself. I was very incredulous about my goal. I was convinced that addressing my accomplishments and appearance in a positive way would result in me becoming lazy, unmotivated, and unsuccessful both in life and business. I could not have been more wrong.

Putting aside negative self-talk, especially in the beginning was incredibly challenging. The amount of mean shit I would say to myself without even thinking twice was absolutely dumbfounding. Why is it so easy to say, “gross,” “shut up,” “that’s stupid,” “you’re dumb,” or “you look hideous in that,” but so foreign to say, “you’ve got this,” “way to go!”, “you are killing it today.”

At first, every nice thing I said to myself felt as though I was bragging or being egotistical in some way. Keep in mind, this is me saying things to myself, inside my head! Nobody was listening, yet I felt this extreme sense of unworthiness every time I said something nice. Despite these uneasy feelings, I powered through the first couple of months. Did I slip up at times? Absolutely. But one of the most interesting things that happened came around month four.

In the interest of anonymity, let’s just say “a friend,” came to visit. She said something about being fat, and rather than my usual call-and-response habit of chiming in whenever a friend said something negative about herself (talk about some twisted solidarity), my hackles immediately bristled. I said, “I am trying really hard this year to love myself. Hearing people speak negatively about themselves makes it hard for me to be nice to myself. Do you think you could try not to do that around me? For the record, I do not believe you are fat, at all, and I hope you believe it too.” I don’t think she was expecting it. She looked at me, paused, and said, “You’re right. I shouldn’t say those things.” Was it awkward? Yes. Was it completely worth it? Hell yes.

And Something Surprising Happened…

Not only did my awareness of negative self-talk in general become heightened, I actually began to see physical changes, too. Oddly enough, I am exactly the same weight I was when I started this inner challenge in January 2016. This in and of itself is a feat for me, because I generally gain and lose the same 10 pounds, over and over throughout the year, depending on how hard I’ve decided to beat myself up.

Yet despite this fact, I was losing inches. I credit this to actually seeking out foods that made me healthier as opposed to constantly living in a state of bingeing and restricting my food. I was celebrating what my body could do in the gym, rather than treating it as a punishment for eating “too much” the night before. I was sleeping more, relaxing more, taking more time off from work – and relishing it!

From a business standpoint, things became clearer too. I realized that my “why” isn’t to become financially rich, but to have a flexible and rich life. I already had that. This realization made me feel a sense of calm and success that I had never felt before. I was finally able to bask in the glory of the goals I’d already achieved. To set new, realistic ones; and to take my first long vacation in almost 3 years. Do I still wish I were doing “better?” Of course. I am still a driven, business owner. But I don’t walk around bashing myself for taking a vacation. Do you see the difference?

I truly believe the phenomenal group of empowering women included in Steph’s Women’s Strength Summit were the catalyst I needed to jump start this change in me, and I cannot recommend it enough.

That doesn’t mean you need to do what I did to get healthy, but I am one of the converted who wholeheartedly believes that your health and life goals cannot be achieved through negative self-talk. No matter how much you believe you’re motivating yourself – trust me – you are doing more harm than good. I challenge you to focus on gaining health rather than losing weight. To celebrate how far you’ve come, rather than looking at what you didn’t achieve. You might just be surprised.  

Kristen R WSS Negative Self-Talk Success Story

-Kristen Roberts

(Steph here again)

My heart is bursting with gratitude for Kristen having the courage to share her story overcoming negative self-talk. I’ve personally seen her transformation, and when she graciously offered to share how the Women’s Strength Summit changed her thinking with this community, I was incredibly honored.

There is zero doubt in my mind that someone out there will resonate with Kristen’s story and see that finally, it is possible to shift her mindset too.

If it strikes a chord with you and you’d like to learn more about the Women’s Strength Summit, click here:

http://womensstrengthsummit.com

xo Steph

Kristen Roberts is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Trestle Law, APC, a boutique law firm that specializing in helping sustainable, socially conscious food and fitness companies with their business, intellectual property, and employment needs.

Shame Sells… But Who’s Buying?

In the advertising and marketing worlds, it’s true that sex sells, but so does shame.

Shame Sells But Who's Buying | StephGaudreau.com

(If you get the band reference in the title, one billion bonus points to you.)

Its effects are no less insidious than the massive culture that objectifies women to sell everything from diet supplements to fitness equipment. “Here’s some giant knockers, now buy this protein powder.”

This week, someone brought to my attention an article about ten reasons to add bone broth to your diet by a doctor with a bone broth diet book. (Imagine that.) Seemed harmless enough, but when I clicked the link, I was wrong.

First, let me say I’ve got nothing against bone broth! I love it, and I make a few batches a week to sip on or to use in cooking. Yes, it has nutritional value. Yes, it’s a traditional food. But let’s be honest, some of the claims people make about bone broth are grossly overstated:

  • Erases wrinkles
  • Makes your gut glow
  • Makes stress disappear
  • Zaps cellulite
  • Melts fat

You get the idea.

Though the exaggeration of the benefits is bad enough, what I read next as my eyes skipped down the post stuck out like a sore thumb:

“8. Bone broth can fight cellulite.

Because the collagen in bone broth strengthens your skin’s connective tissue, it doesn’t just erase wrinkles – it helps smooth out that unsightly “cottage cheese” cellulite on your thighs. (Hello, swimsuit!)

(Note: The article was quietly edited earlier this week after several people spoke out about it.)

There’s virtually no evidence to support that claim.

Other nuggets include a comparison to bone broth as, “Spanx for your face,” – there’s a visual for you – and the prescription of a twice-weekly fast of nothing but broth so you can “lose weight rapidly.”

I’ve sincerely held out hope that the holistic health and wellness communities would take the higher road and shun shame-based marketing, but the people looking to capitalize on your purchasing power are circling like sharks around chum.

Mainstream advertisers have realized this market is insanely profitable, so they’re shoving their traditional messages into pretty packages full of bone broth, “natural” supplements, and gluten-free this-and-that.

The average person is already bombarded by dozens, if not hundreds, of advertisements daily from mainstream diet and fitness companies that relish the opportunity to tell you how fat, wrinkled, grey-haired, ugly, and inadequate you are. And now, it’s coming at you from the holistic angle, too.

As if the false promises and marketing hoopla weren’t bad enough, there are two bigger issues looming here.

  • Health still being reduced to what you look like and,
  • Shaming people into buying whatever it is you’re selling.

Logically speaking, you know that the complete picture of your health goes beyond skin deep. It goes further than your weight, further than your body fat percentage, and further than your bumpy, wrinkly, saggy bits.

Yet it’s still so common to hear how clients improved their diet, started exercising, and sleeping better which leads to feeling like a million bucks, but if the scale doesn’t budge as much as they wanted, the whole effort is deemed futile.

Your health is so much more than your weight on the scale. Click To Tweet

Marketers can’t wait to sell you on quick weight loss but time and time again, experience shows that shedding weight quickly and keeping it off are usually at odds with each other.

And now we come to shame-based marketing.

Cellulite. It makes me so angry to have to even go here.

It’s normal to have “unsightly cottage cheese” cellulite. Yep, normal. Even really f*cking fit people – yes, elite athletes – have it.

Here’s a photo of Elizabeth Akinwale, CrossFit Games competitor, and her cellulite. (Read her post here.)

11903925_1041505869203668_9056280536285585498_n

The horror.

I wrote about my own cellulite a few months ago.

There’s nothing wrong with cellulite. In fact, 90% of women – yes, you read that right…NINTEY – have some cellulite.

The only reason we think it's ugly and unsightly is because people with something to sell tell… Click To Tweet

News flash: You can wear a swimsuit even if you have cellulite. And if you’re convinced that cellulite makes you bad or ugly, there are deeper issues that you may need help addressing.

Trying to change from a place of self-loathing, hatred, and shame doesn’t work for a lot of people. Even if it does jump start you into acting, it’s unlikely to address the underlying reasons you feel that way in the first place.

Will marketers ever stop with this nonsense of pointing out your flaws, telling you you’re bad, and then offering you a “solution?” Unlikely, as long as there’s money to be made and someone with an open wallet nearby.

How do you avoid it?

Get attuned to shame-based marketing. Yes, it’s even present in alternative holistic health circles that exist outside the mainstream.

Vote with your dollars by supporting companies that refrain from these tactics.

Change the conversation, starting with the language you use to think and speak about yourself. Are you constantly focusing on  your “flaws” and imperfections instead of what makes you incredible and unique beyond skin deep?

(Looking for more strategies? Check out my post here.)

So the next time a marketer ponies up, points out your flaws and (subliminally) asks, “Are you buying,” you can say, “Not today.”

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Shame Sells But Who's Buying | StephGaudreau.com

Questions or comments? Does shame sell? Write your thoughts below!

3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird

It’s about damn time that you flip the fitness industry the bird, and I’m giving you three strategies for doing it.

3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird | StephGaudreau.com

This post started as a little Insta-rant, and has blossomed into a bit of a manifesto, but I digress. Let’s start at the beginning.

Words matter.

Yeah, actions do matter, but words are powerful and they are streaming past your eyes and into your mind every single second of the day.

Just stop for a second and think about the words bombarding you on an average day from the health and fitness marketing space:

  • Skinny _____ (insert recipe name here)
  • Detox diets
  • Cleanses (because you must be dirty)
  • How to “control” cravings
  • Shrink your _____ (insert body part here)
  • Quick fixes
  • Slim down (because size, and not quality of life / health is most important)
  • No pain, no gain

I could go on, but you get the point.

These messages – and a majority of what’s directed at us as women – are crafted from a place of fear.

Fear that we aren’t enough, we’re broken, and there’s something wrong with us.

The illusion is that if we could just fix the parts we don’t like, we’ll be happy. (Spoiler: If you finally manage to lose those ten pounds, you won’t magically find happiness.)

Everything marketed to you is done in a way that causes you to act out of fear:

Fear of failure.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of isolation.

Women have been bullied, intimidated, and shamed into trying to fix their bodies for years. Click To Tweet

Since I’m not one who just likes to complain about what’s wrong, I’m offering you up three strategies for being a more conscious consumer of media and the messages these industries are feeding you.

3 Ways to Flip the Fitness Industry the Bird

1) Be present.

This one sounds so simple, but it’s not easy. The key is to develop awareness about the messages you actively and passively consume.

Even if you do this for just one day, you’ll be shocked – and appalled – with what’s marketed your way by the fitness industry.

How often does the language of dieting and minimizing and “you-aren’t-enough-ness” come your way?

These industries exist on the premise of psychological manipulation and subliminal messages that, unfortunately, make their way into your subconscious mind without you even realizing it. I first learned about these trance states my friend, hypnotherapist Chel Hamilton, and it’s the way everything from casinos to TV commercials work.

The first step is to simply be aware and awake. Are these messages motivating you from a place of fear or a place of love?

 2) Opt out.

Once you’ve developed some awareness, it’s time to do something about it and opt OUT.

I can’t recommend this one enough: Get rid of cable and stop watching TV.

Shocking? (Maybe.)

Impossible? (No.)

In 2007, I got rid of my cable subscription and my TV.

Yes, I still watch programs and documentaries –  recently we invested in an LCD projector and a Netflix subscription – but I’m seeing nowhere near the advertisements that I was via mainstream networks.

Now that I’ve been desensitized to it, whenever I go visit my parents and the TV is running, I cannot believe the shit that I see. It horrifies me.

Not ready to bring your boob tube to the local thrift shop?

Start opting out of email newsletters and unfollowing accounts on social media that aren’t serving you. Stop buying fitness & diet magazines.

Take a cue from the recent #UnfollowFriday movement, and make some changes. Are there accounts and personalities online that make you feel less than? Get rid of them.

3) Find your people.

Once you’ve done the step above, it’s time to get really keyed in to the people and brands that are helping you in a positive way.

Be judicious with who you follow in the fitness industry. Click To Tweet

Do they motivate you from a place of genuine self-love?

There are lots of voices who are doing it right.

Creating an online support network matters, but even more important than that, find people in real life that share your core values.

The internet is both a wonderful and a terrible thing: It connects us across distances – hello, I met my husband on Twitter (true story) – but it allows us to wallow behind a screen, desperately unable to find real human connection.

Your act of meeting a friend for coffee or joining a local running group is exactly the thing the diet and fitness industry don’t want. It’s through time spent in person with people that lift you up, when you truly disconnect from the messages that marketers bombard you with, that you strengthen your core values and resolve from a place of love instead of a place of fear.

To Summarize…

The fitness industry (and let’s be honest, the diet industry too) operates on the premise of fear and manipulation to keep you stuck in the endless cycle of spending.

Exit the loop by first becoming aware.

Then, opt out of what isn’t serving you.

Finally, develop stronger connections – online but more importantly, in person– with people, groups, and brands that resonate with your core values.

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5 Ways to Get Better Sleep

If you’re looking improve the quality of your shut-eye time, I’m sharing five ways to get better sleep in this post.

5 Ways to Get Better Sleep | StephGaudreau.com

Wouldn’t it be nice to sleep better?

This excerpt was taken from an original article posted on my other blog last year:

If you struggle to get to sleep, you’re hardly alone. It’s estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems. (source) That’s a pretty sobering statistic, considering that for many people, lack of shut-eye is a completely fixable problem.

My sleep habits weren’t always great. I routinely got less than 6 hours in bed, ended the evening by falling asleep in front of the television, and slept in a room that had lots of ambient light.

The thing is, if you asked me if I was doing okay on 6 or less hours of sleep, I’d have sworn I was fine.

A Quick Look at the Science

2006 study comparing total sleep deprivation with sleep restriction concluded that the group that was chronically moderately sleep restricted – 6 hours or 4 hours sleep a night – performed just as poorly on cognitive tests as subjects who stayed awake for 48 hours straight.

Even more telling, the group that got 6 hours of sleep thought they were doing okay, though their cognitive tests showed they weren’t. Even though you might “feel fine,” you’re likely impaired when it comes to tasks involving thinking, reasoning, problem solving and more.

Chronically sleeping less than 6 hours is as bad as pulling an all-nighter. Click To Tweet
I was also training hard on fewer than 6 hours of sleep, which was hurting my physical performance, too. Click here to read more about trading sleep for training time, and listen to Dr. Parsley explain how sleep affects performance.

Somewhere between 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep is optimal depending on your personal requirements, but suffice to say many of us could stand to get more.

Five Ways to Get Better Sleep

1) Lock down a sleep routine.

It’s ironic that bedtime routines are standard for children, but when it comes to using them as adults, many of us don’t. We got to bed at erratic times and don’t build habits that signal to our bodies that it’s time to wind down.

Habits and routines are extremely personal, and what works for me may not work for you, so you may need to do a little experimentation. My general rule is to start my bedtime routine about an hour before I want to turn the lights out.

Suggestions to try include:

  • Putting away the dishes or preparing your lunch for the next day
  • Setting out tomorrow’s clothes or packing your gym bag
  • Having a bath or shower
  • Taking magnesium or other supplements
  • Reading a few pages from your favorite book

The point is to build the same sequence that culminates in sleep, and repeat it every night.

Also important is going to bed – and waking – at roughly the same time each day.

2) Avoid nighttime blue light.

This one’s big.

Nighttime exposure to light, especially the blue wavelengths that mimic sunlight, is very disruptive to melatonin. This hormone is responsible for helping to put you to sleep – and keep you asleep. Unfortunately, backlit electronic devices that are so prevalent in our modern world, and they’re oozing with blue light.

Staring at your phone while lying in bed is not helping your sleep problems. Click To Tweet

Televisions, computers, tablets and phones are always close by, and they’re negatively impacting your sleep. Daytime exposure to blue wavelengths is important because it helps maintain the “awake” part of our circadian rhythms. However, reducing or avoiding blue light once the sun goes down is one key to better sleep.

Here are some things you can do to cut down on the amount of nighttime blue light your eyes get:

  • Install the free program f.lux on your computer. It dims your screen and turns it yellow / orange as dusk turns to darkness outside. It’s not available on most phones – and certainly not on your television – so if you can’t avoid those screens 100%, there’s another option…
  • Wear amber glasses or blublockers. They may look nerdy, but these orange-lens glasses function to block much of the blue light coming from your screens. At $10 a pair for the generic kind, that’s a pretty inexpensive solution to help you fall asleep faster. I prefer these gamer glasses from Gunnar – the Intercept style – because they look pretty cool, and they’re comfortable for hours of wear.
  • Eliminate light sources in your bedroom, such as digital alarm clocks, electronic devices with glowing power lights, and light coming through your windows. Blackout curtains are a must.
  • Use salt lamps for a soft light source that doesn’t throw blue light and isn’t dangerous like candles.

3) Take magnesium before bed.

Magnesium is a vital mineral that plays are role in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. It’s important for muscle function, electrolyte balance, cellular energy production and more. It’s also quite calming so it’s great to take before bedtime.

Nutrient-dense dietary sources rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, sea vegetables and nuts. Worth noting, some minerals such as calcium compete with magnesium for absorption, so if you’re taking it internally, avoid calcium-rich foods at the same time. If you’re training  hard, you may struggle to get enough magnesium from diet alone.

There are several popular and safe ways to use magnesium, among them Epsom salt baths, topical magnesium oil and supplements such as PurePharma M3 (use code SEPALEO to save 10%) and Natural Calm.

The types of magnesium in each are slightly different. PurePharma M3 contains magnesium taurinate and gluconate while Natural Calm has magnesium citrate. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate.

I personally find magnesium citrate to be harsher on my digestive system. (It causes the colon to retain water and too much causes diarrhea.) Though magnesium supplementation is considered very safe, always check with your physician before taking it.

It’s best to take your magnesium about 30 minutes before sleep.

4) Quantify your sleep.

It’s sometimes hard to know if the quality of your sleep is actually good. How much do you toss and turn? Do you really get the deep sleep you think you’re getting?

Instead of guessing, you may want to track or quantify your sleep.

There are many options for doing this, but the most popular and accessible are sleep apps like Sleep Cycle or the Night Shift app native to Apple’s latest iOS update (for iPhone 6).

I used Sleep Cycle for a long time until I decided that sleeping with my phone next to my bed was something I wanted to stop doing. (I had the bad habit of rolling over in the morning and looking at my phone for the first half hour of the day.)

If you’re new to sleep quantification, an app like Sleep Cycle is a good place to start though. While not foolproof, it can give you a good sense of your sleep patterns, and you can enter relevant data that may have affected your sleep such as what you ate, if you trained that day, and the supplements you took.

Recently, we invested in Sense which takes sleep quantification to the next level and includes a more sensitive sensor. It also collects information about the room such as temperature, humidity, and sound levels. But the best part is that I’m able to sleep with my phone out in the living room and still get data about my sleep.

5) Dig in deeper.

So often, it’s easy to overlook key factors that could be preventing you from getting better sleep simply because they don’t appear to be sleep-related. That’s when digging in deeper and taking a look beyond the sheets is of huge value.

My friend Shawn Stevenson – creator of The Model Health Show podcast and trusted voice in the wellness space – just published a book called Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success that’ll help you poke around under the hood.

5 Ways to Get Better Sleep

 

It’s full of practical tips and things you can implement right now to improve your sleep quality and feel more rested including some stuff that might not be so obvious. And, it’s got a 14-day plan for helping you bring all the pieces together for your more restful night ever.

I highly recommend picking up a copy!

Wrapping It Up…

A healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense foods is the best foundation for getting the hormones responsible for circadian rhythm and sleep in check. If you’re still struggling to fall asleep, try implementing the suggestions in this article – and in Sleep Smarter – before turning to pharmaceutical intervention.

Of course, there are several others things you can try to improve your sleep such as avoiding caffeine after noon time, eating a protein-rich breakfast, getting morning exposure to sunlight, and avoiding alcohol at night. If you continue to suffer from sleep issues, seek the help of a physician or health professional.

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5 Ways to Get Better Sleep | StephGaudreau.com

Have a question about getting better sleep? Leave it in the comments below, and I’ll get back to you!

I Am Enough: A Tale of Two Women

I Am Enough | stephgaudreau.com

I am enough.

But I wasn’t always convinced of that.

Let me share with you a tale of two women:

On the left was me in 2011. I’d just finished the Tahoe City Xterra race and a season of off-road triathlon. Prior to that I spent 8 years racing mountain bikes – much of it in the endurance domain of 6+ hours – and running long distances.

What you might see is a woman who looks trim and confident and loves her body – but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

I obsessed about my body, and I never felt small enough, even though this was the lowest weight of my adult life at about 58kg (128 pounds).

It was never enough. I was never enough.

I used competition to validate how I felt about myself and always pushed myself to do longer and harder events in order to prove my worth. I medicated myself off the stress response I got from punishing my body. It was exhausting.

What you don’t see in that photo is how weak I was, how much back pain I had, the terrible saddle sores I dealt with, the pain of a failing relationship, and how I constantly put myself down.

Funny how we tend to think that just because someone looks a certain way, their life must be friggin’ great. 

It took a few years but gradually I started to change a lot of things about my life.

I started really eating to nourish myself. I started strength training – I was introduced to it by CrossFit – and focusing on what my body could DO rather than how it looked or how much I weighed. I left my relationship. I eventually left a career that was safe but didn’t fulfill me. I read a lot and worked with some amazing coaches. I scoured the Internet for quality information about mindset and nutrition and fitness to conduct this experiment of one.

And you know what? I eventually found peace, and I started loving me for me.

It didn’t happen overnight but it did happen. It’s not perfect. I still have my moments, but life is infinitely more gratifying. 

On the right is me just a couple weeks ago. I weigh about 70kg (154 pounds)…yes, over 25 pounds more.

I routinely put my bodyweight+ over my head. I love my work. I’m not laser-focused on what I look like.

I am enough. 

One of the reasons I created the Women’s Strength Summit is to share with you the women that helped me, and if this post resonates with you, I hope you’ll join us starting March 1.

Click here to grab your free ticket to the online event, and I’ll see you there along with 30+ female experts who have a ton to share about how to strengthen not only your body, but your mind and your spirit as well.

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Let’s Talk Cellulite

Let's Talk Cellulite | StephGaudreau.com

Let’s talk about the C-word, shall we?

I’m referring to cellulite.

I have. You probably have it. If you’re like 90% (yes 90%!!!) of women, you have had some amount of cellulite in your life. Even guys get it.

I’m healthy. I’m strong. I have a perfectly healthy body composition and yet, I still have cellulite. And I don’t give a damn about it. I also have a gigantic squiggle varicose vein that runs most of the length of my left leg. See it? I’ve had it since I was 21 (yes, way before I lifted weights).

Why do I tell you all this? It’s because my body isn’t perfect and I make no apologies for it. The media tries to make women (and men) think we are less than because we have bumps and cellulite and stretch marks and all the things NORMAL BODIES HAVE.

Even really fit, totally healthy, super strong, thin / toned / whatever you wanna call it people have cellulite. A lot of it is genetic. A lot of it is affected by age and the elasticity of our connective tissue.

But here’s the thing: Do you let your bumps and rolls define you? Do you judge yourself for the imperfections that every human has? Are you trying to improve your body from a place of loathing or frustration or hate? (Hint: that doesn’t work.)

Start focusing on what you love about yourself. The people worth your time in this world already see that. It’s time you did, too. Love yourself for WHAT YOU ARE instead of always thinking of WHAT YOU’RE NOT.

Talk to me. What struggles do you still have about cellulite? Leave your questions and comments below!