Hormotional much.....???!

This is a very personal post from me (Baanu) but I decided to write about it, not only to help me process the challenges I’m facing and the dilemmas better, but also to start a conversation around this issue, which I believe is really important and one that a lot of people are dealing with in isolation.

It’s important to say that what I have written here is my personal experience; I’m not an expert in any fertility treatments nor am I a Dr with a specialisation in female hormones. First and foremost I’m a woman, a woman who has gone through fertility treatment, I manage a service within the local authority working full time in an office environment and I also co-direct The Movement Clinic with my dear husband Lee. I used to train several times a week and I like being physically strong. I am a psychotherapist who understands the impact of emotional regulation on overall wellbeing and I’m a mum to a beautiful and very energetic dog called Poppy.  

Since the beginning of 2015 my husband and I have been going through different fertility treatments. Over the last two years I ended up injecting myself with numerous different drugs during several rounds of IVF. Every step and every drug had a different impact on me physically and emotionally and the outcome after every cycle had a tremendous impact on both of us emotionally. I want to acknowledge that this post is about my journey, not Lee’s, and by not mentioning him I do not want to minimise or ignore the impact of this journey on him.

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Overall during all the stages of the treatments I felt extremely emotional, lethargic, absolutely shattered and the stress of the whole situation affected me physically. I have put on a lot of weight, I am not sure exactly how much as I don’t weigh myself, but I have probably gone up at least two dress sizes, which then had an impact on my self esteem, how I felt and how I saw myself. It’s one vicious cycle really…

Being hormotional (hormonal and emotional) had an impact on my whole being and what I started understanding was that hormonal imbalances are caused by several different factors, here are some of these:

  • Taking synthetic hormones – taking full-blown lots of different drugs, my belly looked like a multi coloured pincushion for the good part of two years (very attractive!). The side effects for me ranged from extreme mood swings to having a “moon face” caused by water retention, which also affected my whole body.

 

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  • Higher than average levels of stress - being able to manage our stress levels day to day without having any major changes in our lives is challenging, so when going through a life changing event, or just something that is important to us and needs lots of time and attention, the stress levels can quickly and sharply rise. Going through the fertility treatments, dealing with the side effects, working full time and opening a new business all at the same time was extremely stressful. Unfortunately for us, the outcome of the treatments was never a positive one (not for too long anyway) and with the last two attempts it had severe physical health implications on me which meant that I had to be in and out of hospital for days and days and undergo emergency surgery. One of these happened at the same time as we were doing building work on the Clinic. Stressful much..? I guess my point is that life is never straightforward; there will always be something that challenges us and pushes us that much more in directions we would rather not go and being able to acknowledge this and be mindful is crucial to managing and regulating emotions. 

 

  • Inadequate sleep – goes hand in hand with stress levels of course. Melatonin (sleep hormone) levels increase as we go to bed and begin to decrease as we wake up. Cortisol (stress hormone) decrease just before bed and increase as we wake up. So when stress levels are higher than normal, the two hormones become misaligned, which in turn has a sever impact on our sleep patterns as well as the quality of our sleep. Taking this into consideration, what are the chances of getting adequate sleep when under stress? Lack of good quality and quantity of sleep has, in turn, a massive impact on how we do and manage our day-to-day life. 

 

  •  Poor food choices – now this is a biggie, extremely complex and somewhat controversial. But putting it simplistically, are we having a balanced diet when it comes to calorie intake and the macronutrients our bodies need? For me eating homemade balanced fresh food comes naturally so it’s not difficult for me to eat too much “healthy” foods. There is a big difference between being healthy and being skinny and when the calorie intake is higher than calorie expenditure this has an impact on body composition, this then can have an impact on self-esteem and the way we look at ourselves, which can heighten cortisol levels – aka stress!!  

 

  • Sedentary lifestyle (lack of movement or exercise) again with higher stress levels, inadequate sleep and a potential lean towards making poor food choices / higher calorie intake, levels of consistent training might fall by the wayside and this has an impact on our mood/emotions, it all goes around and around… For me, or anyone who is going through fertility or hormone treatment, exercise is somewhat more challenging as, due to the extra hormones, ovaries can be super ovulated which means they are large and bulky so even walking is painful, and after the embryo transfer you are advised to have limited movement for weeks. Funny story….. When I asked my Dr as to what that meant he said, “just continue what you were doing, just don’t start a new exercise regime” and in the same sentence he said “just don’t run for the bus or lift anything heavier than 5 pounds” ???! Now, I don’t know what most people do in the gym, but if you’re not allowed to do fast pace exercises or weight training then what is there to do…? 

So I learned that hormones are chemical messengers that affect our brain, heart, bones, muscles, and reproductive organs. Hormones don’t work individually; they work as a complicated interwoven system. When one hormone changes, it affects the production of other hormones. As we age, changes naturally occur in the way the body systems are controlled, i.e. transition to puberty, pregnancy, postpartum, menopause, etc. the natural changes in our sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) affect other hormones like insulin - in turn, that disrupts the way our body stores and utilizes calories, which causes weight gain. The more weight we gain, the worse the system functions, causing more weight gain. It’s another vicious cycle.

Usually hormones work best when balanced and, as women we know that most of us suffer from hormonal imbalances every month due to Mother Nature aka the menstrual cycle and, even when you take synthetic hormones out of the above list, we suffer from most points I mentioned (poor sleep, poor food choices, lack of movement…) and, as hormone balance restoration is key to our overall health, it feels like a lost game as it is…. But, is it??!

For me, just finding out and knowing the function of my hormones is a step towards managing and (re)creating as balanced hormonal levels as possible.

Guilt and shame also play a big part in the whole picture of the process of dealing with the unsuccessful outcome of the fertility treatments and being able to explore these subjects with others and with my loving husband Lee (who has been extremely supportive and with me every step of the way) has helped me enormously.

Acknowledgment, acceptance and self-compassion is a vital step towards reducing stress, which in part has had an impact on sleeping better and making more informed food choices. Getting back to exercising more has helped me to maintain and start rebuilding muscle, combined with eating better for what I want to achieve has helped improve my mood and I have slowly started reducing body fat too.

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Lastly, I want to address something that is often talked about in different forums and that is what we experience when people offer their advice. We know that it comes from a good place and people feel that they need to say something positive or that they can somehow help or fix things, but you never know why the couple are seeking treatment. There are so many different reasons why couples need fertility treatment, it’s not always the woman’s problem, and it’s not always the man’s problem, and sometimes it is just unexplained. The most important thing that anyone can do is to just be there or just listen for when they are ready to talk. 

I would love to hear your opinion and views about this, it’s always good to share and talk….

Baanu x

The Movement Clinic, how did it all start

It's a bit of fairy tale really.....;) so here is how romance and passion for health and wellbeing turned into a family business. 

Written by Baanu

Lee and I met in a local gym back in 2008 where he was running his PT business and also facilitating some of the classes inc. the lunch time spin class which I use to go to! We use to often talk about our different industries and how someone should start building a more solid bridge between emotional health and physical health. As our relationship grew stronger the idea of doing something together started becoming more tangible and finally once my MSc and our wedding was over we founded Pursuit of Wellbeing LTD in August 2014 - the idea was to start with retreats where we would combine personalised training combined with healthy none toxic food and sessions around motivation, stress management and goal focus work that could be picked up after the retreats. We identified some locations and were very excited about putting it all in practice, however we both were working full time and also dealing with lots of personal and family issues that we were not able to get the planes any further than, well being plans! 

At the same time Lee was looking to find a location to open his own PT gym and in 2015 started a venture with two of our friends (the equilibrium brothers) however after a few months what was going on for us personally become very complicated and emotionally draining so we decided to leave the boys to it. Although this was difficult at the time, it was the right decision for us. 

Fast forward a year we finally found a place that could be potential base for a PT studio with in-house massage therapy and talking therapy rooms and studio for classes. Again this wasn't an easy ride, the building needed way more work than we anticipated we ended up spending way more than we were planning while again dealing with some very challenging personal issues, but finally mid August 2016 we opened the doors of The Movement Clinic. 

So, why The Movement Clinic

Lee’s been in the fitness industry for good part of the last two decades and has experimented with different types of training methods, he started training BJJ over 6 years ago and through his own movement (or lack of it) and watching others in the sport; some amazing and some not so much, coupled with seeing gym goers all over the place getting into the gym just to reinforce that seated position they spent most of their working day in. Soon he realised that universally we are forgetting how to move the way we were designed to, all you need to do is to look at how children move and you can see this; they squat to pick up their toys and hang on anything they can and swing, they naturally cartwheel and do forward rolls. These should be the fundamentals of movement and exercise, positions that encourage full range of motion that creates stability in joints and demand flexibility from multiple areas of the body at once - not a spin class (sorry guys, I use to be a crazy spin class goer and met my husband in one, however I now know better).     

So all the above in mind we wanted to create a place where the main ethos is to move correctly, and in doing so achieving all the goals. Lee often talks about different ways of toasting a slice of bread, you can do this by using a toaster or a gill or you can do this by burning the house down. Unfortunately too often people focus on losing weight, having bigger biceps or bigger chest that they end up doing this by damaging whole lot of other areas in their body. 

Everything we do at the clinic is designed to achieve this;

  •     By getting people educated on how to move their bodies in one to one PT sessions and Semi  private sessions
  •    By keeping the classes small in order to make sure participants are moving correctly.
  •    By providing in-house sports and massage therapy to make sure imbalances are corrected that would compliment their overall training.
  •   By providing award winning DNA testing as an alternative tool to put together a truly personalised nutritional plan in helping people to achieve their goals.
  •    By bridging the gap between mind and body, so when needed people can get a deeper understanding on their behaviour and thinking patterns.
  •    By leading on living a balanced lifestyle.
  •    By reinforcing the idea that being healthy is a lifestyle, not just a fad.
  •    By creating a hub where people can come and get the best training, massage, lifestyle and mind coaching in London.   

This is what The Movement Clinic is about at the moment, of course as always we are learning a lot and as we both see ourselves as lifelong students we will evolve and make it the best we can.

Shoulder disfunction

Shoulder

 

One of the most common things I see in the industry being as an S&C coach and a sport therapist is shoulder dysfunction. In this article I am going to talk about shoulder position, keeping it basic.

Posture

Today's lifestyle is one that challenges our posture more and more, from long hours being seated in front of a computer or laptop to bad exercise programs. All of these bad habits help create bad positions for our shoulders; the chest becomes short and tight and the shoulders get pulled forward into an internally rotated position which makes the back musculature to become lengthened and in a weakened position, putting a lot off stress on these muscles and therefore on the shoulders that are now sitting in a forward and very unstable position. Over time this rounded shoulder forward head posture gets exasperated as we continue to carry on with our lives and our bad habits, we add a few gym sessions on top of all of this and it's not long before there is pain or an injury.

Injury

Most people I see that have pain or injury in the shoulder blame a small group of muscles called the rotator cuffs, but in most cases these small muscles are the victims and the bigger muscles that attach to the shoulders are the real perpetrators. This is extremely important to remember as a lot of clients I see as a therapist have been treated time and time again, and on investigation I find that a lot of the treatment is on the “victims” and rarely the “perpetrators” have been treated. The shoulder is a very complex joint and there are a lot of potential causes of pains and dysfunctions.

The basics

When I look at the shoulders of clients who have pain or dysfunction by simply knowing the mechanics and anatomy of the joint and the surrounding area this tells me a lot about the problem and issue on hand. Now, I am not saying I know exactly what the problem is without further investigation, however over the years it becomes easier and easier to spot the potential “perpetrators”.

As discussed in the posture section if we can see that the shoulders are slightly rounded, internally rotated and there is a slight forward head posture then this tells us a lot.  It means we can go after the muscles that are pulling the “victims” into a weak uncomfortable position, generally what we find is that the pecs are short and tight and that the upper back has become weak and switched off as it's in a compromised position. I have listed some points where I see some mistakes in the training and treatment of clients within the wellness industry.

  • Training programs are not balanced, they are sometimes random and there is a lack of thought about how the body should work and how it's designed to work
  • Therapists are treating the “victims”, and not getting the to the root of the problem. A role model of mine recently said "always ask WHY?" And as a therapist I try to always ask why “Is this dysfunction/pain happening. 
  • Therapist are treating clients and doing some great work but unfortunately they are sometime missing the bigger picture, why would I take a client and treat them on a massage table, help to deactivate over active muscles in the chest to help pull the shoulders back and just send them on there way. Treating the “victims” here will give some relief short term and the client might leave feeling better, however they will go back to the same environment that is causing the problem e.g. their work desk or their bad exercise prescription where the problem will continue and over time will become even more painful or dysfunctional. This is the perfect time to help strengthen the under active muscles that will now activate better as I have switched of the perpetrators.
  • Education in my eyes is why we are there as coaches and therapists, we are not there to simply count reps and rub peoples backs for an hour (unless that's what they wanted in the first place). I feel it's important that we try our best to educate our clients to help themselves, so they learn why they are working various muscle groups in the gym or why they are foam rolling their hamstrings. I believe that it’s important for trainers, therapist and coaches to understand how their clients feel. If the client doesn’t understand why they are causing them selves pain with a yoga tune up ball or a foam roller then they are less likely to do this.

So basically, what we need to do is work out the best way to get those shoulders back into a anatomically correct position using all the skills we have as a wellness professional, such as massage, self myofascial release, ergonomics, training and most importantly knowledge and education.

 

Lee Irvine