Ashley is 31 years-old and living in Austin, Texas. She runs a gluten-free baking company, Bona Dea, with a team of women, providing baking mixes to restaurants and hotels and sold in grocery stores and online. They will soon launch a range of ready-to-eat buns, hoagies and sandwich loaves. (Make sure to check out Ashley & Bona Dea‘s special cycle-synced recipes below – YUM!)
After coming off the NuvaRing, Ashley hadn’t had a period in three whole years. Her face was breaking out for the first time. Plus she was finding it very hard to relax and take time to herself in her busy schedule.
Within six months of following the Flo Living protocol and with the support of our counselors, Ashley saw her period return, got her clear skin back, and dramatically lowered her stress levels.
How was your health when you discovered Flo Living?
When I first discovered Flo Living I was living in Asia and in a really, really busy work situation. I had a lot of stress and I wasn’t sleeping a lot, as I didn’t have a lot of hours available to sleep. I was on this tired and wired cycle. I have a lot of energy, that’s just the kind of person I am, and sometimes I don’t know what propels me, but my adrenals were in overdrive. My health in mainstream medical terms was good – I had low blood pressure, I worked out, I ate healthily – but I had not had a period in three years since coming off the NuvaRing. I also had recently had an abnormal pap smear. I always had clear skin and about midday through that three year period my face started breaking out in the areas that indicate hormonal health.
How did you come across Flo Living?
At some point I was surfing the net looking for answers when I came across Alisa and I listened to every single one of her talks that I could find on You Tube. That made me book a consultation.
How did your health improve and your lifestyle change as a result of the protocol?
It took six months from the time I started the Flo Living program to when I had my first period. A lot of how the program helped me during that time was about reducing my stress level and yin balancing. It was a big challenge as all through the program my schedule was only giving me five hours to sleep at night. I was teaching English, but as I started that my business took off and I ended up working double time. It became about how I approached things, about having a lot more capacity and space. Instead of being contractive about everything, I needed to be expansive. I learned deep breathing exercises. I made a rule about not eating my meals while at the computer. I loved the hot water pack on my adrenals. I enjoyed taking half an hour a day to just do nothing or do whatever I wanted.
I worked with the counselors on the online forum and because I didn’t have a period it was hard to follow the cycle as such, so what they suggested was that I follow the moon phases with my eating plan. I did that and my period came back on the new moon, which was awesome! I was like, this works! I’ve had two periods now and I’m supposed to have my next on the next new moon. My acne cleared up during that time too.
Even though I was working so much, and it seemed like it would be impossible to clear up my adrenal issues at that time, even then, with the tactics I was given I felt I was in a really good place. I got back to a place of body balance.
How do you feel now in each phase of your cycle?
Before the Flo protocol I never paid attention to my body. I bought tampons, and that was the extent of it. I never had very extreme periods before so I didn’t think about it. I had a very much mind-over-matter, almost athletic mentality to my health and work life, which led to a few burnouts. Now I am really paying a lot more attention. I’m in the luteal phase right now and I feel a little less sociable. I know I can take a few minutes of silence for myself. I am careful not to eat sugar. In my follicular and ovulatory phases I am really energetic and it’s awesome to know why. It’s really cool to recognize what’s going on inside.
Before you decided to try the Flo protocol what were your expectations?
Before doing Flo I had tried homeopathy, vitamin therapy, I already ate really healthy. I looked at this as another possible solution or remedy. What got me though was the mind-body connection and how much beyond the food and supplements that it went.
What did you find difficult at first? How did you overcome this obstacle with the help of your counselor?
Eating within the first 90 minutes of the day was really hard. In the past I would work out first thing in the morning on no food, then I would have fruit, then I would have coffee, then I would have food probably five or six hours after waking up. It was a total mind shift for me. Now it makes sense and I stuck with it, it makes a huge difference. The counselors were very patient with my resistance and had great ideas. They suggested I have a snack before my morning run and finish my breakfast when I came back.
Not drinking coffee was also an issue as I love my coffee. I’m from the Pacific Northwest, I think coffee is delicious. Not just for the caffeine, more the taste and there is no real substitute. I’ve had to let go of that. When my body is in balance it can handle it, so that was another mental shift. I drink chai tea and a lot of herbal teas.
What would you say to a friend who read about Flo and felt it might be too much for them to handle, but could really benefit from the protocol?
Being forgiving with yourself is a really good thing. Getting started hardcore on a program, some people set the bar too high and then give up. Having accountability and support and being open about it is so important. You can talk to a trusted friend. The more you are open, the more people keep you accountable and then you want to stay on track. Also you need to set reasonable goals for yourself, which depends on whether you are already a healthy eater or not. You need to figure out your baseline and then make choices that make sense for you.
How have you personalized the protocol?
The workouts by cycle phase have been a big shift for me. Prior to the program I was obsessive about working out, like two to three hours a day. The program has helped me recognize to treat my body with love and tone down the workouts in my menstruation phase. It helps me notice if I am actually tired today and should do some yoga instead of going running. Even switching up the kinds of yoga I do in each phase has made a big difference.
I used to also overload my schedule, so it’s really helpful for me to put the phases onto my calendar. I check these when I’m making meetings for work or social engagements with friends. I plan certain things for certain phases. I keep the second half of my cycle more clear and add more to the first half. I take on more socially in the first half and work it through my system.
How have you made shopping and cooking simple and easy? Do you have any tips you might share with others?
I wrote down on a piece of paper the different phases and then I divided it up into food, cooking style, exercise, social and then hormones. So I have my notes for each of those categories so I can glance at that paper and see what I need to eat that week. It helps me shopping and cooking. It helps me figure out whether I should roast, sauté or have a raw salad too. I love to go to the farmer’s market so it’s fun to know what to look out for and maybe try something new on the list. I tend to do weekend prep when I chop up fresh vegetables with my husband. I collect my favorite recipes that work well for each phase. I make big batches and put that in the freezer – curries, chili, etc I also use that for lunches-to-go.
What are some of your favorite ready-to-eat items that you grab on the go? What do you do for snacks?
I cook my own snacks and quick lunches mostly, but I do get Kind bars and I stick nuts in my bag. Lately I have been into making chia pudding with chia seeds and almond milk or coconut milk with berries on top. I also eat hummus and carrots a lot. As a treat I might have blue corn chips, the Food for Life brand.
What did you eat yesterday for breakfast/lunch/dinner?
I’m in my luteal phase right now and it’s cold outside, so I am focusing on warming foods and the phase foods together. I had egg with mushroom and kale on teff bread (my company’s creation made of brown rice and millet) for breakfast. Then for lunch I had some baked squash from the night before with beet greens and hummus. I’m looking to eat more red meat right now, and my husband’s family hunts, so we had venison from them in the evening. I had a big roasted vegetable stew on the side too with broccoli, zucchini, onions, beans, and tomatoes. A big bowl of that.
What’s your favorite restaurant and what do you order?
I love Indian curries. I love the korma with cashews and coconuts, which I think is really good during the ovulatory phase. I have saag, which is a spinach based curry that you can get without the cream and add chicken or lamb, depending on which phase you are in. I love Thai stirfrys, which are good for the follicular phase. During the menstrual phase I love Pho, the Vietnamese soup, with a really good bone broth base and mushrooms and seaweed.
In terms of national chains I really like Chipotle. They use meat that is hormone-free, from nicely raised animals. You can get good taco bowls and you get to choose your meat and veggies according to the time of month you are in.
Have you recommend Flo Living to a friend or family member?
I’ve told every female I know (if there’s not a TMI issue)! Everyone I work with at my company is reading the book, we’re all girls together. We are going to actually get together once a month to discuss WomanCode and share our ideas. My business partner and I are even doing meal sharing following the protocol. I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops! Support from friends is a huge thing for me. When you go through the cleanse phase, it’s so much easier when you have friends doing that with you. You can more easily get through it, share recipes, and talk about it.
What does your husband think about Flo?
He is excited my hormones are back to functioning order. He’s super supportive. And with the whole moon thing, he’s like, there’s definitely something to it! Plus he loves all the meals we’re creating for each phase.
BONUS: Ashley’s FLO friendly Recipes
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First: Have you experienced long stretches of time where your period disappears? What happened?
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Need more Hormone Help?
If you’re needing some health upgrading, it’s time you started you looking into what’s going on with your hormones.
I’ve designed a quiz to help you understand exactly what’s out of whack and how you can start getting back to balance so that your hormones no longer have to suffer.