Alisa Vitti’s latest book, In the Flo: Unlock Your Hormonal Advantage and Revolutionize Your Life, is here not only to educate us women about the importance of our infradian rhythms, but to teach us how to use that knowledge to master our hormones, step by step. That’s right, ladies. Our fluctuating hormones can be a source of superpower that, when harnessed, can help us become the healthiest, happiest, and most productive versions of ourselves (no matter what “time of the month” it is).
So what is an infradian rhythm, you ask? Vitti defines it as “the special biological rhythm that women have from puberty to menopause. We experience it over the course of our monthly cycle and it impacts 6 systems of the body: the brain, the metabolism, the immune system, the microbiome, the stress response system, and the reproductive system.” While we are all aware of our body’s circadian rhythm, Vitti acknowledges that many women go through the reproductive years of their lives unaware that there’s a second biological rhythm that their health and wellness are just as dependent upon.
“It’s so important that we know about it because women are becoming more sick with hormone and auto-immune issues, more stressed out, more burnt out and beating their heads trying all these different fad diets and workout advice and not getting any results. Not to mention that they’re trying power mornings and bullet journals and they just feel completely overwhelmed and very self-critical like they don’t feel like they’re getting as much out of their time as they would like because their energy is really zapped, their brain is really foggy, and their moods are all over the place. And when we look at the deepest root cause of why every woman is sharing this experience… what’s the deep root cause? The deep root cause is we are eating, exercising, and living in a way that is disrupting our infradian biological rhythm. And just as we know that disrupting our circadian rhythm leads to short and longterm health issues, now women should know that disrupting your infradian rhythm does the same.”
If you’re like me, at this point you’re probably thinking “Oh crap. What am I doing wrong, and how can I fix it?” The best way to get “in the flo” is to read Vitti’s book and utilize its bountiful and easy-to-follow resources. But while you wait for your copy to arrive in the mail, here are a few great places to start:
Fad Diets, Exercise Plans, & ‘Power Mornings’ Can Harm Health & Productivity, Not Improve it
Without an awareness of our infradian rhythm and how to work with, not against, it, Vitti points out a number of common mistakes she sees women making in their day to day lives: “I think that women eat the same way day in and day out and think they’re doing themselves a favor. They’re like ‘Okay, I’m gonna stick to this diet and I’m going to eat the same types of foods every single day because this is what this diet says.’ That’s a big infradian rhythm disruptor. Another one is working out at the same intensity every single day. Terrible. Another one is doing intermittent fasting. Like I talk about in the book, you can do it safely from let’s say 6pm to 6am… but that’s it. 12 hours max, while you’re sleeping, from dinner to breakfast and nothing more. Once you pass the 12-hour mark, you then start shrinking ovaries and getting all the negative results.”
Vitti explains that the infradian rhythm disruptors many of us are guilty of don’t just have to do with what we’re eating and how we’re exercising. Another misstep she’s noticed happens often in the workplace, with women “not planning as much of their work – not scheduling things that are going to be stressful. Like you have a big work project or you have to give a big presentation… Everyone has to work, but completely ignoring your infradian rhythm is just going to add unnecessary stress. You can make things so much easier for yourself, you can be in more of a ‘flo’ state with work. We are trying to work as if we only have 24 hours, and you want to start thinking ‘Oh, I need to project-plan over the course of 28 days.'”
“Power mornings” are yet another fad that, while effective for male hormones and biology, are only compatible with female biology at certain points in your cycle. A dynamic routine with different power mornings, “taking into consideration your metabolic changes and your cortisol pattern changes,” is far safer and more beneficial in preventing burnout and setting yourself up for maintainable success over time. The different power mornings Vitti has created for herself, dependent on where she’s at in her cycle, are downloadable for your reference in the free resources section of In the Flo.
Cycle-Syncing Is the Only Method You Should Follow in Your Reproductive Years
Why are women who are clearly health conscious falling victim to these infradian rhythm-disrupting trends, and feeling worse while following plans that claim to make them better? The simple answer is that they were created by and for men.
Citing on-trend diets such as Keto and Whole-30, Vitti explains that “Everything that’s out there right now is great if you have testicles or you’re post-menopausal… If you have active ovaries, active infradian rhythm, there’s only one method that is appropriate for your biochemistry and that’s the cycle-syncing method. Period, pun intended. Every woman needs to do it to protect her health, and then to start to thrive. There’s no other way.”
“The science behind it is simply that we look at these 6 different systems of the body, look at the fluctuations and the cortisol patterns, and your metabolism, and how many calories you need from one phase to another phase… There are all these different things that happen, and I figured out how to organize your food, your exercise, and your project management or time management according to these brain chemistry changes, these metabolic changes, the stress response changes, so that we can optimize all your hormones, from insulin to cortisol to supporting serotonin production, energy levels, all your estrogen and progesterone production, the breakdown and metabolism of these hormones. So that you can take advantage of all of that, so that you are not only supporting it but then you can also really leverage it to get more done with less stress and reduce that stress overall, in all of these systems of the body… That is what biohacking is: taking care of the elegantly sophisticated system that we have the way it wants and then reaping the benefits of our efficient system.”
Alissa Vitti wants women to know, too, that this is about optimizing your system, not adding to it. “There’s nothing you need to add to your system, as a woman. You’ve got it all.”
One of the most eye-opening pieces of information I learned during my talk with Vitti is that hormonal birth control denies you access to your infradian rhythmic experience. According to Vitti, “When you’re on any form of synthetic birth control, unfortunately, you are in a no-phase zone… you’re not anywhere. You don’t even really have a period. You are being actively suppressed.” She says that before starting or continuing any form of hormonal birth control, “You have to ask yourself the question ‘Am I okay with the opportunity cost of this? Am I okay with not having access to all of these hormones that are gonna stimulate my brain in awesome ways throughout the month?'”
Furthermore, Vitti says that women on hormonal birth control report that “they have a hard time starting things, they have a hard time finishing things, there’s just no internal drive,” which is attributed to them not getting that hormonal stimulation of the brain that an unsuppressed infradian rhythm provides. The pill is also known to flatline your metabolism, disrupt your micro biome and stress response system, and more.
Vitti reminds us, too, that since the infradian rhythm is tied to our active ovaries, we only have access to it for about 4 decades. After we go through menopause, there’s no getting it back and the opportunity to take advantage of the infradian rhythm’s benefits are lost.
Know Your Infradian Rhythm & How to Sync With Your Cycle
Before you start implementing the advice Vitti’s organized chapters and easily digestible charts offer throughout In the Flo, she recommends you take a few starting steps to become better acquainted with your infradian rhythm and start following the cycle-syncing method:
- Take the “In the Flo” quiz: On the “In the Flo Book” website, Vitti has put together a quiz with a “biological rhythm score” at the end, designed to show you how much you are disrupting your infradian rhythm with your current lifestyle and habits. Vitti hopes this will show you how out of alignment you are and get you motivated by your own data.
- Track where you are in your cycle: Vitti’s phone app “My Flo” is a great resource for not only tracking your period and symptoms throughout the month, but for knowing which phase of your cycle you’re in, when you’re in it, and what you should be doing to nourish your systems and make the most out of what they have to offer during each phase.
- Start with one thing: Rather than throwing yourself a whole host of lifestyle changes you might not be able to stick with all at once, Vitti advises that you pick one feature within the app’s “cycle-syncing feature” and start there. For most women, she says exercise is the easiest place to start. After you’re through two phases of your cycle, add in the foods that are appropriate for the third phase. Two weeks after that, add in project management. From there, the phase you’re in serves as a daily guide for what foods you should be eating, what type of exercise you should be doing, and how you should be investing your time.
If you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed, not to worry. Vitti assures that you cannot get it wrong: “You do not have to follow the charts in the book exactly. This is about really listening to the rhythm of your body. This is a method, not a regime… And that’s fun! Because it puts the power back in you.”