Get ready for an exciting episode as we welcome Michelle Stiff, a rockstar graduate of our Transformational Macro Coach Certification (TMCC)! This program is all about blending macro counting with transformational coaching, diving deep into clients' beliefs to crush that self-sabotage. Michelle, our hormone guru, is here to break down the complexities of hormones and hormone syncing, sharing insights that apply to women in every stage of life – yes, even post-menopausal! We're making hormones easy to understand for everyone, so buckle up, and let's jump right in!
Find show notes at bicepsafterbabies.com/306
- Joining the Transformational Macro Coach Certification 09:22
- The most surprising thing about becoming a coach 13:24
- Advice on getting started 17:27
- Choosing Hormone Expertise Niche 19:03
- Hormones in Weight Management 23:25
- Hormone Syncing 28:21
- Managing PMS and Cravings 36:12
- Dietary Strategies for Syncing Cycles 41:39
- Pre, Peri and Postmenopausal stage 47:59
Follow Michelle on Instagram @michellestiff_wellness
Michelle’s Facebook Group: Wellness Elevate Online Coaching
Michelle’s Website wellnesselevatetribe.com
You're listening to Biceps After Babies Radio Episode 306.
Hello and welcome to Biceps After Babies Radio. A podcast for ladies who know that fitness is about so much more than pounds lost or PR's. It's about feeling confident in your skin and empowered in your life. I'm your host Amber Brueseke, a registered nurse, personal trainer, wife and mom of four. Each week my guests and I will excite and motivate you to take action in your own personal fitness as we talk about nutrition, exercise, mindset, personal development and executing life with conscious intention. If your goal is to look, feel and be strong and experience transformation from the inside out, you my friend are in the right place. Thank you for tuning in. Now, let's jump into today's episode.
Hey, hey, hey! Welcome back to another episode of Biceps After Babies Radio. I'm your host, Amber Brueseke. And today on the podcast I have Michelle Stiff who is one of our TMCC graduates. So, if you don't know, I have a Transformational Macro Coach Certification where we take coaches and we help them learn to pair macro counting with their clients as well as transformational style coaching where I'm really training coaches how to go deep with their clients, how to get to elicit their beliefs and be able to help them shift those beliefs, and help them to prevent and stop squash self-sabotage. And the reason that I focus on this so much is because I've seen in my own coaching how yeah, learning all this stuff is great. Learning the science is really great and obviously there is a science when it comes to coaching, but really the art of coaching, the art of really connecting with your client, the art of digging deep into what's actually keeping them stuck makes all of the difference in the world. So anyway, that was kind of a side tangent, but Michelle just graduated from our TMCC, a coaching certification recently and I wanted to bring on the podcast because she is an expert and deals a lot with hormones and hormones syncing and I thought that something would be so fantastic to bring on the podcast because if something I get asked questions about all of the time and obviously hormones are a very complex subject. But Michelle does a really great job of breaking it down into simple, understandable pieces so that we can really start to understand our bodies as females. And important note. Yes, if you get a monthly menstrual cycle, obviously this is for you. But if you don't, this is still for you, because female hormones still continue to cycle even post-menopausal and so a lot of the things that we're talking about are not just what we call it like hormone syncing or cycle syncing. It's not only for when you are actively bleeding or you know pre-menopausal. But also for post-menopausal as well.
Now before we dive into the episode, a couple of things to note: one, Michelle talks about some free guides to talk about the different hormone phases and we've linked those all up in the show notes. So if you go to bicepsafterbabies.com/306 so just the number of this episode. You'll be able to find all of those things linked on the show notes. Second thing, if you or someone who is interested in TMCC, if you are a current coach wanting to up level your coaching and be able to really start to dig deep with your clients because you've noticed that one of the things that's really challenging to coach through is self-sabotaging behavior or if you're somebody who has on their heart this idea of like maybe I would like to become a coach, but I don't really know how to take that first step and that first leap into it, I highly recommend getting on the interest list for TMCC. We open doors twice a year. You can get on the interest list at bicepsafterbabies.com/cert C-E-R-T or we have a secret podcast just for people who are interested in learning more about Transformational Coaching and you can go to bicepsafterbabies.com/secret and I have 5 podcast episodes that will kind of get you understanding more about what is transformational coaching, why is it valuable and how can you start to implement it into your coaching style? Alright let's dive into the episode with Michelle Stiff.
Amber B 04:16
Alright, I would love to welcome Michelle to the podcast. Thanks for being on, Michelle.
Michelle Stiff 04:22
Thank you so much for having me, Amber. This is just such an honor to be here today.
Amber B 04:27
I'm really excited to introduce you to my audience and I'm really excited to listen to you for the next hour as well, because I just love South African, right, like a South African accent.
Michelle Stiff 04:37
It's funny. Yeah, I suppose people would say that from the states, but the South Africans would say she sounds very American now. But yeah, I grew up in Malawi, which is a former British protectorate. So I went to British school. Got it.
Amber B 04:51
Got it. Awesome. Well, I'm excited to listen to you for the next hour. So it would be amazing for both of us. OK. So we're gonna start with just a little bit of an introduction. Can you kind of give us a little bit of background on you and who you are and why you do what you do?
Michelle Stiff 05:05
Yeah, absolutely. So I'm Michelle. I'm the owner of my company, Wellness Elevate and the creator of my signature program, which is called the Metabolic Momentum Method, which we'll talk about more later. But I kind of got into this. I've always been interested in health and fitness. And so I had first kind of like you went into group fitness and, you know, taught the step classes and all of that. I became a massage therapist and then later on I really like started to stack in my nutrition coaching and personal training and my husband and I actually had an in-person studio in Malawi, which is central Southern Africa. Madonna is that's where Madonna adopted her baby, so that's like most of how, that's how many people have contacts.
Amber B 05:42
That’s how people know it?
Michelle Stiff 05:43
Yeah. Of where Malawi is very, very, you know, poor country which is hard to kind of see the poverty level there but we were able to really build a successful business. They're kind of more in the local and the expat community for 10 years, which was amazing. And then you know, COVID hits and our business, we had actually just moved to the States and we decided we wanted that kind of change. And but our business closed down in Africa, which was obviously very unexpected as the world shut down. And I decided I needed to find a way to do this online, to be able to reach more people. And then I went in and I studied female hormones and metabolism and we'll kind of go into the reasons why, because I had my own struggles and now I do everything online like kind of like what you do. And it's just been amazing to be able to have, I have 11 different time zones in my coaching, which is so crazy, all these different countries. But it's been really incredible to have that like wider reach with clients.
Amber B 06:47
Talk to me a little bit about that transition from in person to online because it is kind of. It is a transition and it, while there are similarities, there are for sure differences. And I'm just curious of like, was it a rough transition? Was it a smooth transition? Just what was that transition like?
Michelle Stiff 07:03
Ohh my goodness, Amber, it was so rough. Yeah, you know, I think that we have this idea that, OK, I've had a business. I've run it in person. The brick and mortar. I'm just going to kind of take that and try to do it online. And it's not. It's completely different. I had no idea about social media and barely use Instagram before and I was trying to like put it together with kind of like duct tape and spit and that was not working at all. And I also realized that I loved the in-person stuff. I'm very like social person. I love the connection but as you know, like fitness is only one side of our health and well-being and that's why I seeked out you and we'll talk about transformational coaching. But I wanted to be able to help, especially women on a much deeper level than just working out and kind of standing next to someone or leading group fitness classes. So for me, I had always felt there was a little bit of something missing even as an in-person trainer, but I just feel that gap has been bridged online in a way that I never, never thought, but it was difficult to get started and to know what to do and we'll talk a lot about mentorship and having a coach. I have a coach like in every area of my life now. And I just realized that having that structure and the guidance and the system to follow is so important because trying to figure it out on your own, you're going to spin your, just like in our fitness journey going to spin your wheels. Yeah. And so.
Amber B 08:27
Yeah, I think when you really experience the benefit of a coach and how much faster it can get you to where you want to go, you start wanting to hire a coach in like every area of your life. You're like this is amazing. Where else can I hire a coach? Where else can I, like have the shortcut and I think
Michelle Stiff 08:43
Amber B 08:44
For those of you who are listening, who are coaches, if you're not also hiring coaches, I think that there becomes like this disconnect of you trying to say, hey, you should buy a coach, but I'm not willing to invest in coaching and so you invest in coaching. I invest in coaching. I think all good coaches recognize the value and are like, yeah, I want to get there a little faster, a little less mistakes. I'm gonna pay and invest in some coaching ‘cuz that's gonna help me.
Michelle Stiff 09:06
That’s correct. Yeah, you gotta put your, I totally agree. And that investment in yourself, in your own personal growth, you're going to show up as a way better coach. And again, if you're telling people that they need to invest in themselves but you're unwilling to do that, that is a huge, really lack of integrity, I think for a lot of us.
Amber B 09:22
Yeah, I agree. So you were in our last round of TMCC, which is our Transformational Macro Coach Certification. And I know we chatted a bit beforehand to see if it would be a good fit for you. Because you have built a successful business and you are coaching clients and you've built a lot of amazing things on your own. And so what made you want to come and join the Transformational Macro Coach Certification? And what was different about that that allowed you to, you know, go back into your business and show up in a different way?
Michelle Stiff 09:54
Oh my goodness. Amber. You know, I've been, like, a total fan girl for quite a while. Like following you on the podcast and everything you do and I realized from your coaching, and I love that you would take, like, small coaching clips, you know, and you would put it on your podcast and I just because I'd listen to you for so long I was like the way she coaches is different than what I've learned, and I actually have a background as a teacher. I did high school that was, you know what I studied in college and I kind of subbed for a while and I loved, I loved teaching. But there's a difference between teaching and giving advice and being a cheerleader versus what happens with transformational coaching and when I started to listen to your podcast and how you coach people, I realized that I had a big gap there. That I was just defaulting into always teaching and giving the advice because again, that was my background and I love you say you know the quality of our lives are based on the quality of the questions we ask ourselves. And I realized that I wasn't asking good questions to myself, to my clients, you know, and letting them come up with the answers instead of me being like, and I think it's a little bit of an ego boost as a for a lot of other coaches like I had the answer. Hear me out.
Amber B 11:06
Yeah. It’s like I want people to, I want people to feel good paying me. And so it's like if I have all the answers, then I feel like, OK, if you, you know, they'll feel good paying me because I can give them all the answers so I mean, I get why people do it.
Michelle Stiff 11:22
Exactly. And it's easier too, right?
Amber B 11:23
It is easier.
Michelle Stiff 11:24
When we have to really think about the questions and how we're asking them to our clients, so that they go deeper, it's more difficult than just being like here just do this thing right. And I realized that even in just listening and I started to ask myself different questions and it totally has changed everything in my life in terms of how I'm showing up for myself, how I'm able to coach clients that, you know, my success, coaches, everything is changing and it's been incredible. It would the most worthwhile thing that I've done for myself.
Amber B 11:57
That's awesome. Yeah, I mean it really it, like you said it so well, it's like it is harder and it is more transformational. Right that like. It is like you're paying the harder price to get more bang for your buck in the long term because you and I both know that like, yeah, we can give someone advice, we can tell them what to do and maybe that'll do a little bit right now. But it's like.
Michelle Stiff 12:20
For a little while.
Amber B 12:20
Yeah, for a little while, but it's like that long term transformation, that long term you know ability that they have to be able to be successful. It doesn't last if it's just like you have all the answers as the coach and they have to keep coming to you for the answers and learning how to ask those better questions teaches not only you, but your clients to be able to really continue on that path long term and it's.
Michelle Stiff 12:44
Well, and exactly like you and I are both in the business of teaching autonomy and so that they can, you know, leave the program and know how to coach themselves, not to have to rely on messaging me for the questions like coming up with their own answers. Yeah, they're their own expert. They're the ones living their lives in their body with, you know, everything they do. So when we can teach that, it's so empowering. And again that's where the true lasting change. And I love the saying that I've heard somewhere, if I say it, you doubt it. But if you say it and you come up with it, you're going to own it and you're much more likely to follow through with that when you're coming up with your own plan than someone else telling you what to do anyway.
Amber B 13:24
Yeah. I mean 100%. I totally, totally agree with that. What has been the most surprising thing for you becoming a coach and maybe like quantify it as like becoming a coach in the online space, you know what has, what has surprised you the most about this path you've been on the last couple of years?
Michelle Stiff 13:43
You know, I think that I had no clue of the own personal growth that I needed to experience.
Amber B 13:49
Oh my gosh, that's so good. I'm glad you said that. That's really good.
Michelle Stiff 13:53
Yeah. It has been a roller coaster and I don't know if you found this, but often our clients mirror either what we've gone through of what we are going through. So like attracts like. And it's like. Wow, this is a lesson that I'm really and you always say we either get the result we want or the lesson we need, and I feel like I've been bashed over the head with us sometimes over and over again, until I was like, right, I'm ready to learn this lesson now. And take my past experiences instead of stealing it and seeing it as a failure or, you know, getting down on myself with shame and blaming guilt. Like, how can I use that to move forward in my own journey? And it's been, they call it the entrepreneurial roller coaster for reason, right? You have to up level and I know that you love the book, The Slight Edge and also where they talk about that, what is the one by the other one by Gay Hendricks the upper limit where they talk about the.
Amber B 14:49
The Big League.
Michelle Stiff 14:49
Yeah. Yeah, that upper limit problem that you, we all face. And if we're not willing to dive deep and do that, that personal growth, we're gonna stay stuck and stagnant and self-sabotage essentially.
Amber B 15:01
Yeah. For sure.
Michelle Stiff 15:01
That is what I found.
Amber B 15:02
Yeah. And I 100%, I believe that life is a mirror and our clients often become a mirror for us to see where we are lacking or what we need to work on ourselves. And I think when you can approach coaching, it becomes a co-created relationship instead of what I feel like a lot of times coaching becomes, is like a top down relationship where it's like I'm the parent, you're the child, I'm the coach, you're the student, I know more than you, you know, you know less than me. Let me pour into you. And it becomes more of a level playing field where you are in communion, you are in connection with a person and you're offering them things and they're offering you things.
Michelle Stiff 15:45
They offer it back.
Amber B 15:46
They offer it back in that mirror.
Michelle Stiff 15:57
Amber B 15:58
And. Yeah, you want. You want to grow as a person, start a business or have children or get married. I feel like those are like the three little containers that, just like pressure us into growth and change because you can't stay the same person. It’s like they pressure you into like, learning things about yourself and becoming a different version of yourself.
Michelle Stiff 16:14
Well and exactly and I've learned so much from my clients and that I feel like I'm a better wife because of it. I'm a better mom, you know all of those things I'm learning every day and I think that's what's so cool about coaching because no client is the same. Every scenario is different. It's just so exciting when you can support people, but again, up level yourself in your life. It's amazing.
Amber B 16:36
OK, so there are people listening to this podcast to, in the back of their mind, they have this idea that they would maybe someday, perhaps like to become a coach. But there's a lot of fear, right? There's a lot of fear that is standing between them and actually executing on that. So that while there is a slight desire of pull, a draw towards it like fear is currently stopping them from starting to serve clients or building a business or, you know, coaching in general, what advice do you have as someone who has obviously pushed past some of that fear in your own journey? What advice would you have for somebody to get started and to honor that, that desire that they have?
Michelle Stiff 17:17
Yeah. And that I think if you don't have that fear that would be more abnormal than having it like, yeah.
Amber B 17:22
Michelle Stiff 17:27
And so I would say like just jump like take action and we can sit here and stew an analysis paralysis and have all that stuff. And again having self-doubt is part of it. But huge growth comes on the back end of pushing outside your comfort zone. So yeah, you can stay small over here and keep doing what you've always done and keep getting what you've always gotten. Or you can push yourself well, and I think everyone probably listening to this could think of a time in their life where they're like, I push myself and the reward was so worth it. But it was challenging. I was pushed. I was like, you know, I think about and like, blood, sweat and tears went into it. You know, literally moments where I wanted to give up, be like, I can't do this anymore. I'm done. You know, that even stepping into TMCC I had moments like that, and I honestly feel like the coaching that I got in TMCC and being in that container and all the coaching you gave me and the other women really helped me push through because I was going through a really challenging time in my business. So having that support, having the community, having coaching is so key. Just like most women in their wellness journeys, having a coach in their corner will help navigate those storms. And to just do it, so stop overthinking it and to trust that you can show up and you can do it. And my back was against the wall. I had to take out a loan. I, you know, it was scary. We'd lost everything. My husband didn't have a job. And I was like I will make this work like I have to find a way to make it work and I think that if you have the right systems and the right support and structure like it's achievable for all of us, like if you're willing to do the things.
Amber B 19:03
Yeah, that's really, really good. OK, I want to shift a little bit and talk a little bit about your background and get into some hormone and metabolic talk. So, what caused you to kind of pick this niche to kind of go into hormones and really make that an area of expertise for yourself?
Michelle Stiff 19:23
Yeah. So it was my, my personal experiences. So, I was one of those girls that was just thicker than a lot of my friends. Naturally, I wasn't, like, effortlessly thin and, you know, was teased as a child growing up as young as four I remember being, like, kind of fat shamed. And so when I was 11, I actually used to do, like, home workout videos with my mom, you know. Like that I don't know if you ever did you know that with the leotards, kind of the Jane Fonda stuff like, yeah, I want to do that one day. Like that's. Loved it, really enjoyed it, and that kind of got me though on a like I'm an exercise and eat less and I actually ended up losing a lot of weight around age 12, 13 didn't get a cycle. I got like one cycle and then I lost all the weight and it didn't come back. And I was 16 years old and it still hadn't come. And I remember I had moved to the States and I was on the swim team. And I was that for my build. I was skin and bone at that point, and my coach said if you wanna improve, you need to build some muscle, you need to eat and that kind of opened the floodgates, cause I didn't really have a plan and it's what we do you know as coaches walking through reverse diets. I didn't know what that was, right? Yeah, started eating. I just was like, OK, tell me to eat. And I rapidly gained a ton of weight. You know, I had stretch marks everywhere. And then I felt pretty miserable in my body. And I decided, OK, I need to find some balance. And that's when I decided to study a little bit more about, you know, teaching and becoming a personal trainer. But none of my certifications really talked about metabolic adaptation.
So in my 20s I was just working out more and more, eating less and less, and then I was in my late 20s when my husband and I decided, you know, maybe we want to think about having kids, but I hadn't had a cycle in four years. Because I was just chronically under eating and over. And you know, it's easy when you own a fitness studio and you're teaching classes and you're training people to get in a lot of exercise. That was no problem for me, but I kept trying to get leaner and leaner and it was backfiring. I was started to gain more and more weight. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and again, cycle MIA means you can't get pregnant. And so I went to endocrinologist. I went to naturopaths. I was having acupuncture. I was on like $500.00 of supplements every month. And no one could figure out what was going on because I was gaining weight, so they didn't think, oh, well, this girl's under eating and over exercising or that her body is stressed, right? Their immediate thing was like, no, she's fine, her weight's fine. She's getting bigger, she must be overeating. And so I was like there's something here and so I started to study about metabolic adaptation a little bit then and I decided, OK, if I want to get pregnant, I just. You do have to eat more and I jumped I didn't do like a slow reverse. I just was like I just need to eat. Got it. Got it up and I reversed it. I got my cycle back within a month and I got pregnant right away. And then I had four miscarriages in a row.
Amber B 22:13
Michelle Stiff 22:13
And so that was a definitely a journey. But in learning that I really it. It's very clear why our reproductive functioning holds as a female when you're under saying and our cycle is kind of like our report cards. It's really cool. Men don't have that. So we know that when our cycle goes missing or starts to get really heavy or irregular, that there's something going on there hormonally that we can try to, you know, figure out what's going on and get to the root cause. So that's when I started studying more about female hormones and metabolism.
Amber B 22:44
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think for a lot of coaches it is that pathway of walking through something you've experienced yourself and have to figure out and have to learn and have to wrestle with. And then when you have some experience, some knowledge, some success, it's like ohh gosh, I know there's other women who are going through the same thing and I want to be able to help them through it so it makes a lot of sense that that would lead you down that path. So let's talk a little bit about hormones. Because I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about hormones. I think it becomes a really buzzy word in the industry where it's like we just, like throw around this word like your hormones are so important and balance your hormones and like what the heck does that mean?
Michelle Stiff 23:25
What does it mean?
Amber B 23:25
Yeah. What does it mean? So, like let's talk a little bit about hormones and the role that they play in weight management. And you know specifically what hormones we're talking about or we're commonly trying to target or work on when we are talking about weight loss or talking about, you know, you know, weight loss, administration and overall reproductive health.
Michelle Stiff 23:44
Yeah. And it's, you know, the thing is with hormones, too, it's kind of like a game of bad telephone that can be played, right, because hormones are those chemical messengers. So, if one of those messages it or they send the wrong message, then it has that cascade effect and all the other hormones. And so I think, you know, typically we as women were like, Ohh, we think about estrogen and progesterone and testosterone and things like that. And those are partially it, but we really need to look at, you know, insulin and you know, how are our blood sugar levels? How are our stress? Because the metabolism isn't really a calculator. We think about calories in and out, but it's more like a stress barometer and absolutely we have to create a calorie deficit to be able to lose fat, but there are some hormonal repercussions, especially if we go into a very steep deficit right that our body is going to then try to compensate, so thyroid slows down, we can end up with higher cortisol which can affect you know, belly fat and things like that. It can wake you up in the middle of the night. You know, if you're having certain spikes and dips, if you don't have balanced blood sugar throughout the day, that can lead to, you know, obviously insulin resistance, which is becoming more and more common these days too. So there's a ripple effect for a lot of those things. And that's why, like you said, when we think about hormone balancing, we still have to think about the base of the pyramid, our lifestyle, our habits, nailing, and our sleep optimizing, you know. Our stress levels not working out too much but not working out too little. It's kind of like finding the Goldilocks and that's gonna be so unique for each woman. But you know, a lot of the symptoms of like low metabolic function are, you know, having a lot of energy crashes, brain fog, moodiness, depression, obviously like issues with digestion. Gut health is a big area that a lot of women struggle with. You know they either like have constipation or, you know, and they're just not regular. They don't go for days. They have digestive upset, bloating, things like that. Those are all signs, you know, a lot of fatigue. You can't concentrate. Hair, skin and nails getting very dry and falling out, those are all signs and thyroid hypothyroidism is also very, very common nowadays. And I think again that is due to the stress that we have in our society, in our, in our daily lives now.
Amber B 26:04
Yeah. And one thing I really appreciate and you, you and I have talked about this is I think obviously hormones are really important. And I also think that sometimes people skip over some of the base of the pyramid and go straight to hormones. And wanting to like buy all the supplements and do all the like testing and things like that, it's like. Yes. And these things are foundational. Your nutrition is foundational, your exercise regimen, your amount of sleep your getting sleep control right? And you're hopping over some of these things that really are big needle movers and can do a lot drops, yeah, for your, for your hormones to like, stabilize your hormones naturally before hopping into like what supplements do I need to take and what are all these other things that I need to do and so you know, for someone who's listening, if you don't have those down path, focus there first. Like get that, get that first and I know you with your clients. That's where you really focus is like.
Michelle Stiff 27:00
That's the basic.
Amber B 27:00
Okay. We're gonna. Yeah, we're gonna get to hormones, but let's check all the boxes first. Before we, we dive into that.
Michelle Stiff 27:08
And we really have to look at it from a holistic like at the system, how are the systems functioning? hormones are not a root cause. Yeah, there is an and it's kind of like if you would have a boat and it has a massive hole in it and it's gushing water and you're trying to scoop it out with your hands. It's not gonna solve the issue. The boats still gonna sink, we need to plug the hole and get to the root of that system dysfuntion. And if you're sleeping 4 hours a night. Yeah. And you know you're not eating most meals or you're just eating you know, a small meal and processed food all day long and you're stressed out constantly. Like the nothing is gonna help. There's no magic pill that's gonna fill those gaps if we don't. So that's always the foundation. And then, like, things like supplements, even HRT. It's really the top of the pyramids to fill in those gaps, once you have a solid foundation.
Amber B 27:54
Yeah, it's almost like if we, like, take your analogy, it's like you have the boat. And we gotta, like, plug the hole and then like, the other stuff we do, it becomes like the, like, little stuff we stuff around the edge of the whole. Like plug it like keep the top.
Michelle Stiff 28:05
Yeah, it's the little Leak. Yeah, yeah.
Amber B 28:07
It’s a little tighter, a little. Like you want, you know, a little watertight. Yeah, I like that analogy. OK. So talk to me a little bit about hormone syncing, because this is the kind of again, like a buzzword of things that people may have heard about, what is hormone syncing?
Michelle Stiff 28:21
Yeah, absolutely. And you might hear it as cycle syncing. And here's the question I always get is like, well, if I don't have a cycle anymore or I'm on birth control or I'm post menopause, can I still do hormone syncing? And you know the answer to that is absolutely. So as women, the female body is so fascinating. We're almost like 4 different bodies throughout the course of the month. Yeah. So if you, if you have a normal and I'll use the term cycle interchangeably with a menstrual cycle. So if you do have a monthly bleed or the moon cycle, if you don't have an actual bleed because the 28 day moon cycle was actually is kind of synced with the 28-day female cycle on average, right? You could have a shorter cycle. You could have a slightly longer cycle and that's fine. But essentially, you know, as a woman we have different fluctuating hormones. So our brain chemistry changes from week to week, how we obviously like our strength levels, even our sensitivity to carbohydrates change depending on where you're at in your cycle and even post menopause, we don't have like flat lined hormones. We still have some of those hormones. We just don't have them in the same amount that we did when we were younger and ovulating and having a normal cycle. So when we start to hormone or like sync with the different phases of our hormone or menstrual cycle, we can really start to optimize things for our, say muscle growth for recovery. But even the things like in your social life or with you know what you like to do for work, you know how there are times when you're like in a brainstorming mode. And you're super creative, and you're like, I've got all these ideas. And then other times where you're like a little bit more withdrawn and you want to just kind of stay home and nest or Netflix and chill. That's actually because we have different, you know, different hormone profile.
And so when we can learn to sync with our cycle, it actually it decreases stress in our system. We feel like we're able to recover more. We don't feel so burned out and it actually helps our metabolism because our metabolism changes in the first half of the cycle, it's a little lower. And then after ovulation, it actually increases. So when we start to and that's why a lot of women, you know like PMS. I get so hungry and I’m moody and you feel like you have all the cravings. Well, there are strategies that you can use in order to mitigate that or times when you feel like super social and other times when you're like, I don't want to see anyone right now and so when you learn that about yourself, you can work with your body. And instead of feeling like I must do this or should be doing these things. And it just becomes. It's like periodization with your period essentially kind of like what you would do, you know, in the gym too. And certain times where you can push heavier weights and really like try to max out and other times where you might need to do more yoga or Pilates like kind of lower intensity bleed and breathe kind of thing you know just like go inwards and women always are saying to me that they're like, Wow, that was such a huge Aha, because I felt that my whole life, that I felt like I couldn't do those things, but I had to always push, push, push and that really I think creates a lack of trust almost with your own body.
Amber B 31:24
Will you talk us through just like a normal 28-day cycle, some of the peaks and valleys and some of the things that we should be thinking about in each of those phases. You know, you kind of like touch on a little bit. But can we do like a step-by-step going through that for each of the phases?
Michelle Stiff 31:41
Yeah, absolutely. And I actually have and I you can maybe share that in the show notes like a little like supercharge your hormones little guy that kind of walks through the different phases, but you know, we consider day one of the cycle day, day one of bleeding or the new moon. If you don't have a cycle, you can kind of use this and you can train your body almost to start to have like these different phases, even if you don't have an actual, you know period that happening.
So we know that when we have like when we have our menstrual cycle and are actually physically losing, you know, blood from our system. That's a time where all of our hormones are kind of bottomed out at that point, we feel depleted, right? So that's usually not a time when women feel like, oh, yeah, I want to go and have, like, a PR or like you know what I mean? It's just it's not right. I've never heard of a woman say like, that's when I want to do things. And so again, that's a time where we also have like more prostaglandins and more inflammation and stress in our system. So it's a really good time again for lower intensity kind of workouts, then for extra rest we actually need a little bit more sleep then as well and to really focus on nourishing foods as obviously we're losing iron and things like that during that time. So really trying to replenish a lot of our minerals during that time then as we you know, around day four or five, we start to feel a lot better, right? We start to feel our energy rising as estrogen kind of peaks in that phase. So we're in the first two weeks of your cycle, your estrogen dominant and that's the time is a really good time to be focused on you know, building muscle during that time.
Again, as you're coming out of your cycle, you can lift heavier weights, you're more stress resistant during that time. So again, you can get away with harder workouts, higher intensity and things like that now around ovulation, it peaks at that time. So and typically at ovulation and this is so interesting from a biological perspective that it's the time when obviously we can get pregnant, right. So a lot of women feel like more outgoing, you know, like they feel more confident in their selves than they feel better in their body. And that's also because testosterone kind of peaks at that time. So it's that biological drive to reproduce. So that makes perfect sense. And then after ovulation, it starts to taper off. So our estrogen starts to relative to progesterone is lower and progesterone is our progestation hormone, right? So if you think about estrogen progesterone, they're kind of like the twin sisters where estrogen is the feisty like let's go out and party and again like build muscle and all these things and progesterone like the worried twin sister like let's stay home. Let's relax and you know, do things like the worried one.
And so you know, that's and that's really in preparation again for a potential embryo plantation and implantation in that second-half. So in that phase after ovulation is a time when we're more stress sensitive. And we're actually more insulin resistant during that phase because of the higher progesterone, which means that we can actually look at optimizing our carbohydrate intake a little bit too, especially because you're more prone to blood sugar, dysregulation spikes and dips during that second-half. And we actually need more sleep, more recovery and things like that in that phase. So that's a really good time to you can still do weight training and things like that. Absolutely. Like the whole month. I'm never telling don't do that. But you know, going a little bit later, maybe higher repetitions during that time, more yoga and Pilates, more restorative stuff. Again, the extra sleep. And you know, there are certain foods that you can also kind of boost naturally. I do some seed cycling with my clients.
So we focus on different seeds in the first half of the cycle versus the second-half to kind of balance out and naturally boost estrogen and progesterone. And so they're like just small and again, we still have to focus on the base, the base of the pyramid, but it's small tweaks and things that we can do to optimize that hormone profile and just really, you know, PMS symptoms, you know when some women have debilitating cramps or really heavy cycles, things like that. So when you start to work or say menopausal symptoms that are really severe, it starts to just balance out and you know some of my clients in their 60s, they're like I have never felt so good like my symptoms are gone, I’m sleeping through the night, not having the hot flashes or, you know, the heavy periods can and the symptoms around PMS start too just become more manageable.
Amber B 36:12
Yeah. So speak a little bit too and maybe you've already like answered this question, or maybe there's more to answer it but I do know you had mentioned previously like a lot of women coming to you and saying, you know, I'm just like, ravenous during my period. And I just like, you know I find that I like just I can keep it together the rest of the month, but I just like, can't hold it together during that PMS time. For someone who maybe struggles with that, is there any other tips or suggestions or things that they can do like right now that would help to at least start to make a little bit of improvement on that so they feel a little bit more like they can manage that time of the month?
Michelle Stiff 36:47
Yeah, absolutely. So for a lot of my clients, when we're doing like more hormone cycling stuff is they get a few more calories during that time too, because metabolism increases anywhere from 10 to 15% in that time anyway. And so and because we're more stress sensitive, if you're thinking about being in a super deficit that could increase the stress response and increased stress hormones, leading to more blood sugar disregulation, more craving, all of those things, right? So having more food in that time and maybe even completely pulling out of the deficit for a week and kind of cycling that is a very smart approach. Again, looking at your workout and figuring out how can I still do those things, but at a, you know, lesser intensity, also prioritizing healthy fats rather, because we are more insulin resistant during that phase. If you can prioritize more healthy fats, it'll help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which will again help with the cravings, the energy and things like that and then just allowing yourself to rest. And not do anything and just like and I think that alone has been, was huge for me because I was always just like, go, go, go, push, push, push and having that permission to listen to your body and rest extra will just it's amazing. Take a little bath during the you know if you can during the day or things like that can make such a such a big difference for women and their symptoms during that time.
Amber B 38:14
Yeah. I mean I think about everything in nature is in cycles, like there is nothing in nature that doesn't go in cycles of like rest, recovery like active times like you think about trees, you think about animals, you think about plants like it all works in cycles and yet somehow we think that we are exempt from that and we can always just run life on like a high level and that we never need to like cycle down and you know go through that rest and recovery phase. So, I think you know even just giving yourself that permission. I think a lot of women struggle to even give themselves permission. They think that they should be always PR and they should be always pushing hard at the gym. They shouldn't need a nap. They shouldn't have to eat more food or anything, and it's just like embracing and understanding that just like anything in nature, cycles are so important and working. What I hear you saying over and over is like let's work with that natural cycle and not against it.
Michelle Stiff 39:06
Exactly. Yeah. And it's funny because we can actually, like the four phase of the of the cycle. You can kind of associate with season.
Amber B 39:14
Michelle Stiff 39:14
So like the menstrual phase being winter, you know being thinking about like even the types of foods like more warming foods and stews and resting more and then you go into you know, after winter, there's spring. Right. And then as we go into that summer, which is ovulation, everything kind of peaks and you've got more energy and all that. And then you go into autumn, you know, in that PMS phase when and so it's really cool when you think about it like that, and again, I think for most women is that permission to work with their body that they were like, wow, I feel like I fought myself my whole life, and now I'm actually working with my body. And that is so freeing for so many women.
Amber B 39:52
And I've even heard people talk about this is kind of sideways related, but I've heard entrepreneurs talk about the same cycles of like seasons in their entrepreneurial journey. And I think it's the same thing where a lot of times we always feel like we have to be in summer and we're selling and we're pushing and we're driving. We're driving and making the connection with that of actually, there are seasons in our business where it's like, yes, there are times that I am pushing and I'm working extra hard and I'm working longer hours and I'm doing, you know a lot of things, but if that isn't followed by a period of like rest and recovery and rejuvenation, you're gonna burn yourself the heck that out. Yeah. And so learning how to like incorporate those cycles into everything that we do is just that you can't always be on, you know it's like we need those times of rest and recovery to be able to keep going.
Michelle Stiff 40:39
Exactly. I think that that's part of the reason we have so much stress in our society today.
Amber B 40:46
I totally agree.
Michelle Stiff 40:47
Because we can be on all the time.
Amber B 40:48
All the time. Yeah.
Michelle Stiff 40:49
At the click of a button. You can't switch off. We don't know how to do that, and even like on a more micro level, like I've said, your three M like your meals, movement and mindset, you can work with your metabolism doing that and like for me, even with my work, you know and you do five-day challenges and things like that and I do those as well that I actually time it with my cycle when I'm in more of that you know, spring, summer time versus I don't want to do a five-day challenge if I'm about to get my period. That is not when I schedule it. So yeah, I actually do work events and different things like that when I know I've got that higher energy and I feel more social like right now versus if you get me next week, it's gonna be, you know a different, different feeling from me because I won't want to be as social and so even on a micro level, you can start to make shifts so you don't deplete yourself and you don't burn out so quickly.
Amber B 41:39
That's, that's so smart. Can you speak to any like and you kind of mentioned a couple healthy fats, things like that, but any like specific dietary recommendations or nutritional strategies that you recommend as people are starting to sync with their cycle or get familiar with their cycle or know how to make adjustments during that time period?
Michelle Stiff 41:59
Yeah, and I think bio individuality is so important here, right? We are all very unique. And so it's hard to give like a blanket statement like everyone needs to do this, we do know that and I, you and I are very much in alignment with like the 80/20 rule that we can and we just had Halloween, right. There's like candy everywhere and that you know that we can still fit in those things, but if we're really prioritizing foods that you could either grow or kill. Right, that are naturally found are going to be the best for our cellular function.
So if you think back to like and I know that you with your background in the medical field you know this but just for listeners like the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. And we can have like a power factory that creates a lot of smoke and dirty. There's like a dirty plant, which is kind of like a damaged mitochondrial cell or we can have one that functions really well and it's like clean energy, it's effective, and that's what we want to think about on a cellular level. How can we increase mitochondrial function? So eating Whole Foods is really, really important for that. And for some people, it means tuning into their own digestion. You know, you might be able to eat you know legumes and beans and things like that and it tears my stomach apart like I can't have those things. Some people are gluten intolerant, so it's really individual and having to look at your own symptoms and how your own body is feeling, but minimizing again, eating a lot of packaged and processed foods, which is just a good blanket recommendation in general, right, in the health and fitness space.
But again, stress of all kinds really impacts digestion and you know in terms of hormone functioning, 70% of our immune system. And our hormones are produced in our gut. So if we aren't well nourished, it's gonna affect even the neurotransmitters in our brain, which can lead to anxiety and depression and insomnia and all sorts of things. So you know, again, that is like the basic, the basis of most of this is trying to eat those Whole Foods. You talk a lot about protein and balancing, you know out your blood sugar and having those not going huge stretches without food is really important for the female metabolism and with intermittent fasting being such a a common thing, that's also something that needs to be customized to the women. And I would say those long, long passes for a lot of women are not doing them any favors in any way, so.
Amber B 44:31
Yeah, I was just having a conversation with my husband. So my husband works in the medical field, specifically with females. And it's just so interesting how you can call whatever you want. Patriarchy, feminism, whatever. Sexism. But female health is like, so far, behind male health and for so long, we have thought that females are just little men and if you do a research study on men and we find something out that can be extrapolated exactly over to women and the more that we learn about the female body and the intricacies and the nuances of the female body. Females are not just little men, and so this idea that we can take a, you know, we'd say ohh this worked for men and so it is gonna work for women just doesn't, it doesn't make sense and it doesn't work. And I think that's kind of what you're starting to see with like intermittent fasting may be good for men, it may be worse for women. It may be worse for some women you know. And so there is so many nuances and intricacies that we just bio individuality is such a thing, but then even just on a broad gender level is like women are not the same as men, and you would be surprised that so much of the research studies are done on men because there is a lot.
Michelle Stiff 45:45
Right. They're easier to study too.
Amber B 45:48
Well, because it's easier to maintain cohesiveness of a group, right? With women, you have a whole lot like you do you're dealing with their cycles, right? It is different. And so when you're trying to account for, as you know, as many variables and limit as many variables as possible, it's easier to do that on men and then just be like, oh, women are just the same. It's not the case and so.
Michelle Stiff 46:07
And Amber, they didn't even study women and the stuff until it was like the 70s ohh. I mean it's crazy
Amber B 46:13
It’s crazy. Well, so my husband is a urogynecologist, which is basically a female urologist. Urology has been a board certified specialty since like I probably should look it up, but it's like the 50s or the 60s like it's been a board certified specialty for a long time. Urogynecology has been a board certified specialty for like 10 to 15 years, right? It's like it's just female health is so far behind what we have done with male health being the standard and anyway it gets me all riled up.
Michelle Stiff 46:43
I get so riled that, and I say that all the time. We are not small men.
Amber B 46:46
Michelle Stiff 46:47
Like we are completely different. And again, most of those studies and even the traditional like diet and fitness programs are designed for young men, and I don't know about you, most of my clients are like, they're definitely not men and we're, you know the 35 plus most of the clients that I'm seeing right now and you know, we go through four different potential phases in our life and men go through too. And even 5 if you consider pregnancy in there, right, we have different phases and different hormone profiles that we need to take into account. And it's really done a disservice for women. And I'm I that's why I decided to study this. I was like I was blown away that we weren't included in more so. Yeah. Thank you for mentioning that. It’s really important.
Amber B 47:29
One thing I like, last thing I'd love you to speak to a little bit is menopause. If there's anything that you cause, I know we've talked saying you know, a lot of this cycle syncing isn't necessarily if you're bleeding. So even, you know, post-menopausal has a lot of the similarities, but it is one of those like 4 different stages of your life is like the post-menopausal, and so what considerations to someone who is postmenopausal be thinking about or implementing as they're going through that you know pre, peri and postmenopausal stage?
Michelle Stiff 47:59
Yeah, absolutely. So you know, we know in perimenopause which really starts around age 35 that we start to lose estrogen and progesterone over time. And it's not a steady decline. It's not like you see a graph and it just goes down, right. It kind of fluctuates, but the general trend is going down and we talked about the twin sisters, estrogen and progesterone. And when we're losing those overtime, it's kind of like our suit of armor and our shield against stress that we are now losing and this is why you see a lot of women over time. You know how younger women have more like the curvy hourglass and then over time we start to gain weight more in the middle, kind of like how men do, right. It becomes more of like that apple shape and that again is because we are losing those hormones. So we become a lot more stress sensitive. My clients who come to me often are like I never had insomnia or anxiety, and now all of a sudden I can't sleep. I'm waking up multiple times during the night and gaining the belly fat when I didn't before. So we also become because we've lost our estrogen and progesterone. And remember, estrogen helps us become more insulin sensitive so we can eat more carbs. Now, all of a sudden we don't have as much of that. So we do need to look at kind of the carbohydrate threshold for that individual woman never cutting it out completely, never going super low carb or doing.
And you know, I'm not gonna go into like, you know, a rant about like, super low carb diets and why those aren't great for women and our thyroid. But they're not good for our hormone. And, but it's finding like that sweet spot for each woman. And it depends on so many factors, right? It depends on their own Physiology, their muscle mass or activity, their stress, their sleep. So many different factors go into that. But we need to kind of look at that. So that's one area optimizing, you know nutrient intake, a lot of women especially my clients who are, you know, in that perimenopause menopause space, they've been under eating like most of their lives. They have never, they don't. They're scared to eat, wouldn't you say like that generation, a lot of women again, it's just how little can we eat and how you know how low can we get that scale to go and when they start to prioritize protein building muscle, like doing some weight training, prioritizing sleep, things start to fall into balance and just it's not an overnight fix and that just nothing is right.
But yeah, so being a little bit more aware of those things. And instead of thinking what can I cut out? How can I replete things? What can I add in to my life and diet to decrease stress and help my energy and having that sort of mindset over the restriction mentality, which is it's hard after years of social conditioning, but taking the time to really take care and heal your metabolism. Like what you teach in a reverse diet, I call it a boost phase is like I feel like where the magic is for so many women, because it's not just about eating more food. It's really about, you know, healing and getting metabolic capacity to a much better place than where it's down here and botch out and people feel awful.
Amber B 51:04
Michelle Stiff 51:05
1200 calories. I have so many clients coming to me, eating around 1000 calories a day and I'm like, I don't even know how you're functioning right now. And they're like, I've just done this for so long.
Amber B 51:14
Yeah, I was actually just talking to a client about this, and she was saying like, I just like this is my normal right. It's like low energy not being able to do. Like that's my normal and I become accustomed to it. And she's like, I'm ready to, like, not be accustomed to it anymore. But I think for so many women, it just becomes their new normal. And they don't know anything different and what I love is like when we can get a woman to like, eat more calories and like finally feel what it feels like to be fully fueled. Like and then they come back and they're like, Oh my gosh, I never knew what I was missing. And it's. Yeah, it's it's amazing. It's one of my favorite, favorite things.
Michelle Stiff 51:47
It's my favorite. If I could just like do that, it would be amazing and how, yeah, how good people feel. And they're like, you know, like, I have more energy, my libido is better, I’m sleeping more. It's life changing.
Amber B 51:59
Yeah, totally. Well, this has been awesome Michelle, if people are going to connect with you or work with you, where can they find you?
Michelle Stiff 52:06
Yeah. So I have. You can look me up on Facebook. I am definitely, I have Wellness Elevate Coaching. I have a business page, but I also have a Facebook group, so I'm sure that we can link that in the notes and I would love, I do lots of training in there. I am on Instagram @michellestiff_wellness. And I do have also again I've booked some free guides that I can definitely share as well, but my website is wellnesselevatetribe.com and then there's lots in there for again, little freebies and where they can learn more about my one-on-one coaching program as well.
Amber B 52:39
Sweet. Fantastic. Yeah. And send us the stuff. We'll link it up in the show notes, and you can go to the show notes to find that all there and connect with Michelle. If you're wanting to work with her or learn more from her about hormones and metabolism and hormones syncing. So fantastic. Thanks, Michelle, so much for coming.
Michelle Stiff 52:55
Thank you so much Amber. This was so much fun. Thank you for having me.
Amber B 53:02
Hopefully that was a really informative and educational podcast for you, something that you can start to apply. I really love the conversation that we had around rest to recovery and just those different seasons of life, those different seasons, when we are feeling good during some and maybe need a little bit more rest and recovery during others. I think giving ourselves that permission to work alongside with our body, with our natural hormone cycles is such a valuable take away that I'm like, taking away from that podcast with Michelle.
Joining TMCC 53:34
Another reminder that we've linked everything up that Michelle talked about in the show notes. So if you go to bicepsafterbabies.com/306, the number of this episode, all the links will be there. Easy access to everything that she mentioned. And if you are interested in TMCC, go to bicepsafterbabies.com/cert C-E-R-T get your name on the wait list. We open doors twice a year so that way when you're on the wait list you'll make sure you get an e-mail that will let you know when that's happening and in the meantime, I highly recommend starting with our secret podcast bicepsafterbabies.com/secret there's five episodes that you can download right now and start to listen to learn more about transformational coaching. That wraps up this episode of Biceps After Babies Radio. I'm Amber, now go out and be strong because remember my friend, you can do anything.
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