Why did you start the Heavy Flow podcast? How was it a natural transition to write a book?
I started the podcast after I’d been seeing clients as a holistic nutritionist specializing in hormonal health but noticed I was spending more time explaining menstrual cycles and why they’re important than I was talking about food! It occurred to me that it wasn’t an accident we’re not taught about our cycles. Not understanding how your body works takes away a certain element of power. I wanted to reach more people then I could as a nutritionist one-on-one so a podcast just felt like the perfect fit. It allows me to reach a large audience while also maintaining a certain intimacy needed to broach a personal, taboo topic.
Heavy Flow launched on September 7, 2017 and within a month I had a book deal with Dundurn Press. I always wanted to write a book and thought maybe I would in five years. So when they came to me I didn’t feel ready but I jumped in. Every interview I did in the first two seasons of the podcast informed the book in some way – either because a guest was quoted in it or they had simply introduced me to a new idea or angle I hadn’t considered.
Your publisher info for the book describes your menstrual cycle as “your fifth vital sign.” Can you say a little bit more about what that means, and the implications it has for women’s health?
A vital sign is a measure of your overall health and wellness, and your menstrual cycle can tell us a lot about what’s happening in the big picture. When you are well and your hormones are in balance you’ll ovulate and your period will show up regularly without a lot of pain or symptoms like headaches or mood swings. If your periods are irregular or painful or absent those are red flags that shouldn’t be ignored! At the same time, menstrual cycle hormones also help to promote health – specifically for our bones, breasts, brains, heart and skin – making it an important physiological function that’s not just important for baby-making.
What is the most important thing people need to understand about their period?
The window is wide for what’s “normal” or healthy! Your menstrual cycle might be 21 or 35 days and those are both normal and healthy. Therefore it’s critical that you get to know and understand what your normal is. And on that note, your period will change as you get older, after you are pregnant, if you have an IUD… So don’t expect your period to be the same every month until you hit menopause. Trust your intuition if something changes and doesn’t feel right.
Have you seen any significant shifts in public dialogues about menstruation over the last ten years?
Absolutely, particularly since 2015 which was dubbed the “Year of the Period.” A lot of this conversation is centered around access to products, however I’d like to see the conversation expand to include the actual experience of menstruation, which isn’t always great but doesn’t have to be. Menstrual cramps are the number one reason for short-term absences from school and work, but that’s not something we’re talking about. There’s no question that we need to manage our flow, but we also deserve safe and effective pain relief! Your period shouldn’t interrupt your life for any reason.
Who have some of your favourite Heavy Flow guests been?
Listeners of the show tease me because I always say that an episode is one of my favourites… on every episode! But it’s true!
That said, some stand-out guests for me personally have been Samantha Zipporah who introduced me to the “universality of the womb continuum;” Nicola Salmon and her work around fat, feminist fertility gave me the courage to really own being fat for the first time; and my conversation with Dianne Bondy about creating inclusive, accessible wellness spaces. That was one of my first interviews and it set the tone for the whole show. Kelly Diels was also special; she is probably the smartest person I know and also allowed me to be vulnerable and open during our episode.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on an online course that will help people put some of the things we talk about in the book into practice, which will launch in the spring. I also have a couple of ideas for new books that I’ve been jotting down and hope to bring them to fruition later this year! And of course continuing to grow the podcast. My goal for 2019 is to work with more small businesses through partnerships of the show and using the platform that I’ve built to support other feminist entrepreneurs.
Amanda Laird is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and host of the Heavy Flow Podcast – a weekly podcast dedicated to periods, reproductive health and other taboo health and wellness topics. Amanda is the author of Heavy Flow: Breaking the Curse of Menstruation, available wherever books are sold. She lives in Toronto.
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