Hiking around Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. A happy, wholesome and special sunrise I’ll never forget!
Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute.
Just sit right there.
I’ll tell you how I had no period nor any clue about HA!
I can imagine most of the general population that read this headline thought, what’s a femtech? You’re telling me I need more of something I haven’t even heard of before?!
I’ll explain all of these fun terms by sharing about my body image, disordered eating and menstrual health complexities. Reading more femtech content could have helped me early on in my gradual downward “fitspo health” spiral.
You’ll find a list of informative women’s health companies that produce insightful articles and content on various topics such as menstrual health, mental health, sexual well-being, menopause, fertility and much more.
So, What’s A Femtech?
I’m a member of Femtech Insider, an online publication that discusses women’s health and technology.
Here is their take on femtech:
“In general, femtech refers to software, diagnostics, products and services that use technology to support women’s health. The term itself was originally coined by Ida Tin, the founder of Clue, a period tracking app, who introduced it during her discussions with (mostly male) investors and almost accidentally created the new category. As mentioned, the femtech sector is primarily concerned with addressing the whole lived experience of women.”
To the everyday woman, people who menstruate or woman-identifying, it can be hard to access information about their body and health issues. This is primarily due to women’s health not getting nearly enough research and scientific funding. These companies also struggle with raising funds and capital because of the lack of scientific funding!
And as if that weren’t enough, femtech companies have a hard time advertising because words like vagina, vulva and other such terms are deemed ‘inappropriate’.
I know. I’m shaking my head in silent fury too.
I’m going to share a story with you about my health issues. It may or may not resonate with you. Still, it should highlight how if women didn’t face as many adversities and hurdles, we’d have many more open conversations about what our bodies can do and how we should treat them correctly and with the respect they deserve.
Let’s Get Personal, Personal!
I don’t know when it happened (most likely during my teens), but I started hating my body.
In college, this intensified. For example, hearing housemates who are thinner than you complain about how “fat” they are, comment on your eating and who exercise constantly.
And you know, society’s general always-treating-women’s-bodies-as-a-trend or some shit.
If I look back at my camera roll, cute going-out photos and Cork cityscape pics are interspersed with mirror pictures of me in a sports bra and undies, straight out of bed and over to the mirror to take what I had hoped would be my final “before” picture.
“Eat clean,” they said.
2017. I had come off the pill and had no period for over six months. I then signed up for a marathon.
My terrible body image was amplified. I would buy clothes a size smaller to force myself to lose weight so I could fit into them.
Clean eating was dotted with small binges and many trips to cafes to enjoy calorie-dense cakes (because I was starving and restricting these). But, of course, I’d feel guilty for enjoying them so much.
After a night out, I’d come home and stuff my face with… Porridge oats. Uncooked. I was so hungry and obsessed with eating that I would eat dried oats. It makes my stomach turn.
I ran the marathon later in the year. After that, I got the teeniest period, one hardly worth considering, and then I went back on the pill.
I’ve since learned that a pill-induced period is not a proper period like many doctors say to women who have lost their period. “Just go back on the pill, and you’ll get your period back!”
Amm, nope. The pill isn’t even a bandaid solution because a pill period isn’t an actual period!
Anyway. Problem solved, or so I thought.
“No rest days,” they said.
Two years later, my body image was still in the bin. By this stage, I had combined pounding the pavement with going to the gym. And while I support combined strength and running training, these were long slogs of sessions, signalled by how tired I was.
I would buy cute matching workout sets, only never to wear them to the gym because I was conscious of the teeniest bit of “flab” around my midsection.
I came off the pill and had my bloods tested. It turned out I had hypothyroidism.
So not only was I dieting, undereating, and overtraining to lose weight, my thyroid gland wasn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, which regulates the body’s metabolism.
My metabolism was getting triply hit because I wasn’t giving myself enough energy through food, running myself into the ground, AND my thyroid was now not producing enough hormones to keep me functioning healthily.
I spent another year (2020 at this stage) trying to look super lean and perform well in the gym.
As you can imagine, I was
Am I….Obsessed With Food?
The first thing I would think of when I woke up in the morning was FOOD. I vividly remember going out with two friends for a burger and chips. I would have easily gobbled down their two meals along with my own!
I genuinely thought there was something wrong with me. How was I this hungry all the time?!
At this stage, I had full-on binge-eating episodes multiple evenings every week. The strict dieting meant that one seemingly harmless biscuit turned into the whole pack. Entire boxes of cereal and whatever carb and fat in the house were devoured by yours truly.
Around this time, I discovered Stephanie Buttermore and her “All In” journey. Stephanie is a fitness YouTuber who shared her cheat days and meals, fitness routines, and PhD life. She had lost her period for quite some time and spoke to health professionals about this.
She, too, was obsessed with food and was hungry All. The. Time. She decided enough was enough and tracked her journey of eating until satiation (often 5,000 calories per day), gaining as much weight as she needed until she got her period back and allowing her hunger levels to normalise. She also took a training break to let her body heal from all the intense training.
Going “All In”
Stephanie inspired me. I wanted to follow her lead. So, in November 2020, I read Intuitive Eating. I followed the book’s principles and allowed myself to eat as much as I wanted without guilt, breaking food rules, and enjoying all the food I ate.
This lasted about three weeks before all the nasty thoughts crept back in. I thought I had gained some weight, which scared the life out of me, so I became militant with my exercise again. Which, of course, did me no favours because it would only make me even more hungry and feel even worse about how much food I was consuming!
Do we see a pattern here?!
I followed Elena Kunicki, RD, the binge-eating dietician, on Instagram. I started paying more attention to her posts because they resonated with me. I was perplexed in my body and how I acted around food. In addition, my period loss was grating on me.
Done Did The Work
In early 2021, I worked with Elena for six months in a small group with other women who were going through similar struggles. It became glaringly apparent that I had hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), which is period loss due to overtraining and/or undereating. Tick, tick!
I took three months off running, the gym and any heart-rate-increasing exercise and got three decent periods in that time too.
When I first watched Stephanie Buttermore’s videos, she had been two years into her All In journey. I remember thinking, there is no way I’d achieve what she has achieved in two years, nor would I get off this yo-yo dieting cycle.
Here I am, two years later.
- Healthy period and am no longer on the pill (nor will I ever go on it again!) Read ‘This Is Your Brain On Birth Control’.
- The excellent body image days far outweigh the bad body image moments.
- My weight is no longer hugely fluctuating but is in a normal range.
- I train for enjoyment, with strength and performance-based goals rather than aesthetics (except maybe for my leg days when I want to grow that peach!)
- I eat whatever I want, whenever I want (because how else are you gonna grow that peach?!), and I do not feel bad about how much I eat.
- I have much more brain capacity for everyday things and am no longer constantly thinking about the next meal.
- I still have hypothyroidism, but I’m not nearly as tired as I used to be.
How Did I End Up There?
The thing is, I had to dig down preeeeetty deep to realise my thoughts were neither right nor normal because shitty diet culture is everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
From all the mams complaining about their weight to the insta story ads spewing the latest diet tripe (note, you can pick what ad topics you don’t want to be shown on insta. Doing this has been a lovely release from all that toxic BS!).
It’s hard to escape the harmful body comments we share with friends about our bodies. I would say it’s more usual for women to chastise their bodies in their friend groups than to say, “Ah yeah, I’m content with my weight. I like to exercise just for the fun of it. Oh, and I ate a delicious slice of cake last night. It was heaven, and I don’t feel guilty about it.”
People would look at you and think there’s something majorly wrong.
Which is ridiculous?!
What The FemTech
I wish I had been more aware of the variety of women’s health companies online when I was going through my health issues.
We need more online safe spaces for women to research their bodies. More advertising in these areas too, because all I was seeing was train train train! 1,600 calories are PLENTY for your body while you run yourself into the ground! Go on; this diet will be your LAST before getting that dream body!!
I’ve compiled a list of companies that are spreading the good word. Their content is fun, easy to understand and educational.
10 Femtech Companies That Make The World A Better Place
I reeeeeally wish I had found this company while I was training like crazy and under-fuelling my workouts. Female-led and concentrating on working out while in tune with your body and cycle is the premise of Wild.ai. We love to see it!
Equip is an evidence-based eating disorder treatment team for children to 24-year-olds. Their blog is full of health-positive language and how to learn about breaking the diet-cycle mentality.
The Hanx blog is chock-full of juicy info for the girls. It hosts topics such as why are women’s libidos often low (hint: bad body image, fluctuating hormones and other health issues!) and vaginal discharge, which are both essential female hormonal health markers.
I included this blog because it is interactive and quirky. In addition, it has an informative blog post on the thyroid gland and your menstrual cycle.
This is the holy grail of sexual health information online. All scientifically backed, you can find all your sexual health answers right here.
Want research-backed, user-friendly hormonal health advice? Look no further.
I love Cora’s blog called Blood + Milk. It’s sensual, answers questions you might not have even considered before, and has blog posts about how men can support their girlfriends during their period. It’s a yes from me 🙂
Can we even write a Femtech listicle without mentioning Lioness? This company have developed “a vibrator that provides biofeedback, using precision sensors and pleasure data to help people learn more about their arousal and orgasms.” This is the tech I need in my life! Their platform contains all kinds of practical, myth-bursting info.
I’m delighted I discovered this website because they have everything; selling period products and hormone strip tests to an expansive wellness journal with tips and tricks for women’s health. And all judgement-free, just how I like it 🙂
If you deal with autoimmune issues such as rheumatoid arthritis or Hashimoto’s, this blog could provide further education and resources to improve your quality of life. If you have the time before your next doctor’s appointment, you could better aid yourself with questions from their blog.
A Wild Ride
Had I seen these earlier in my life, and if femtechs had more funding to position themselves in front of their audience better, I might not have felt so genuinely awful about myself.
However, the women’s health landscape is changing! We’re getting more funding (slowly), advertising laws are modernising, and with the rise of sex tech, we are breaking down the stigmas left, right and centre.
I hope this article has informed you about the fantastic companies that are helping women in all facets of their lives and might bring you some comfort in knowing there is help.
If you have similar (or not!) health struggles or experiences with femtech, I’d love to hear from you below in the comments, or you can personally email me 🙂