The Charger Blog

Charger Blogger Reflects on Womanhood and Well-Being

Beatrice Glaviano ’26, a nutrition sciences major at the University of New Haven, looks ahead to her upcoming birthday and considers what it means to be a woman today.

March 19, 2024

By Beatrice Glaviano ’26

Beatrice Glaviano ’26.
Beatrice Glaviano ’26.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror the other day. It wasn’t in a “this is going to be a therapy conversation” way, nor something akin to Narcissus and his pond, but the word closest to the feeling I felt then would equate to realization. Maybe curiosity or wonder, but there was a certain feeling of enlightenment in that moment that I haven’t been able to shake:

I’m turning twenty this year, and I think she popped by to say hello.

Twenty, for me, is all green and sunlight. She has plants – too many plants, actually – and the same coffee addiction that carried her through her teens. She’s pretty smiley, cracking jokes this way and that, not caring about the creases of her smile lines or her forehead.

(She’s lowkey stressing about the forehead. Nineteen tells her to cool her jets).

Twenty also has no clue what she's doing. She has an apartment and a cat named Buttermilk even though her boyfriend is allergic (anti-histamines exist for a reason). College debt is scary, the world is scarier, and frankly, the zit smack-dab in the center of her left check is downright terrifying.

Basically: I’ve been thinking about twenty for a while.

I don’t think I’m scared to age – not really. I’ve earned these smile lines by having fun for years, and the creases on my forehead are the ones I get from long nights of chemistry homework. Aging is what brought me to college, to be who I am – in this very moment – right now. If I were to stay at age five (as cool as that could be) I would’ve never found interest in what I do now. Can you name any five-year-old who would want to melt fish and read all day?

Okay, maybe there’s some random Sheldon Cooper child out there, but it’s unlikely.

Atlas, Beatrice Glaviano’s fish.
Atlas, Beatrice Glaviano’s fish.

As someone who lives with ulcerative colitis, I have become increasingly reminded of my mortality. Sometimes it’s getting nauseous over toast, or feeling like I’m being stabbed by pin-prick needles before heading in for my infusion. Most days, though, I am able to go about my life like your typical human being.

Which, as much as I hate big pharma, I have modern medicine to thank for that.

Yet, it brings things into perspective. What if there was no medicine? There certainly is no cure. From a very young age, I’ve made it a point to figure out what on Earth it is I’m meant to do with my life as a means to not waste it.

Then I got to college. And boy, did college “college.”

After a very long time of wondering what I’m doing with my life, I’ve come to realize it’s not really quite doing that’s the answer, but living. If you live in what you do, you will find much greater value in life than you would ever just doing. Similarly, it’s never what you want to be, but who – that changes things drastically. But what’s the best way of living? How do you become that person for yourself? This tends to be a question many people ask, and it is commonly a byproduct of comparing oneself to the lives of others.

My answer to that? Understanding oneself, which brings us to today’s topic of:

Womanhood ↦ What it Means to be a Woman in Modern-Day Society

I think I was twelve when I got my first period. Something like that, at the very least. I remember my Mom’s mouth dropping open while I stood there not really seeing what the big deal was. It was just blood. Big whoop.

Fast forward a good seven years, it’s definitely a bigger whoop than I thought.

The menstrual cycle plays an undeniably huge role in any woman’s life – hormonally, physically, emotionally, and energetically. While middle school introduces female adolescents to the mechanics of the menstrual cycle, they don’t quite dive into it in the best of ways. Namely, youth are told that periods are cramps, blood, and boy repellant when in fact, it is so much more than that.

Beatrice Glaviano appreciates a sign of spring.
Beatrice Glaviano appreciates a sign of spring.

Periods are a result of a feeling of safety within the female body. Should the body be malnourished, too stressed, or under compromise from a pre-existing or new condition, a period may not occur. This lack of occurrence will continue until the stressors are solved and the body feels “safe” again, as the menstrual cycle is not a necessary life function like breathing or pumping blood. After losing my period for two years to horrible hormone balance and a rogue eating disorder, I have been immensely grateful for the privilege to have earned my body’s trust to have one.

But what else didn’t I know about my body?

Breaking out my laptop, I stumbled across the topic of “Cycle Syncing” in reference to one’s period. Apparently, it had to do with adjusting one’s life habits to the particular stages of their cycle. These stages include:

  1. Menstrual
  2. Follicular
  3. Ovulatory
  4. Luteal

All of these stages are determined by the rise or fall of hormones within the female body. The most basic definition of a hormone that I can provide is that they are chemical messengers responsible for telling the body what’s up. Without them, messages cannot be adequately conveyed, and mayhem will most likely occur.

More specific to females, while estrogen is the main sex hormone responsible for regulating one’s period and cholesterol levels (Cleveland Clinic), androgen and progesterone do play a part as well. Androgen is seen more in males, who produce testosterone (a type of androgen), but they help jump-start a female’s bodily development. As for progesterone, it is tasked with regulating one’s period and supporting pregnancy should that be the individual’s goal.

In short:

  1. Menstrual: 1-5 days, estrogen/progesterone very low, lining of uterus (endometrium) is shed
  2. Follicular (pre-egg release): 6-14 days, estrogen/progesterone increasing
  3. Ovulatory (process of releasing the egg): 15-17 days, estrogen peaks, testosterone + progesterone on the rise
  4. Luteal (post-egg release): 18-28, estrogen and progesterone levels are high, if egg is not fertilized, hormone levels decrease and the menstrual cycle starts again

So to summarize, there’s a lot of hormonal chatter going on in the body. Similar to the game telephone, sometimes those messages don’t come out the way we’d expect them to. According to OBGYN Jillian Dolan, MD, “Diet and lifestyle modifications such as exercise may help to balance these hormones and decrease some of those associated symptoms like mood changes, decreased energy, sleep disturbance and increased appetite” (Gunther). This is essentially what cycle syncing attempts to do: by following the ebb and flow of your body’s natural cycle through the adjustment of one's eating, exercise, and general lifestyle habits, there is an attempt to alleviate any negative symptoms of one’s menstrual cycle.

In terms of eating (recommended, but not necessary):
  1. Menstrual foods:
    • Soothing teas; avoid/limit fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, salty food (Krupp)
    • As said by “Cycle Syncing Nutrition and Exercicse:”
      • Iron rich foods → green leafy veggies, lean red meat, lentils, beans
      • Vitamin C → citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, red peppers
        • Increased Fe absorption
      • Vitamin L → leafy greens, bloobs (blueberries), cheese, eggs
        • Can help reduce bleeding
      • O3FA → salmon, flaxseed, tree nuts
        • Helps reduce inflammation/cramping
  2. Follicular foods:
    • Sprouted/fermented foods (broccoli sprouts, kimchi, and sauerkraut) (Krupp)
    • As said by “Cycle Syncing Nutrition and Exercicse:”
      • “Lean proteins and complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat, brown rice, and quinoa, will fuel higher-intensity workouts.”
      • Eating to balance rising estrogen levels
        • Cruciferous veggies (broccho, cauli, cabbage, kale)
        • Fermented foods (kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi)
        • Healthy fats (i.e. avocados, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds)
        • Leafy greens
  3. Ovulatory foods:
    • Anti-inflammatory foods (whole fruits/veg, nuts/seeds, honey, etc.) (Krupp)
      • Meats (beef, pork, chicken, etc) tend to be a bit higher in inflammatory response, so while it may not be best to avoid them for your own health, a decrease in their amount may help your body relax a little bit
  4. Luteal foods:
    • Serotonin-producing foods (leafy greens, buckwheat) (Krupp
      • Mg-rich foods such as dark chocolate, spinach, and pumpkin seeds (Krupp)
    • As said by “Cycle Syncing Nutrition and Exercicse”:
      • This phase can “bring on PMS, hunger and cravings.”
      • Focusing on complex carbohydrates, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes will help curb hunger
      • Craving sweet/salty? → Dark chocolate, fruit, nuts/seeds
        • Pumpkin seeds (high in Mg) can help reduce fluid retention
In terms of exercise (recommended, but not necessary):
  1. Menstrual body movement:
    • Keeping everything suuuper slow; light movements including yoga, walking, etc.
    • Lots of rest
  2. Follicular body movement:
    • Keeping things light, but adding in some light cardio and flow-based yoga (Krupp)
      • Hiking, light running, longer walks, pilates
  3. Ovulatory body movement:
    • High intensity, circuit, or HIIT training sessions
  4. Luteal body movement:
    • Light to moderate (your body is getting ready for another period to occur)
      • Strength training, pilates with weights, intensive (hot) yoga sessions

A huge thing to keep in mind is that these are general statements about how one should be going about their period. If something works better for you or you have a really good, established system, there is absolutely no need to change that because a trend is going on. Not to mention, I’m not a physician: I’m just a nerd in a trenchcoat who likes to write. Your cycle is a reflection of your life: the ever-changing, not-100% predictable, turn and churn of events that keeps your existence going forward. Change is hard, yes, but once you embrace it? Wow. Things get a heck of a ton easier.

Being a woman today is an amazing and equally horrifying thing. I can vote, I can have a credit card without needing a man to sign it for me, I can own property and if I want to become a neurosurgeon, I can. And I will. Being a woman is so, I don’t know, womanly? I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s being able to be soft when you need to, it’s how you become a mom friend, fish and plant mom, and the person people like to talk to because you are a welcoming presence to them (this is the best compliment that I’ve received about myself to this day, and I adore it). It’s burning a batch of brownies and asking yourself if your ancestors ever felt that way. Likewise, it’s bringing a pot of really, really good chicken noodle soup to share on a frigid day because that’s how you show love. You draw a massive flow chart of the human nervous system and your friends can see the passion radiating off of you like stardust. “Gold Dust Woman” was written by Stevie Nicks, who must be made of iron and stardust herself. Women build women, in my experience, and while hanging out with guys is great, there is something about being able to bond with another of your gender that brings you home. Being a woman, for me, is knowing the difference between kind and nice, and knowing the respect your body deserves in all its stages. We are not meant to be one shape, size, personality, hairstyle, nail color, whatever. We’re women. We can be who we want to be.

I found twenty in my mirror, and she said, “Go and get ’em.”
And I promised her I would. So, I am.

I hope all of you are having a lovely day today, as I am, and that you take this message and go about your day with a lighter foot. Take care, and give yourself the time you need to get stuff done.

With peace, love, and peanut butter,

Beatrice Glaviano ’26 is a nutrition sciences major at the University of New Haven.