For various reasons not at all related to making babies, I stopped taking birth control in the autumn. Shane and I have agreed that this has been a very good decision. The problems I'd been noticing in myself went away almost immediately and I even lost almost ten pounds in the first two months after I stopped taking it. Just that, and the relief of knowing that the weight I've gained over the past several years wasn't actually because of me (stupid pills), has made me feel more confident about myself.
Now that I've returned to normal hormonal functioning, it's also been fun for me to notice all of the differences in myself each month. Scientifically, I knew that changes in women's hormones lead to certain notable things. For instance, when a woman is ovulating she's more likely to be attracted to a strongly masculine face or a more "manly" man, whereas at non-ovulating times women are more likely to choose sensitive, more effeminate-featured men. (Hello, Orlando Bloom!) I'm lucky because when I look at Shane I see both the boy I met and the man I married, so I get the best of both worlds. :) But even watching movies, I've noticed changes in what actors I find attractive depending on where I'm at in my cycle.
There are other things, of course. While the pill helps some women regulate their mood swings, it seemed to make mine worse. Shane says that I seem more in control and "less crazy" before my period now. On the other hand, I now get zits around my period like I'm in high school again. No fun! And I seem to get cramps no matter what. But I'm still having fun observing these changes in myself. Science!
The one thing I completely forgot about, but probably should have expected, is a serious craving for chocolate. Not sweets in general, just chocolate. Last week I was raiding the cabinets searching for any sort of chocolate to the point that Shane noticed and gave me one of his "holy crap you're a little nuts right now" looks. Disaster averted: we had both hot chocolate and some leftover Christmas candy in the house. :) I'm also using the cravings as an excuse for why I bought chocolate ice cream and $23 worth of bulk-bin chocolate chips on Saturday. It's a good reason, right?
But I don't want to be eating crap every time my period rolls around. If for no other reason, it's not exactly going to make that time any more pleasant if I'm feeling bad about my eating habits in addition to everything else that happens. So I'm trying to find better ways of controlling the need for chocolate and I think I've found the perfect solution: oatmeal. Hear me out! Oatmeal is my go-to winter breakfast because it's easy and hot and healthy and I can change it up every day. I've made PB&J oatmeal (not bad, actually), oatmeal full of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, oatmeal with fresh fruit. I've used brown sugar, honey, and maple syrup as the sweetener. (Not all at once!) I've put in nutmeg and cinnamon to change the flavor. It's totally versatile! One of my favorites for the past couple of weeks has been chai oatmeal.
Well, now I know I can add a little bit of chocolate too. The heat from freshly cooked oatmeal melts the chocolate perfectly and everything you put in the oatmeal becomes covered in the gooey sweetness. It's perfection and it clears up any chocolate cravings I might be having without falling off the healthy eating bandwagon. I didn't add any other sweetener, since the chocolate is sweet enough. And when I can, I find dark chocolate chips which helps to make it slightly less sweet and just a bit healthier than it would be with milk chocolate chips.
Black Forest Oatmeal:
About a serving and a half of oatmeal
Enough water to cook the oatmeal (I cook it in the microwave, on high for three minutes)
A cup of pitted, frozen cherries (thawed overnight in the fridge) or 1/2 cup of dried cherries
1/4 cup of walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup (or slightly less) of dark chocolate chips
Cook the oatmeal. When it's still very hot, mix in the chocolate chips, then the walnuts and cherries. Consume and be happy.
Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal:
About 1/4 cup of chocolate chips
About 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut shavings
1/4 cup of any type of preferred nuts (I love hazelnuts in this one)
Optional: a dash of cinnamon
Mix in the chocolate first so that it's all melty and covers the oatmeal, then mix in the other ingredients. Consume, and pat yourself on the back for choosing something healthier than a Pop Tart for breakfast.