Here's How Wellness Bloggers Are Rebranding Periods

Illustrated by Vero Romero.
At first scroll, Los Angeles-based blogger Lee Tilghman's feed, aka @leefromamerica, has all the makings of a millennial wellness influencer. You'll find chic photos of her lounging in Joshua Tree, practicing yoga inversions surrounded by succulents, stocking up on produce at the farmer's market, and assembling artful smoothie bowls. But you'll also see selfies of her proudly holding up her menstrual cup, lengthy posts about "seed cycling," and advice about how to change your workout based on the phases of your menstrual cycle. Somehow, she makes periods — the monthly bloodshed many of us dread and avoid — look cool.
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Periods might seem like the last thing the glam LA Goop crowd would share on social media. But in a space oversaturated by supplements, cleanses, and workout fads, periods are a stripped-down way to for wellness influencers to go back to their roots — or, in this case, their fallopian tubes.
Tilghman first started posting about her period on Instagram after she was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and had stopped getting her period. She read blogs, changed the way she ate and took care of herself, and basically tried everything she could to feel like herself again. When she finally got her period back, it "totally flipped her perspective," she says. "Instead of viewing the period as like a negative messy thing, I started to view it as kind of something sacred." In her PCOS research, she came across author Alisa Vitti’s trademarked method called "Cycle Syncing," which is basically like the biohacking of periods.
"It’s when you kind of sync your life to your cycle," Tilghman explains. "You can kind of exercise, eat, and create your social calendar around it." While she doesn’t follow the rules of Cycle Syncing 100% of the time, there are certainly people who adhere Vitti’s methodology, religiously. There are smartphone apps, hashtags with thousands of posts, books, meal plans, and paid-for coaching sessions for those interested. But Tilghman just chooses to use it as a guide. "It’s kind of a nice baseline for scheduling out my weeks, and my workouts, and what I should expect of myself, she says.
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For example, when Tilghman is in the luteal phase of her cycle, which is the time after ovulation and before menstruation, often when people experience PMS, she knows she has to slow down and "embrace the darkness." During this phase, she has trouble sleeping, feels antsy, and can't focus as well, so she takes it as a sign that her body needs to chill out. She'll stick to light yoga, go for walks with friends, and just generally slow down. "I got so frustrated this morning because I was like, Why can't I do anything? And I'm like, Oh, I'm in the luteal phase," she says.
Similarly, Bri Baggs, a holistic health coach and Reiki practitioner based in Houston, takes a more spiritual approach, and says she will pay extra attention to her emotions during her period. "I'll get messages, sometimes it's like, I'm so irritated with this job, I'm so over it, it's exhausting, and you wouldn't have necessarily figured that out any other time. But during menstruation, it’s all in your face, you can’t ignore it," she says.
Knowing where she is in her cycle helps Baggs make big life decisions and deal with times of transition. Recently she was working at an acupuncture clinic, and realised that the job was draining, so she intentionally put in her two weeks just as she was ovulating. "During ovulation, we have the most energy, so it's time for us to take action," she says. After ovulation is the luteal phase, which is "definitely a time for getting organised, getting focused, wrapping things up in your cycle to come," she says. She tied up loose ends and let colleagues know she was leaving. Then, at the end of her cycle, it was time to shed. "It's perfect if you can align your cycle with ending things in your life," she says "It's that much easier energetically and spiritually, because you're in the mode of shedding."
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Some people might roll their eyes at the thought of using your period to guide your life, and that's understandable. There are definitely people for whom periods are a nightmare, and not something they'd want to embrace or share. And taking health advice from an Instagram influencer who is not a doctor could absolutely be dangerous. But for Tilghman, understanding her period gives her a sense of relief, because it decodes certain symptoms or feelings that used to feel inexplicable. "At least now I know, and it's not like I'm frustrated, shaming myself, beating myself up about it," she says. "It gives me an answer, and I think a lot of times we just want answers, you know?"
So far, the response to Tilghman's period content has been positive — which is kind of wild considering she has 314K followers. Her first period-related post about PCOS was one of her more popular blogs. "That's when I realised people want to see more about me than just my periods," she says. Tilghman was also acutely aware that talking about her period could come across as preachy, so she tried to be as open and honest as possible. "No one in my circle was talking about [periods], and so I really wanted to feel less alone. I knew that if I was going through it, then other people probably were, and I was right," she says.
Popular influencers like Tilghman who can openly share details about their cycle point to some progress in terms of reducing the taboo around periods. Just three years ago, the poet Rupi Kaur posted a photo of herself on Instagram bleeding on her sheets, and the social media platform briefly removed it, sparking outrage and a conversation about what periods represent. Months later that same year, another Instagram blogger posted a photo of her overflowing menstrual cup, and received death threats from commenters. When Vitti first started, she too was met with skeptics, but feels like "there's more receptivity" now that more people are sharing their stories on social media. "I've been, for a while, standing on the soap box, waving a flag, saying, Hey everybody! You’ve got to pay attention to the conversation, this is the missing ingredient for women in every aspect!"
We have been trying to destigmatise menstruation pretty much since the Biblical era, and this is just the latest iteration. But Vitti hopes younger women see posts like Tilghman's and are encouraged to take advantage of their periods, rather than fear them. "Can you imagine if you were told in sex ed class, instead of getting the curse, you were about to embark on access to an entire new set of brain chemistry that was gonna make you a better version of yourself? You’d feel a lot differently about your period and how to take care of it, you’d be more invested," she says. Time will tell if this new crop of bloggers can truly break the stigma about periods, but if the thousands of teenage "period haul" vlogs on YouTube are any indication, the kids are alright.
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