Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Woman Code De-Coded

I recently finished reading Woman Code by Alisa Vitti.  I was SUPER excited to read this book after listening to her on several interviews with Sean Croxton and a few other places; even Dr. Oz had her on his show.  Unfortunately I was incredibly disappointed.  Like so many self help books, the first 50 pages were spent discussing her life changing story, with some real information thrown in, and lots of stats on just how bad fertility is in the U.S.

Later on when she fianly starts discussing her diet recommendations I was again disappointed that the crux of the nutrition chapter was a measly 3 pages.  3 PAGES!!!  Here and there she throws in a little more, but it's not all in one place or chapter.  At the back of the book she does add another couple pages of nutrition tips for specific concerns such as fatigue, mood swings, or blood sugar problems.  However, they are extremely vague and at times contradictory.  Alisa gives the recommendation to decrease animal protein in one area, while encouraging "healthy proteins" in another.  Yet she never ever discussed what constitutes a healthy protein.  As the reader am I supposed to just guess?

Fatigue: Increase Healthy Protein
Irritability: Reduce Animal Protein (what if I irritable from low blood sugar?, see next line)
Mood Swings and Sugar Lows: Increase Healthy Protein
Low Libido: Increase beans (why, so I can feel bloated and gassy and super sexy?)

Where is she getting her information for these recommendations?

She also encourages consuming soy in the form of tofu for certain issues such as.  Apparently she has never read anything by Dr. Kaayla Daniel to learn that soy is not a food humans should be eating.  And instead of spending so much time on her 4 day detox (which includes almost no protein, and would leave me with major blood sugar issues), I would have like to see an actual discussion on why women need protein and fats to help make and balance all their hormones.  To some extent, I wonder if Alisa was worried about alienating certain sects of society (vegetarians, vegans, fat phobics) by encouraging more animal protein and animal fats specifically.  She recommends using hemp protein in smoothies, but never discusses why she chooses to not recommend whey or egg-white protein.

Alisa briefly discusses eliminating dairy and gluten to test for sensitivities, however the elimination period is a measly 4 days.  For many people, especially those with a delayed immune response (IgG antibody mediated) this is simply not long enough to determine if they do or do not have a sensitivity.  Skin reactions, brain fog, and sinus congestion can take weeks to clear up.  Same with intestinal problems depending upon severity.  Dr. Davis, author of "Wheat Bellies" does an excellent job of describing how some people take several weeks to fully detox gluten out of their system.  When I recommend a gluten free or dairy free diet, the minimum time off these foods should be 4-6 weeks.  This allows enough time for the body to begin detoxing and healing, allowing the person to actually see/feel the difference.

The last half of the book (50 pages) discusses self exploration with some other lifestyle & sex recommendations as well.  This is quite different from many other self-help books.  I had a bit of a hard time following all of it, but that's probably just my type A personality coming through.  Or I was still irritated at how little time was spent on providing good sound nutrition advice.

Areas I did find interesting and informative were:
Pg 64-discusses how different hormones interact with one another and other organ systems.  Makes one realize how no system is separate.  The body works as a whole and everything is cyclical.
Pg 114-overview of the menstrual cycle.  I was a little confused with how she starts the discussion mid follicular phase (day 7-13) instead of starting with day 1 of the menstrual phase.
Pg 116-list of foods to eat for each phase of the menstrual cycle.  This is intriguing, but I tend to eat eggs a lot, not just during my leuteal phase.  I also really really like avocados, and don't plan on limiting them to only one week per month.  It's a little concerning that Alisa does not give any references on why she created this list in this order.  Some of the foods make sense to me, but others I'm baffled by.
Pg 159-Alisa briefly describes carb cycling (eating different amounts of carbohydrate) during different phases of the menstrual cycle.  Women can also couple this with alternating between doing more cardio and yoga during their follicular and ovulation phases, compared to more HIIT during the leuteal phase.  Jade Teta from Metabolic Effect has several good articles on this practice. Molly G. from Girls Gone Strong also discusses carb cycling.  It's something I've considered playing around with, but haven't quite found my groove with.
Pg 181-there are several scenarios that often happen to people that get them off track.  The office Christmas party or a night on the town with the girls.  I liked that Alisa provided advice on how to handle and recover from a night/day of overindulging or poor blood sugar control.  HOWEVER.... her recommendation to bring sweet potatoes or a quinoa salad to your family function seems backwards to me.  Most women eat too many carbs, and are insulin resistant, and most parties focus on eating lots of carbs.  Why recommend bringing more?  Why not encourage women to make deviled eggs or mini meatballs for protein instead?

Overall her message is good and empowers women to take charge of their health.  She writes, "feed and move your body in ways that work with it's natural rhythms."  I just wish she would have spent more time on the diet/nutrition portion rather than spending so much of her book talking about herself.  If you already have a strong nutrition background and know what works for you, don't bother with this book.  If you want to learn more about hormones, particularly how hormones shift during the menstrual cycle then yes, this could be for you.  It's not that I want to be negative, I was just very disappointed in the book as a whole.

I was impressed with the fact that on her website (floliving.com), if you e-mail her/the company they actually answer you back!

Even more recently I also read through Dr. Kalish's book "Your Guide to Healthy Hormones."  While he too does a good job of giving an overview on how hormones affect different aspects of our lives (mostly female lives) he gives almost no information on how to fix hormone imbalances.  That's probably because he wants you to call him up for a consult so he can help you determine your metabolic type.  Towards the end he does encourage people to try going gluten free, and his food recommendations are spot on.  He just doesn't discuss how much of anything to eat.
Again, if you want information on hormones, give this a read.  It's easy to understand and very short (100 pages, but ginormous margins).


  1. Instead of this book? Christiane Northrup has written several books on women's hormones, but hers are mostly geared towards peri through post menopause. I really like the blog paleo for women by Stephanie R. She has done an amazing job of researching and writing about hormones and how diet affects our bodies.

  2. I'm right smack in the middle of reading this book & was looking online to try and find other people's opinions of the book. I agree with you about most of your issues with the book. The most fascinating part tho was about hormonal imbalance. I really was and am intrigued & think through reading this book I will be able to make some awesome changes because of the hormone/diet link. I also am very health conscious already tho, which makes this much easier. we have food allergies in our family so for the last 3 years I've changed my diet drastically & most recently was following a paleo lifestyle because of so many random symptoms I've been having. I've been thinking they were hormonal for quite some time so finding this book seemed providential. I also agree about the meat, eggs and avocado. I think in the end, I will be able to use this book as a guideline, take the science & research that she has done and make my own meal plans. I did like how she pumped me up, but I would have LOVED to see WAY more food/meal plan/nutritional content! And the recipes she includes are paltry at best. It's a shame about that, but I do feel excited to implement my newfound knowledge into my lifestyle! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm currently reading The Hormone Cure by Sara Gotfried. If you are looking for more in-depth information on hormones that is the book for you! Good luck with your health Journey.

  3. I came across Gottfried's book on amazon and would love to read your insights. I am also currently reading WomanCode and I agree with much of what you mentioned however, Alissa does mention a lot in her videos that the specific foods in each phase are meant to be increased rather than the only ones consumed.


    1. I know it's been a while, but I'm hoping to finally get that posted in the next month or so.

  4. You did not come off at "picky" or critical. In my opinion, your review was excellent. You addressed things I would find puzzling. I am grateful I found your review before I purchased the book which I was just about to do before I found your blog. I am first going to see if I can find it in the local library. Thank you so much and glad I found your blog!

  5. I appreciate your review on this book as I agree with you on almost everything - I was happy to find it so I didn't feel crazy. Like most books, I read them through one time and think that there is information for later. And once I hit later with this, I found there wasn't much I already didn't know (having read Northrup, diet, etc books over the years.)

    I did like the way she explained all the systems and how they worked together and symptoms, etc of each. I also did like the breakdown of the phases though I agree with you, I was confused that she started with follicular as well.

    I appreciate that the book did not go into too much particulars about nutrition (we are all the same but at the same time, what helps you might not help me) but I agree, I found it lacking. And if that is the basis that everything is supported by, well....

    The general idea of the book is good and something we all seem to be learning about now - which is listening to and taking care of our bodies instead of ignoring them.

    I also appreciate your other suggestions and looking forward to looking into them.

    1. Thank you. I agree she did do a wonderful job of connecting the dots between the different hormone systems. And for someone just starting their nutrition/health journey, she is not overwhelming to read or understand.

  6. I think you critic is a bit harsh - I understood as an eye-opener to what most women don't understand about being a woman. Ok, some parts you only need to skim over once, but other parts I go back time and time again until the whole cycle-syncing has sunk in. Also for an European reader it's too American in style, too much self-advertisement.
    However the fundamental truth about our bodies has never been laid out so nicely, modularly and simply as with Alissa. Like the testimonials, I got well from the first day I started it and 4 cycles into it all my stress, elimination, sleep issues are gone and my cycle has become a wonderful experience, so I don't worry about fertility anymore.
    You don't do Alissa justice by picking on the book in regard to more nutritional info, I think you don't interpret what she says correctly, because I don't find it contradictory. Ok, the book has no specific hints for some more severe form of gluten intolerance but that's also not the point of the book.
    If you know how to shop and how to cook, you can easily make great meals just going by the cycle-recommended foods. I have completely ignored the suggested meals and have just gone by the tables of recommended foods. Easy :-) And there is always the web to find out more about superfoods and spin along from the wonderful basics Alissa gave.

    1. I thought I was rather fair, and as someone in the health field I'm allowed to be a little nit-picky. I completely agree that there is a lot of self promotion in it.

      Like I said in my post, it is a great book for people starting out on their health journey, but for more advanced people, it's mostly a review. I'm glad the book has helped you.

  7. I finished reading the book two months ago and I think your review is kinda unfair. Woman Code is NOT a book about nutrition, its a book about the menstrual cycle, so yeah, it makes sense that nutrition is just one part of the big picture. I think what a lot of doctors and people ignore is that being healthy from a woman's perspective, means FIRST OF ALL, having regular periods and no hormone imbalances (weight loss, clear skin, beautiful hair etc automatically happen if you're caring for your menstrual cycle). And I think this book is revolutionary in the sense that it puts the menstrual cycle first and considers it a starting point to a healthy journey.
    I agree with you that there is a lot of self-promotion, but I've read a lot a books about nutrition (paleo, vegan, vegetarian, raw diet...wheat belly, china study... you name it) hoping to find a way to control my pcos This book is the closest I have gotten to finding an answer for my hormonal imbalance and more importantly how to tackle it. She is giving out the information in her book, without having to pay for a consultation first.
    @ your review: she does mention how soy is not healthy for women with hormone imbalance because it contains phytoestrogens (there's a whole part explaining the effect of soy and phytoestrogen on the body)
    So yeah, I think the book deserves a bit more praise, because if you have no idea about nutrition or how your menstrual cycle/ hormones work, its giving you a system that you can work with and build on. Unfortunately, doctors don't hand out this kind of info unless you're willing to pay a lot of money or ignore nutrition and other lifestyle factors altogether.
    I am following the system and already see improvements with my pcos symptoms :)
    I do agree with you in that I would like to know more about why certain foods work well with your body in different stages of the menstrual cycle, only because sometimes when i'm in the supermarket and I pick out a fruit that isn't on the list, I can decide for myself during which stage to eat it :)

    1. Again, this is my point of view so I'm allowed to critique the book as I see fit. I have no doubt that it will help people, and it obviously has. From my nutrition stand point, I felt that it was lacking. After listening to Alissa on several podcasts I had expected more from her regarding nutrition and was disappointed when what she wrote about was minimal or contradictory.

  8. Thank you for your book review. I am getting close to finishing the book and am trying to decide how hard I am going to dive into the advice that Alyssa gives. I read the book looking for answers for my "unexplained infertility" and found it helpful to understand more about the menstrual cycle and hormones. I know a bit about nutrition but have a hard time with best nutrition practices. I too was looking for a bit more in the nutrition section. The book references her website, floliving.com so I thought maybe I could find more there. Once I spent a good amount of time of the website it became clear to me why I could not find more of that info in the book. She wants you to pay to be a part of her program that includes personal sessions via skype or telephone and nutritional support. I can see the reasoning, every business needs to make money. I can also see the value in a program tailored to each persons specific needs. I felt a little betrayed though, especially because she said over and over again how her plan works because everyones Endorcrine system works the same. In the end I feel like it is just another good way someone to make some money. Has anyone had any experience with their 3 month online Womancode program? Is it worth the $$$.

    1. I would start working towards simply eating lots of real foods. And if you are struggling with fertility then make sure you are including lots of healthy fats. I don't know what her program costs, I believe you can do a free 30 min consult with one of her other counselors prior to signing up. If you have been struggling with hormone imbalances for a long time, I think it's worth it to do saliva hormone testing just so you have a good idea of what is really going on. I like ZRT since you can purchase the test kits off amazon and their prices are very reasonable.

      Everyone's endocrine system SHOULD work the same, but if we are not healthy or in balance, then they do not work the same. You have to get to the root cause of the imbalance and start there. I work with clients over the phone and via Skype if you live outside the Twin Cities, you can schedule an appointment by calling 651-699-3438.

  9. I am under the impression that blood sugar is only affected by carbs and sugars. Some of your comments seem to imply that you believe your blood sugar to be affected by lack of protein. Can you explain?

    1. If we do not eat enough protein and fat with our meals/snacks, then carbohydrates break down more quickly and thus raise blood sugars higher and faster than they would had protein and/or fat been consumed at the same time.