Women We Admire: Amanda Laird of The Heavy Flow Podcast
Amanda Laird is a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist, podcast host, and author on a mission to empower menstruators near and far through feminist body literacy. Her podcast, The Heavy Flow, focuses on periods, reproductive health, and all the other health and wellness topics we're not supposed to talk about. We caught up with Amanda to chat self-care rituals and the upcoming publication of her book Heavy Flow: Breaking the Curse of Menstruation.
What prompted you to start your podcast, Heavy Flow?
I started my podcast in 2017 after working as a holistic nutritionist specializing in menstrual and hormonal health. I really started to draw a link between what my clients knew, or rather I should say didn't know, about menstrual cycles and how important they are, and patriarchy. I started to see that it wasn’t by accident that we don’t understand how our bodies work. Launching a podcast seemed like the perfect way to start talking about periods and spread this important information to a large audience. It also meshed well with my background as a communications strategist; I got to put all of those skills to work while developing and growing Heavy Flow as a brand.
Do you have a favourite or “must-hear” episode?
This is like trying to choose one of my favourite children. I’ve always loved my conversation with Samantha Zipporah. Samantha introduced me to the concept of the “universality of the womb continuum.” Also, the recent episode that I did with Kelly Diels, which was a departure from talking about periods but rather talking about marketing and what Kelly has called the “Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand”, was so much fun to record and also felt very important to put out into the world.
What are your hopes + dreams for Heavy Flow: Breaking the Curse of Menstruation? What inspired this endeavour?
I was approached by my publisher, Dundurn Press, shortly after the podcast launched. I knew that a book would be the natural extension of the podcast. I really see it as a companion to the podcast and some of the topics that we talk about. On Heavy Flow we talk a lot about the big picture, systemic issues, while the book is more of a guidebook for how you can put this information to use in your own life and your own menstrual experience.
I, of course, would be lying if I said I didn't want this book to become a best-seller! I hope that everyone who has a menstrual cycle, and quite frankly even those people who don't have a menstrual cycle, can read this book and have the information they need to start having a better period. If I could put a copy in the hands of every menstruator in the world, I would.
Did you always know you wanted to author a book? What’s been the most challenging part of this process? What’s been the most rewarding?
I have dreamed of writing a book since I was a little girl. As long as I can remember I've always been a writer and even as a young child I would write stories and make my own books all the time. When I launched the podcast in September of 2017, I thought that maybe I would write a book in five years. So when Dundurn asked me if I might have a book in me I didn't quite feel ready but it felt like an opportunity that I just couldn't pass up.
The most challenging part of writing the book was actually not the writing the book part, but managing writing a book with clients, freelance work, parenting, showering on a regular basis and just all the other things you have to do to keep your life going. I was lucky to spend a week working on my book at Artscape Gibraltar Point which was heaven.
I think the most rewarding part of the writing process was when Kathleen Shannon, who is the co-host of the Being Boss podcast, read my book. She was the first stranger to read the book and her feedback made me burst into tears. What she took away from the book was exactly what I had intended for readers to learn and take away; it was so amazing to know that the book was landing the way I had hoped.
What can readers expect from your book?
Readers can expect to first feel really angry when they learn about the history of menstrual shame and taboo, and how female bodies have been ignored throughout medical history. Beyond the rage, they'll also get to learn everything they didn't in health class about their menstrual cycles; why our cycles are important, and how we can use them as a vital sign to interpret our overall health and wellness. The book also has a practical guide to the tools of body literacy and how we can use nutrition, lifestyle and stress management to have a better period.
What’s your favourite self-care ritual?
In the second half of my cycle when I wake up feeling low energy and like I can’t possibly face work, I like to have what I call a “slow morning.” I’ll take a walk (or in the winter months a long hot shower with the works) after my kid and my husband leave for the day, and then I’ll go out for breakfast and just read a book. It’s amazing how much more productive I can be after a morning like that instead of just forcing myself to try and get down to work.
Name a book or film that really stuck with you.
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong was my absolute favourite book in my early twenties. I even have a tattoo inspired by the book. It's a Latin proverb that loosely translates to she flies with her own wings. Admittedly, I haven’t re-read it recently and I’m too afraid to just in case I hate it and then I’m stuck with a dumb tattoo.
Do you have a skincare and/or beauty routine?
I work from home most days which means that I don't often wear make-up. But skincare is very important to me. I have super sensitive skin so most of my skincare involves water -- drinking it and putting it on my skin -- and super clean, natural products. Most days I just wash my face with a wet face cloth and then I apply a serum or oil. On days when I do wear make-up, I always use coconut oil to take it off.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I started working in communications my first boss told me that her door was always open. I could always come to her with a problem no matter what it was on one condition: I had to come with a solution to fix it. It didn’t have to be the right answer, but I had to have some idea as to what to do next. That made me a great problem solver. Having a reputation for being able to solve problems has served me well over my career!
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