28 Days wins the National Indie Excellence Award

My Hormonology

28 Days wins the National Indie Excellence Award

BY GABRIELLE LICHTERMAN

 

AUGUST 16, 2020—I’m proud to share that my book, 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals About Your Moods, Health & Potential, won the 2019 National Indie Excellence Award.

This award is given to authors of independently-published books. It’s an especially meaningful honor for me considering the path that 28 Days took from its first incarnation in 2005, which was published by a traditional book publisher, to the updated and expanded edition that I published myself in 2019.

If you’re unfamiliar with the twists and turns that it took to get 28 Days into print–then back into print–I’ve posted the story from the Preface of my book below. It explains why I turned down unsolicited offers from literary agents and traditional book publishers who wanted to publish the new 2019 edition. And it shows why independently publishing 28 Days was my way of guaranteeing that this vital hormone knowledge would be available to everyone without interruption.

If you’re a fan of Hormonology, you’ll probably enjoy reading the full story of how it all began–then began again. And, if you have an important message in you that you want to share it in a book, you’ll likely find learning about the unexpected challenges you face with traditional publishing illuminating–and why independently publishing your book may be the better option for you….

The Story Behind Hormonology

In 1999, everything I thought I knew about my menstrual cycle changed.

As part of my job as a women’s health journalist, I was looking for new research to report on for articles. That’s when I came upon a newly-released study that surprised me: The researchers discovered that women’s preferences in romantic partners shift according to where they are in their menstrual cycle. The study found that women tend to prefer dominant-looking mates on the days leading up to and including ovulation; and, women prefer softer-looking mates after ovulation is over.1

This was Earth-shattering news. Why? Because up until this point in history, virtually the only information women got about the hormones in their monthly cycle was that they caused premenstrual and period-related grumpiness. That’s it. End of story.

It was revelatory to hear that hormones impacted the type of mates women gravitate toward—and that this shifted in a predictable way during our cycle.

However, despite how surprising this news was, I had a hunch: If there was one study like this, I suspected there were more.

So, I began diving into medical journals looking for studies examining hormonal effects in a woman’s monthly cycle. And, I found hundreds. Then, I found thousands.

These studies revealed that the ups and downs of our hormones impact virtually every aspect of our lives—our mood, energy, health, memory, confidence, libido, appetite, desire to socialize as well as how we spend money, the foods we crave and on and on and on.

These studies also revealed that our hormones impact us in all of these ways all cycle long—not just during our period or premenstrually.

The biggest revelation yet to come

Fueled by a desire to learn more about the ups and downs of hormones in my cycle, I spent every spare moment reading studies, diving into endocrinology books and interviewing endocrinology researchers to gather all the information I could.

As I compiled this data, I realized something that would change my life—and likely every other cycling woman’s life—forever:

I discovered that I could string all of these studies together, connecting them and plugging them into each day of a menstrual cycle calendar.

I also discovered that because hormones followed the same up and down pattern cycle after cycle, this meant that hormonal effects were also the same cycle after cycle.

Together, this meant that I—and all other women with healthy, natural menstrual cycles—could know how their hormones would be impacting their mood, energy, health and more every single day of their cycle.

It also meant that these hormonal effects were entirely predictable. We could know what our mood, energy, health and more would be today, tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now and so on.

The researchers tried to tell us

I was thrilled to learn so much about how my hormones impacted me. It was like a whole new world opened up to me—one that was right inside my own body.

Yet, I also felt angry.

I looked for books, classes, courses and doctors who might be sharing this wide breadth of information about hormonal effects with women. But, there were none.

I could not understand why there had been decades of research conducted on the many ways hormones impact women throughout our cycle, yet virtually none of it was getting passed on to us. This was information that we could use to understand ourselves a whole lot better, to plan our lives and to improve our health. And, yet this research was hidden away.

Years after I began delving into hormone research, I discovered that some scientists actually did try to tell us about this information.

In their studies, they wrote about how practical this knowledge could be for women and how they could sync their lives with their cycles. And, when interviewed for magazines and newspapers about their work, they’d bring it up.

For example, in a study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine that was conducted by Cornell University researchers way back in 1941, the authors discovered through surveys that there are two times when women are most active during their cycles: the days leading up to and including ovulation and the premenstrual phase. They also noted that women are happier during their busy days around ovulation, yet more irritable, tense and/or depressed during their busy premenstrual days. They went on to note the practical use for their findings: “…knowledge of a woman’s sex [hormone] cycle would aid her in planning her work on a sensible biological basis.”2

In 1988, pioneering cycle researcher and psychologist Doreen Kimura, Ph.D., led a study that demonstrated women perform better at spatial skills when estrogen is low and perform better at verbal skills when estrogen is high during their cycle. When she was interviewed about her findings in Science News, she said, “…’it’s not a ridiculous suggestion’ that women may want to schedule such tests—or other activities such as college entrance exams—at particular times of the month to enhance their scores.”3

So, why then did their cycle-syncing messages go unheard?

It may be that only other researchers who had access to these studies listened to their call. It may be because the few interviews they gave to publications were quickly forgotten. Or, it may be that the world simply wasn’t ready.

In an article about Kimura’s 1988 study in The New York Times, the then-president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women was asked her opinion on it and “…expressed concern that the findings could be misused. ‘This could fall into the category of why can’t a woman be President,’ she said, adding that other factors, such as the circadian rhythms associated with the earth’s rotation, also influence individual performance.”4

I took on the role of “bridge”

As a women’s health journalist, it’s my job to bridge the gap between scientists and readers who can use their research. I’ve spent years examining studies and interviewing researchers about a wide range of topics, then distilling their findings into easy-to-understand, practical self-help articles that can be used to improve a reader’s life right away.

I also happen to be someone who is both a supporter of women (as a woman myself) and a fan of science.

It was clear to me that these menstrual cycle researchers had an important message to share with the people who could use it—and I was in a position professionally and personally where I could try to help share it. Since no one had yet been a bridge for these researchers studying hormonal effects, I decided I would volunteer to be that bridge.

28 Days is conceived

With such a wide breadth of information to share about how a woman’s hormones impact her mood, energy and so much more, I knew that I needed to write more than just a one-off article in a magazine that would be off the rack and forgotten after just a week or month. I needed a way for this information to stick around a long time.

So, I decided to write a book. It would offer a daily summary of hormonal effects that helped women predict their day. I called this daily summary the “Hormone Horoscope”.

My goal was for readers to be able to plan their lives more effectively: They could capitalize on hormonal benefits by syncing activities, hobbies, social plans, doctor’s appointments and more with their cycle. And, I wanted to help them overcome hormonal challenges (such as insomnia, sensitivity to pain and mood issues) by showing them when they’re more likely to crop up so they could prepare for them.

I recall inviting my husband, Douglas, on a walk on the 5th Avenue side of Central Park toward the Conservatory duck pond and telling him about my plan. That walk along the tree-canopied path is burned into my memory because I had an intuitive feeling that this book would be launching my life into a new direction in a significant way.

My husband was fully supportive and excited for me to get started. His unwavering cheerleading was, and has always been, fuel for all of my projects. His passion further ignited mine and I was ready to get the book proposal underway to find a publisher.

But, before I did, I wanted to make sure that all of the research I was poring over really could be used to accurately predict my mood, energy and more in my day. So, I kept a daily diary for three months. I wrote down everything I could—emotions I experienced, how chatty I was, how high or low my libido was, the foods I craved, whether I made social plans or canceled them, what kind of activities I wanted to do, etc.

By the end of the third month, I took my diary notes and went back to my mountain of studies. It was uncanny how close the research matched where I was in my cycle!

So, it was settled—I was convinced this was accurate and I was now going to write a book and let the world know about this revelation.

28 Days is published—then unpublished

In 2004, no one outside medical and scientific circles was talking publicly about hormones. It was still considered a taboo topic. Despite this, I got a literary agent interested in the idea and, soon after, a publishing company offered to publish my book.

It was titled 28 Days and in May 2005, my book introducing my daily Hormone Horoscope hit the stands.

I was convinced that this book was so groundbreaking that it would change lives forever starting immediately.

In fact, despite the taboo topic, I did get wide media attention on television and radio and in magazines and newspapers around the globe. My book was dubbed “one of the top 10 women’s health books of 2005” by About.com. I was asked to be a spokesperson for two companies—Procter & Gamble for their Always “Have a Happy Period” campaign and Instead Softcup, one of the early pioneers of menstrual cups. And, 28 Days was translated into several languages, including Italian, Japanese and Korean.

Yet, there were huge disappointments, too:

My book did not change women’s lives overnight. I had naively hoped that once this information about hormones got out into the world, it would be embraced by everyone right away. I mean, it’s just so insightful and useful! Unfortunately, the hope of an overnight success was a fantasy that never materialized.

On top of that, some feminist reporters and bloggers bristled at the suggestion that women were influenced by their hormones and felt that my pointing it out was pushing back progress made by the women’s movement.

But, worst of all, my publisher unexpectedly pulled 28 Days from bookstore shelves not long after its publication. I only discovered this when I went into a bookstore and inquired about 28 Days since I didn’t see any copies there. After checking the computer, the store clerk informed me that it was no longer for sale. I couldn’t even order it. It felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me. I left the bookstore in tears.

The surprising disappearance of my book happened to come shortly after a disagreement I had with my publisher’s publicist. It had seemed trivial to me at the time, yet it was difficult to dismiss the coincidental timing. But, perhaps despite the glowing press I’d garnered, hormones simply weren’t a hot enough topic to generate sales. I’ll never know for sure why my publisher pulled 28 Days because to this day I’ve never been told.

So, after years of researching and writing 28 Days, I was right back where I started: I had all this useful and surprising information about women’s hormones that could change women’s lives—but, aside from the scientists who conducted the studies, no one knew about it. I could no longer rely on my book to be the tool to spread this information. I needed something else.

Hormonology is born

Once my book was pulled by the publisher, I realized I needed to develop other methods to share information about hormonal effects in a woman’s cycle—ways that could not be taken away by anyone else.

That’s when I founded Hormonology—an educational outreach mission that would teach women and girls how hormones impact their moods, health and behavior all cycle long.

While still working full-time as a women’s health journalist, I used every spare moment I could find to launch Hormonology tools. These included a website (MyHormonology.com) that offers a host of free information, short guides that could be shared (including how to update the “period talk” with basic hormone information) and a suite of Hormone Horoscope Apps for women and teens and an app for male partners of cycling women called the Female Forecaster.

The new edition of 28 Days

While I’ve been happy to offer all of these Hormonology tools, I’ve always felt that a book was the best tool I could offer. That’s because it’s just so comprehensive. I love how you can go into each chapter for each day of your cycle and find out a wide range of hormonal effects impacting you, plus how and why these hormones do what they do.

So, in 2017, I began writing 28 Days all over again—from scratch. There had been over a decade of new research published about hormones since the first edition of 28 Days came out. Plus, over the years, my journalism skills had become more finely honed and I’d gotten a lot better at delivering hormone information to readers; like me, Hormonology had matured and evolved.

Because of this, I was certain that a bigger, better 28 Days was in me.

Another major improvement: Self-publishing has come a long way since 2005. Authors no longer need to rely on publishers to get a book into circulation. This is a huge relief because I never want this information held back again.

And, possibly the most important addition is your voices. When I first published 28 Days in 2005, I was the only woman aside from menstrual cycle researchers who had been using hormone knowledge in such a comprehensive way throughout her cycle. Since its publication, and the growth of my website and creation of my Hormone Horoscope Apps, I’ve been joined by millions of women worldwide who now use hormone knowledge all cycle long.

Many of you have reached out to me to give me your comments, opinions and requests. You told me how you want the information delivered, what kind of details you want me to include, what additional topics to cover and more.

All of your feedback has helped Hormonology grow. And, it’s helped 28 Days go from the voice one to the voice to many.

That’s where this edition you’re reading now comes in. It’s longer and more comprehensive than the original. It’s written in a way that’s easier to understand and use. It includes the voices of Hormonology fans worldwide. And, it’s here to stay.

What else is new in this edition:

  • Updated hormone research
  • Graphs to illustrate hormone levels in your cycle
  • Short easy-to-reference daily summaries
  • New daily Hormone Horoscope sections, such as “Friends & Family” and “Exercise & Sports”
  • More tips to help overcome hormonal challenges

.

Where we go from here

When I started researching and writing the first edition of 28 Days, I was in my late 20s/early 30s. I was the first menstruating woman outside the research community to have this broad spectrum of hormone information to use to sync my life with my menstrual cycle.

As I write this new edition of 28 Days, I’m 48 years old—and I’m deep into perimenopause: I’ve been skipping periods and my hormonal effects have been haphazard, which is expected.

As I look back upon the years when I had a regular monthly cycle, I am so profoundly grateful that I was able to get the most out of my hormonal ups and downs. I was able to take advantage of my hormonal strengths, minimize my hormonal challenges and understand myself in a much deeper, more meaningful way.

And, I want that for you. When you stand on the precipice of menopause, I want you to look back on your cycling years knowing you made the most of them—because you knew how.

I’m proud to be the person who spearheaded the recent movement to live in sync with your menstrual cycle and know all about how your hormones impact your moods, health and behavior. I’m even prouder to see this movement has grown worldwide to touch millions of lives.

My hope is that you love learning about your cycle and how to use it as a tool to plan your life, enjoy greater self-understanding and improve your health.

I also hope that you’ll take this knowledge and share it family, friends and especially teens. Every girl deserves to know at least the basics of how their hormones impact their moods, health and behavior with their very first cycle. No more spending years guessing and trying to figure it out along the way.

Armed with this vital hormone information, we can all make every day of our cycles better.

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SOURCES:
(1) Ian S. Penton-Voak, et al., “Menstrual cycle alters face preference,” Nature, 399 (1999): 741-742.
(2) M. Altmann, E. Knowles, H. D. Bull, “A psychosomatic study of the sex cycle in women,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 3 (1941): 199-224.
(3) “Women’s skills linked to estrogen levels,” The Free Library. 1988. Science Service Inc., retrieved online April 3, 2019.
(4) “Female Sex Hormone Is Tied To Ability to Perform Tasks,” The New York Times, November 18, 1988, A00001.

 

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