No Rujuta Diwekar you don't get rid of period pain by just ‘upping ur fitness quotient’
‘Pain during period & sex is abnormal. Don’t let anyone normalise it with a leave or lubricant. Up ur fitness quotient & change d partner.’
This is a tweet from Rujuta Diwekar, nutritionist to Bollywood’s finest including Kareena Kapoor.
The tweet starts off as well meaning: Yes, pain during periods and sex is abnormal, and yes we must never let anyone normalise it. But after that it’s a downward spiral. Ms Diwekar does exactly what she is preaching against. She normalises period pain by suggesting that simply ‘upping your fitness quotient’ and ‘changing your partner’ will get rid of the problem. And the part about leave and lubricant? I really hope she doesn't mean that taking a day off during painful periods or using lube for painful sex is unacceptable. I really hope, because this sort of insensitivity from a nutritionist of her calibre isn’t just insensitive, it’s dangerous.
Allow me to explain.
I got diagnosed with grade IV, the most severe form of endometriosis, when I was 28. Why did it reach this severity? Why was the diagnosis so late? Because of sweeping statements (like the tweet above) and generalisations by people who normalised my pain. “It happens to all girls” they said. “You need to learn to be more tolerant,” they said. “Lying around in bed will increase your pain, get up and walk around,” they said. So for years I was in pain popping four Brufens a day, trying to soldier on, because it's just period pain right?
It was only when my periods didn't stop for a month that I got diagnosed. But by then everything was out of control.
So when someone as influential as Ms Diwekar tweets over-simplistic solutions to complicated problems there’s a chance that more cases of endometriosis will go undiagnosed. Mothers will tell their daughters that “look Rujuta Diwekar said that all you need to do is exercise and your pain will go away”. Women will look at their partners and think that he's responsible for pain during sex. They won’t realise that perhaps they could have endometriosis, which causes painful sex. Young women will assume that their fatigue and pain is just psychological - just throw on a pair of sneakers and go for a run (even though it would be better to rest). And no one will go to the doctor, because they (wrongly) think that the solution lies in just upping your fitness quotient and changing your partner.
I wish life was that simple.
I've always been into sports and exercise. In school I was sports captain of my house and today I am a certified yoga teacher. I have been practicing yoga almost everyday for many years, and during primary series I never miss a vinyasa. I eat healthy, pop my supplements and do everything I can to ensure that I’m pain free. But it doesn’t always help. In fact, I have been advised by my yoga guru to swap the high-intensity primary series for the moon sequence, which is softer, gentler and more restorative.
Look at endometriosis boards around the world and you’ll find that many long distance runners have to make adjustments in their running style to get relief from pain. Because we endo girls have had so many surgeries there are adhesions and scar tissue that gets inflamed by too much exercise. Working out is important, just like eating healthy is, but it's an over-simplistic solution that trivialises extreme period pain, which a symptom of a deeper problem.
It’s bad enough that a lot of gynaecologists don’t do internal checkups on unmarried women in our country. But to also have one of the most respected names in nutrition give sweeping statements like the one above is both foolish and irresponsible.
I’m not saying that everyone with extreme period pain or pain during sex has endometriosis. But it is a serious health problem, which needs to be diagnosed by a doctor.