Many may not be aware, but March is Endometriosis Awareness Month.
To shine a light on this condition and help raise awareness we spent a morning with Ailsa, who has been living with Endometriosis since her onset of menstruation as a teen.
More than an Endo sufferer, Ailsa is a Vinyasa yoga teacher, boxing coach (and champion 💪), and runs Hot Girl Boxing a group for Women, non-binary and queer folk alike.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an amateur boxer with Islington Boxing Club and coach boxing around East London, including my amazing hotties at Hot Girl Boxing. Amateur boxing takes up a lot of my time during the season so there’s a lot of eat, train sleep, repeat, so outside of punching I’m almost definitely watching The Real Housewives.
I’m a huge advocate of working with and understanding your menstrual cycle (and everything that goes with it), so was delighted when Beija wanted to chat all things Endometriosis & periods.Can you describe your journey to your Endometriosis diagnosis?
A long one. As a teenager, I was quite late starting my period, and once I did they would only come every three months or so. When they did come, I’d often be bedridden, sick and paralysed with pain. I never really questioned the pain I was experiencing as abnormal because I thought that was just how period pain felt. It was only at the age of 17 when my mum had to pick me up from a day trip in town because I was curled up on the floor in pain.
From then I bounced in & out of GP & hospital appointments until the age of 22 when I finally got my diagnosis and my first laparoscopy.
How would you describe the effects Endometriosis has had on your life?
It is a hard one because I so desperately don’t want it to have control over me and my life, but the reality is it will always be there. I’ll always be conscious of my cycle when making plans and it doesn’t stop frustrating when I have a flare-up. But at the same time, I probably wouldn’t have pursued my career in fitness without it.
How do you manage the condition and do you have any advice for anyone else struggling with Endometriosis?
There is a lot of (poor) information on the internet, especially around diet & nutrition for endo. My first piece of advice is you can’t diet your way out of endo. When I was first diagnosed, I was reading all this information about ‘inflammatory’ & ‘clean’ foods, which essentially left me on a diet of only chicken & spinach and some disordered eating.
Everyone’s body behaves & responds differently, I have some foods that can trigger a flare-up, and they are ones I avoid. But there is no blanket rule for everyone and I'm a big believer that the body will tell you what's right & not. The one thing I always recommend is black pudding (sorry veggies). It is the easiest way to get iron into you, especially over your period when you might be lacking. I have a black pudding sandwich every morning of my period and it honestly makes such a difference.
There can often be quite a push to use contraception and I think I've given almost all of them a shot. Again, this falls under the 'no one size fits all' rule, but I know my body hates being on contraception. For me, it has serious effects on my periods making them longer, heavier & more painful, my mental health deteriorates and I'm left feeling like a stranger in myself. For me it doesn't work, I track my periods instead so I know roughly when I'm going to have bad days and manage from there.
Outside of that, there is a bit of trial and error, along with the acceptance that nothing is going to ‘cure’ it. I felt a difference in my PMS & mood swings taking CBD, painkillers can numb the pain but can leave you feeling a bit woozy. It is finding whatever works for you & your body.
Is there a connection between your athletic pursuits and your condition?
Hugely. I've always been relatively sporting and competed in equestrian through my teens. Moving to London stopped that and gave different gyms & activities until I landed on boxing. I discovered boxing about a year out from my second laparoscopy but stopped doing about 6 months before because the pain & regularity was becoming unmanageable. After 6 months of essentially trying to party away the pain, I had my lap at the start of 2019 where there also found adenomyosis along with the endo. As an additional treatment, I was temporarily induced into menopause for the majority of the year. Menopause as a 27-year-old is a wild ride and one that felt so lonely. I threw myself into training and boxing became my north star. I decided towards the end of 2019 I wanted to go amateur and start competing, had a brief pause on those plans because of COVID, and then had my first season in 2022.
Boxing helped me move away from feeling that my body was failing me, and instead proved what it could do when I work with it.
What inspired you to start Hot Girl Boxing? Tell us a little more about the group.
I have such an amazing community within boxing, but that initial step through the door can be a scary and men-dominated one. I wanted to create a community for women, queer & non-binary people to box in. I’m also a massive Megan The Stallion fan, hence the name.
HGB is open to all levels, everyone mixes in together and learns from each other whether they are brand new or old hands. We meet fortnightly on a Saturday mornings - trying to keep it outside as long as the weather holds!
2023 will be the year of Hot Girl, we’ve already got merch and got some cool events in the pipeline so come & join!
How would you define your relationship with your body?
I refuse to believe that anyone manages to survive their teen years without some kind of self-esteem crisis. I was definitely no different, and hating on your body is a very easy crutch we all can lean on. Looking back, a lot of my resentment was probably rooted in not understanding my body and constantly feeling it didn't work. As with most things, you get wiser with age and I started working with, rather than against my body.
I believe the relationship you have with your body is never linear or set.
What is important to you when buying lingerie/underwear?
Fit & feel.
Lingerie needs to fit to your body. If the basics are off, it'll to leave you feeling off all over.
There's also the feeling of it when it's on. Sometimes there is nothing sexier than a well-fitting basic.
What’s your favourite range from the Beija collection?
Forecast in Petrol Blue is a gorge colour & I love the Waves range.
Any words of wisdom?
My auntie always told me to pass the good on.
There will be people who help you in life, and often you can’t return the favour directly back to them. So instead help the next person out when you have the chance to.
Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition where endometrial tissue (tissue similar to the lining of the uterus) grows outside of the uterus. It is estimated that 1 in 10 women have endometriosis - 1.5 million in the UK (similar to the number affected by diabetes or asthma) yet over half of people don't know what it is.
Endometriosis frequently presents with the symptom of pain including dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse), and chronic pelvic or abdominal pain and can cause infertility. Click here to learn more about Endometriosis.