It’s time for another hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery story. I hope you find these stories inspiring and that they help you to stay on track with your own recovery.
The goal of these stories is to keep you on your recovery track and working towards your prize – your period and your health! If you missed the earlier amenorrhea recovery stories, you can find them here:
Lindsay: “There’s Now More Freedom In My Life!”
Brandi: “It Wasn’t As Scary As I Thought.”
Christina: “If You’re Obsessed with Exercise, Give It Up. Now!”
Jill: “Running 50+ Miles in the Weekend in Addition to Weekly Mileage Wasn’t Smart For Me.”
Today’s story is from Amy.
She got her hormones back on track just recently. Her story is amazing in that it shows you that getting your period back is way more than just fixing your body. During her recovery, Amy realized that she has the confidence to quit her job that se hated and look for something better–something she was never able to do before.
How awesome is that?
I’m a firm believer that it’s SO important to do work you love, just like it’s important to eat the way you like, move the way is enjoyable for you and spend your time with people that you like. All these things shape our lives and make us the people we are.
Great work Amy!
Before we hear more about Amy’s story, here are some facts about her hypothalamic amenorrhea and recovery:
- She had hypothalamic amenorrhea for 8 years although she didn’t know it was HA until 6 months ago
- Time it took to recover: 4 months from going all in, although she had made big strides towards recovery about 12 months prior to that
- She has had 2 cycles
- She gained 28 lbs from her lowest point but half of this was during hypothalamic amenorrhea, as she fell into a binge/restrict cycle which caused her to gain weight quickly.
When did you realize that you had hypothalamic amenorrhea? Were you aware of the effects on your health?
I knew that I had a problem with food and exercise for a long time. I tried to get treatment for disordered eating in the past but was never taken seriously by doctors as my weight was in the normal BMI range. I was told I had PCOS by doctors which explained my lack of periods. It wasn’t until 6 months ago (November 2016) that I realized that I actually had hypothalamic amenorrhea.
What was your training like at the peak of your hypothalamic amenorrhea?
The peak of my HA was actually the first few years. In that time I would be at the gym most days for 1.5-2 hours followed by half an hour in the pool as a “cool down”.
More recently I exercised a lot less and definitely what is considered a sensible amount by most, an hour 4-5 times a week but this reduction was not enough to get my period back.
(Kersten’s comment: This is why you should fully commit to recovery!)
What was your relationship with food like? Did you restrict, count calories/macros, were on diets often, etc?
I have been through phases of all of these…
The first 2 years of hypothalamic amenorrhea I was restricting severely, counting calories and aiming to eat less than I burned through exercise. I had nooo idea that my body needs energy just to function!
After a while my body rebelled and I started to binge. I fell into a binge/restrict cycle which lasted for about 5 years. About 12 months before going all in, I found a whole foods vegan lifestyle and finally gave up trying to restrict my calories. I ate A LOT more but carried on restricting the types of food I ate and despite eating over 2500 calories most days, my period still did not come back.
I aimed to eat less than I burned through exercise. I had no idea that my body needs energy just to function!Click to tweet
Was there any point in your life where you lost a significant amount of weight?
Not really, when I started this I don’t think I ever had much to lose! I started at BMI 19 and maybe lost about 10lbs. After that my weight bounced up and down within a 10-15lb range.
(Note from Kersten: According to this book, 10 lbs weight loss is enough to lose your period, even though it may not seem much and even if it happened many years ago.)
What was your main reason to start recovery?
I was sick of my life being controlled by food and exercise and I wanted to take my power back. And I wanted to feel like a woman again! I was sick of feeling anxious, tired, irritable and having no libido.
When you found out that you’ll need to stop or significantly reduce exercise and eat more, what was your reaction? Were you okay with it or were you hoping to find another solution?
I really struggled to give up exercise, I had the identity as “the fit one” so letting going of this was hard. I was terrified of gaining weight and scared of the unknown. Eating more was not difficult but letting go of my food rules and accepting that all foods are equal was a challenge. I still struggle with this today although now I am aware of my thoughts and emotions and choose not to act on them.
While you were recovering, did you cut out all exercise or kept doing some?
The key for me was cancelling my gym membership and cutting out all intense exercise. I did carry on doing yoga a few times a week and walking as long as it was less than an hour a day.
Tell us a few examples of how you changed your eating.
I used to only eat whole foods – fruit, veggies, grains, nuts, seeds. Recovery involved giving myself permission to eat EVERYTHING.
For me the things I craved were biscuits, chocolate and nut butters and I went a little crazy on these for a while. I surrendered to the process and kept reminding myself that it was ok and that this is a normal reaction when you have deprived yourself for so long and over time things settled out.
Now I just eat normally, some days more than others (I can still polish off a packet of biscuits in one sitting when I get the urge!). I can eat with family and friends without having to question or worry about the ingredients and I can eat what I want at restaurants without agonizing over the menu or just choosing the lowest calorie option I can.. It’s ace!
What particularly was so scary about gaining weight?
I was terrified. I had already gained weight before going all in and was at a comfortable BMI. I didn’t see WHY I should have to gain more and found that very frustrating. The idea of getting to BMI 23, 24, 25 really scared me and I just couldn’t see how I could possibly accept my body at that size.
I also had fears about not gaining weight in the “right places” as I have a tendency to look chunky rather than curvy.
Was there anything else you did to speed up recovery? Did any of this help?
I tried acupuncture a few times. It’s not a magic bullet but I don’t think it did any harm. Other than that– no, just good old food and rest.
What kind of positive changes did you notice during your recovery?
I experienced less anxiety, better social life, increased libido, self-compassion, more free time, warmer hands and feet and better digestion.
Now as you’ve restored your periods, what else has changed about you?
I have quit my job that I have hated for ages and decided to do something else with my life! Without hypothalamic amenorrhea I don’t think I would ever have developed the confidence in myself to do this.
Without #HA, I would never have developed the confidence in myself to quit the job I hated.Click to tweet
I am happier, more relaxed and generally more fun to be around. I also feel like since I started caring for myself more I also am more caring towards others and have much more mental time and energy to spend on those I love
What is the biggest lesson you learned from this journey?
Health is something that comes from within, it is unique to us and it should feel free flowing and fun, not like we are swimming upstream! I have developed an internal caretaker and actually feel like I finally know how to look after myself at age 24 😊
Thank You Amy!
Amy has also started a brand new blog, www.realwomanhealth.org. Check her out there!
PS: If you too are suffering from hypothalamic amenorrhea and want to beat it (you should!), the 5-Step Overtraining Rehab Program can help you.