It's no secret that in the past months, I have gained quite a bit of body fat while recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea. Fat gain, which used to be a nightmare for me years ago, isn't that anymore, because I choose to look at it differently now.
I've chosen to be okay with my body fat and even like it. In today's post, I'll tell you how and why.
Recently, it has blown my mind to see over and over again how over consumed women can be by their thoughts on gaining weight, which is pretty much unavoidable when recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea. Here are just a few examples that I've recently come across:
Someone who owns a really, really thin and lean physique, said that she really wants to get her cycle back because she wants to have babies in the future. She is working as a personal trainer, she really loves her job and wants to do it as long as possible.
Good reasons to work on that recovery, right?
But, she feels like her butt is already getting huge, and she literally can't handle any more weight gain.
We're literally talking about a teeny tiny butt. The same woman also owns a set of uber lean abs that many people find attractive and dream about. Health magazines (or, should we call them sans–health magazines instead?) wouldn't need to do much or any photoshopping if they wanted to put her on the cover of an issue where they give away their “best tools” on how to lose 20 lbs in just two weeks.
Another woman who had gained around 18 lbs in the process of hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery and now had a BMI of 20, was upset when she met her high school friend whom she hadn't seen in years. That friend looked amazing, she was so small, “her BMI must have been 17-18”!
That seemed to be the most important thing about this friend.
Can we talk about how this friend is doing now? How's her life? How's her job and family? Is she happy? What did you guys do together?
No, the first thing we mention is how thin she was.
Why is it that we value thinness, light bodyweight and low BMI more than anything? More than our health?
How I Choose to Think About My Body Fat
I have decided to take a different route. My BMI is creeping up, being around 24 now. Also my fat percentage is getting higher, but I haven't measured it. I let them both go where they want to go.
I like to think that having more body fat is a good thing for me. Having too little of it wasn't, or otherwise I wouldn't have hypothalamic amenorrhea now.
My thighs are getting more jiggly, yes. My belly is definitely larger–that's where I tend to gain fat first. I may finally start to understand why some girls need to wear double sports bras… #boobgrowthspurt
I'm not in love with these changes, but I'm accepting them. Even if I look in the mirror and have some negative feelings about those things (ummm.. ok, no complaints on the last one), I remind myself what they are good for.
Here's why I choose to like my body fat:
My Body Fat Protects My Body
Even though my eating has been pretty intuitive for the past 3 years, there were many years before that time when I ate very little, especially when I was running a lot. My body couldn't function properly anymore, because it was depleted from nutrients.
The body fat I have gained helps to fuel my cells with lots of energy, protects my organs, and helps to rebuild my tissues again. I like to think that it's a plant that haven't had any water in a while, and it's now finally getting some. It absorbs everything it's receiving and uses it to repair everything that needs to be repaired.
This fat that I've gained sends signals to my body that everything is okay, you are safe. My body fat protects me from getting sick and losing my hormone balance again (even though it's not back to normal again, but I'm way closer than I used to be).
My Body Fat Gives Me Stronger Bones
I haven't had my bone density checked, but chances are that about 10 years of no natural period have caused me some loss of bone density. I feel like I don't want to get that scan, because I am quite sure that the results will only freak me out. I haven't decided about it yet though.
According to some sources, women who have hypothalamic amenorrhea, lose about 5% of their bone density per year. For example, small accidents, like stepping off a curb wrong may cause a simple fracture in healthy people, but may likely lead to breaking a bone in those who have (had) hypothalamic amenorrhea.
I used to think that I have worked out so much in my life that I have strong bones anyway, but I now know that it's not comparable to building strong bones through normal hormone production (which requires ovulation).
Increasing body fat is the key to stop bone loss and start rebuilding bone tissue. Worrying and obsessing about little bit of cellulite is just ridiculous, especially when you know that body fat is what helps you to repair your bones.
I choose cellulite and stronger bones over super lean body and weak bones. I hope you do the same.
(I'm not saying that you can't be lean and have strong bones at the same time. If you're lean and menstruating and ovulating normally, it's all cool!)
My Body Fat Allows Me to Sleep Better
My body fat–my softer belly and bigger butt–actually help me sleep better, and I'm really happy about it. I've struggled with sleep way too many years in my life.
My main problem was always waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep again. I was never able to sleep in, even in the weekends. Even if I wanted to, I just couldn't.
I went on years and years like that. I tried several things. I took melatonin. Sleep pills. Valerian root. Baths. Walking. You name it, I tried it. Some of these things helped more, others less, some didn't do anything.
Now as I've put on quite a bit of body fat, I sleep better. Even just 4 months ago, when I was just a month in to my recovery, I slept 5–5.5 hours on average. Now, I sleep at least 6.5–7 hours each night, which still isn't a whole lot, but it's a huge improvement.
And some nights…
Wait for it…
I sleep 8 hours.
I don't mind my slightly jiggly thighs if they help me sleep two to three hours more than I used to, and as I result, feel and function like a normal human being, not a zombie.
Don't hate your body fat. Don't drive yourself nuts trying to lose it, if it comes with the cost of your own health. Don't think that having less body fat will necessarily make you healthier. And it definitely doesn't make you a better or cooler person. You're still the same you.
Learn to accept your body fat and maybe even like it. Think about all the things it's done and keeps doing for you, and you may realize that there's no reason to fight it.
If you need support on your journey to recover from overtraining or hypothalamic amenorrhea, my ebook, programs and FREE 20-minute coaching calls are available for you! I get back to every email, so let me know if I can help.