Okay, you may be thinking that hypothalamic amenorrhea has little to do with my ability to write. I may be missing my period but I still have my brain, fingers and laptop.
But, it's more difficult than that.
Even if you've never had hypothalamic amenorrhea yourself (I sure hope so), you may still have heard of it.
But if not, here's what it basically is: It's a condition in which you're period has been gone for months, and you're not pregnant.
Your period can go MIA for various reasons, but some of the most common ones are excessive exercising and extreme food restriction. As you may guess, the most important recovery tools are the exact opposite: In most cases, you have to stop or significantly reduce exercising and increase food intake.
Which takes me back to why I haven't been writing here…
When you're used to think of yourself as a fairly fit person–okay, you think that fitness is basically who and what you are, that's what's your true passion is and that's what you do for living, then this condition is more than physiological. It's more than having non-functioning ovaries. It can also paralyze your brains for a bit.
Then you start to feel that you can't write a fitness blog, because for a second, you question if you are the right person to do it. Also, you're just a teeeny bit depressed (ok, a lot) to write anything at all.
But I'm Not Underweight….
Hypothalamic amenorrhea typically occurs in women who do lots of cardio training and especially running, eat too little, lose a lot of weight and as a result, develop FAT syndrome. Their body mass index drops below the recommended minimal 18.5, and their body fat percentage is not sufficient to keep the normal hormone production going and periods cycling.
I'm guilty in doing a lot of this in the past. I've done lots of cardio, limited my food intake and as a result of both, lost a lot of weight. That was many years ago. I've also been very stressed, even diagnosed with depression, which definitely worsens the situation.
However, I have had a good, restriction-free relationship with food for several years now, my MBI is way beyond 18.5, I eat what I feel my body needs in amounts that satisfy me, I have zero interest in counting calories or trying any diets, but I still have hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Honestly I don't know if my period is missing because of the possible damage that I did when I used to run like it's my job while eating like a bird, or a lot of mental stress and depression that I was diagnosed with, or both, or 3-4 years on the pill–also years ago, or if it's the combination of all of those things.
Seeking For Help
I've had hypothalamic amenorrhea for a long time, and during the years, I've seen several doctors. However, I haven't found help.
In October 2016 I started seeing acupuncturist for some wrist pain. As we talked about the rest of my health, I mentioned him also that I have hypothalamic amenorrhea. I just never thought he could help me with it, so I wasn't planning to talk about it before.
To my surprise, he said he might be able to help. As we kept discussing it, it became clear that my hypothalamic amenorrhea may actually be a bigger problem for me than my sore wrists.
We started addressing that in my acupuncture sessions, but he also wanted me to cut wayyyy back on exercise and eat even more.
Cut back exercise… This one was hard for me. I bet you're not surprised.
First Reaction: Fear
So, for many weeks after hearing this from my acupuncturist, I was totally bummed. I thought, how can I be a fitness trainer or write a fitness blog if I can't workout myself? Who am I to give people fitness advice? Can I be taken seriously?
And while I literally don't care about the number on a scale, I do care about how I look and how my clothes fit. I'm a fitness professional and I also want to look like one. I don't mean having washboard abs–really, I don't need it. But I do want to be and look fit and healthy.
I was afraid that if I gain a lot of weight, people don't see me as someone to trust as a trainer.
I have gained weight a few times in my life, and I didn't like it. I didn't want to experience it again.
Second Reaction: Sadness
I was also definitely feeling a lot of sadness. I had to cut down exercising a lot, which is extremely hard to do if you've been consistently exercised since you were probably ten years old. Also during those times when I had put on weight, I still exercised–I just ate more (and boozed a lot, because that's what you when you are exchange student).
Now working out was going to be taken away from me. And that sucked…
I was allowed to do yoga and walking, but running and high intensity interval training were going to be off limits. Anything that gets me out of breath was going to be off limits.
All that got me really sad and frustrated.. and while the first 2-3 weeks were fine to just walk, I soon started missing more “muscle work”. I wanted to squat! Lift heavy things!
I talked to my acupuncturist about it and he said that I can do some slow weight training but only if I really have energy for it, if I'm feeling fresh and had a good night sleep, and if I don't do it more than a few times a week. I had to be honest with myself and not push it at all.
I will write about my current “training plan” in another post.
Third Reaction: There's Hope
Finally, I calmed down a bit.
I did a lot of research to find blogs and articles on overcoming hypothalamic amenorrhea. I wanted to find stories of girls who have recovered, to prove to myself that I can do it too. There are plenty of stories like this, so there's hope. If other girls have gotten over it, I will get over it too.
There are many question marks in the air though. I'm not your typical example of a woman with hypothalamic amenorrhea, in terms of bodyweight and eating habits. There are women who run ten miles daily, lift weights a few times a week, and eat 1000 calories while doing all that, so losing their period isn't really surprising.
As said, I'm way over the recommended 18.5 BMI, I eat a lot, I don't restrict anything, I used to worked out 20-30 minutes a day at most, but… still nothing.
Maybe I just need a really long recovery from the old days when I used to run too much and eat too little?
I don't know, but I'm going to find out.
So, there's that–I have hypothalamic amenorrhea.
What's going to happen to this blog? Well, for a while, you definitely won't be seeing any HIIT workouts here, or me swinging kettlebells or doing hundreds of burpees.
I'm standing behind all the workouts that you find here on the blog and believe that they can give you great results in terms of fat loss and strength gain, but for now, these workouts are not for me.
On the blog, I will focus a lot on hypothalamic amenorrhea, deep a bit deeper on the topic, and share some mindset tips that I've used to make it easier for me. I will also share some recipes because good food is important in recovery! Just don't expect low-fat 300-calorie meal ideas here. Well, I haven't really made any of those for years anyways, because I'm a firm believer that you've got to eat your fats, stop all depriving and have a life instead.
If you have any questions related to hypothalamic amenorrhea, you have it now or you have overcome it, just leave your comment or shoot me an email. I'd love to hear from you!