Recovering from overtraining and hypothalamic amenorrhea isn't the most fun thing you've done in your life. You may even doubt several times along this journey and ask yourself: Is this thing working? How do I know I'm on the right way?
There are some very positive, but also a few not-so-fun signs (that are still positive though!) that you get from your body when you take a break from training in order to let it heal. Here's what you may experience:
There are two reasons why you may be super hungry when you first start your recovery: 1) Your body is truly hungry and 2) Your mind has been deprived for a long time and is hungry as well. I talk about both things here and here.
When you start giving your body the food and nutrients it needs, after it’s been starving for long period of time, your body turns on the hunger signals as high as it can. The way your body thinks is this: I’ve been starving for such a long time, now there’s finally food, let’s keep taking all that stuff in as long as it’s available!
In a way, it acts like a bingeing person… If you restrict, restrict, restrict, then one moment, you will binge. Your body behaves similarly, however, what's happening to you now is not necessarily bingeing, but refueling.
Also your mind has been deprived! When you give yourself the permission to eat what you want, your mind might go a little crazy at first! It wants all of the things, which is why you find yourself eating a lot.
Don’t worry, your extreme hunger doesn't last forever. Your body will calm down once it has had enough and your hunger normalizes. Your cravings even out. You earn your body's trust back, so to speak. Your mind will calm down as well, when you tell yourself that all foods will be available for you whenever you want them.
Once you stop working out so much, accept the fact that you really need rest and actually allow yourself to rest, you may find yourself super sluggish and tired. You may be surprised because you aren’t even working out, so where is this exhaustion coming from?
Allow yourself that rest and sleep, they're some of the most important, if not THE most important components of your recovery.
Your body is just trying to catch up after months and years of overtraining. Give it the rest it needs, don’t try to fight back. Taking a break doesn't mean that you're lazy or a bad person, it means that you're taking care of yourself and your health.
Once you learn to slow down, you may find yourself thinking, how was I able to work out so much in the past? Your true balance, what you're trying to find here, is probably somewhere in between extreme workouts and lying down all day, and you will find it. For now, you need more rest than anything,
Slowly Starting to Feel More Energetic
Once you really start nourishing your cells, tissues and organs with a lot of good food and getting enough rest and sleep, you will start to feel your energy slowly coming back.
That's awesome, but it doesn’t mean that you should go and work out just yet, or that you can cut your calories again because you’re feeling better. Enjoy this energy and try to soak up even more. Keep doing restorative exercise, like long walks and yoga. Journal and meditate, spend time outside and get some sun exposure. Laugh and have fun. Don't rush anything!
Your Mood Is Getting Better
As your energy comes back, your mood will improve significantly. From my experience, sleep has a huge role in it. My mood is through the roof and I feel the happiest person on Earth after I’ve slept super well at night.
Remember that overtraining doesn't affect only you but also people around you. They notice your improved mood as well, because you’re probably not as snappy, moody and irritable as you used to be when your stress hormones were through the roof thanks to over exercising and dieting.
Your Skin and Hair Look Better
The quality and quantity of the food you eat shows on the outside, in your skin and hair health. If you used to lose your hair, then as you start eating more and better, you may notice how your hair is growing back and might be thicker and shinier. Sunlight seems to play role in it too. I saw a significant improvement in my hair growth when I moved to California where there’s plenty of sunlight at least 9-10 months a year!
Your Digestion Improves
Were you often constipated when you were overtraining and possibly also restricting your calories? That happened because your body didn’t have enough calories to put toward your digestion. You do need energy to have bowel movements. Besides, if you don’t get enough calories, your body also doesn't want to eliminate anything. Now as you’re taking care of your nutrition and eating higher quantities and great quality foods, your digestion is gets much better as well.
There are also two supplements that I’ve been using that have been super helpful in improving my digestion: Vital Proteins collagen peptides and Digest Forte (I think you can't buy it online by yourself, you might need to find a licensed practitioner like a chiropractor or acupuncturist who can order it for you).
You Feel Ready to Work Out Again
You’ll have to be super careful with this one and not mix up what you want to feel with how you’re actually feeling.
You may want to work out the entire time when you’re actually supposed to be resting, but that’s because you are afraid of weight gain and other people’s opinions on that.
You’ll have to let go of everything external, and really listen to your body — what’s going on inside of you? Your body tells you when it wants to work out again. It doesn’t usually happen in just a few weeks, even just a few months after you started your recovery.
But the actual urge to work out again is a great signs that your body is healing. For example, I started to feel really energized and really wanting to get back to working out four months into my recovery. I remember doing one or maybe two short workouts, which, six months ago, had been my warm ups. But I didn’t do more than that because I still wasn't getting my period, which meant that I wasn't 100% okay yet.
Your Libido Makes a Comeback
As you recover, you may find yourself more interested in sex that you used to.
Losing sex drive is actually nature's way to protect you from making babies, because it knows that when you're too stressed, you can’t provide safe environment for another human! So, it didn’t even make you to want to have sex. (and your ovulation and period might be gone as well, making baby making impossible).
If you’ve been on recovery journey for a while, you may find that you are gradually getting more interested in getting intimate. Getting more vaginal lubrication helps as well, which will definitely come with rest and recovery. Plus, you simply have more time for sex when you don’t have to run to the gym first thing in a Saturday morning!
Your Period Comes Back
Not every woman who overtrains, loses their period. For some, that’s the main concern why they started their recovery. I was one of them. My period came back after 5 months off from working out. I’ve written about it a lot, and you can read more about restoring your period here, here and here.
When your period comes back, that's a major sign that you're finding your hormonal balance again!
These are all great signs that tell you that you are making great progress in restoring your health and finding your healthy balance.
Always check in with yourself frequently and ask: How am I doing? How am I feeling? Is there any way I can support my recovery even more?
If there is, then do it. There's no rush to get back to working out if your body isn't really recovered. Don't get back to old habits if you knew that they were the things that threw you off balance!