Do you have moments when you feel that you've gained SO much weight, that you just want to cry?
I'm guessing you do, because you're likely here for one or more of the following reasons:
- You're recovering, or are already recovered, from hypothalamic amenorrhea
- You're recovering, or are already recovered, from disordered eating habits and you're finding or have already found your way to dietless eating
- You're recovering, or are already recovered, from overtraining.
The common thing for all these is that to fully recover, we have to put on some weight. Some of us more and others less, but some weight gain is necessary to heal our bodies.
Today, I'd like to share four things with you to focus on, when you're struggling with accepting your new looking body:
1. The Old Way Was All You Knew
Many women who are recovering from any of these issues mentioned before, see their weight gain being worse than it actually is.
I can almost hear you say: But it REALLY is bad, Kersten!!
But hear me out.
When you're looking at recent pictures of yourself, what are the things you notice? Most likely big stomach, flabby arms, huge butt, too round face…
But it's only because the way you look is new to YOU. Ask most people who see you the first time and they say that you look really fit, athletic, lean even! It's so hard for you to believe that this is really how someone else sees you, but remember, you're comparing yourself to the old version of you.
For example, let's say there's a woman who has recovered from hypothalamic amenorrhea. She gained some weight so that her BMI is now 25. For her, that's awful because her BMI used to be 22. But think realistically, how someone with BMI 25 looks like. Sure, there are differences in body composition from person to person, but in general, you would probably not say that this person looks fat, out of shape, has a huge stomach, etc.
It's our perception that's skewed. The old way was all you knew, but it's time to switch your perspective.
2. You Can (and Will!) Still Look Very Athletic
Here's another thing that women think: They're now so out of shape that it's hard to tell that they ever worked out.
That's not true. You can still look very athletic even after you've put on weight. Sometimes this weight gain even adds to your athletic look. For example, my arms used to be really skinny, but they are much more muscular now as I'm probably around 20 lbs heavier than I was before.
You've likely worked out for years. The weight that you gain is going to make you look a little softer, but it's not going to change the entire physique that you've built during the years of regular exercise.
3. Your Eating Habits are Likely Healthier Now
Just recently I looked at our wedding photos that were taken 4 years ago. For a moment, it made me really sad to realize how much weight I have gained. But then I started thinking what I was doing to lose that weight.
See, about 6 months before our wedding, I had gone on a very strict Paleo diet. I also worked out 6 days a week doing HIIT, running and crossfit. And while my workouts did make me tired and my overtraining/under eating was to blame my awful insomnia, I actually liked the workout part. I've always loved to move. What I didn't love though, was how unstable my eating was.
For most of the time when I did strict Paleo, I ate really “clean”. But I also had off days when I was eating huge amounts of foods, some of them that were, and others that weren't, in that strict Paleo list.
It all started with huge amounts of things that were on the allowed list. I remember having days when I would eat a gigantic bag of nuts, just because 1) I was deprived and 2) they were Paleo. Or I would eat a weird coconut flour-cacao-water mix because these ingredients were Paleo.
But sometimes I had days when I would eat totally not Paleo — like 2 pints of ice cream or a large chocolate. Although it wasn't as bad as during my worst ever bingeing days, it was still really odd behavior that left me feeling guilty.
Being on that “good” wagon, only to fall off every once in a while, is not what I miss. Even if it gave me the pretty physique!
4. You're Can Still Do Badass Workouts and Test Your Limits
Of course, losing some fitness is undoubtedly a really hard part of recovering from overtraining or hypothalamic amenorrhea. Weight gain doesn't make things easier. But it doesn't mean that you can't work out anymore or do really badass things in your workouts.
Some of the things that are off limits for you, if you have just recovered from hypothalamic amenorrhea or are experiencing some overtraining symptoms, are long duration cardio and intense HIIT training. It may not be like this forever, but at least at first, shortly after recovering and definitely during recovery, I would stay away from them.
Maybe you used to do a lot of running and HIIT before. Was it so because these were the most efficient fat and calorie burning workouts? Did you actually collect junk miles, instead of focusing on the quality of your workouts?
But these are not the only forms of exercise. There are many different things that don't involve high intensity or long distance training. Get really strong with bodyweight training, start lifting some weights, get really flexible, try gymnastics… These can all be done at low intensity.
I used to think that nothing's as sweet as beating my PR in a half marathon, or nothing as satisfying as feeling absolutely exhausted and after a good HIIT session. But there are things like that. You can learn to do a pull up or work towards your splits, for example. They are measurable goals as well, but working towards them is much friendlier for your body.
I know gaining weight is hard, but there's no reason to think that gaining a few pounds or kilograms is the end of the world.
You may not look all that different from what you used to look like before. Know that you're your own worst critic. If someone else saw you for the first time, they would not see the “flaws” you're pointing out. That's simply because there really is nothing wrong with you.
You can still have a very athletic look, despite the weight gain.
Think how your relationship with food has changed. Isn't it better, more relaxed, and healthier for your body and mind now, compared to what it was like before?
And lastly, if you feel like you need to prove yourself in some ways in fitness, or achieve a measurable goal, there are plenty of ways to do it. You can always learn a new skill and excel at it.
Have you had your three post recovery periods yet? If so, then you're ready to start working out again! My program Simple Strength for Women teaches you to do it safely, so that you get stronger but don't lose your period again.