Even some of those articles that talk about hypothalamic amenorrhea, don't always tell you the entire truth… and that has annoyed me recently.
I'm a big advocate of taking personal responsibility for our health and mindset, as much as possible.
For example, I don't think it's helpful to blame social media or fitness magazines for feeding us certain stories and images of what “fit” looks like.
These stories and images aren't going to go anywhere, no matter how much we complain. The better way is to work with your mindset so that these things stop affecting you.
The diet industry will always be there, because there will never be lack of people who want to lose weight and are willing to pay the industry millions of dollars every year.
It's important to know that the diet industry is just a money making machine, that fitness images on Instagram are often photoshopped or showcasing people who are very lean but unhealthy — we just can't see that because all we see is the beautiful body.
But that's true in other areas of life too: not everyone we see on social media actually wakes up with the perfect make up and hair, has the most awesome digital nomad lifestyle, the loveliest pregnancy, most romantic marriage, the most gorgeous home etc.
We need to understand and keep in mind that so many of these things are untrue, and that we don't have to pursue them all in order to be healthy, happy and worthy.
HOWEVER. Sometimes this stuff still gets me.
Last week, I was triggered by an article that really got me feeling bad about myself and questioning, whether there's something wrong with me…
An Article about Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
It's awesome that the topic of hypothalamic amenorrhea is being discussed more, so that more people become aware about it. As you probably know, being fit doesn't mean only fitting in one certain body type or size. There's a lot of variety and we need to educate those who don't know, that pursuing leanness may cause you to lose your health.
So in that sense, this article was great. Educational and informative.
But if you read it, you notice how they mention that a healthy woman should get her period regularly, eat normally, have all her snacks, but still have a “normal BMI”.
But what if yours isn't “normal”? What if you need to push your BMI higher to get your period?
I was that woman. I started my recovery from hypothalamic amenorrhea when my BMI was very normal, 22.1, to be exact. There are women who start at BMI of 17 and have to get up to 22. Good for them, I'm really happy for them for getting their periods back! But there are also women whose BMI is already normal when they start the whole journey.
In the article, they also mention that your BMI may be normal but your fat percentage may be too low. One woman mentions that her fat percentage was around 8-10 when se didn't get her period. I get it, all true, but again, there are women whose fat percentages are 20 or more and they don't get their periods!
By not mentioning this, we make people think that hypothalamic amenorrhea happens to only those who have very low BMI or very low fat percentage. We forget our individuality and uniqueness.
How is this article supposed to make women, who are just naturally outside of this “normal” BMI category, feel? Whose fat percentages are not in single digits but who still have hypothalamic amenorrhea? Doesn't it make them feel that there's something wrong with them when they have hypothalamic amenorrhea?
They don't even mention that this is an option; the idea we get is that hypothalamic amenorrhea only happens to women whose BMIs or body fat percentages are very low.
Another misconception is often that hypothalamic amenorrhea only happens to marathon runners or gymnasts who train several hours a day (that's not what they said in this article, but that's one of the common misconceptions that is worth mentioning). Well this isn't true. You can have hypothalamic amenorrhea also when your BMI is “normal” and you work out 30 minutes a day! It all comes down to our unique bodies and a lot of times, how we have treated our bodies in the past.
There are other myths regarding hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Another thing that upset me were the images accompanying this article. All these ladies in those pictures are thin, some of them, at least to my eye, very thin, still rocking a six pack. Seeing this didn't make me feel good, as someone who needs a fat percentage of 27 to have a working menstrual cycle!! Would a picture of my stomach, that has some very noticeable cellulite on it, have been a good fit for this article? Probably not…
What to Do…
I felt triggered after reading this.
I was looking at the picture above — the picture of my not-at-all-lean back — and seeing that I am different. My body is bigger. My natural body is bigger, I just didn't know it because I was working out really hard every day to keep it smaller and leaner, many years of my life.
For the most part, these things don't bother me that much anymore, but sometimes they still do. You would expect that those who know about hypothalamic amenorrhea, would also know that this condition is not limited to only small bodies.
If you're in the same boat with me, I just want to encourage you to stay positive. Keep walking your path, whether you're in recovery or already recovered. Sometimes you just need to put your head down, carry on and ignore the noise around you.
Sometimes you feel hurt. Sometimes you feel alone. Many times you feel that no one gets you. In moments like this, know that your health is more important than your looks, and that your healthy may look very different from someone else's healthy.
I got your back girl — whenever you need to reach out, you can email me here or apply to work with me here. I know how you feel and I want to support you. You're not alone!
Wow! Such a great article and so emotional! It really touched my heart and I just wanted to say „Thank you“ for sharing your thoughts and feelings! Thank you for beding there and helping so many women!
Kersten Kimura says
Of course! I’m glad if it was helpful. Thank you SO much for your kind words, it means a lot!
I really meant it and I am glad that I found the words to express what I wanted to say. When I read your article I could feel that you meant every word from the bottom of your heart. And that this HA—work is what your soul makes happy, because you fought so strong by yourself against HA. Luckily with huge success! Just wanted to let you know that I can feel all the energy you spread here at this blog!
Kersten Kimura says
Thank you so much!! I appreciate it a lot 🙂
I’m in tears reading this. I totally agree and have seen so many articles that stress that women who work out to extremes have HA. Thank you so much for bringing to light the fact that those statistics are not facts and it’s all up to our bodies. I was well on my way to recovery a year ago. I gained twenty pounds and still wasn’t getting my period but I feel I was close. Unfortunately I relapsed and have since lost the weight and the second time around is so hard. Articles like yours give me hope. Thank you so much
Kersten Kimura says
I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling with this! I would try again…. yes it’s hard, mostly mentally but you need to think about your health. Bone density is huge… You can’t be active at your older age when your bones are brittle. I have a friend in her 50’s and she has severe osteoporosis. Her HRT is super expensive and she’s suffering a lot physically 🙁
Erin M. says
Thank you so much for this. I’ve suffered from HA for at least 4 1/2 years since going off the pill, but know that I was suffering for long before that while on the pill. I’ve always had a normal BMI and never fell below 22. I’ve been all in since the beginning of January and still no period. I’ve gained probably between 15-20 lbs (don’t weigh myself) and feel so uncomfortable in my body and very discouraged. I’ve been considering restricting and exercising again. Thank you for this article. It helps me to feel not alone.
Kersten Kimura says
please don’t do it! I know girls who have started their recovery over again and it’s so much harder the second time around. Think about your health! You can’t be active and strong as you age if your bones lose density… if you want kids, this can be a struggle, and I’m pretty sure you’re having other symptoms of hormonal imbalance, besides missing periods, as well. Low libido, exhaustion, feeling cold…
My BMI was over 22 too when I started recovery, so BMI may not prove anything. I KNOW how you feel right now but having a good health in the future is worth some weight gain.
thank you so much for this. I’ve gained about 60 pounds and my BMI is now around 28 and I still haven’t got my period back. Although my bloodwork shows my hormones are better. But I get so sad when I see girls get it back after gaining “20 pounds” and oh I wish that was all I had to gain…
Kersten Kimura says
That’s interesting Christina. I would like to hear more about your story. Feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com.
my name is Kathrin, I’m 22 years old and I’ve been reading your blog since February after I was officially diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea by an endocrinologist and I just wanted to tell you that it gives me so much strength and inspiration, especially because you had developed HA on an already very “normal” weight (at leat according to BMI standarts) and still had to go way up to heal from it, just like me. In May last year I went from 130 lbs to 119 lbs (I’m 5’2 btw, so I went from BMI 23,6 to BMI 21,6) in a pretty short amount of time by counting calories and only eating about 1350 calories a day (sometimes even less). With the weight I unfortunately also lost my period very quick, though I didn’t even do much sports besides some light jogs usually 2-3 x 20 minutes per week and riding really slow on my exercise bike for an hour about 3 times a week, so really nothing hardcore but still, I was undereating, so I lost my cycle.
After I went to 115 lbs in December, I got my diagnosis in February and with it finally the answers that I’ve been searching for so long. So after reading several blogs about HA (including yours) I started to follow the recovery plan and only about two weeks later, after I’ve gained back to 122 lbs, I got my first period after almost nine months! I really can’t describe how happy I was! And the next month I got another period! But then the new semester in my university started and I think it was a mix of stress, irregular eating and a somewhat restricting behavior again due to the fear of gaining too much (stupid, I know) that I’ve lost my period again and havn’t seen it since then.
I’ve started to follow the recovery plan again (though I’m not really all in like I was in my first recovery attempt when I’m totally honest) and at the moment I’m at 125 lbs (BMI 22,8), so right now I’m even higher than when I got my first period after going all in. I’m devastated. What should I do? Should I gain more and become eventually overweight?
I would be really grateful to hear some advise from you, because at the moment I want nothing more than my cycle and my old life back!
Kersten Kimura says
Thanks for reading my blog!! The way I see what happened with you is this:
Your body has been through serious restriction, and it remembers it. It’s trying to protect itself by storing more fat than it did before. Every time when we diet and gain weight, we potentially push our set point (the weight range where our bodies work optimally) higher than it was before. We lose the weight again, and next time, it may take even MORE weight to get the period back again.
When you get it back this time, I wouldn’t try to lose weight any more… You’ve seen what happened last time (gaining even more weight).
When it comes to becoming overweight – remember, this 25 on the BMI scale is also a number than can be quite arbitrary. I am overweight, with my BMI over 25, yet I’m healthier than I was before when my BMI was 22.
I hope this helps! If you need more support, you can give me a call here: https://clarity.fm/kerstenkimura Let me know if I can help you!
I’m sorry for taking so long to reply! I was just really fed up with this whole topic and needed a break. But still thanks for your advice! I highly appreciate it! Also, now I’m back and motivated to gain my period back again! I’ve joined the HA support group on facebook and am all in again since today. 🙂
The thing with BMI is, I actually totally agree with you. If some women only menstruate when they fall into the overweight range than that can’t possibly be unhealthier for them than being in the normal weight range. Also, you look gorgeous with your BMI over 25! In the support group I also saw some other women who are overweight according to BMI but they really don’t look overweight by any means too!
So far so good. But when it comes to myself I always struggle accept that I don’t look overweight too, even my boyfriend and my close friends all say that I look good and that more body fat on me wouldn’t do any harm at all and I really love them for that! I think I’ve just really messed up my self-image and am scared that people might talk negatively about my weight gain even I keep telling myself that it’s my life and that I shouldn’t care what other people say or think at all. :/
Also thanks for your offer with the call. I will think about it and get it touch with you when I need your support again. 🙂
Kersten Kimura says
You’re on the right path, I promise. I know weight gain is so demonized in our culture but if you have HA, then it actually makes you healthier, just like you said. And true, a lot of times we think that it’s much worse than it actually is. And notice the positive changes that you should be start seeing soon, like more energy, better skin, improved sleep etc and focus on them. Good luck!!
I had no period for 10 years. For some of that time I exercised excessively, for some of it I ate very little and lost a lot of weight. Towards the end of that time my BMI was 20, but it was probably a bit lower before that. Still not technically underweight though.
After reading about HA I stopped all exercise and ate more. My BMI increased to 24.9 and my period returned!! I was so happy! I was regular for the first time in my life too. 10 cycles later… It has stopped again.
I have been eating well still and not exercising. I have lost maybe a few kg but not much. My job has been very stressful and incredibly tiring but I don’t feel I let it get to me and I have been off for this last week, extremely relaxed.
I’m so upset to have lost it again! I can’t gain any more weight without becoming overweight, and I had been hoping to start going to the gym again for health. I can’t control the stress of my job but I thought I was handling it well, i make sure I have a relaxing time every evening!
Please please do you have any advice?? I don’t know how to approach this now in terms of food and exercise. I will continue to work on minimising stress levels. How can I recover this time? And will my body ever be able to handle high intensity exercise? Or will I always have a tendency to HA?
Thank you so much
Kersten Kimura says
Hi Eleanor – sorry about the delay! I just emailed you!
Prab Kaur says
Reading this in 2020 and feeling the same way as you did. Thank you for this!
Kersten Kimura says
I’m glad to hear!