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Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery and Weight Gain: My Husband's Thoughts
Many of my followers and clients have asked me:
How did your husband handle your recovery?
Did he say anything about your weight gain?
Did you need a lot of validation from him?
What did he say?
To answer these questions, I decided to ask Hugh to my podcast and talk about all the things my Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery and how he saw it. To be honest, at first I wasn't sure how much we even have to say about because the entire process wasn't as painful for me as I've seen it is for many other women, mostly because by the time I started my period recovery, I was already recovered from my eating disorder. I didn't have huge breakdowns either because I realized that this is what I have to do to restore my health.
But we ended up having a good chat! In this podcast, Hugh and I are answering 8 questions from my clients and followers, about our relationship during my Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery.
1. Did Hugh know anything about Hypothalamic Amenorrhea before?
Hugh: No. I had never heard about it.
Kersten: When was the first time you learned about it?
Hugh: When you mentioned it.
Kersten: What did I mention? What was the first information? Do you remember?
Hugh: I think your acupuncturist said that you might have it, right?
Kersten: Yes. Do you remember my first reaction to it? Was I super heartbroken?
Hugh: I don’t remember. What was it?
Kersten: I think I was actually relieved because I now had the permission to just walk and not work out so hard all the time. But of course it was devastating at the same time because as you know, I’ve been working out all my life and exercise is a big passion of mine.
But before that, you didn’t know anything about Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. I don’t think that you’re not the only person. The majority of people don’t know what that is.
Hugh: Yes, I didn’t know. Number one, no one had ever mentioned it to me, and number two, I don’t think they would even if I asked. It’s kind of a personal thing. And I think people just write it off like, oh, I lost my period, that’s fine. It’s better, in fact.
Kersten: Yes, that’s right. I had couple of people tell me: You haven’t had your period for 10 years? What a blessing! And I was like, yeah, and now my bones might be fucked up.
2. Hugh, did Kersten’s food and workout obsession ever look weird to you?
Hugh: No, because I don’t think that I saw your food obsession. That was before, right? And a lot of people like to work out so it didn’t seem out of the ordinary to me.
Kersten: Did it ever look weird? Or did it look like dedication to you?
Hugh: Yeah, it looked like dedication.
Kersten: Yes, you’re right when you say that you never saw the food obsession part. Because by the time we met which was in early 2012, my food obsession was actually gone. I didn’t have an eating disorder anymore. So, lucky you, you never had to see it.
3. Did you guys ever work out together and if you did, was it hard to not be able to do it while Kersten was recovering?
Hugh: Yeah, we worked out together once in a while but I don’t work out that often quite frankly, so there wasn’t much of a change.
Kersten: Did we really work out together? What did we do?
Hugh: We went to the park a few times and did wall balls and that kind of stuff.
Kersten: Did I actually get you do it?
Hugh: Yeah. A few times.
Kersten: I have to say, we work out really differently. Do you want to talk more about what your fitness looks like?
Hugh: Yes. I rather play a sport or lift heavy weights. You prefer to get sweaty and do all the hard workout stuff. It’s just a different style.
Kersten: Yeah, definitely. Especially in the past when I used to do all the super intense stuff. I actually remember that one time when we were in Hawaii. I think it was 2015. We went to the park a couple of times to work out together. I was doing those super intense 12 minute HIT workouts back then. And you said that you can’t find anything fun in pushing yourself to your limits.
Hugh: They’re not for me. For me, there has to be a reason. You score a a basket or a score goal or something like that. Just running around for the sake of running around doesn't appeal to me.
Kersten: But one time you tried to impress me and run a half marathon with me.
Hugh: Yeah. But that was a cool accomplishment.
Kersten: Yeah, that's, you're right. It is an accomplishment. It's not just running around. That was your first half marathon. And also your last so far right?
We also do yoga sometimes together.
But in general, for us it wasn’t like for a lot of couples for whom the physical activity is that one thing that is really connecting. In this situation, when one person can work out and the other one can’t because she has to heal and recover, that can be hard.
Hugh: Yes, and there’s a little bit jealousy problem too.
Kersten: Yes. So that wasn’t really a super big problem for us.
4. When Kersten gained weight and asked for your validation — you still look good! were you scared to give your honest answer?
Hugh: No. I think you asked: Did I gain weight? And I said Yes.
Kersten: Yes, that’s a fact right? I know I gained weight.
Hugh: Yes. How can you look in the mirror and not see that you’ve gained weight?
Kersten: But did I ask you all the time: Am I still pretty? Am I too fat?
Hugh: No. I don’t remember you asking that.
Kersten: I don’t think so either. And that’s what I’m telling my clients too. You can look in the mirror, and objectively, see that yes, I’ve gained weight. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the other person thinks anything of it or is necessarily judging it.
Hugh: When you think other people are judging you, like, your friends or just random people on the street… Maybe you think that you shouldn't wear something because those people are gonna judge you, right? It's the same thing. The only thing that really matters is what you think, right?
Kersten: And sometimes even if you are not super happy about the change that you're going through, you have to realize that this is for your health, even if you don't like it.
Hugh: Yes, sure. I’m sure it’s not fun to gain weight.
Kersten: Yes. You are a thin person, but you have gained weight in the past too.
Hugh: Yes, I used to be about 20-30 lbs overweight.
Kersten: So you do have this experience.
5. How do men really feel about women's weight gain?
Kersten: I guess you can’t really speak for all men, but you can speak for yourself.
Hugh: Weight fluctuations happen to everyone. Sometimes some people lose weight. People get old. Some people get ugly. It’s just part of the process, right? And there's a big difference between putting on weight and getting healthy and putting on weight because you're eating Doritos all day.
Kersten: Would that mean not taking care of your health?
Hugh: Of course.
Kersten: I think so too. I’ve touched on this topic a couple of times on this podcast. There’s a big movement out there basically saying that it doesn’t matter what you eat… I 100% agree that there should be food freedom, but we also have to realize that not caring at all about what we eat is dangerous for our health. There has to be a health component too in the food freedom movement.
Hugh: Of course.
Kersten: Speaking of weight fluctuations… You've seen me like gaining and losing weight a couple times. When we first met in 2012, I had just like finished a 4-week juice and smoothie cleanse and I I was I was really thin. But as always happens after a low calorie diet, you gain the weight back. So by August-September when my scholarship here in the States ended, and I had to go back to Estonia, I had put on quite a bit of weight right during this time. But you never said anything about it.
Then I went back to Estonia and started the Paleo diet, started CrossFit and lost a bunch of weight. We were supposed to see next time in New York, or you were going to come to Estonia, I don’t remember… But I remember that I had lost weight and I was so excited for you to see it. But you said nothing. Absolutely nothing! And I was thinking, what a weird guy!
I had worked so hard on losing weight because for me this was a huge priority. Gaining weight had always been a shameful thing for me.
But of course, now I appreciate it because I realize that nothing is about bodyweight. Relationships are about other things. So thank you for never commenting my weight losses and gains.
6. Does the more relaxed and less obsessive personality that you create, make up for the weight gain?
Hugh: First of all, that question assumes that the weight gain is a bad thing so you have to make up for it. So I can't answer that. In this case, weight gain a good thing, so you're not making up for anything.
Kersten: Before learning about Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, did you ever know that gaining weight can be a good thing?
Hugh: Yeah, sure. From what I knew, having more muscle mass is a generally healthier, right?
Kersten: Yes, muscle mass for sure. But did you know that gaining body fat that you actually need to gain in Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery, can be a good thing too?
Hugh: I didn’t know it exactly but I thought it could be natural for some people. When woman is going to bear a child, she has to have the nutrients to give to the child so you may need to gain a little weight.
Kersten: And for those of you who don’t know, it’s normal for women to have body fat and belly fat. Estradiol is made in your fat cells and if you don’t have enough body fat, you can get in trouble. You’re not supposed to be at 12% body fat. So, let’s just relax. You don’t necessarily have to have a six pack abs.
Hugh: For some people, that’s just their natural body weight. They are just naturally heavier. You shouldn’t try to be at a weight that’s way under what it probably should be.
Kersten: That’s really smart.
You’ve told me several times that you feel really good in your current bodyweight. How do you know that this weight is good for you?
Hugh: I just feel good. When I was overweight, I was lethargic and didn't feel good. In high school, I was probably 150 lbs. It was obviously a different period, but it felt a little underweight.
Kersten: Yeah. And how much are you now?
Hugh: About 195 lbs.
Kersten: Actually when we first met, you were skinnier too. You had just done the Bulletproof diet, right?
Hugh: Yes, I lost a lot of weight on that. Before that, I was about 220-230 lbs. It was a high fat diet, I ate a lot of meat, fruit and vegetables. It wasn’t restrictive.
Kersten: And you got down to about 175 lbs with is really really skinny. Then you gradually stopped this diet and gained some back, but you’re not 230 lbs and you’re not 175 lbs either because you’re not that restrictive anymore. You’re somewhere in between which is a great place for you.
I wish we could all understand that we have to stop fighting against our natural weight and running after every next diet. We can be totally normal and not restrictive. And drink wine at 4:30 in the afternoon.
Hugh: It’s afternoon.
7. How did you guys handle the low libido?
Hugh: I assumed that it’s just part of the process.
Kersten: When we first started dating, it actually wasn’t a problem. It never is when you’re in a new relationship, whether you have Hypothalamic Amenorrhea or not!
But one thing that made it easier for us is that we have really different sleep patterns. Hugh is a night owl and I’m a morning person, so we’re in bed at different times. So to be honest, that made it a bit easier.
8. Hugh, when someone asked you what Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is, how would you explain it?
Hugh: You’ve been under eating, so you lost your period.
Kersten: And there’s the training part too.
Hugh: Yes. You’ve probably been overtraining too.
Kersten: Yes. Did anyone ever ask you what was going on with me? Your family, for example?
Kersten. I’m really blessed. Several of my clients have this problem though. One of them just told me that her mom pinched her cheek and said something like: Look at you, big girl!
Hugh: Your uncle said something once too, right?
Kersten: That’s right! Last summer when we were in Estonia, he asked me if I’m pregnant or have just put on weight.
Hugh: Yeah, your uncle is like that.
Kersten: Yes. My uncle has no filter.
Hugh: And he’s trying to be funny too. That’s his sense of humor.
Kersten: I want to tell to all my listeners that for most people, weight is not such a big topic as it is for us. My uncle, who, by the way, is quite overweight himself, just doesn’t get that this could be a sensitive topic for someone. He doesn’t understand why I would be offended. But also my mom and aunt were there, and both of them were in shock: How could he say anything like this? I think it’s more of a women’s problem; women are more concerned about the weight than men are.
Hugh: And he could have just said it matter of factly. He didn’t have to mean anything by that.
Kersten: That’s true. And also, it’s our job to choose how we take it.
Hugh: That’s the only thing that matters. How you perceive it.
Kersten: Yes. For example, I remember that when I went back to Estonia and saw my brother in laws mom and grandma, they both said: Finally you look really healthy! And to me, it sounded like judgement for getting fat. But they probably really and truly meant what they said. Because before that, I had been 62 kg or 135 lbs, and I’m 175cm/5’9’’ tall, which really was way too light for me.
Okay, we got through these questions. But I wanted to ask you more about your eating and your relationship with food. Couple of months ago when I put together my group coaching program, Body and Mind Liberation Project, I asked you, what does normal eating look like to you. Do you remember what you said?
Hugh: I think I said: Eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not hungry.
Kersten: Yeah, so simple! I feel like a lot of women — I’m sure that some men too, but mostly women — we over complicate it. We are born with this knowledge but somewhere along the way we lost this ability to know when we're hungry and when we're not anymore.
Hugh: I don’t know if it’s as easy as that also because they put additives into our foods so you end up over eating. So that’s something to consider too.
Kersten: I agree. If you eat mostly foods that grow in nature, like plants and animals, it's easier to know when to stop. But it’s harder to get that clear signal when eating highly processed foods.
Hugh: Yes, with natural foods, you should be able to her the signal.
Kersten: Which is made so much harder with all the dieting rules, sticking with certain numbers etc.
Hugh: Yes, it’s brainwashing. It doesn’t help.
Kersten: Okay, I think this is it. Thank you so much for being here. We actually thought it’s going to be a 5-minute episode where you say: It was all normal, everything was fine! So, I was hoping that we could expand on these topics a little bit more and I think we did.
I hope you enjoyed this episode and got something useful out of it. Thanks so much for being here, Hugh.
Hugh: You’re welcome.