There are many myths out there regarding hypothalamic amenorrhea and recovering from it.
These myths range from what's causing it to who can have it to what's the most important thing to keep in mind in order to recover.
In this post, I discuss five myths about hypothalamic amenorrhea and why they aren't true.
Myth #1: Only Marathon Runners and Bodybuilders Can Lose Their Periods
This is a big lie.
Thinking that only long distance runners and bodybuilders can lose their period probably comes from the idea that only very low body fat percentage (that these two types of athletes usually have) can cause someone to lose their period. Another reason is that runners' and bodybuilder's workouts are usually extremely long so their bodies are under a lot of stress for extended periods of time.
However, there are plenty of women who haven't run a single marathon or done a single bodybuilding competition, yet their periods are missing.
By the end of 2016, when I started my recovery, it had been three years since I ran my last marathon. I've never been a body builder. However I did work out regularly. Yet I didn't have my period for 10 years.
We're all unique. Any exercise that is too much for our unique body, especially without proper rest, can cause our hormones to go off balance and us to lose our periods.
And sometimes exercise even isn't a factor because for some people, the problem is severe emotional or mental stress or under eating alone.
Myth #2: Only Women With Very Low Body Fat Percentage Lose Their Periods
Just last week I was super surprised to hear that even one natural medicine doctor who I really respect, said that women may start losing their periods when their body fat drops under 20%.
You may have thought the same: I don't look like a bodybuilder, I don't even have visible abs, meaning, my fat percentage is definitely not too low — but where's my period?
We need fat to produce sex hormones. Which brings us back to our uniqueness: Some bodies need more fat than others to produce sex hormones. If that's you, know that there's nothing wrong with you. Just like some people have brown eyes and others blue, one or the other doesn't make them better or worse person.
Myth #3: You Need Extensive Testing to Confirm that You Have Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
If your doctor knows about HA, he or she asks about your lifestyle. Do you work out and if so, how much? Do you have, or did you have in the past, eating disorders or disordered eating habits? What do you eat daily? How stressed are you?
Yes, your doctor likely orders some tests because there are some hormones that show out of whack if you do have hypothalamic amenorrhea (most importantly FSH and LH, and you can find the expected ranges in No Period, Now What). And tests may be helpful if you aren't sure whether you're dealing with hypothalamic amenorrhea or PCOS.
But, you don't necessarily need extensive tests to figure out that you have hypothalamic amenorrhea. Answer the questions in this blog post and you probably have the answer whether you have it or not.
And then you can read this book to figure out how to fix it.
Myth #4: You Can Get Away with Eating 1800-2000 Calories a Day During Recovery
If you used to eat 1500 calories a day and now rise this number to 1800-2000 calories to avoid unnecessary weight gain, you're not going to get too far.
You need to eat loads more than that. No Period, Now What recommends eating 2500 calories per day.
If you don't get your period, you aren't healthy. It takes more energy to build something than it does to maintain something. You need to build your body up again, and you do it with food and rest.
Your body won't start working until it has reached its optimal weight and your hormones become balanced. Therefore it doesn't make sense to eat less than 2500 (you may not need to count if you're sure that you're hitting this number) because your period won't come back anyway unless you've reached the certain weight.
If you want to learn more about nutrition and hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery, check out this video.
Myth #5: You Won't Be Able to Accept Your Body After Recovery
Yes, you will most likely gain weight. But the weight gain determines you as a person, only if you let it determine you as a person. If you don't work with your mindset, then yes, you may hate and keep hating your body and never make peace with it.
Not the best position to be at.
I'm the biggest I've ever been in my adult life — or, ever — and I don't hate my body. I do admit that I liked the way it looked better in the past, but that's it.
Instead, I'm thinking every day, how well it serves me. Every walk I take is calming and makes me happy, and I can only do it because I have my body.
Every workout I do is a gift, because I wasn't able to work out for 6 months! I've been through several injuries since and I've had to take weeks off again here and there. But every workout that I can do, which these days happens 2-3 days a week, is a gift and I'm grateful for my body that it allows me to do it.
Every meal that I can enjoy free from my disordered eating behaviors (counting calories, skipping meals, fasting, avoiding food groups without a reason) reminds me that it's possible because my body and mind are healthy.
And maybe most importantly — having this body fat is what really allows me to sleep 10x better than before when I still had hypothalamic amenorrhea and my hormones were a complete mess.
I don't compare myself to other women in social media. If seeing lean bodies is triggering for you, just unfollow them. They no longer trigger me. I've come to accept the way my body wants to exist in this world, and it has nothing to do with how someone else looks like.
I hope this article helped to break some myths around hypothalamic amenorrhea and give you some clarity. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! I get back to every one of them.
If you need help with HA recovery, you can apply to work with me below.