Many of us want to lose weight and achieve something we call our “goal weight”. But we all also have our natural weight, which is often different from our goal weight.
I hear a lot of women asking, how much weight do I have to gain to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea and get my period back? Do I really have to go higher than BMI of 22 or 23?
BMI of 22-23 is considered the fertile zone for many women, as explained in No Period, Now What. For many women, BMI around 23 reflects their healthiest, most natural weight. For many, the BMI they need for normal functioning is even higher than that.
When I was at my lowest weight, my BMI was around 19.5. I was within the “healthy weight” range, considering that BMI of 18.5–25 is what's supposed to be healthy. However, while this was my “goal weight” and was supposed to be healthy, I developed hypothalamic amenorrhea, so apparently I wasn't that healthy after all.
What Is Our Genetics Telling Us?
I believe that just the way the color of our eyes and the length of our limbs are determined by our genetics, our weight is not that different. Sure, it's possible to manipulate it and that's what we do when we go overboard with exercise and dieting, but we all have our natural set point where our bodies function well and where we can stay without much effort.
When we lose a bunch of weight and start getting certain health problems, the reason may be that we have moved too far away from weight that is actually natural for us. How do we know? Cold hands and feet, insomnia, adrenal and thyroid problems and of course, hypothalamic amenorrhea, may be caused by dropping our bodyweight and fat percentage too low for our bodies.
It's also important to keep in mind that what is low for one isn't low for other. There are women who go through crazy fitness competitions and literally starve themselves before it's time to step on the stage, but their periods are fine. On the other hand, there are women who are at a “healthy” BMI range, but who still have hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Yes, it may suck but comparing doesn't help. We all have different bodies, struggles and lives in general. Like Brandi said in her recovery story: You never know what is going on in another person’s life or what their struggles might be.
We can neglect our natural weight and keep pushing towards the “goal weight”. But is it worth all the potential health problems and all the annoying calorie counting, food measuring, saying no to get-togethers and missing out on other joys in life, that often come with it?
Many Weight Related Factors Are Inherited
Fighting against genetics and pushing ourselves to extremes to achieve our “goal weight” may cause us additional stress, anxiety and shame. That's what happens, when our “goal weight” is very different from our natural weight. Our natural weight fluctuates, too, and that's normal. But these fluctuations aren't usually too big.
50–80 percent of our weight is determined by our genetics. Studies show that identical twins weigh almost the same, also when they were raised separately. The environmental factors may be different, but apparently, the genetics still matters a lot.
Also our metabolism is inherited. Our basic metabolic rate, or BMR, is largely inherited too–40–80 percent of it depends on our genetics.
That means that it will be extremely hard to achieve weight that is very different from our bodies' natural weight. We may spend months, years or even decades trying to achieve something that nature hasn't planned for us.
What Our “Goal Weight” Is Based On
Where do we get the idea that we should be at a certain weight?
Many times, the number we have in mind is actually pretty arbitrary. Or maybe we want to be back at the same weight we used to be when we were 18 years old, without realizing that we are now 10 years older, we have more stress and our bodies have changed in so many ways.
Of course, social media and cultural ideals have a strong influence here too. Wanting to be thin like cover models is common, but it's very hard for most of us to achieve that.
Did you know that the average model weighs 23 percent less than the average woman? And how many super models are there compared to average women? Not too many. Yet we have this unrealistic expectation that we should look like cover models.
Our Bodies Know What's Good For Us
If you've tried to maintain quite low bodyweight, you know how much work it takes. Calorie and macro counting, tracking, weighing, measuring… Pulling your phone out before you start eating to enter your calories, and being annoyed that you have to do it again when you decide to have a little bit more.
Honestly, I don't know anymore how I was able to count, weigh and measure everything for such a long time. It was seriously such a waste of time and mental energy.
If it's been hard for you to maintain a certain diet and you always seem to bounce back to your pre-diet weight, it probably means that this low weight you achieved via your diet wasn't right for you. Or you ran out of willpower and binged your weight back to where you were. Diets make us binge – thats a fact.
Our bodies have a certain set point, a weight where they stabilize. If we are at a lower weight than is normal for us, our health is going to let us know. Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a perfect example of this. Our bodies can maintain the most necessary functions like metabolism, breathing and so on, but reproductive health is not one of them. I write more about this in my ebook.
Loss of period is often a sign that our current weight isn't right for us. And when we start gaining it back, our periods return once we hit our natural weight–the weight that is healthy for us. There's a chance that it may drop a bit later, but not significantly. And if you started your recovery at a very low BMI and think that you can diet yourself down to that weight where you once were when you were exercising and dieting, that's probably not the case. You may lose your period agin, so you can't go much below the point where you recovered from hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Fighting against our natural weight can cause us many health problems, like already mentioned. Hypothalamic amenorrhea is one very common one.
Achieving our “goal weight” can be fun, exciting and boost our confidence for a second, but if it's way too far from our natural weight, these things don't matter. This “goal weight” may also be difficult to maintain, and counting calories and measuring foods becomes a real pain in the butt that you don't want to do for the rest of your life anyway.
Have you found your natural weight?
Do you have hypothalamic amenorrhea? Learn how to eat to recover from it.
You can also apply for 1:1 coaching with me!