Facebook is awesome. It reminds you of stuff that you posted a year, two years, three years ago…
Just recently, it reminded me of a workout that I did almost a year ago. I remember that day and workout very well, because I was actually extremely tired when doing it and had in fact just decided that I have to give working out up for a while and give my body some much needed rest. I was just so overtrained.
As I'm typing this post, we're in Hawaii. We come here usually once a year around Christmas to see my in-laws.
As you can imagine, unlike many other places this time of a year, it's warm here and if you're active and love working out outside like I did (and still do, but in a different way), it's pretty much paradise. A few years ago, I used to do a ton of running and HIIT workouts, now I mostly walk…
So, as I was walking around at my favorite local park a couple of days ago, I was thinking back to all three Decembers that I've been here, and how have been different for me. It's been a journey from lean but obsessed person to who I am today… about 15 lbs heavier, so much healthier, mentally and physically, obsession-free person.
This post is kind of like my journal towards a healthier me… And while I want you to have a takeaway or something you learned from each of my post, this one might be different. It's a rant 🙂 If you aren't into rants, please go ahead and skip it! Our journeys are always unique and personal and I don't blame you if you have no interest in mine.
But if you want to stay, here we go!
During the 3-week period we were here, I was working out every morning, probably taking 3 rest days altogether. That means working out 6 days a week and a lot of time, twice a day.
My day started typically around 7am, and I would head out to run 10K. It was fun, I loved jogging on the streets of Honolulu, stopping by at the beach… After my 10K, I would do a 12 minute HIIT workout in which I worked as hard as I possibly could. Because, as you may know, the harder you work, the more fat you burn, the stronger you get, and the more food you earn…
Wrong… you don't have to earn your food.
I didn't eat anything before these morning workouts. After at least 1.5 hour workout, I would drink coffee and have either a smoothie, fruit or some cheese or hard boiled eggs for breakfast. I would get odd shaky moments when I felt like my body was vibrating and my mind was racing like crazy, especially around food, but I didn't know why this happened.
We would then often do something fun, go for a hike or stand up paddle boarding or just hang out at the beach. I would always try to get in as much movement as I could during the day. I loved it, but I was definitely obsessed as well and burning calories was what hugely motivated me to exercise so much.
While my breakfast was definitely not enough after all that exercise, my lunches and dinners were always decent. I made mostly healthy choices and I ate until I was full. And I never said “no” to a glass (or two or three…) of wine. Still don't 🙂
But here's the problem with my eating back then: I would feel that I can eat only after I've worked out. I didn't want to eat when I wasn't extremely hungry. I thought that I was free of obsessive eating habits by then, but in hindsight, I was still working out to earn my food, right? Not very healthy approach.
I never hated working out. In fact I loved movement so much. I wanted to be active, I really enjoyed it. But: I did stress myself out by putting so much pressure on myself. I had to work out every day, at least do the HIIT plus whatever activity we did later. And a lot of times, I added in another run. I felt guilty if I didn't do my workouts. Again, this way of thinking about working out isn't healthy.
So I worked out every single morning, despite of what I had done the day before. I never considered that I might need more recovery time, I kept piling on more workouts! My sleep was short and often very restless. Even if I had had a few too many drinks the night before, I had to work out. Even if it meant 5 hours of sleep, I did it anyway.
I was getting tired though. It was hard to get work done, because I would get sleepy or couldn't focus.
I was lean. I don't now exact numbers because I hadn't weighed myself in a long time, but I remember that I was thin and most of the time, quite satisfied with the way I looked. However, I also remember taking this photo below in December 2015, and not posting it on social media because on this particular photo, I thought I didn't look in shape enough.
Oh, and should I say – I had terrible insomnia, I had no period, I wanted to take naps in the afternoon but rarely did so because I was always tired but wired, my sex drive was less than zero, I had only 2-3 bowel movements a week and I was always cold.
My lifestyle stayed pretty much the same until…
I had just decided to take a break from working out — because of the reasons I just mentioned — and I was scared as hell.
I had seen an acupuncturist who told me that sometimes loss of period is caused by overtraining and low body fat percentage.
I didn't want to believe him, I but deep inside, I was hoping that he's right because I was getting extremely tired… Working out had become extremely hard, I had started losing my motivation. I forced myself to the gym, I dreaded evenings when I had to putting together my workout plans for the next morning, I joined a bootcamp class to stay accountable when my motivation was wearing off – something that had rarely ever happened before.
Instead of my usual workout videos, I had started blogging more about rest and recovery, without still telling to my readers what was going on with me…
So, Christmas 2016 in Hawaii was different. I had decided to take a break.
Instead of my crazy early morning workouts, I took long walks in the neighborhood and found a yoga studio nearby that I went to several times a week. And I enjoyed these things so much. The first mornings not running but slowly strolling around the neighborhood were pure bliss. I felt happy that my crappy health had given me the right to chill the heck out.
So, physically, this transition was easy and even enjoyable. I was just so tired.
Mentally, it was harder because I had no guarantee that what I was doing was actually going to help me.
What if I gain weight and still don't get my period? What if people think I got lazy? How much will I gain? How long is it going to last?
Little did I know that it's going to take another five months to recover from overtraining and get my period! (and even more time for everything to completely stabilize)!
I had all these questions but no answers at all. All I knew was that I had to trust the process, because I had no better ideas, and because I just freaking wanted to rest.
My period was nowhere to be seen, but I was at least taking steps towards it. Even just giving myself to permission to relax made a huge difference.
Oh how many things have changed since last year, and especially since 2015…
I started getting first signs of my health improving in March 2017. I started to sleep better, my mind was calming down and the weird shakiness that I had been experiencing lessened and lessened. In May, I got my period back and in June, I carefully returned to other workouts than yoga.
So, this December, workout-wise I'm doing the same things I did a year ago. I walk and do yoga. I don't go out of my way to find a gym. I'm taking a week off from gym and guess what, I don't even think about it.
I can't even see myself working out 1.5 hours in the morning and then spend a few hours in the afternoon hiking like I did 2015. I would be super tired if I attempted it right now, and I don't think it's necessary at all. I don't need to do this much.
I gained a lot of weight during this year. The shorts that I wore a year ago are very tight. I have stomach rolls and cellulite on my belly. I do not love them, but I don't hate them either. They're just there. I've made a decision to be okay with it because I believe that if they're meant to go, they will. But I need a completely healthy metabolism for that to happen. If they don't go, I still choose health, stronger bones and all the other health benefits over being skinnier again.
There's one negative thing about my long workout break: some aches and pains which I developed after trying to get started with exercise again. My body has gotten weaker, I can't deny it. I have to work my way back up to a healthy, resilient body very gradually. I wish I had realized how much strength you really lose in several months!
But when it comes to my body image and the way I think about myself, I'm probably at the best place I've ever been before. Yes, I can see and feel that my body is bigger, but I don't think that I necessarily have to lose weight. I don't constantly think that everyone around me is judging me for it. And if I ever get those thoughts, I have tools in my toolbox that help me to combat them.
I realize that if someone looked at pictures of me in 2015 and today, 2017, they may think that I've let myself go or got lazy. However, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I have my own truth and that's the fact that my health is better.
Remember that your body is a living, moving thing that changes constantly. It's normal because your life is always changing as well. If you're on this journey to accept your different body — I don't want to say “new” because it's still the same body — just let go and be okay with these changes. Know that once your body is completely healthy again, it will find its right shape and size. Your job is to accept it.
Have you recovered hypothalamic amenorrhea and want to start training again? My program Simple Strength for Women helps you to do it safely, without you losing your period again!