Conquering your fear of food

If you’re struggling with HA, then you most likely have a fear of food. And you probably have a list of “safe” foods that you eat pretty much every day. You probably also have a list of foods that are on the “no-no” list and if consumed will require a large amount of guilt and many hours at the gym.

But as you embark on your HA recovery journey, you’re being told to eat many of those things on the “no-no” list which can send your mind into a state of fear. Fear of what these foods will do to your health, your weight and your control. You’ve read all of the articles about no gluten, no dairy, no processed anything etc…So what are you to do?

First let me start by saying that although I recommend eating a fairly “clean” diet whether you’re in recovery or not, I don’t think that means you should completely restrict any one area of food unless you are legitimately allergic to it. The goal during recovery when it comes to what you eat, is learning how to get over your fear of food.

First, you need to start by allowing yourself to eat the foods that you restricted in the past.

Taking these foods off the “no-no” list will give you the permission to eat these foods without guilt. If you need to, you can even create a new list and call it your “HA Recovery Foods”. Doing this will feel official and motivate you to stay on track.

Second, you need to reevaluate all the things you’ve read in the past about different types of foods.

Really think about why certain foods ended up on the “no-no” list in the first place. Was it something that is a legitimate health concern (allergy), or was it placed there more out of fear of gaining weight? If it’s the latter, maybe it’s time to rethink your list. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to included gluten free, non-gmo etc…foods into your diet, but having a strict rule around ONLY eating those foods is where my concern lies.

Be honest with yourself and ask yourself the hard questions that you want to deny. Recognizing why you put restrictions on certain types of foods is key to overcoming the barrier that could be keeping you from fully recovering.

Third, you need to look at the big picture.

Take a look at what you’re eating over the course of a week. If you eating a diet consisting of 80% relatively “clean” foods (and by clean I mean mostly unprocessed or minimally processed foods) and 20% not-so-good-for-you-but-super-tasty foods, then I’d say you’re doing a great job of keeping your body AND your mind healthy!

Always, always, always look at the big picture. Hyper-focusing one meal leads to anxiety, stress & guilt. All things we DON’T want.

Lastly, remembering that you are worth breaking through the hold that HA has over you.

Conquering your fear of food is just one area, but it’s a big one! When you’re finally able to eat freely, with enjoyment AND give into your cravings, you no longer have to think about what you’re eating next or feel guilt for eating the “wrong” thing. Doing this will allow you to free up that space in your life to enjoy what’s really important.

This process isn’t easy, but it’s worth it! Give yourself time, grace & love. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come and know that each step you take (big or small) all adds up to the life you were meant to live…

XOXO,

~P

P.S. If you’re still feeling a little stressed about your nutrition during recovery, make sure to get your copy of The 28 Day Meal Plan to help you through!

 

What “True HA Recovery” means to Me…

With each woman that faces HA recovery, comes a different story and journey. The things that worked for me may not work for others and visa versa. There are different ideas and thoughts on what going “all in” looks like, when to seek out treatment and what’s most important when trying to recover from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.

After going through my own journey and helping others to do the same, I’ve come to realize what “True HA Recovery” means to me. These are my opinions and I by no means want to discredit what recovery looks like to others, but my hope is to help those who are struggling to stay the course.

  • It’s giving 100% of yourself to yourself, putting yourself and your health above your looks and what you fear others will think & say.
  • It’s saying no to the negative thoughts about yourself and yes to self-love.
  • It’s treating yourself with grace and kindness, like you would your best friend.
  • It’s focusing on the life that awaits to get you through the hard days.
  • It’s looking in the mirror and seeing all your beauty, not your flaws.
  • It’s no longer being consumed by what and how much you eat.
  • It’s no longer exhausting yourself at the gym in order to achieve that “perfect body”.
  • It’s being grateful for the journey and the lessons it has to teach you.

True HA Recovery doesn’t mean that you’re cycling like clockwork and able to conceive naturally.

It’s means that your mind, heart & soul have healed to the point of releasing the negative self-talk and in it’s place self-love remains. It means that even though you may still have to seek treatment to become a momma, you will never fall back into your old ways.

It means that food & exercise no longer have a hold on you. You eat because food is nourishment to your body and enjoyable. You exercise to keep your organs, muscles and bones strong and healthy. Not to manipulate the scale.

True HA Recovery means you’re free from the weight HA brings and truly able to live life to it’s fullest.

And that is truly what I want for you, no matter how your journey ends. My hope is that you learn to love yourself enough to let go of the control you’ve had for so long and allow a new way of living to unfold.

If a girl like me can get through this, I have so much faith that you can too. Let go of what was and embrace what is to come. Leave the fear of the unknown behind and trust in your journey. Keep your eyes focused on healing your heart, mind & soul and your body will follow…

XOXO,

~P

Katie’s Story.

I’m still in disbelief. I have officially recovered from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.

I hope my story can inspire someone else. So here goes.. Let’s start back where my journey begins. Coming from a childhood where I was never thin by society’s standard. I always had to shop in the plus section as I got older in the children’s department. It always was in the back of my mind that there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I wear the same clothes as all the other little girls?  I started my period when I was 12 years old the summer between 7th and 8th grade. Everything was normal. My cycles were normal and very regular.

Fast forward to 9th grade in high school. I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food. My lack of friends and the weight I already was had taken over my mind. I was eating my lunch that was packed, my friends lunch (who decided she wouldn’t eat that year) and bought lunch at the al a cart line. There was something comforting about those rectangle pizzas with the ranch and those giant cheese stuffed pretzels. When I would get home I would often sneak food before dinner.

I made it to the highest weight of my life and I was completely ashamed and broken.

One day at the lunch table the same 9th grade year my friends were talking about what we were doing in gym class and each of them were talking about whether or not they had abs. The remark came up from one of my very close friends “Katie doesn’t have abs.” I know this friend meant nothing by that remark and we still talk to this day. She doesn’t have any idea this would make my world spiral out of control. It was at no fault of hers. This was all on me.

I decided though right then and there that there needed to be a change. I was going to get “fit.” I started to count my calories and eat way too few (I didn’t really know what I was doing.) I thought I was doing the right thing by limiting myself to around 1,200 calories a day and taking up running. I started just being able to run a quarter mile.. then a mile and so on.

I wasn’t big into the exercise at this point. I just wanted to lose weight and be healthy. I went on to continue this through the summer until I went back in for my 10th grade year that fall. I had lost all those stubborn pounds and felt healthy. I was at a my bodies happy weight. I did end up getting a stress fracture that year (probably because of my lack of nutrition looking back and going from a couch potato to a “runner”.)

Once school started back though I started eating like a normal teen at this point. No longer counting no longer restricting. Just enjoying life and not over doing anything. Still being active but not excessive.I finally started to feel like I fit in at school that year. I felt like I was finally being noticed and no longer the heavy kid with no friends. (Side note: I did leave high school that year to be homeschooled, something I had wanted my mom to do with me since I was small. We were finally able to do it and I was thrilled.)

So a year or so past and everything continued fine.

I was able to graduate a year early through homeschooling. That was 2009. That same year I got the bright idea I wanted to start doing more racing events. I had already done one sprint triathlon at this point and fell in love with running and biking both, but this time I wanted to run a marathon.

I started severely restricting my calories thinking this was the way to become a lean and disciplined athlete. Little did I know that this training would be the thing that would make my cycles disappear and cause the next 8 years to get a bit messy. I never ran the marathon that year. I became very thin. I had hit my lowest weight ever. I had to many aches and pains to pursue it, but I didn’t give up the exercise and the food restriction.

I started to have severe constipation and went 9 months without my period. I went to doctor after doctor for the stomach issues…no one said anything about my lifestyle. They wanted to do colonoscopies and prescribe me laxatives. The gynecologists answer was the birth control pill. Nothing about my weight or what could be causing this.

So I continued on my same path taking my Mira Lax and starting the birth control. Everything was working now. So I’m fine, Right? Yeah right. The stomach issues worked themselves out so I was able to get rid of the laxatives, but continued to remain on the pill.

The next year came and I met my now husband. That was in 2010. I was in love. So I no longer cared about the food. I just wanted to spend every minute with him. I became a whole new person (actually my old self) eating whatever, whenever and wherever. We dated for 6 short months. Got engaged and were married 6 months after that. He is the love of my life and my very best friend. He has been a solid rock for the next few years that I am going to talk about next.

I am so thankful to God he stuck with me and my illness I thought was over.

Once life got back to normal back to working and just doing the day to day normal and the honeymoon stage was over…I decided I would get back into my training again. I was going to run a marathon this time. I found out in the beginning of 2012 that a local radio station was going to Nashville to walk the half marathon for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. So I thought here’s my chance! I bet I could participate with them and run the marathon instead.

So that’s what I did. I raised my money and I trained my already worn out body. I ate what I thought was right and counted every calorie. I weighed myself everyday. I had no idea how to train for a marathon, but I continued with my obsessive compulsive behavior and managed to finish that race in April that year. By God’s grace I survived it and am so thankful nothing serious health wise came about from it. Who counts calories the day they run 26.2 miles?… Well that would be me.

I continued the year of 2012 still trying to do races around the area…5k’s and sprint triathlons and duathlons. I found out I was fast and I really loved the sport. The summer of 2012 my mom approached me explaining she thought there was something else wrong. That I was doing more than just training for these events. Of course I was in denial. I didn’t want to admit I was controlling my food and my exercise to control my image.

I had a deathly fear of ever becoming that overweight teenager again, but of course I wasn’t going to admit that.

I just shrugged it off making it sound like I was fine. I hope my mom knows how sorry I am for all I put her through. I am so ashamed of my behavior. I don’t think I could ever forgive myself for the person I had turned into those years. That day God gave me a much needed wake up call. As I drove home to my house a few miles away a song came on the radio that I had never heard. “When Mercy Found Me” by the Rhett Walker Band.

I had to pull over I was crying so hard. In that moment I just felt a complete sense of guilt and also freedom surround me. That same afternoon an old friend from school sent me a Facebook message. (Mind you we hadn’t talked since I can’t even remember when) Telling me how she thought how great it was that I became healthy and how I inspired her in some way.

I shamefully messaged her back stating my current issues and how there is no way you would ever want to be envious of this mess. Was that message God’s timing or what? After this day I started seeking some sort of counsel. I knew I did not want to go to an eating disorder treatment center…I wasn’t that sick, right? I don’t need to go there.

So I just had some counseling from a family friend. It was so helpful for me, but it did not get to the root of my issues. I was able to deal with the sudden extreme panic attacks better and I was able to give up the My fitness pal app and the weighing myself up to 3 times a day. I still didn’t know how to fix the eating and the exercise though. I didn’t need the counter I knew what was in everything at this point. My head became my calculator.

I managed to put on a little weight over the next year of 2013 and the year passed with a few races but I don’t really recall any major events that year. Even though there were little things in my life that caused me more pain and stress than I realized at the time.

Fast forward to July 2014. I had stopped the birth control pills the month before. When my cycle didn’t come I just assumed it would take me a few months for things to work out. When it came time for my yearly gynecologist appointment, I went in with a let down feeling. Telling her I still haven’t gotten my cycle and at this point soon my husband and I would want to start a family. She didn’t have too many answers for me. She sent me to another doctor who did bring up the female athlete triad. She recommended to stop exercising and put on some more weight. Well I didn’t.

I couldn’t give up the things that kept my image of who I thought I was supposed to be.

Probably a good time to mention…I never did get those abs. Even with my severe restriction and no matter how many crunches I did. Katie CAN’T get abs! That is all there is to it. Boy do I wish someone would have just told me that in the 9th grade. Anyways continue into 2015…still no cycle…still exercising…still watching what I eat. 2016…Same thing. 

In May of 2016 I met with an RE that my gyno referred me to because at this point I was desperate. He told my husband and I about all the test’s we would have to do prior to treatment and sent us on our way. We did the tests and we had no problems on either side excepts for me and my lack of cycle. I failed my provera test but passed when I was given estrogen and progesterone both. So if I can get my cycle I can get pregnant.

I was officially diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea that day. I came home frantically searching the internet to find the magic cure. I saw things like stop exercise, eat more, don’t stress. Do you think I would just jump to this answer? No not me. Remember I couldn’t ever gain the weight back I had worked so hard to lose all those years ago.

So he prescribed some different things we would try to help us conceive. We do not have insurance for infertility so believe me it became extremely expensive. After two failed fertility treatments that year (because my lining was still to thin) it was time to move onto more expensive routes. I was devastated and I knew there had to be something else I could do.

This is December 2016. I went in for a meeting and just asked him what would be the thing I need to do to help this process along. I knew what it was. I had to stop exercising and I had to put on weight. He told me though it is his job to find me the right combination of medicine to get me pregnant. I said what if I make the lifestyle changes. He said you could but it would still take time for you to get pregnant. Even after I would get my period back.

I decided in my mind that day would be the day that I would and financially had to put in the work if I wanted to conceive. I am so very thankful to this day I didn’t get pregnant on either of those cycles. I would not be the person I am right at this moment if that doctors magic cure worked for me. Because I would still be battling these demons that were in my mind and then bring a child into the mess on top of it. I did NOT want a band aid again. Thank you God for making me wait! (Even though I surely wasn’t thanking Him at the time)

At this point I decided I would just walk and do light weights.

I knew I had to eat more so I did try to change that. In the course of those past few years I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Which did cause me extreme stomach pain that has been gone ever since going GF. I didn’t hardly eat any carbs though because I thought I hated GF bread even though I hadn’t even given it a chance because of all the calories it had…Im not going to eat that…its horrible I would say.

I met P from The HA Sisterhood and reached out to her for guidance. Her phone conversations with me were so beneficial. I started reading up on all the info I could get online and on different blogs and Facebook groups. I was going to figure out how to beat this! I am competitive by nature so getting my period back started to feel like another competition.

I thought I was doing everything right, I had gained back to a healthy BMI. I was only walking and I ate a ton. It wasn’t until about May of this year that I met the person God placed in my life to help me get over my final hurdle with HA. We text back in forth daily about the foods we are eating. We both decided we weren’t really getting in quite as many calories as we needed. I decided to give it the last push of getting around 3,000 calories a day and to also add in all those GF carbs I always refused. (I can’t believe I said I hated them..they really aren’t all that bad!) May passed and then June. I was starting to feel even more discouraged. Thinking what more can I do.

And then July 1, 2017 it happened!

I got my period back for the first time since 2009 naturally. I was so ecstatic. I sat and cried for the first few minutes. I still can’t believe it as I sit here writing this. I have prayed and prayed for this miracle and it finally happened. God truly heard and answered my prayers and gave me the courage to Trust Him. To let myself fully rely on His power and His timing and to give up all my control.

I didn’t weigh myself in those last weeks leading up to my cycle. I didn’t control my food. I ate when I was hungry and I ate when I wanted something else. Even if it wasn’t time to eat. I walk still but I walk because I love to be active. Not because I have to and if I miss a day or don’t want to. Guess what? I don’t do it. I do not do anything out of force or stress or anxiety or guilt. I am finally FREE from the chains of my sins and I am so so grateful.

I know this isn’t going to be an easy process especially as we go on trying to conceive and I surely am not going to get my hopes up that things will work out as I plan because I know they won’t. It is all up to Him and that is where my trust is. Thank you to all the beautiful women I have met in this process. I am always here for all of you and all the new faces who read this. I am so thankful of where I am at and all I want to do now is help you. When you can achieve this freedom it is the absolute best feeling it the world. 

Why recovering before having a baby matters.

For so many going through recovery from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, having a baby is the end goal. The reason for turning their world upside down. I get the strong desire to be pregnant NOW and how that can keep some from fully recovering first, before seeking treatment. But it truly is so important to recover before having a baby and here’s why…

First and foremost, your future children.

They need a momma who no longer struggles with self-confidence. A momma who will teach them what it means to truly love and respect yourself. A momma who fought hard and came out a better person for it. A momma who will teach her children anything is possible, with hard work and determination.

I know for some, treatment is inevitable, but I still think you owe it to yourself and your future children to give recovery your all before taking that step.

So on the hard days, when you want to give up on recovery and turn to medication for a quick fix, remember your future children…what kind of momma do you want to be?

Second, your physical health.

I’ve seen it happen so many times before. Someone in the HA circle dips her toe in and goes half way, but the desire for a baby and fear of the unknown keep her from fully embracing the journey. She seeks treatment before fully recovering. She get’s pregnant. But her health has not improved.

So after the baby comes, so do her old patterns and habits. She’s back to square one. No period. Brittle hair & nails. Fear of food. Pushing herself to the max trying to lose the baby weight instead of spending time with her precious gift. Fighting her demons yet again.

Your physical health is worth this journey, even if you still have to seek treatment in the future. Getting yourself to a healthy, fertile place will enhance your life in countless ways long after your baby-making years. Put yourself and your health first sweet friend.

Lastly but just as important, your mental health.

I cannot stress this enough, recovery of your mental health is one of the best things your can do for yourself. When you get your mind in a good state, everything else falls into place. You will see your recovery for what it is: a beautiful journey. You will be able to overcome and accept the frustrations that come your way. And you will be grateful.

Getting your mind right & seeing yourself for who you truly are, will do wonders for your recovery. You will come out stronger and better than ever. It takes work and diligence, but the world that will open up for you when you get this part right is truly amazing.

So before you give up on your journey…

Remember these things. Hold tight to the truth of what I’m telling you and trust this process and it’s timing. I know how it feels to want a baby so badly it’s hard to see anything else. But I promise, fully recovering before having a baby matters. It truly does.

I wouldn’t be able to love my babies as fiercely as I do. Or love and respect myself the way I do now. I wouldn’t be proud of my body’s ability to heal after all the damage I had done.

Don’t give up, I have so much faith in you friend…

XOXO ,

~P

Niki’s Story {Part 2}

HA recovery was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  Not so much physically, but mentally.  It is HARD to see your body change and to gain weight when for so long you were obsessed with making your body as small as possible.  

But if you are reading this I want to give you hope.  It is worth it.  

Recovery may take weeks, months, or even years.  But it is possible.  I started going “all in” July 2016 and six weeks later, in August, I got a period!  During that time, I stopped counting calories, stopped working out, and just lived my life.  I tried to eat healthy proteins, fats, and carbs but I will admit that a fair share of ice cream and treats worked their way into my recovery style of eating (and I enjoyed every bite!)

Slowly I began to add exercise back into my routine.  I started with one or two days of weights and filled other days with yoga or pilates and walking.  Gradually I increased my workouts to three or four days of weights (30 minutes), 2 days of yoga or pilates, and a day just for rest.

During this time, I also started to eat intuitively. I ate when I was hungry and included treats when I really wanted them.  At first my cycles were 35-45 days apart.  Over time my cycles naturally decreased to 35 days.  Everybody is different.  It took a few cycles of experimenting with exercise intensity and calorie intake to find what worked for my body.

Fast forward to today (June 2017) and I am happy to announce that I am 14 weeks pregnant!

This came as a shock as my husband and I weren’t even trying.  We had planned to officially start trying to conceive this summer.  There were a few things that I believe helped me to conceive.  I was using Pro-gest (a progesterone cream) to help lengthen the Luteal Phase of my cycle.  I was also taking Vitex to help with the short luteal phase.  

During the spring, I was eating more (especially treats) due to stress.  I was also trying to relax.  I feel so blessed and thank God everyday for this new adventure.  I know there are many still struggling.

Please remember as you continue on this journey that there is hope.  It is possible to recover from HA.  It is possible to get pregnant naturally.  But it is hard to do it all alone.  Reading the stories of others and reaching out to the HA community will help you make it through. Without the help of P and this community, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

To read Part 1 of Niki’s Story, click HERE.

    

Your weight is just a number on the scale

It’s unfortunate that we place so much worth in what the scale says. We tie our happiness to a number we deem to be “good” and feel disgusted with ourselves if we go one pound above that number. We are bound by this idea of what we “should” weigh, but what we have to remember is our weight is just a number on the scale.

It does not dictate our worth. It does not make us beautiful. It does not make us loved.

It is simply a number. And a very flexible number at that. In a matter of hours it can shift a few pounds higher or lower. We eat a larger meal and O.M.G, don’t even think about stepping on the scale or it will mean additional punishment at the gym!

I remember weighing myself daily, first thing in the morning, before I ate because heaven forbid I weigh a pound or two higher than I did yesterday. I’m not sure where this magical number came from, you know the one that dictated my happiness for the day? But it was there, loud and clear and boy did it have a grip on my life.

It’s sad to think about all the time I let go to waste thinking about my weight.

It was all consuming and every action I did throughout my days was dictate by the number on the scale. What I ate, how much I exercised and if I would allow myself to enjoy a night out with friends. So so sad.

I can still remember when the idea that what the scale said no longer dictated my happiness. It was like this tether that had been keeping me tied to the scale finally broke and I no longer cared what it said. I no longer let it decide if it was going to be a good day or bad day or if I would need to put in extra hours at the gym.

Because it’s true, our weight really is just a number on the scale.

I am worthy because God says I am.

I am beautiful because I care for and respect the body I have been given.

I am loved because I love myself and in turn my love overflows onto others.

Break free from the idea that what you weigh matters. Get rid of the scale and release the tether it has on your life. Embrace the body you are in, respect it and care for it no matter what. Be confident in your skin because you are beautiful at any size. It’s what’s inside of you that counts, never forget that…

XOXO,

~P

Savanna’s Story.

Looking back, I didn’t think I had a problem. It wasn’t until almost a year later that I realized I wasn’t getting my period and this had all gotten away from me. Overall, I would say that I was “sick” for about two years, which resulted in me losing my period for about a year – possibly more due to birth control for 5 years masking my real problem. I graduated college in 2014 and ended up moving home with my parents to find a full time job in my field and save some money while my boyfriend finished law school.

One day, I remember getting on the scale and seeing a number that scared me. It was higher than I had ever been in my life. Looking back with more insight, I wasn’t overweight at all but really thought I was at that point in my life. While I was looking for jobs, I craved a routine since I had a lot of time to spare, so I started going to the gym everyday.

I started with spin class and started to really like it, and that led me to keep going and trying even more high intensity workouts like insanity, tabata, HIIT, and weight training. I even started running which was something I NEVER liked doing in my life history. I have suffered from asthma for the last 8 years of my life so I was never really able to sustain running for a very long. But, that started to not matter anymore and the exercising took over.

I would sometimes spend up to 3 hours at the gym at a time…

and I would sacrifice hanging out with friends and my boyfriend for going to the gym because I thought all of my progress would be lost overnight if I didn’t go. After a few months people close to me started noticing changes in my body and I actually got compliments, which made me want to work even harder. Although, even though I ended up losing about 25 lbs, I still felt like I could look better and lose more. Once I found a full time job, I was still trying to workout everyday but it started to become unrealistic due to my work hours. Still, I managed to squeeze in workouts almost 5 days a week. I thought life was great and I was loving where my body was, but little did I know that I was causing my body serious damage.

Now looking back, there were things that I remember, sort of warning signs that I should have seen but was too blinded by it all to realize.

I was always cold all the time, I would go to the gym after eating only a granola bar or I wouldn’t eat any breakfast at all, my hair and nails were breaking, my heart rate was alarmingly low and my blood pressure was lower than it usually ever was in my life. This obviously scares me now, but in that moment all I could think about was working out and keeping the body I had worked for, and even losing more.

Fast forward to May of 2016, I started getting migraines with visual aura that were really scary. After having a few, my doctor suggested going off of my birth control because it could increase the risk of a stoke with this type of headache. I stopped my birth control after being on it for about 5 years and didn’t really think much of it until 6 months passed and I didn’t get my period back.

I was never one to keep track of my period before I was on birth control, and I never got my period on my birth control, but I knew that something wasn’t right if I still wasn’t getting one when I went off of the pill. I went to my doctor and she tested my hormones showing that my estrogen was near menopausal levels. She suggested to stop working out as much and to eat more to gain some weight to get my period back.

Yeah right, easier said then done! I promised her I would but continued working out and didn’t take her suggestion seriously until almost a year later. Once the holidays came, I actually ended up getting one period I think due to a little extra holiday weight, but it never came back until about 4 months later. After the holidays I had lost weight again and returned to my damaging workout cycle and needed to find the strength to get out of it and recover.

The ironic thing is that I work with children and teenagers with eating disorders.

I know the horrible damage not eating enough and excessively exercising can do to your body but it just didn’t matter until one day I started getting more nervous about the damage I was causing to my bones and my fertility. I have wanted children my whole life, and it scared me that I might not be able to have them naturally if I didn’t do all I could to recover and get my period back.

It was after this that I searched online for support groups for this type of thing and found The HA Sisterhood! Seeing that there were other women going through the same thing as me was really inspiring. Until this point, some part of me was convinced that there was something else wrong and that I really didn’t have to gain weight to be healthy again. But, seeing that this was exactly what most women in the group did to recover gave me the strength and courage to go all in and recover for the greater good of my future.

In February 2017 I decided to go all in and ask for the help I needed to get through this.

I told some of my closest friends about it to keep me accountable because for me, I felt like I couldn’t trust myself to do what I knew I had to do if other people didn’t know. My friends have been so supportive – even the ones I used to go to the gym with all of the time. I cut out all of my high intensity workouts and do one Zumba class a week now just for fun. I started increasing my portion sizes, eating more carbs, and making sure the dairy I was eating was made with whole milk.

Throughout my whole recovery, I never counted calories because it scared me to know how much I was actually eating. I mostly tried to eat intuitively and listen to my body. After a few weeks, I started sleeping better, I wasn’t cold all of the time, and my heart rate and blood pressure drastically improved.

It was such a great weight off my shoulders to not have to worry about the medical instability of my body anymore. Overall, I gained about 10-12 lbs since going all in and 14 lbs total since my lowest weight, and on April 22nd 2017 I got my period back!! I was filled with an overwhelming sense of pride that I was able to accomplish this and that my body can and is working the way it is supposed to!

Don’t get me wrong, the weight gain was not easy.

For many weeks I kept wanting to go back to how I was, feeling that I was more confident back then. I told myself I would recover after I got married, I would recover right before I wanted to actually have kids. But as I thought about it more, there was no better time to recover than now. I would have just kept putting my body under more and more stress and who knows how long it would have taken to recover if I kept up with my unhealthy habits.

I had many doubts in this process, and I sought out a therapist during to just make sense of my thoughts and help with my body image. I wouldn’t say that my body image is great, but I am definitely starting to feel more and more comfortable in my new body. It is really motivating to know that my body is healthy again and that pushes me to stay where I am and keep my body happy where it is.

There were times in this process where I felt that it was so unfair…

why did this happen to me, why do girls who are smaller than me still get their periods and I’m the one who has to gain weight to make it happen. It took a lot for me to realize that everyone is different and every body is happy at a certain place. It was hard to accept this but I just keep thinking of my future and what I want in my life and it makes it a little easier to push out those negative thoughts. I am so proud of myself for doing this and I can’t go back now.

I have to keep on this track to health and being the best me and I couldn’t have gotten here without the support of The HA Sisterhood. It seemed like everyday someone was posting something that I was thinking myself and it was reassuring that I was not alone in this process. I hope my story can inspire others that you too can recover!

It really feels great to be freed from the restraint and guilt that came with over exercising. I am hopeful that I can stay on this road to recovery with the help of my boyfriend, friends, and therapist because my health is most important.

Self Care Tips for HA Recovery

When you’ve lived under the dark cloud of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, it can be easy to leave your self care at the door. The intense workouts & restrictive eating consume your life, leaving you to believe the lies that what you’re doing is healthy and good for you. My friend, that is so so false.

It wasn’t until I embarked on my journey, that I experienced what true self care really is. Below I’ll share with you ways to treat your body & mind with a kind and caring heart. Because really, that’s what HA recovery is all about: loving yourself and treating yourself with a tender heart.

Rest:

It’s not only important to make sure you’re getting to bed at a decent hour (aim for 8 hours of sleep a night if possible) but that you’re also finding moments of rest during your day. This can be hard, I know. With the busy lives we lead, finding rest can sometimes seem impossible. Take a look at your days and see where there are areas in your life that can give. Grab a good book or magazine, get comfy and let your body and mind revel in the relaxation!

Nourishment: 

Not only is it important to eat more during recovery, it’s also important to eat more often. Learning to nourish your body with good foods every few hours can often feel like a chore when going through recovery. But your body needs to know it’s safe. Some healing and comforting foods that I really enjoy are: chia tea lattes (the homemade kind with fresh ginger which is great for your digestion!); a mix of lightly salted nuts, dried cranberries & dark chocolate chips (lot’s of antioxidants and yummy goodness!); baked sweet potatoes topped with butter, nuts, cinnamon & maple syrup (hearty, comforting and filled with healthy nutrients!). These are just a few ideas, if you’re in need of more guidance please refer to my 28 Day Meal Plan.

Positive Thinking:

As you may have heard me say before, Mind Set during recovery is HUGE. I truly feel when you can get that right, everything else will fall into place and true healing can begin. I know seeing your body transform in ways you’ve never imagined can wreck havoc on your self esteem, but when we fill our minds with positive thoughts, eventually we start to believe them. Make a list of all the positive things recovery has brought to your life along with how you wish you saw yourself. Keep them in a place that you will see every day. Read them daily until you truly believe them. I promise your life will transform in the most beautiful way when you get your mindset right!

Gentle Movement:

The thought of no longer exercising can feel suffocating to some. I know for me it was. So if you feel the need to get your body moving, I’d highly recommend doing the most gentle movement you can: Yoga. Yoga has changed my life. It’s given exercise a whole new meaning. It’s no longer there to manipulate the scale, but to care for my body & mind in the most loving way. If you choose to add Yoga to your life, please make sure you find the programs that involve more gentle movements (no Yoga flows!), my all time favorites are HERE & HERE.

Breathing & Meditation:

It’s pretty amazing what can happen when you take the time to focus on your breath. The deep inhales and long exhales can center your body and instantly relieve stress. I suggest doing the 5-5-7 breath which is: breathing in for 5 seconds, holding for 5 and exhaling for 7. And if you have a few extra minutes, give meditation a try. I know it can feel a little weird, but it doesn’t have to be done perfectly. Simply sit in a comfortable place, free from distraction, close your eyes and think about the life you want to live free from HA. Envision how it will feel and what will open up for you. It’s truly life changing!

This is a season in your life where you take center stage.

You are the one to care and tend to.

You are the one you need to be gentle and loving towards.

You are worth it.

Embrace this season with open arms and allow your body & mind to be healed. A beautiful life awaits…

XOXO,

~P

Kristen’s Story.

I lost my period about a year or so after getting it in middle school due to anorexia. After treatment, when I put weight back on it returned and I went on the pill because I was told it would help lessen my chances of getting ovarian cancer (I have a strong family history of it).

I stayed on the pill through high school and college but went off it when I was 24 because my husband and I were trying to conceive. I was at a healthy weight and got pregnant the month after going off the pill. Unfortunately that pregnancy ended in miscarriage.

Over the next 9 months I worked with a fertility doctor and became pregnant again after a round of injectable and an iui (my hormones had trouble bouncing back after the miscarriage and I was impatient to be pregnant again so the doctor helped speed things up).

I had my first daughter in February of 2012.

I nursed her for 18months and got my period back when she was around 13 or 14 months old. My weight was a little on the low side and I was told to gain a couple pounds from my OB which I did and got pregnant again when my first daughter was 18months old. I had my second daughter in March 2014 and nursed her for 26months.

During this time I did not have a period and had lost a considerable amount of weight through breastfeeding and food restriction. My doctor told me that I was most likely not regaining my period back because of the nursing and weight loss.

After I finished nursing the doctor put me on the pill in hopes of jumpstarting a cycle. After one week on the pill I had to go off because the hormones were making me crazy. I already have general anxiety disorder so this was not good.

After another month the doctor gave me the progesterone test which I failed, meaning that my estrogen was low. She told me to gain weight and see a reproductive endocrinologist. I did not gain weight but I saw the endocrinologist who did lots of tests and diagnosed me with HA (this was October 2016).

She told me to gain weight and decrease exercise. Unfortunately, I’m the type of stubborn person who is not willing to listen to anyone else until I am ready so instead of gaining weight and exercising less I lost more weight and exercised more.

I got down to a BMI of 18, was extremely restrictive in my food and counted every calorie in and out obsessively.

I also did intense HIIT style exercise for at least an hour 6 days a week and started running. By February of this year I was running on fumes. One morning, while doing a early morning run (on vacation no less) I hurt my hip.

Instead of stopping I ran 4 more miles and totally screwed up my hip and back. I could barely walk for weeks and sitting, standing and laying down hurt. I was told I could do no form of cardio for at least 6 weeks. I freaked out and tried to get around this restriction but in the end I listened.

I had been listening to lots of body positive podcasts and reading up on HA and on March 10th (after some wine) I promised my husband, who had been very concerned about my health, that I would eat more, exercise less and gain weight. That night I promised myself I would go “all in”.

At first it was scary and exciting.

It was fun to eat lots of foods I had previously restricted but soon I began to have uncontrollably sugar binges. Previously I had eliminated all sugar from my diet and almost never allowed myself a treat. Because of this severe sugar restriction, the pendulum really swung the other way once I loosed the reigns. Weeks of sugar binges ensued and I began to get very scared that they would never stop. I was reassured by this group and others that they would but I was still a very scary time.

Slowly the binges began to lessen and I got more used to eating more and not exercising. Over the next two months I gained over 20lbs which I have had a very hard time with but I have also found many joys and much freedom through this journey. On Tuesday May 16th I got my period! It’s exciting but I can’t help but worry about what comes next…

  

What to Expect: Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Treatment & Recovery

Embarking on your recovery from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, can be both freeing and terrifying. Often you have no idea what to expect on a day to day basis, which leaves you questioning if what your experiencing is normal. In an effort to help you in your journey to recovery, I’d like to share some of things you may not know…What to Expect: Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Treatment & Recovery.

There are a lot of things during recovery that in all honesty, aren’t so fun. But they are all normal and usually end within the first few weeks of recovery. Below, I’ll go through some of the most common…

Digestion:

Due to the volume and variety of food you’ll consume during your recovery, digestive issues tend to be a common complaint. Often, women will feel bloated most hours of the day and uncomfortable in their bodies. This is totally normal and will resolve it’s self with time.

Some ways to help the process is to take a probiotic and drinks LOTS of water ( warm lemon water is the best!). You can even try a mixture of apple cider vinegar & water to help with your stomach acid and digestion. I know how frustrating it can be, but rest assured that it will get better!

Appetite:

Once your body realizes you’re no longer in starvation mode, it will most likely go into a phase of extreme hunger. For many, this can be alarming especially if gaining weight is something you’re still having a hard time wrapping your brain around.

The weight may come on fast at first and it might seem like you’re hungry every couple of hours, but do your best to give in to the hunger and listen to your body. Eventually your hunger will normalize, and the weight gain will slow down too. Take this as a good sign and a great way to heal your body!

Exhaustion:

It might seem odd at first, but many also experience exhaustion when first reducing or cutting out exercise. You may find yourself tired all the time (even if you got 8+ hours of sleep) or unable to get off the couch once your settled. This too, is normal.

Once your body gets off the fast lane that you’ve been living on, it wants to relish in the rest and slower pace. Give in to it. Rest and know that this too, is just for a season. For some this may be hard, especially if being active is a part of life. But it’s so necessary for your body to get TRUE rest. It will thank you, I promise!

Now for the good stuff…

Nails & Hair:

I remember during my time with HA, just how brittle my nails were & how lifeless my hair was. At the time, I didn’t realize it was my lifestyle that was causing this, but shortly after I embarked on my journey to recovery I noticed a BIG change. My nails are now strong & grow SUPER fast, and my hair is shiny & full of life!

Sleep:

For years I was never much of a fan of sleep, mostly because I never slept all that well. Looking back now, I know it was due to my lack of fuel and rest that caused my sleep cycle to be all off. These days however, sleep is AMAZING! Shortly after I went “all in”, I noticed that I was getting into a much deeper sleep cycle and feeling well rested in the mornings.

Mental State:

This is a BIG one and probably my most favorite area of change. Prior to recovery, I was constantly in my head, thinking about what to eat next and when I would would exercise again. This caused my stress levels and anxiety to be on high, especially when my routine was off.

But once I got through the idea of recovery and what the process would entail, it was like I had this weight just drift right off my shoulders. Yes, there were still some days that the stress and frustration got to me, but it was no longer a daily thing that I carried around.

Embarking on your HA recovery journey isn’t easy, and often times it leaves you feeling like you have no idea what’s going on. I hope that after reading this post, you feel more prepared for what’s in store…and if you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

XOXO,

~P