Savanna’s Story.

I’m so honored to share another story from The HA Sisterhood. Today’s story is from Savanna. In her story you’ll find strength, determination and what it looks like to put yourself & your health first. I hope you find it as inspiring as I did…

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.

Every time I get an email from a women who is willing to share her story and how she recovered from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, my heart is filled with joy! Kristen’s story is filled with determination, hope and success…


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

How Fit is too Fit? Ashley’s Story.

Being able to share stories of Hope, Inspiration & Dreams come true is truly an honor and today’s story is nothing short of any of those. Ashley’s story is one that I just know will resonate with so many and ease the fears of those that can’t imagine their life without exercise but truly want to heal. Without further ado…How fit is too fit? Ashley’s Story.


Hi! I’m Ashley Pitt, and I’m a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and the writer of the healthy lifestyle blog A Lady Goes West, which I started when I moved from Florida to California about five years ago, and this is my hypothalamic amenorrhea story …

For many years, I’ve always been a healthy and fit gal, who loved working out, eating clean and staying active. And after I moved to San Francisco from Orlando a few years ago, I got even more involved in the fitness world and became a personal trainer and started teaching and doing multiple group fitness classes a week (in addition to walking the steep hills of the City on a daily basis). Fitness soon became more than just my hobby, but my job and my identity.

Fast forward to two years ago, when my husband and I were ready to start a family, and I soon figured out that my love for and involvement in fitness had actually made me “too fit” to get pregnant naturally, because my sensitive body was completely overwhelmed by the amount of physical activity I did on a daily basis (it was a lot!).

After multiple doctor visits and blood tests, I was finally diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea, brought about by too much exercise.

When I first got the diagnosis, the first thing I did was run to the Internet. I was incredibly disappointed to find article after article saying that the only way to heal the body was to stop exercising entirely and gain a bunch of weight through eating everything in sight. I knew that wasn’t the route I wanted to take, so I sought help from an acupuncturist and began forging my own path.

First, I made some changes to my diet by increasing my healthy fat intake. Then, I reduced my workout load by about half, adding an additional rest day each week as well. And perhaps most significantly, I started going to acupuncture once a week and took several herbal supplements regularly, all of which supported the healing and balancing of my hormones.

While it didn’t happen overnight, maintaining this routine and keeping the faith eventually led me to get my first natural period in who knows how long. But my adventure wasn’t over there … I still had a lot of work to do on my hormones before I was able to get pregnant, and it was nearly a year after my first natural cycle that I saw my first ever positive pregnancy test. (An amazing sight that I still can’t believe!)

And today, I can proudly say that I did get pregnant naturally, and I am healthier than I’ve ever been before.

Going through hypothalamic amenorrhea while working in the fitness industry was not an easy thing. As I began to gain weight and work out less, I definitely experienced some ill effects on my mentality and my outlook — but I surely know now that it was all worth it. And I also know now that it’s a lot more common than people would like to admit in the industry.

Based on everything that I learned over the last two years, I’ve written an ebook, called “Fit and Fertile,” and it details nearly every event from when I first decided I wanted to get pregnant, to how I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea, to everything that I ate and what workouts I did, to how I went against the grain to heal my body while taking my own advice and not the advice you always find online.

I’ve written it all down, spilling more secrets than many of my dear friends even know, and I’ve also put together three pages of tips for anyone who wants to heal their hormones, at any stage of life (whether they are ready for a baby or not) and learn how to be as healthy as they possibly can — while being proactive about and protective of their fertility. You can find out more here.

Thank you for letting me share my story! Follow more of my adventures on my blog or Instagram.

Be fit! Be fertile! Be well! 🙂

How to know if you’re suffering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

When you lose your period, your mind starts to spin wondering, what’s going on? You seek help from medical professionals only to be told you have “unexplained infertility” or to go on birth control pills to “jump-start” your period, but your left with the unknown of what’s really going on? Below, I’ll go through the signs & symptoms that will help you figure out if you’re suffering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.

When I think back to those first years during my struggle with infertility, I remember feeling a lot of stress and anxiety not knowing why I had suddenly lost my period. Every doctor I had seen up until that point would diagnose me with “unexplained infertility” which only fueled my worry.

If my doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, how was I ever going to get better?

Now looking back, I see the signs so clearly. If only I had known about HA back then, I could have saved myself years of heartache and pain. That’s what my hope for this post is, to save you from years of the unknown. To go confidently & boldly into recovery without a doubt in your mind. To live the life you were meant to live!

There are three major area’s I feel are key to knowing if you have HA, beside the obvious of not having a period. They are your relationship to Food, Exercise & Your Body.

Your relationship to food:

The way you view food can be a big red flag to knowing if you have HA. If you find yourself doing the following, it’s time for a change!

  • Checking restaurant menus before you leave your house to see which item has the least amount of calories as well as figuring out how you can alter it to reduce the calories even more.
  • Restricting your calories to 1000-1200 (or less) a day and keeping a running tally in your head at all times.
  • Not allowing yourself to eat certain “forbidden” foods or restricting a certain type of food (ie: carbs. fat etc…) & feeling extreme guilt when you do happen to eat one of these forbidden foods.
  • Eating before you head to a social event so that you don’t have to eat what is being served for fear of too many calories or fat.

Your relationship to Exercise:

Exercise is meant to be a healthy addition to our daily lives, but can take a quick turn for the worst causing more damage than good before we know it! Here are some signs that your workout regimen might be affecting your fertility:

  • If you work out at intense levels for long periods of time ( 1-2+ hours, 5+ days a week) without refueling your body properly.
  • If you feel extreme guilt for missing a workout or taking a rest day.
  • If your rest days consist of walking or doing yoga.
  • If you workout on vacation even if you’d rather be sleeping in and enjoying your trip.
  • If you work out extra hard on days after you’ve “splurged” the night before.
  • If you work out on days when you’re feeling sick or exhausted because you fear gaining weight.

Your relationship to your body:

Most women have areas of their body that they’d like to change or times when they don’t feel so confident in the outfit they are wearing, but there’s a line that can be easily crossed when it comes to your relationship with your body. Here’s are some red flags to look for:

  • Not allowing your body weight to go above a certain number for fear of being overweight.
  • Never being happy with what you see in the mirror no matter how small you are.
  • Always finding a flaw that needs to be changed.
  • Not feeling confident in your body no matter what you wear.

If you’re struggling in any or all of these areas, then it’s time to seek help.

A good place to start is to get a blood panel done by your doctor to see where your hormone levels are. You’ll also want to look into make some lifestyle changes to help you towards the road to recovery (read this & this to get started!). As well as find a community like The HA Sisterhood, filled with women that “get it” and can provide encouragement and support!

Coming to the realization that you have HA, can be a scary place to be in. The unknown and going against everything you’ve built your life around can make you feel as though you can’t breath. But friend, I’m here to tell you that you CAN get through this. An the life you get to live not bound by HA is so incredibly freeing and beautiful…

I have so much faith in you!

XOXO,

~P

***P.S. These opinions are all my own, for an official diagnosis you’ll want to contact a medical professional.***

Katherine’s Story.

Reading stories from The HA Sisterhood always bring me such joy! So, when I received Katherine’s story, I couldn’t wait to give it a read! Her story is SO inspiring and gave me chills to see how much change has happened in her life. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…


I did not choose Anorexia.

At 12 years old, it crept into my life and rapidly consumed me. I was very sick and I am grateful that my young heart did not give up on me. With the support of my family, I got better, for a little while. Anorexia faded, but never left. It was lurking in the darkness, waiting…

“You are nothing without me. You will need me again.”

I have always struggled with insecurity. I felt very lost, until I went college. I went to art school and for the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. I discovered things I was passionate for and I found people that I truly bonded with. Photography and poetry were ways I could express myself and connect with the world. I was finally feeling free.

During that time, I became a vegetarian, and gradually eliminated more and more foods. Before I knew it, Anorexia was back in all its ugly glory. This is when I lost my period. I was cold all the time.  My body was slowly shutting down. This progressed for years. I never felt hungry. My body became accustomed to starvation. My mind was consumed. I was in denial.  

When people would comment on my body with concern, I would dismiss it.  I am fine!  I am healthy! I can run on empty! The twisted highs would be drowned out by the crushing lows. The deep loneliness, the depression, the pain of your loved ones, the opportunities you have missed, the future you are destroying. It is a disorder that creates and thrives in isolation. I was ashamed of my behaviors. I was terrified to let anyone in.  

“They don’t understand.  I am all you have now.”

While I was suffering, I knew I was engaging in destructive behaviors, but I could not stop. I was aware that I was hurting myself and my loved ones, but Anorexia had a power over me I cannot explain. The restriction, the exercise compulsions, the obsessive thoughts of calories, miles, pounds…it was all that mattered.

If anything disrupted my routine, panic would ensue. I felt disassociated from my body, floating through the days, barely surviving. I hated my disorder, but I also loved it.  I wanted to get well, but I did not want to let it go. I longed for a better life, but I was incapable of change. This internal battle was relentless, there were times I wanted to give in.  

Deep down, I knew not having a period for years was not healthy. It was a clear sign from my body that I was unwell. Anorexia convinced me it did not matter. Anorexia convinced me gaining weight would make me a failure. Anorexia convinced me I did not want children. But every time I saw a little baby I felt a deep ache in my soul.

I did not choose Anorexia, but I did choose recovery.

I acknowledged my sickness and the fact that if I did not change, it would ultimately kill me. I could not bear to cause my family any more pain. I wanted a brighter future and I wanted to value my health over my disorder.  I knew it was now or never. So, I harnessed all my determination and put my whole heart into recovery.

This journey has been so mentally and physically challenging.  Going all in for me meant no more restriction and no more intense exercise. It was time to eat and rest, -which for me was terrifying. Although not everyone with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea has an eating disorder, most women do have an unhealthy relationship with food and/or exercise.

To recover we must dramatically change our lifestyles and our ways of thinking and that is scary. Our fears and our triumphs are valid. Truly surrendering to the process and going all in takes bravery. Bravery that is deep within. Bravery that you have had all along.

I broke the rules Anorexia set for me.

I let the anxiety build and build and eventually pass.

Anorexia screamed commands, but I did not obey.

Anorexia berated me, but I did not give up.

“You are lazy! You are a failure!  No one will love you.”

It took everything I had to keep going and drown out Anorexia’s mean, selfish manipulative voice. The uncomfortable physical aspects of recovery seemed cruel at first. Putting in the hard work to get better resulted in feeling so much worse. When I was restricting and over exercising I felt full of energy. Now I understand this is because my body was in a constant state of stress.

When I finally stopped, it was as if all the years of destruction hit me at once with full force. The deep, deep exhaustion left me bedridden some days. My body swelled and ached everywhere. My belly distended and none of my clothes fit. The extreme discomfort was very triggering but I stayed strong. My family was always there with unconditional love, but most days I wanted to be alone while my physical and emotional state transformed.

I listened to my body and gave it the rest and nourishment it so desperately needed. I found incredible support on online HA communities and found solace in other women’s journeys. The pain, the swelling, the weight gain, the extreme hunger, and the exhaustion were all signs of healing and there is great power in positive thinking. Each ache and each pound was an accomplishment, a true testament of courage. I was reclaiming my body, my mind and my life.

Two months later, I got my period!

My first period in over 7 years.  I cried in relief because I feared I was too far gone. There is still a lot of healing to be done, but this is proof of the resilience and wisdom of the body. I am grateful mine is beginning to trust me again. I promise to cherish that.

Now, I am discovering who I am beyond my eating disorder. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a poet. I am a fighter. If I am lucky, someday I will be a wife and a mother.  And finally, I am realizing I am loved. I am worthy. I am enough. And dear one, so are you.

Fitness Professionals: Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Treatment & Recovery

For most women going through recovery from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, cutting out exercise isn’t easy, but it’s doable. But what about those who are Fitness Professionals? When you’re working in the fitness industry training clients or teaching classes, cutting out exercise just isn’t realistic. Below I’ll go through the keys to staying on track with your recovery, while working as a Fitness Professional.

Diet:

It’s important to make sure you’re making up for the additional calories you’re burning if you’re working in the fitness industry. For most going through HA Recovery, the recommended amount to consume is 2500-3000 calories a day, but for fitness professionals my recommendation would be 3000-3500 calories a day. I know this might sound scary, but it is CRUCIAL to your recovery and your health.

You can do this by eating quality foods which will be excellent for your hormone production as well as keep you from feeling like you’re completely letting yourself go. Make sure you’re adding in carbohydrates & healthy fats with each meal and snack as well to keep your hormone levels from dipping too much. If you’re having trouble figuring out which foods to eat, check out this post.

Exercise:

This area is definitely going to be the toughest for you to balance, so the best place to start is to cut out cardio. If that’s not realistic, then cutting down your intensity level and time significantly will help. That goes for resistance training too, cutting back on the time and intensity will make a BIG difference!

**You’ll also want to make sure you’re building in as many rest days as possible. And walking doesn’t count as a rest day 😉

Stress:

Reducing your stress level is another key component to getting your hormones back on track. When your body is under stress (caused by under-eating, over-exercising etc…) this will force your body to go into a “fight or flight” mode, which signals to your body that it is not safe to reproduce. Staying in this mode for too long will shut down the production of hormones necessary for you to have a menstrual cycle.

Some ways to reduce stress are:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Circle & Bloom audio
  • Building time into your schedule for self-care (massage, pedicures, coffee with friends etc…)

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful! I know what it’s like to work as a fitness professional (I used to be a personal trainer) and feel the pressures of having to look a certain way in order for your clients to take you seriously. But your health & fertility is far more important than what others think and I’d bet that your clients will feel more comfortable with you, if they see you’re human and not the image of perfection like they see on TV and in magazines.

You got this girl!

XOXO,

~P

P.S. The information in this post are from my past experience and are my own personal opinion, for a specifically designed plan make sure to contact your doctor or nutritionist.

 

Mattie’s Story

Today I’m so honored to bring you another story of Hope, Inspiration & Dreams come true…fellow HA Sisterhood member Mattie, has a story that I just know will resonate with so many…

For me, HA started with an eating disorder right after my 13th birthday. I had regular periods for about 6 months before I started learning about calories and saw how easy it was to skip lunch and go for a long walk after school. I also saw how quickly my pants started to fit looser and how it became somewhat of a game. Not to mention, with this change in lifestyle, my periods dropped off immediately. I became quickly enthralled with eating the smallest amount possible.
I ate the least amount of breakfast as I could to get me out the door and approval of my parents, skipped lunch and any snack entirely and ate the least amount of dinner I could. I can’t imagine I was sustaining on much more than 1000 calories per day. As a growing, athletic 13 year old!! Can you imagine?? I should also mention my mother has a full blown eating disorder and though I love her dearly, she was my example.

It was normal for women to exercise and not eat all in the name of being thin, right??

All of this behavior continued into high school. I even joined the cross country team my freshman year which helped peel off more weight. I became obsessed with checking nutrition labels, learning about calorie counts at popular restaurants and burning off as much as I could through exercise. It’s sickening to think back to all I did to myself. After my freshman year of high school, my parents did not let me run cross country again because I had become so thin and unhealthy.
I went from about a 120 pound frame in 7th grade to less than 100 in 9th. My mom took me to her OB gyn who explained to me the thought process of an anorexic person and why it is so addictive. He gave me a magic number of 110 pounds and said I should aim for that. He also said that is the reason my periods had stopped. At this point, I was prescribed birth control. Doctors typically know nothing about fixing this disorder!!

So I left that appointment with a “magic” number in my brain and a slight willingness to help myself.

However, birth control would give me a period even if I weighed 80 pounds! Woohoo, I can continue in my ways and not gain weight and have a period! How naive I was!

Over the next 2 years, I fluctuated a bit but the scale did go back up. I ate more, but my mindset was the same. Calorie counts, excessive exercise. Not surprisingly that even with the increased weight, I never had a period. My senior year of high school, I started dating my husband. I lost a lot of weight that year. It took him about 6 months to confront me on the issue. He vowed to help me and hold me accountable.
I left for college the following year, thinner, weaker and unhealthy as I had ever been. I was close to 90 pounds. So scary! My boyfriend did hold me accountable though. I checked in with a doctor at my university once a week to be weighed and to discuss my habits. My weight slowly crept up. I STILL exercised to excess through college. Cardio, cardio, cardio. I looked for any excuse to exercise.

While I was eating more, I was still restricting certain things and not doing enough for my activity level.

My body couldn’t recover. I kept my weight higher until my senior year of college. My husband who was still my boyfriend at the time moved across country for military training. With the stress of senior year and not having him with me all the time, I went back to my ways. I was back down to close to 100 by end of senior year.
We were engaged the spring of my senior year and he told me he wanted me at 120 by the time he graduated fm his training in June. He seems to be the only person I could do this for. When he graduated, I was where he wanted me. However, we were to be married later that fall and I unconsciously slipped back into my ways.

See, here is the thing, if you don’t keep constant tabs on yourself and stay honest with yourself, you WILL slip. It is so easy to go over that cliff again.

After we were married, I was thin but not that thin. I had gotten to about 115. Still not where I should be. My husband told me when we moved in together, he wanted me to listen to him, eat what he told me and stop the cardio. I had come off birth control for the first time in almost 10 years. (I had gone off sporadically at times to see if I could cycle, but of course, never did). Within two weeks of relaxing, having lots of sex, eating a ton, and eating lots of peanut butter, I had my first period in 10 years. It only took 2 weeks!
I continued to have periods 35-40 days apart up until August when I had the genius idea to train for a half marathon. Well what do you think happened again?? I lost my period, my weight dropped and I became obsessed with food again. After going on like this for several months, I made the decision to do something. This is the first time I realized I had HA. I researched and consumed all the information I could on the issue, sometimes sitting for hours on the fertile thoughts forums, thinking, yes, that’s me!!
I cut out my cardio, I started to eat more (and lots of fats) and within a month of my new ways, my period came back! I kept up with my new healthy habits for about 6 months until my husband deployed for the first time. I decided to take classes and become a personal trainer. It was all very easy–stuff I already knew. That summer he was deployed, I started training a few people (I am a teacher and have the summers off) but I was also increasing my cardio and not eating enough/ had started to restrict again.

I lost my periods over that summer. And this time, I didn’t lose any weight. It was like my body just refused my lifestyle. It knew. And it refused.

I did not let this continue. Once I realized it only took a slight decrease in calories and increase in exercise to make my periods disappear, I realized how sensitive I was and how much I will ALWAYS have to work to stay healthy. By the time my husband came home from deployment, I had jumped back on the research wagon, was eating right, exercising correctly and had started to cycle again.
When he returned home, we started a workout program together. Solely heavy, Olympic lifting. No cardio. About 4 days a week, maybe 30 minutes each time. Let me say that again. No cardio!! I was stronger than I had ever been before and was proud of myself for having multiple, perfect 28 day cycles. I was eating lots, feeling great, (again having lots of sex–I swear to this day, that has something to do with the hormone turn on that allows me to cycle. Just a small piece of the puzzle, but it is part).
I was also eating a LOT of peanut butter and coconut oil again. Plenty of carbs and protein. Plenty of everything. I had to eat at least 2500 for a while to gain my cycle back and then maintenance for me is well over 2200. And I am small. So if you are taller/weigh more, then you need more!! But don’t get caught up on numbers. I also took vitex while I was in times of not having a period, that seemed to help bring things on as well. But ultimately, it is reduced exercise and increased food intake. It just is.

Anyways, after 4 months of his return, we decided to try for a baby for the FIRST time. I got pregnant on the first try! The first try.

But I was listening to my body, taking care of myself and doing the right thing. I had a wonderful pregnancy,  loved being pregnant and have loved every second of motherhood so far. I did struggle slightly after having my baby boy with my old ways, but I nipped it right back in the bud. After not having a period for 6 months after stopping breastfeeding, I knew I had to do what I knew would work. I stopped any cardio I might be doing, which wasn’t much at the time and started eating 2500+ calories again. Within a month, boom. Cycling regularly.
As of now, I am almost 19 weeks pregnant with my second baby. A little girl. This time I got pregnant by accident!! I know now how careful and loving I have to be to myself for things to work properly. I also know that I don’t want my kids to grow up with a parent who is obsessed with food and exercise. Who is too stressed about control and getting things done to enjoy the small things. Who pushes away and loses relationships because my eating disorder and obsessive thoughts are more important.
I don’t want to look back on my life and think, I wasted it. Those 10 years of struggle were enough. I am beyond blessed to be where I am today. My beautiful boy, a baby girl on the way, a husband who loves me. I don’t want to take these things for granted. I also know that I will need help the rest of my life. A constant checking myself. A community like The HA Sisterhood that P has created for us women. We have to stick together and lift each other up!

Good luck to you all on your journey. I am happy to help and answer any questions you all may have about recovery. You CAN do this!! ~Mattie

Daily Affirmations for HA Recovery

When I think about my life during HA recovery and how I got through the mental struggles, I remember the things I told myself over and over, until I believed them. Below I’d like to share with you how I got through and my Daily Affirmations for HA Recovery.

Mirror, mirror, mirror on the wall
Tellin’ those lies, pointing out your flaws
That isn’t who you are
That isn’t who you are

It might be hard to hear,
But let me tell you, dear
If you could see what I can see, I know you would believe
That isn’t who you are
There’s more to who you are

{Priceless by For King & Country}

I remember the thoughts so clearly…”When I lose __ lbs, then I will be truly happy”, “When I tighten up ___, then I will love my body”, “When I can fit into a size __, then I will be beautiful”.

Lies. They’re all lies. A decade later and I have finally learned the truth behind the girl I see in the mirror. I am beautiful, I am worthy and I love my body. Not because I’m a certain weight. Not because I fit into a certain size. Not because I’m tightened or toned. It’s because I am me, the girl God created in His own image. The daughter He loved so dearly, He would allow me to walk this journey to the truth so that I could be full of love and gratefulness.

It’s heartbreaking that so many women see those lies when they look in the mirror. Is it society? Is it how they were raised? Is it their own lack of self worth? It’s so many things. But sweet sisters, I’m here to tell you that so much lies ahead of you when you release those lies and cling to the truth. YOU are beautiful. YOU are worthy. And you can learn to LOVE your body.

The next time you look in the mirror, tell yourself this…

I am beautiful.

The scale does not dictate my worth.

The size of my clothes doesn’t make others love me more or less.

I will respect my body by nourishing it with good food and rest.

The dimples and squishiness are a sign of a fertile and healthy body.

My body is only temporary, but the joy that comes with loving myself lasts a lifetime.

I love what my body can do when I treat it right.

I love myself.

I love my body.

Learning to love your body doesn’t happen overnight, but with each step you take, you will get to that place of acceptance and love. It takes a conscious effort to rewrite the way you view yourself. To stop the negative thoughts and redirect them towards love. To see your body for all that it is capable of when you honor and respect it. To let go of the desire to look a certain way and learn to love the way God created you.

I have so much faith in you. I know that you will learn to love the girl you see when you look in the mirror…

Because that girl has so much life to live. And to truly live it. To be present with her thoughts and those around her. To be confident and comfortable in her own skin. To look at herself in the mirror with wonder and awe at such an amazing creation.

You’ve got this my sweet friend. Never give up, life is too sweet on the other side…

XOXO,

~P

P.S. If you’re struggling with truly believing this for yourself, I’d love to be there for you! Click HERE to learn more about my 1:1 coaching program and schedule your FREE session.