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