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

Taleen’s Story

Taleen is not only a beautiful writer, but she has truly pushed through the struggle of HA to get to the other side: truly healthy & happy.

I am so incredibly proud of her and hope you find her story as inspiring as I have…


I have always struggled with maintaining a healthy relationship with food. I have straddled both ends of the spectrum: being too lax with my health and fitness and being too obsessed. Having health and fitness on the back burner, ignoring the rising scale as well as never being able to enjoy the meal before me without thinking about how many calories I was about to consume. I have had problems with my period for being overweight and problems with it for being too extreme on the other end. I think it’s safe to say that I have never been good at listening to my body.

In March of 2015 I was introduced to the exercise program called 21 Day Fix. Thirty minutes of exercise a day and a meal plan lead to a changed life. After my first round I dropped ten pounds and the results became a springboard that launched me into obsession and anxiety. I obsessed over the compliments I was getting and always had anxiety about getting in my workouts and not eating more calories than the program allowed. Thirty minutes of exercise and 1500-1800 calories per day sounds pretty healthy, right? I thought so! Nonetheless, my last period was in April of that year. It was very short and very light and disappeared for 20 months thereafter. At first I thought that my body was adjusting and ignored the change. Actually, I enjoyed not having cramps, stained bed sheets and pants, and the ability to swim whenever I felt like it.

The party didn’t last long, though, and after three consecutive missed periods…

I went to the doctor and two different OBGYNs who all told me that my hormone levels were fine, that I was still ovulating, and to simply keep on keeping on. While my mom was happy that all was fine, I wasn’t satisfied. I knew that not having a period couldn’t be normal, no matter what professionals said. There is a reason God created the woman’s body the way He did, and if my period stopped my body was definitely trying to tell me something. And yet, I wasn’t ready to loosen the reigns on my obsessive and militaristically strict health and fitness regime, so I did just what the doctor ordered: I kept on keeping on and told myself that everything was ok and that my body would eventually adjust to my new “normal.” I have quotations around that word because my situation became anything but. Sure, 30 minutes of exercise a day seems healthy, but the anxiety and pressure I put on myself to get those workouts in coupled with a low caloric intake for my baseline needs was definitely a recipe for disaster.

Also, in order to give myself a break from restrictive eating throughout the week, I would give myself the weekends to eat without calorie counting, which led to binge eating. On the weekends I would eat myself sick to the point that I had sleepless nights running back and forth from my bed to the restroom – a result of eating way too much and my stomach wanting revenge. My mental state was also anything but healthy. I would cancel plans if they conflicted with my eating schedule and could never enjoy a social gathering because I was too obsessive about the food, the calories, and the overeating (oh my!). Sound familiar? It certainly does to countless women who are killing themselves to fit society’s ideal. So, sure, I may have looked healthy on the outside. But I was slowly dismantling my mental and emotional health. I was exhausted from the pressure I constantly put on myself to look a certain way and frustrated that it was never enough.

I couldn’t ignore the inevitable for long.

I constantly researched about amenorrhea – the fancy doctor word for loss of a woman’s menstrual cycle – and realized that I was not alone, that there was an entire community of women who were struggling with the loss of their period and with body image. Those who were victorious and got their periods back told me to relax, to eat, and to stop exercising; to be honest, this scared me immensely. “I can’t gain weight,” I would think, “I can’t undo all of this work” because in my mind, weight gain was equivalent to failure. Despite these thoughts, I knew I had to make a change and so I tentatively upped my calories but continued to strictly follow my intense workout schedule. A few months later I crossed paths with “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, a book that challenged my ideas about health and body image and for which I am forever grateful. And so, I dropped the calorie counters and began to mend my relationship with food. However, I still could not let go of my workouts. I feared that the moment I stopped the control, I would snowball back into being overweight.

About four months later I noticed my issues with control regarding my body. I knew that my period would not start again until my mind and my body could make up, so to speak, and learn to trust each other again. So I stopped. I stopped putting pressure on myself to workout and only did so when I actually felt like it. When I did feel like it, I would either walk or practice light yoga. Full disclosure – this was really, really hard. The fear can be overwhelming and as a result I was constantly in tears for a few days.  “How many pounds away?” I would ask myself.  “How many weeks, months, or years?” “How many sizes will my jeans go up until I finally have a period again?” These fears took me to a dark place that only prayer could bring me out of. I prayed and asked God to help me understand what His idea of beauty is and to help me get rid of the lies this society has washed my brain with about what makes a woman beautiful. I began to learn that a number does not define my beauty; whether that number be a caloric range, a jeans size, or the one flashing on the scale (which, by the way, you should throw away). I learned that a number it is just that – a number.

It cannot tell you that you are funny, smart, loving, or kind. It cannot make you a friend, a daughter, a sister, or any other aspect of your identity. It cannot measure the quality of your relationships or give you beautiful memories or hilarious stories. A number is just a number and nothing more. The moment I chose to accept that numbers never had and never will define me is the moment I truly let go and embraced my body exactly the way Jesus chose it to be.

Only ten days later I started my period.

I jumped up and down and danced all around the bathroom at work and must have thanked God a hundred times. It still shocks me how quickly my body began to trust me again and I truly count it as a miracle. I still struggle, friends. Thoughts of food and body image still linger in my mind more that I care to admit, but I know it won’t be this way forever. I refuse to let myself miss out on life because of lies telling me that you can only enjoy it if you are a size 2. My prayer for all who read this is that you may love your body and treat it with the respect it deserves. That you may nourish it and cherish it because it is fearfully made by the same God who created galaxies, waterfalls, and every beautiful thing you see when you walk out your front door. I wish I could take each of you out to coffee and talk about society’s toxic ideas about beauty, why they are absolute hogwash and what health, fitness and beauty really means.

To those of you who are still battling amenorrhea, please don’t give up.

Please keep going because victory is really sweet. The best advice I could give you is this: eventually, you need to stop researching. You need to stop reading about what others did and what worked for them. I’m sure you know by now how overwhelming all that can be. Your body is unique and knows what you need and all you have to do is listen. That’s it. Eat what and when and how much it tells you. Exercise it in a way that brings absolutely no mental distress or pressure. Listen to your body and let it make amends with your mind.

I wish you all the very best in your recovery and hope that you find true contentment with who God has made you to be.

With love and prayer,

Taleen

Karly’s Story

Today I have another story from the HA Sisterhood that I know you will find inspiring and full of hope! Please welcome Karly as she shares her recovery journey…


My journey has been a bit of a roller coaster.

I started birth control in March 2013 and went off in January 2015 (the last couple periods on BC were super light). I didn’t get a period in February or March but figured I was adjusting post-pill. Then I had periods in April and May, but that’s when it ended.

At the end of August, 4 months since my last period, I went to the gyno and discussed my lack of period. She suspected PCOS (though acknowledged that I didn’t fit the “type”) and ran some blood tests to check my testosterone levels, as well as a sonogram to check my ovaries. My ovaries looked fine and my testosterone levels were low, so she ruled out PCOS. She prescribed the progesterone challenge, to which I had no reaction so she checked my estrogen and FSH levels. Across the board my hormone levels were low; everything was on “sleep” mode. Her only recommendation was to go back on BC “to get regular” (which didn’t make sense since I just came off  BC so by that logic I should be regular…) or visit a fertility specialist which personally I wasn’t ready for. That was the beginning of October 2015.

From the beginning of our appointments, she asked about my diet and exercise and concluded that since I was not a marathoner or doing anything extreme that diet/exercise wasn’t the cause. I was also in the normal/healthy range of BMI (5’8 135lbs) so didn’t think that was an issue, but she said if I felt like it I could try putting on 5lbs and tone down the workouts (approx 4-5 times a week for max 1 hr each mixing it up with body pump, spin, running, body step…nothing EXTREME).

In November, I happened to have a deal for a month of unlimited barre so during that month I only did barre (no cardio) and my weight crept up to about 140. On December 22nd, I got a period!

After that I went back to my original workout schedule and again lost my period.

In March, I went back to the gyno, and she said we should try the progesterone challenge again, and if I get a period then I could try a round of clomid to force ovulation; no period came. After 5 months since my last cycle, I decided to try acupuncture at the end of May. My acupuncturist believed I was dealing with post pill amenorrhea. With weekly visits and daily herbs I was able to ovulate and have a period in June (though the luteal phase was extremely short).

Even with an absurd amount of googling over the past 1.5 years, I didn’t stumble upon the term “hypothalamic amenorrhea” until last month.

And finally I was reading some stories that “sounded like me”.

I was never too thin but I did spend a lot of time planning out my workouts and putting in extra effort when I over indulged on the food side of things. If I had to guess what threw me into this funk it was probably the period of time in April/May 2015 where I was working out probably 6 times a week with crossfit being 3xs a week and restricting my calories to about 1400. If only I knew that that would not only hinder my body goals, but also lose my fertility.

In mid-August, I decided to prioritize my desire to get back my cycle/pregnant over my desire to stay a certain level of fit. The hardest part has been getting over the fact that I used to get my cycle just fine when I was 15+ lbs lighter, but unfortunately that’s just not me anymore. Starting in mid-August, I cut out all cardio and increased my calories considerably.

Around September 8th, I saw fertile mucus as well as a shift in temperature so I was pretty confident that I ovulated. My temp stayed elevated for a couple days before it dropped on the 13th and I woke up to some very light spotting. I just so happened to have a gyno appointment with a new doctor scheduled for that morning, where I shared with him everything from the last couple years, including my recent lifestyle changes/weight gain and the spotting that morning.

He agreed that he too thought I had hypothalamic amenorrhea, and said I won’t be able to get pregnant without assistance. He then ordered some blood work and prescribed me a hormone replacement regimen. I left that appointment feeling SO discouraged since I really felt like my body was starting to signal it was on its way to recovery (he even told me I should not gain any more weight and start exercising again). The spotting/light bleeding actually continued for 3 days, so I decided to hold off on the hormones to see how things went for another month and would reassess then.

On day 23, I saw a significant amount of EWCM followed by a dip/spike in temp! Then the acne and the sore breasts arrived, so I just knew I was in for a real period finally. My period ended up coming 8 days later.

It really is so satisfying to see some real signs of recovery.

I still struggle with the extra weight/negative body image, but knowing that I’m giving my body a chance to do this thing naturally is where I find hope. Now I am praying for a longer luteal phase next month, and for continued patience and grace during recovery.
Thanks to all the ladies in the HA recovery group. I wish you weren’t also in this situation, but I am so so grateful for the constant encouragement and support during this challenging time 🙂
 

Teaghan’s Story

I’m so excited to bring you another story of Hope, Inspiration and Dreams come true…Today I’ll be sharing Teaghan’s Story.


I have always had a passion for being active. I grew up as a competitive dancer from the age of 4 when I started. I should mention that I first got my cycle at the age of 11 and it was regular. I went on birth control for acne at the age of 14. I danced throughout high school and continued to dance as I pursued my education in Fitness and Lifestyle management. This is when I found a new passion for working out. It was part of my life and became very important to me.

I have always enjoyed healthy foods. But it was during college when my working out became an addiction, that my food also became an obsession.

It really was never about losing weight for me. During high school at my heaviest I was 135 lbs at a height of 5’8. I was working out 6 days a week. This consisted of 2-3 spin classes/4 days weight training/HITT/and maybe one 5k run. I was also walking everywhere and still dancing a couple nights on top of that. I never really counted calories but I was fixated on “clean foods”, and cooking all my own meals. I would think about things like if I had carbs for lunch, no carbs for dinner. I really did eat big portion sizes but it always super healthy/clean and I rarely indulged. It got so bad that I didn’t want to go out with friends to restaurants if I didn’t know what was on the menu or I would look at the menus ahead of time.

Basically fitness and food was my “outlet”. If I was stressed I would workout. If I couldn’t control something in my life I knew I could control my meals/workouts. During this time I was at my lowest weight around 116 lbs.

I was 21 when I stopped taking birth control pills because I felt like it was starting to mess with my hormones. I didn’t get my cycle back for 2 years. I saw an OB/GYN and she basically put me back on birth control to get my cycle back.

After I was married at 25 I decided to go off the pill. My weight was back to about 125lbs so I thought that maybe my system would start to work properly. Nope! I have still not had a period since then. I did a couple progesterone tests during this time and did not bleed. I have seen multiple doctors who never really said to stop working out, as they didn’t find my routine excessive.

Fast forward a couple years….

Between 26 and 27 years old my weight got back down to 116lbs. I am a Fitness trainer for the military and still active, but workouts have become more intense as I get stronger, and eating has become even more clean as I love cooking and trying new recipes whether it be paleo/gluten free/whole 30.

As my husband and I were started getting serious about wanting a baby…I knew I had to make some big changes. I have never officially been diagnosed with HA but when I found P’s blog “Finding Pure Happiness” and I related to her story, I knew that was what I had. She then added me to the Facebook support group, which changed my way of thinking! Reading all the stories, and knowing I wasn’t alone, really helped it sink in.

The tips/strategies from the other women were so helpful, and the stories were beyond inspiring.

I was already in the process of seeing a fertility specialist when I decided to go “all in” in August 2016. I had already had unsuccessful attempts with Clomid and Femara. The next option was injectables (menopur) with Ovadrel (trigger shot). The doctor told me if I wanted to help the process, I needed to become a “couch potato”. Even though I was eating a lot of calories, for years I had been underestimating how much I actually needed for the energy I was expending. He basically said, that my body is using all of its energy and it’s saying there is nothing left for anything extra like making a baby. This was the reality. And it took that long for me to wake up and realize I needed to fix these habits.

It wasn’t easy. I still stuck to eating the way I liked to eat but I would try to add more healthy fats, like extra peanut butter (4 TBSP throughout the day instead of 2). I also tried to schedule a pizza night or ice cream date with my hubby. I should also mention the support from him really helped me stick to it. I would go on a few walks and a couple light yoga classes a week.

I had almost 2 weeks of injections and did the trigger shot on August 12th. Then it was the dreaded 2WW. I couldn’t believe it when August 28th, I saw 2 pink lines!!! I should also say I took about 4 tests after this because I was in such disbelief! I really had gained that much weight, maybe 5 lbs. I felt like it was too good to be true. I was back in Canada visiting family during this time, so I had to wait until I was back in Colorado to get to my clinic to get my bloodwork done! My first beta was 1391 which confirmed I was pregnant. They had me do a second test to make sure my levels were increasing. A few days later my levels had increased up to 12119! So that was when it sunk in…. and when the nausea hit… it REALLY sunk in!

However every day waiting for my first ultrasound 6 weeks, and even until my most recent one at 11 weeks. I have been worried every day that I am high risk and it isn’t going to stick. Yesterday I heard a heartbeat and saw the little head and legs up in the air. I was so emotional, it felt so real!

So I say that I have not technically recovered fully. I have gained 11lbs since going all in. I have been told that after my first trimester I can start to add some light exercise. I plan to swim once a week, continue with my walks and MAYBE 1 or 2 light weight sessions or a yoga. If I am more active I try and replenish with even more carbs on those days or just more calories altogether. I will continue to leave out cardio.

I really do believe my body was craving rest.

I had been go, go, go for 10 years, and only taking 1 or 2 days off max! The support of everyone in the group kept me going. I am so grateful that it worked for me this time. But I am hoping to not have to rely on fertility treatments in the future. I am hoping to regain my cycle and try naturally!

Arianna’s Story

Today I have another story to share from the HA Sisterhood <3 I’m so excited to bring you Arianna and her story of how she found true health and her miracle…


I’ve wanted a lean strong body since I was about 10 years old. I remember begging my mom for this workout machine called the “gazelle” for my 11th birthday, I wanted to look just like the girl using it on the infomercial. Boy I had a lot to learn!  But instead my mom insisted she would get me a membership at her gym, I was so excited!! I was the youngest member for a long time.

A couple years later I was finishing 7th grade. My hormones starting fluctuating & my appetite was getting insatiable, I starting eating anything & EVERYTHING! I put on 25 pounds in about 4 months. That made a huge difference on my once slender frame, people noticed immediately & I was embarrassed & ashamed. I cried a lot during those years.

It wasn’t until I was about 16, when I started dating my now husband that I lost 20 pounds.

I was so in love I wasn’t really craving food like I used to & the weight just effortlessly & naturally came off without me really trying. I finally felt confident.

I got engaged at 20 and decided I really wanted to get in shape for my wedding. At that time my older sister and brother in law, were also getting serious into fitness as they began training for a competition. So I was fortunate to get help on proper training from them, they taught me how to really workout and not just float around the gym like I had always done. It only took a few months & my body had a new physique that I was very proud of!

I maintained that body for a few years until after I had my son, he was about 8 months old when I took it up a notch in the gym. I wasn’t focusing on dieting at this point just putting on muscle and enjoying my alone time at the gym.

Then, about 6 months later I  discovered a calorie tracking app and my whole life changed.

I cut out sweets and upped my protein intake and calculated I was eating around 1600-1700 calories a day. I was losing fat at a nice steady pace and had never felt better about my body! People couldn’t believe I didn’t even do cardio! My metabolism was very healthy. I felt really good at this point!

Things started to shift over the summer, I started to indulge on weekends and my appetite started getting a little more stronger, I began feeling really guilty as the scale shifted a few ounces here and there so I decided I needed to start being STRICT. I no longer ate intuitively but instead started planning and tracking the day (sometimes many days) before. I would limit myself to about 1200-1350 calories a day and kicking up workouts.

My body was fighting every second of it.

I was noticing many negative changes in my body during this time, my appetite started getting out of control, I couldn’t stop thinking about food and I would count down the hours until my next meal. I was cranky, depressed and tired all the time. My workouts were becoming miserable. My once full, defined muscles were now soft and empty.

My cycles were getting farther apart until January I finally had my last. I was still making no progress. My weight plateaued and then I decided I needed to change something about my diet. I started thinking “maybe I’m just underestimating everything I’m eating”. I began carb cycling as if my poor body hadn’t been punished enough. I weighed every gram of food that went in my mouth. I guess I was obsessed.

I was eating around 80 carbs on my lowest days. It was making everything worse. I went to a couple different doctors for my cycle issues. They asked me if my diet was healthy…”Of course!” I said. I didn’t eat processed foods, I ate plenty of fruits, veggies and protein, so no problem there! I wish they would have asked me how much I ate. They took blood tests, told me all my hormone levels were extremely low and prescribed me birth control.

We are now in June, I’m still eating the same and oblivious as to why I’m having so many issues.

Gosh I feel so dumb looking back!! My husband and I wanted to start trying for our 2nd child, but I knew with no cycle or hormones it was impossible. I started researching hormones on Google and came across a bodybuilders blog about her battle with hormones and her strict diet. It FINALLY dawned on me. My diet was the problem.

I started doing more and more research like a crazy person reading about all relative terms such as starvation mode, metabolic damage, female athlete triad and adrenal fatigue. I decided to start eating 1650 calories a day which was a huge step for me. I did this for a couple months all while adding in cardio sessions, to ensure I didn’t gain weight.

Well, I didn’t gain much weight but I also didn’t gain my cycle back which was the whole point. I don’t quite remember how I stumbled upon the term “HA” but I’m sooo glad I did. It was the beginning of August, and just when I thought I had learned it all, God humbled me, again.

I had no idea that I needed to eat that much in order to recover. I watched success stories on YouTube, read countless blogs, and joined a wonderful support group on Facebook. The day I learned how to recover is the day I began. I knew I was going to gain weight, it was inevitable. My metabolism was at a crawl.

I knew it was my only hope.

I began eating 2300-2800 calories everyday, maybe somedays 3000. I had a huge appetite the first few weeks and ate all the things I had denied myself for so long, it felt wonderful to just eat and enjoy it and to know I can have more if I’m still hungry. I took off a few weeks from the gym and let my body rest.

I was feeling sooo much better, my body temp was now at a normal 98.3 degrees, I had tons of energy and always happy. My family noticed too! I talked to my dr and she told me I could still incorporate a moderate amount of exercise as long as I replenish extra calories lost.

At 6 weeks into my recovery I had signs of ovulation, so I took some tests but never got a clear positive. I still was glad to see progress nevertheless. I was expecting my period to show up on a Sunday, 2 weeks after the potential ovulation but instead was greeted with nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. In the middle of the night I got up to use the restroom and thought I might as well take a pregnancy test, (not really expecting it to be positive) sure enough 2 pink lines showed up and I about fainted!! I woke up my husband immediately and we both never went back to sleep!!

I thank the Lord I have my amazing husband to lean on and my family that always supported and encouraged me!!

As for my body, I gained around 8 pounds. But I’m not stressing over it. It will come off in time. All I know is that I will never ever abuse my body like that again. I really tried to enjoy and embrace the process as much as I could but there were definitely moments I broke down. I just kept telling myself “this is only temporary“, and basically this is the only option, you either are miserable and infertile forever, or you give your body what it needs and deserves and you will in turn get your health and fertility back. I pray you all choose health above all else, because the reward is great.

 

Paige’s Story

I am so excited to bring you another story from The HA Sisterhood! Today, Paige will share with you her journey from how she fell into life with HA to where she is today. I hope you find her story inspiring and helpful in your journey…


 

I can still remember the day so clearly that I started “dieting”.

I was going into my senior year of high school. It was a time when I felt insecure and not so confident in my own skin, but who really is at that age anyways. I decided that I was going to start being HEALTHIER and build confidence in myself. I am so very thankful for that turning point in my life because living a healthy life does make you feel better and be more confident.

I started by making small changes to my diet each week. I started seeing great results. I had more energy and I was losing weight. At first, it was a very slow weight loss and was done in a very healthy and balanced way.

I can’t remember the exact moment that my healthy changes started to become an obsession.

It was about 5 months into my healthy change and at least 20 pounds lighter when my period went missing. I had just turned 18 years old. I remember thinking that it was strange that I missed a month because I was always very regular from the very first one I had. After about 3 months of no period, I went to the doctor.

She prescribed me the progesterone challenge. Of course that did not work. My doctor questioned me about my exercise routine but it was not even that much at the time. She did not think it had anything to do with my weight because I was within a “healthy” BMI range.

Little did she know or I even realize that my 1,000 calories or less diet was destroying my hormones.

She sent me to an endocrinologist who did not seem to think there was anything wrong and did an ultrasound to rule out other things. After almost a year of no period, I was prescribed birth control. My period did come once I started the pill. I thought it was “fixed”. I continued the cycle of restricting my calories and exercising for about 1 hour a day or more for many years. I lost even more weight even about 20 more pounds.

Fast forward until November of 2015, I decided to stop taking my birth control. I knew that my husband and I would want to start trying for a baby in the next year and I wanted to make sure my period problem was really “fixed”.

I did not think that I was near as restrictive with my calories (only eating about an average of 1200-1400 calories) and did not exercise as much so I did not think that would cause a problem anymore. I had even gained weight. Unfortunately, months went by and no signs of a period. I remember doing some research back in February of this year and stumbled upon hypothalamic amenorrhea.

As soon as I started reading about it, I KNEW that this was why my period was missing…

but at the same time I did not want to believe that this is what I had. I gradually started reducing exercise. I cut my running in half and started eating more. A few more months passed and still no period. I went to my doctor to have some blood work done and an ultrasound. All of my results came back pretty normal.

She thought it would be a good idea to cut back on exercising. I reduced exercising even more but still no period. I finally decided on June 15 th that I was going “all in”. I prayed and prayed for God to give me the wisdom and knowledge to get my period back. I stopped running and any form of exercising besides walking and yoga a few times a week.

I started trying to find ways to add in more healthy calories so I could eat the recommended 2,500 calories a day. I know that most days that I did not hit 2,500 calories. I focused mainly on eating a well-balanced diet of carbs, fats, and proteins and ate about every 3 hours. I allowed myself to have “treats” that I would never allow myself to have on a daily basis.

I did try to choose whole foods over processed foods but I did not limit or restrict myself if I wanted something that was not my idea of healthy. I slowly started noticing signs that my hormones were kicking back in but weeks passed and I still had no signs of a period.

It was a daily struggle with my new self against my old self.

I prayed for strength and perseverance to continue and not give up. I was fully committed to eating lots and doing little to no exercise, but I still struggled with accepting my new body. I always wanted to think how this was not fair that this happened to me when health and fitness was such a huge part of my life.

I was letting my pride get in the way of my recovery. I prayed and prayed for God to give me the wisdom and knowledge I needed to bring back my period. Finally after having a major meltdown after going shopping and not liking how anything looked on me because of my new size, I knew something had to give. I started praying and pleading for God to help me learn to love myself.

I promise after a few days of changing my prayers for a period to having love for myself I OVULATED!

I wasn’t 100% sure at the time but I had lots of good signs that I had. A little over 2 weeks from that time I FINALLY GOT MY PERIOD!

Overall from the time that I went “all in” until the day I got my period was a little over 8 weeks. I cannot say that I do not struggle anymore with self-love or acceptance of my body. It is a constant struggle. The second I start thinking negative thoughts, I simply stop and pray for self-love. I honestly think that God was allowing me to struggle so he could show me that I needed to learn to love myself.

My advice to other women going through this is to stop being so hard on yourself and to give yourself love. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing flaws, look at yourself and say something positive about yourself. Find a strong support group, like The HA Sisterhood, who will help you get through this. This made a HUGE difference in my recovery. I promise you can do this!

If you would like to reach out to me for questions or more support, please feel free to email me at platkinson19@gmail.com. I also just started a blog of my own where I hope to inspire others to live healthier lives. Please go check it out at paigelaurenblog.wordpress.com  <3

 

 

Jodi’s Story

Today I have another story filled with hope & inspiration from one of The HA Sisterhood members, Jodi. Not only was she so willing to share her story on my blog, but she started her own blog too: Healthfully Whole. It truly warms my heart when I see other women so willing to open up and share themselves, please show Jodi some love and give her a follow too!


 

Let’s go back to the high school days.

It was during these years that my weight started to become a recurring thought in my mind.  I had reached 211 pounds and now had to face other girls in the locker room during PE classes.  Other girls who didn’t have a weight problem.  Girls who were thin, tall, popular and judgmental.  It was impossible not to feel their eyes on me while I was changing, with my back turned to them.  The rest of the day was spent trying not to think about this incident, only that I never wanted it to happen again.  The last straw was getting our body fat tested.  The teacher was going to use the caliper test–where they grab the fat from your tricep and stomach. The teacher was discreet about everything which helped too but I was still very embarrassed.

I began researching weight loss online and came across the Atkins diet.   After a few weeks of losing some weight and then stalling, I decided to join my mom at Weight Watchers.  I couldn’t help but think “this isn’t a place for a 16 year old girl.”  No one else in high school has to go to a Weight Watchers meeting, yet here we are.  Over the course of a few months, I lost 20 pounds – getting down to 160 pounds.  I hit my initial goal and was rewarded with a keychain charm. Afterward, my determination and drive started lagging.  I stopped going to the meetings and tracking points and just maintained my weight for a couple of years without too much of an issue.

Fast forward to 2008…

when I met my then-boyfriend, now husband.  We started dating and fell in love.  I began taking birth control during this time as well – mostly to help with cycle regularity and pain relief.  My cycle was never regular and the cramps were terrible.  The pill helped immensely with both issues, and I thought I had found the holy grail.  I started researching and asked my doctor if it was necessary to take the white pills, and he told me no so I skipped them each month and never had a period.  It was amazing.  I became engaged and, a year later, we were married.

The first few years of marriage were wonderful.  I had everything I wanted – except my ideal weight.

I tried a few diets after the wedding – Atkins again which wasn’t successful, 1200 calories which made me feel constantly hungry and deprived and some other random plans that never amounted to anything.  Fast forward a couple of years to when my husband and I started discussing a family and that, sooner rather than later, we’d like to start one of our own.  I stopped taking the birth control pill.  And then, in September 2014, I found intermittent fasting.  It seemed impossible at the time to even think about going without food for 16 hours but after reading a few websites and books on it, I decided to give it a shot.  Most of the “fasting window” was while I was asleep so it didn’t seem so bad at all.  My body and mind eventually got used to it and it became effortless to skip breakfast.  My body started rapidly losing the weight and the scale would drop daily – boosting my self confidence and mood.

I got down to my lowest weight ever in February 2015 – 139 pounds. I went from a size 10 to a size 4-6.  I went shopping for clothes constantly – something I would do my best to avoid previously because of fear of seeing myself in the mirror and not fitting in a size I thought I was. 

We had a vacation to Greece planned for just a month later, but I was ready.  I’d never had as much self confidence as I did then and was on top of the world.

I had planned to loosely keep up with my fasting protocol but not stress too much about it since it was a vacation, after all.  We thoroughly enjoyed every minute.  I even wore a two-piece for the first time ever.

We came back to our new home three weeks later.  I attempted to re-start my fasting protocol and struggled.  I struggled so hard that I began binge-eating at night because I was so hungry. I went to bed sick and woke up feeling even worse.  This, in turn, caused me to become depressed.  I started gaining weight, my clothes were getting tighter, my self esteem was dropping rapidly.

I felt like a failure because I couldn’t keep up with the weight loss plan that I was so successful on just a few months earlier.

Why couldn’t I do it again?  I’d done it before, with relative ease!  I still went to the gym fairly regularly, 4-6 days per week.  I would be there on average of 45-90 minutes doing weights for about 30 minutes and finishing up with cardio afterwards – usually HIIT.  I felt really good about myself afterward and thought that if I could just keep up with this, that my binges would be “erased” and I wouldn’t gain so much fat but rather build muscle.  My clothes were still becoming tighter.  I attempted to do my workouts fasted.  It was for the most part fairly easy in the beginning.  But gradually, I felt weaker and I wasn’t making progress with the weight I was using.

I knew, deep down, that something wasn’t right.

And I knew that it was most likely the fact I was still trying to do intermittent fasting.  So I gave it up.  I still struggled with binge eating but, this time, I knew it was more about the habit I had gotten into rather than being hungry.

At this point, it had been about a year and a half since I stopped taking the birth control pill.  I had not had a period since. I didn’t think this was a big deal for the first year – we weren’t seriously trying to have a baby and I had read somewhere that it was normal to not have a regular cycle for the first few months.  But after a year, I figured I better to talk to my doctor.  I remember sitting in her office and telling her about my problem.  I went by myself and it was very difficult to hear myself telling her what I was going through. I had to choke back the tears.

I assumed the worst up until this point – because I wasn’t having a period, I would never be able to have kids.

I had mentally prepared myself to hear my doctor confirm this to me.  She had me complete a series of blood tests – which all came back normal.  Then she advised me to wait a couple of months to see what happened since I had just given up the intermittent fasting.  A few months passed, nothing changed.  I contacted my doctor and she referred me to an OB/GYN.  I went through even more tests – the same ones I did a few months back, plus ultrasounds.  All came back normal. The last test my OB/GYN suggested was a brain MRI – to see if there was a tumor on my pituitary gland.

Hearing her say these words to me, sitting alone on a doctor’s office bed covered with a sheet of paper, hit me like a ton of bricks.

A tumor?  In my brain?  No.  “We’ve done all of these tests and none are indicative of a problem, which could mean that you either have a tumor or premature ovarian failure,” my doctor said.  But, all of the other tests were normal.  This must be the problem, I thought.  I told her to schedule the test.  I came back home after my doctor’s visit and began working.  My husband woke up and came downstairs and said good morning to me and I’ll never forget telling him what I learned just a couple of hours earlier.  Through swollen eyelids, tears streaming down my face, I told him that my doctor wanted me to get checked out for a possible brain tumor and that I could potentially have premature ovarian failure.  …  All he could do is just get on his knees and hug me.  Somewhere in the background, my work phone was ringing but I didn’t care.  After what seemed like forever, I was able to stop the tears and get back to work.  My husband was so comforting and told me that no matter what, he loved me and that we would get through anything together.  That made me feel a lot better.

I had the MRI done a few weeks later.

What an experience to be placed in a tube for an hour, unable to move.  I waited a couple of days, severely stressed out about the results.  They finally came in – completely normal.  I messaged my OB/GYN and she then referred me to a reproductive specialist.  I was hesitant to see him – did I want to go down this route?  Does this mean my only option is in-vitro?  How bad do I want a family, really? 

After discussing this with my husband, we decided it would be good to hear what the doctor had to say. We spent a couple of hours with him.  He gave a detailed presentation of how a normal female reproductive system works and also what happens to someone with the same symptoms as me.  It was eye-opening.  He did an elimination diagnosis.  He reviewed all of my blood work from the previous tests, my MRI results and the symptoms I told him I had.

He eliminated premature ovarian failure immediately – and I couldn’t have been more relieved to hear it.  He also eliminated PCOS.  He landed on post-pill amenorrhea based on the fact that I had been on birthcontrol for about five years and had somewhat normal cycles prior to being on the pill.  He wanted to do an ultrasound himself, which happened during the same visit.  He said everything looked normal – no cysts, plenty of eggs available, follicles were normal.

He even mentioned that based on what he saw, it looked like my body was “ready to have a period anytime.”  He suggested I meet with a nutritionist because it was obvious, based on my history of dieting and restriction, that I just needed to get things back to normal.

I met with the nutritionist and I basically poured my heart and soul out on the table.

I even cried once because hearing myself tell my story just broke my own heart.  I couldn’t believe how I got here, or even that I did in the first place.  I read about other people going through eating disorders or just disordered eating habits and struggling with fertility but never thought it would happen to me.  Yet, here I was.

My 90-minute-long initial consultation visit with the nutritionist was what I needed.  I was able to fully describe my eating problems to someone for the first time.  My husband didn’t know, and the only other person I mentioned something about it to was my mom.  I was given a plan – to eat a minimum of 2,000 calories a day and track the food in an app that my nutritionist would follow and check in on.

Hearing the 2,000 calories goal was hard…

but then when I thought about it, I was most definitely eating a lot more than that on days that I binged so really, this would probably be an overall decrease in calories per week.  She told me to drastically cut my exercise, suggesting I do only walking and some yoga a few days per week.

She saw the (likely) shocked look on my face and asked me if I was okay with that.  I told her that cutting down like that stressed me out so she said it would be okay for me to do weight training a maximum of three days per week and to be in the gym for those workouts a total of 45 minutes at the most.  That sounded more reasonable to me and I agreed to it.

I began the plan, tracking my food and writing messages to her when I was struggling.  I cut my exercise down and mainly went for walks around my neighborhood which felt refreshing. I found a lot of podcasts regarding disordered eating and also amenorrhea and fertility and learned so much from them.  I enjoyed listening to them on my morning walks.  I went to the gym maybe a total of five times in those three weeks and the workouts were actually really good.

Five days after I met with the nutritionist, I had a period.

For the first time in nearly two years.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was so happy and the wave of relief that washed over me was indescribable.  I had cramps, my back hurt, my stomach was bloated.  And I welcomed those feelings 1000%.  I immediately emailed my nutritionist about my excitement.  Then I told my husband as soon as he woke up and he was so happy to hear it and hugged me for a long time.

I met with my nutritionist again three weeks later.  I had lost about 4 1/2 pounds since the last visit which made me feel good as well.  We updated my goals – she mentioned how thrilled she was that my cycle had returned and told me that if I feel like I don’t need 2,000 calories each day, then it would be okay to eat less but to really listen to my body and eat when I feel like I need to.

And that is where we are today.

I still struggle with binge eating, with my clothes being tighter, with seeing friends and family whom I haven’t seen for a while and wondering if they notice my weight gain.  But I try to remember that this is for my health and if someone says something to me about my weight, that it’s them that has a problem, not me.  It’s a day-to-day work in progress, some days being harder than others.  I am starting to feel better the more I progress and on those harder days, I just think about the day my cycle returned and that it’s the most important part of all of this.

Thank you for reading this, if you’ve made it this far.  The most important thing I want you to get from this is that recovery is possible.  Be kind to your body – don’t let your mind and outside influences take over.  It is a delicate and sensitive being and deserves the utmost respect.

 

 

Erin’s Story

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey and how it lead me to where I am today: a mother to two little miracles and a blogger sharing my heart & infertility struggles. Some days it’s still hard to believe I’m in this chapter of my life and I’m so very grateful for the people that helped me through some of my darkest days. Coming out of those phases of darkness and into the phase that lead me to my recovery was a very exciting time. Hearing stories from other women in my shoes helped to make me feel less alone and gave me hope.

That’s my vision for sharing stories from The HA Sisterhood, to make you feel less alone and to give you hope too <3

Today I’d like to share with you Erin’s story…


 

I had been an active child and grew up in a family that supported my brothers and I playing sports and staying healthy. I started getting a period at age 11, and it was regular pretty early on. I was not an overweight child, but I was certainly not thin. I was what my mother calls and “early bloomer.”

In 8th grade I found myself comparing my body to those of the more “popular” girls and realized that a body like theirs was attainable with diet and exercise. I started exercising and eliminating junk food. As I saw results from these changes, I continued to exercise more and eliminating more foods.  I lost about 20 pounds in a short period of time, which brought me to 90 pounds at 5’0. I did not look unusually thin to the people around me. In fact people told me I looked great, which only perpetuated my behaviors.

In a society where everyone is trying to lose weight and working out more is always better, I truly believed I was doing the healthiest thing.

In 9th grade I joined the cross country team. It was a fun activity, but between practices, homework, studying and other life commitments, my extreme type A personality could not handle it. I was chronically stressed out…as in all day everyday I was emotionally stressed. Not to mention the physical stress I put on my body with the running everyday.

I lost my period at age 14 in 9th grade and did not think of anything of it. I actually was relieved because it was one less thing to think about. At my high school physical the next year the nurse asked me when I got my last menstrual period, I told her it had been a year. Her eyes got big as she wrote it down. That visit the physician prescribed birth control pills to “fix the problem.”

I thought that was great, just pop a pill and no health concerns. Perfect in my mind!

I continued with my lifestyle and went onto college.  When I was 20 I experimented with going off BC to see what would happen. After two years of being off BC and still no period, so I went back on because someone told me that my bones were likely suffering. At age 25, I was in dental school and my stress was taken to a new level. I stopped getting my period even on the birth control pill.  I went back to my doctor and she just prescribed a high dose to once again “fix the problem.”

In November 2015 I stopping taking birth control and decided I needed to find the underlying cause of my lack of periods. I went to an OBGYN, who ran blood tests and diagnosed me with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. I researched this and realized my lifestyle needed to change drastically. This was a hard pill for me to swallow, but I began implanting changes slowly. I cut back on running and added calories to my diet.

Finally in May 2016 I went “all in”.

I completely gave up exercise and have been shooting for 2500 calories/ day. As of this time I have gained about 16 pounds. It has NOT been easy at all, but I know that my period will return in time with my changes. I am so grateful for The HA Sisterhood support group. I am continuously inspired by these ladies and motivated by others’ successes!

Niki’s Story

When you’re in the thick of your struggle with infertility, you can feel so alone and unsure of where your path is headed. Hearing others stories, helped me relate & gave me the ability to open up and take the steps I needed to recover.

My hope is that hearing stories from The HA Sisterhood will help you to feel less alone and unsure of your future…


 

I thought I was healthy.  I worked out with workout DVDS for an hour a day.  Then I would run 3 miles.  My diet consisted of “clean” foods like egg whites, lean meat, vegetables, fruit, oatmeal, and nuts.  It was a low fat diet.  I had a “cheat meal” or “treat” twice a week.  Every calorie was counted.  Looking back I probably averaged 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day.  In 2014, I trained for, and ran, a half marathon.  During this time, my weight dropped to 110 pounds (which is low for my 5′ 6″ frame).  It never occurred to me that I was unhealthy.

But one day I had no energy.  I was tired all the time.

After a workout, I would crawl back into bed.  I had started to gain weight even though I had not changed my diet or exercise.  A visit to the doctor and some blood tests  showed that everything was “normal.”  But I knew something was not right.  So I turned to a naturopath who finally gave me some answers.  I had Adrenal Fatigue.  With the help of herbal supplements, continued “clean” eating, and reducing exercise (which still included 30 minutes of workout DVDS and a 3 mile run), my fatigue lessened.  But my body was still not functioning as it should.  Around this same time I went off birth control.  But my menstrual cycle never resumed on its own.

After some research online, I found out that this can be normal after being on the pill for an extended period of time. I decided to wait it out.  Six months later, still no period. Once again I visited the doctor and went through the usual panel of blood work.  My levels were “normal” but still low. The doctor said everything was fine.  My weight and BMI were normal.  I was prescribed Provera to induce a withdrawal bleed.  Two weeks later, nothing.  So the doctor prescribed Estrodial and Provera for a month.  Still no sign of a withdrawal bleed.

At this point, almost 10 months had passed.

A visit to my OB and an Endocrinologist, more blood tests, an MRI to check for pituitary tumors, and an ultrasound finally gave some answers.  I did have a cyst on my right ovary, but they didn’t think it was the cause of my problems. I was diagnosed with  Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.  I was told that cutting down on the exercise and stress would help. Again, they told me my weight and BMI were normal (at this time my weight had gone up to 130 pounds).   Then I went to see the Reproductive Endocrinologist.  She went over some of the options.  She said to try a higher dose of Estrodial and Provera to induce a withdrawal bleed.  As far as getting pregnant some day, she thought Clomid wouldn’t have success in my case.  So basically she was telling me that my options were limited to IUI or IVF.

None of my doctors ever said to stop exercising or even asked about what my diet looked like.

They never said to eat more or gain more weight.  Over the last year, I have cut back on exercise.  But I have not given it up.  I have slowly increased my calories to 1,800.  I have gained 20 pounds. But I still have not had a cycle.  It’s taken a long time, and lots of online research, but I have finally come to accept that what I have been doing is not working.  It was a start, but I need to make a more dramatic change.  So starting this July, I am sticking to only yoga and walking for my workouts.  I am done restricting what I eat, and will bump up my calories again.  I am hopeful that this will do the trick and get my body back into a place where it feels safe.  I have decided to wait another month before I try Estrodial and Provera again.  I feel my body is trying to cycle on its own.  The past few months I felt some of the effects of changing hormones. Hopefully with a little more time and a few changes I can get back to really being healthy.