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…
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.
Be fit! Be fertile! Be well! 🙂
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.
It was normal for women to exercise and not eat all in the name of being thin, right??
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!
While I was eating more, I was still restricting certain things and not doing enough for my activity level.
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.
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.
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.
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 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,
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.
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 🙂
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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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