Guest Post: How To Get Your Period Back By Letting Go Of Control

I’m super excited to share with you a post by fellow Health Coach & Blogger, Ritta. Ritta is a certified Holistic Health Coach from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her mission is to help women develop a healthy relationship with food, their body and exercise. Because she overcame Orthorexia, Depression, Exercise Addiction and Amenorrhea, she now coaches women who are going through similar struggles. You can connect with Ritta on her website. And also connect on social media at YouTube, Instagram, Facebook

Do you have a favorite genre of music? How about a favorite brand of clothing? Why is it that we don’t let anyone tell us what kind of music we should listen to, what hobbies to have, what clothes to wear, or what our relationships should be like? Yet we let others tell us WHAT foods to eat, HOW much to eat, and WHEN to eat it?

Our ancestors were never told what to eat or how much to eat. They definitely never worried about calories! Animals don’t think to themselves “hmm, what should I eat today and how much?” They just sniff the food and use their instincts to determine whether or not they want it.

Not long ago, I had lost myself in over-exercising and Orthorexia.

I let myself obsess over health to the point where I became very unhealthy, lost my period and struggled with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea for a year and a half. I was waking up every day at 5.30 a.m. to get in a 30 minute workout, go to a very active job, and come home to workout once more for another 30-60 minutes. In my head, I thought the more the better. I would do this at least 6 days a week, all while counting every single calorie, eating fat free, low carb, vegan, paleo, etc. Whatever my Orthorexic mind told me was a healthy way to eat at the time, I’d try it.

My body started to “scream” at me begging me to stop the unhealthy behaviors, but I kept on ignoring it. I was depriving my body of sleep, overspending it and doing unnecessary tough workouts. I also ignored the other symptoms I was having such as hair loss, loss of appetite, loss of libido, pale skin, constant soreness, fatigue and so on. It wasn’t until my body decided to shut off my reproductive system and made me lose my period, that I finally started to listen to it. Sometimes we have to go through rough times and get a kind slap in the face in order to wake up and get out of our heads.

In the process of me trying to get my period back I learned so much about myself and my body.

I learned that my eating disorder and exercise addiction were never really about food and body. It was all about control. At the time, I was going through depression and that made me feel out of control with my life. The only way I knew how to cope with my depression and stress was to control my food and to “run” away from my problems through a tough workout. The workouts gave me a temporary relief from my problems. Although I was working out in an unhealthy way, the temporary relief was worth it to me. That’s why I’m grateful I lost my period.

Firstly, it taught me a ton about myself and my body. Had I not gone through what I went through, I would’ve never learned this much about myself. Secondly, you can’t heal anything you hate and resent (Amenorrhea). You have to make peace with it, acknowledge it and thank it for what it’s teaching you. Then you can start your healing process from a positive mindset.

I knew all the basics of how to get my period back such as managing stress, eating more, exercising less, sleeping more, meditating, eliminating caffeine and accepting my natural body size. I did all of those things and I did see a lot of improvement. However, I still wasn’t getting my period back with just that. It wasn’t until I realized that I needed to stop being such a perfectionist and so controlling that I finally got my period back! I had a lot of masculine energy in me. It’s very IMPORTANT to have masculine energy, but when you’re trying to get your period back, do you see how important it is to have a feminine approach to it?

Consider asking yourself the following questions:

Where in your life are you being a control freak? In what area(s) can you allow yourself to begin letting go of control? Maybe it’s going to a restaurant without studying the menu a million times before you go? Maybe it’s by going for a nice walk instead of going to the gym? Maybe it’s as simple as getting on your knees and praying to God?

I learned to let go of control and and to strengthen my faith in God. This is something I never found online when I was trying to get my period back. That’s why I want to share this with you. I know how important this last piece to the puzzle is. This is a very spiritual piece of advice, but it’ll make a huge difference in your overall health and life.

However, for a more practical tip, I’d say sleep has been one of the most important things in my health and in getting my period back.

Having a very low body fat percentage, an eating disorder and exercise addiction affected my sleep. Gaining weight has helped me greatly in getting better sleep. I also put other things into practice to help me sleep better. I created a sleep sheet that contains my favorite teas for relaxation, favorite bed time yoga routine and a couple of affirmations. You can download that here if sleep is something you struggle with. You can also watch this video where I share the best tips on how to sleep better.

Your body is the smartest bio computer, and it knows exactly what it needs in order to feel its best. If you choose to listen to it, it’ll be the best thing you could do for your health. Listen to your body, make mistakes and through trial and error, and you’ll learn better lessons than any doctor/specialist can give you.

 

Nicole’s Story.

Unlike a lot of women with HA, I lost my period before I engaged in disordered eating and exercise. After an emotionally rough break up, my period started to get a little irregular. In June 2016, it suddenly disappeared while I traveling across Europe for the summer, but when I got back to the States, I began cutting calories and exercising with greater intensity. Consequently, my period never came back.

What began as an “innocent attempt” to lose 5 pounds quickly spiraled into a state of imprisonment to food and exercise.

I was became bound by my routine, by numbers, by calories, by workouts, and by pounds. I ate certain things at certain times, I limited my portions, and I forced myself into weight lifting and HIIT training 4-5 times a week. I felt like I was in control of my life, when in reality it was controlling me.

As the pounds and inches on my body dropped, my mental and emotional state plummeted. I became a person marked by fear, anxiety, and disengagement. The things that once brought me joy: being a teacher, spending time with friends, going to Bible Study, were now just obstacles that got in the way of my rigid food and exercise routine. I thought any change in this routine would “ruin” the body that I had “worked so hard for.”

For months, I denied that I had a problem.

My eating and exercise behaviors didn’t seem “bad enough” to be labeled as disordered or worth addressing. In my heart, however, I knew what was going on wasn’t right. It wasn’t right to be fueling with 1,200 calories a day yet going on 7-10 mile runs. It wasn’t right to go to bed hungry every night. It wasn’t right to work out despite being starving. It wasn’t right to disengage from social activities because of the food options there. It wasn’t right to spend chunks of time in front of the mirror critiquing what I saw. It simply wasn’t living.

I’ve always been someone who pursued a relationship with God, but it took me a while to let Him speak into this issue. One night, however, at a Christian conference I let Him in for the first time. I remember sitting in the conference starving, contemplating eating the half of a protein bar I had in my purse. I was adding up calories in my head, trying to decide if I would allow myself to eat. As I listened to the worship music that was playing, the thought came to mind “If you’re not going to change this behavior now, when will you?”  In that moment, I felt like God was speaking directly to me, calling me into a journey of freedom. As my first steps, I ate the protein bar, deleted my calorie counting app, and said yes to pursuing true health and life.

That night was the beginning of a 9-month long journey to recovery.

A few months later, I stumbled across Robyn from thereallife-rd.com, who specializes in helping women to get their periods back naturally.  I realized that a huge part of regaining my health was regaining my cycle, so I decided to contact her and start working with her business partner, Cody. Initially, the process began with a narrow-minded focus: I just wanted my period back. I didn’t want to process the emotional, mental, and spiritual issues that were underlying my missing period. I just wanted to get my cycle back, and get back to my comfortable, prescribed routine.

I quickly realized, however, that God had different plans for me. I began to accept that this journey was about so much more than healing my body: it was about healing my heart and mind first. Change happened slowly, but with each change I made, the more freedom I found in my relationship with food, exercise, and myself.

This process of healing started in the physical, then penetrated into the mental and spiritual.

It started with small physical choices: choosing to add the peanut butter to my oatmeal, choosing when to eat more because I was still hungry, choosing to have that extra snack, choosing to give my body rest. These choices went against every rule I had set for myself, yet as I began to break those rules and restrictions, they started to lose their power over me.

Soon, the voices of shame and guilt in my mind became much quieter. My anxiety didn’t feel so unbearable. My head no longer felt clouded, rather I could think clearly. Instead of thinking about how I could manipulate my body, I thought about how I could honor it. I became less obsessed with getting my cycle back, and more focused on living a life that brought me joy.

As this transformation occurred, I felt like my spirit came alive again.

I no longer felt bound and imprisoned – instead I felt free and empowered. I was free to make the choices that added to my life, rather than took away from it. I found joy in my job again; I invested in time with friends; and I was able to engage with God in different ways.

Consequently, my relationship with food and exercise changed dramatically. I realized my old exercise routine was not something I desired anymore: rather I found excitement in the steadiness and calmness of yoga. I no longer attempted avoiding certain food groups, but rather wanted to nourish myself properly to be able to do all the things I love.

Of course, there were parts of the journey that were hard.

There were days that I cried in front of my mirror as I saw my changing body. There was resentment as my friends went to exercise classes and went for runs on beautiful spring days. Nevertheless, I knew the emotional and spiritual gains I was experiencing were worth the extra pounds my body was carrying.

I woke up one morning realizing I no longer held the narrow view of “just getting my period back.” Instead, my newfound freedom and contentment in Jesus were enough. I didn’t need to strive for anything. In this place of surrender, I knew God had truly “healed my heart and mind.”

2 weeks later I ovulated, and got my period shortly after. After a 9-month journey, the timing of it all felt so right. Truly, I have experienced redemption of my body, mind, and spirit. I am so thankful.

Katie’s Story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So a year or so past and everything continued fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then July 1, 2017 it happened!

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

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

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

Niki’s Story {Part 2}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    

Savanna’s Story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristen’s Story.

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

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

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

I had my first daughter in February of 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At first it was scary and exciting.

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

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

  

How Fit is too Fit? Ashley’s Story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be fit! Be fertile! Be well! 🙂

 

Katherine’s Story.

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.

 

Mattie’s Story

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

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