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.