Updated: May 27, 2022
I’ve been on quite a journey behind the scenes and I wanted to open up about it with you. I know my struggles always serve a purpose and I hope my story makes you feel like you’re not alone if you’re dealing with something similar.
Let me first get you caught up with my hormonal health journey…
During the summer of 2020, I made the decision to go off the birth control pill after learning about all of the side effects and realizing it wasn’t inline with my beliefs.
After being on the pill for 8+ years, I was surprised that my period came back within two months after stopping it. I had 8 cycle’s post-pill, they weren’t perfect and I struggled with PMS, but I was happy my body was doing its thing.
I went off the pill during covid. This was a really tough season for me. We had postponed our wedding, my husband lost his job, we couldn’t visit family and I had a lot of stress juggling a full time job and a growing coaching business. These stressors lead me to emotionally eat and I gave up on my healthy habits. I gained 20 lbs and certainly did not feel my best.
In October I decided to get support. I hired a fitness coach with the goal of getting back to feeling good in my skin for my wedding day which was roughly a year away. My fitness coach was great. We took an extremely slow, balanced approach as we worked on body recomposition.
Despite feeling great physically, 3 months into adjusting my nutrition and fitness routine my period went MIA. You can see from my chart that my cycles started to get really short from December on as we started to increase my activity level and decrease my food intake.
I was worried when I lost my period because I knew this wasn't normal, but figured it was from stress. I had a lot going on and didn’t think it had anything to do with my new habits because they were making me feel great!
From January through October (9 months) my period was still nowhere to be found. Part of me was relieved I wouldn't have to worry about PMS or my period for the big day and I decided I'd address it after.
Right after the honeymoon I ended up getting my period back! I was so relieved and beginning to believe I had actually lost it due to the insane stress I was under.
Going into 2022 I got a couple more periods but they were very irregular. Some back to back and others lasting 60+ days.
I started to dig deeper into what might be going on and stumbled upon a condition called Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA). HA is a diagnosis where you don’t have a period for at least 3 months. It’s caused by hormonal imbalance related to stress, exercising too much or consuming too few calories. It’s quite common among people in the fitness industry, but anyone can have it regardless of how “fit” or “lean” they are.
This made complete sense as to why my period went MIA for 9 months. While I didn’t think my current fitness habits were too extreme because I had a normal BMI and felt energized, my body was telling me otherwise.
The main advice given to recover from HA is:
Eat at least 2500 calories a day (sometimes more)
Stop all intense exercise (walking and stretching is ok)
Cut out stress in your life.
You’re supposed to do this until you get at least 3 healthy cycles in a row lasting 28-35 days with ovulation. After that, you can slowly start adding back in exercise and eating more intuitively, but you have to be careful because your body is still super sensitive to energy shifts and you don't want to throw your hormones off again. With this condition, in order to get a regular period again your body needs to feel safe and have ample energy.
Going "All In"
I knew I was going to have to figure this out eventually, especially since David and I wanted to have children in the next couple of years, so I decided to give it a try and go all in. I started eating double the amount of food I was before (still nourishing whole foods), stuck to walking only (less than 10,000 steps a day) and started sleeping in longer and taking things off my plate.
Naturally from doing this I gained quite a bit of weight back (I’m not sure how much, I haven’t weighed myself at all this year) but it has worked and my cycle has finally started regulating each month!
I’d be lying if I said this healing journey has been easy. I’ve dealt with a lot of physical symptoms like joint aches, brain fog, mood swings, acne, bloating, sore breasts and headaches as my hormones have come back full force. I’ve had a lot of bad body image days, have had a few breakdowns because none of my clothes fit anymore and haven’t really felt like myself, but I'm staying focused and committed to the process.
I've made it this far through prayer, my amazing husband supporting me, reading other peoples journey's with HA online and listening to podcasts like The Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Podcast by Dani Sheriff. I'm so thankful for other women who are brave enough to share their struggles because it's helped me know that I am not alone in this.
I could easily be ashamed of my weight gain but instead I'm choosing to embrace it. If being in a bigger body means I'm healthier, I'm going to lean into that and not fight it. Maybe I'll be able to revisit my fitness goals down the road without it affecting my hormones, but right now that's not the season I'm in.
Balancing your hormones is a PROCESS. It does not happen overnight and can take 6+ months of consistency to see positive changes, but it's so worth it. Having a regular period is more than just fertility. We need to have healthy levels of hormones for bone health, adrenal function, thyroid function, healthy skin and more.
If you’re not getting a regular period naturally or your periods are miserable, something is off and I encourage you not to ignore it like I did. There are many natural solutions you can turn to instead of just masking your symptoms with birth control or an IUD. If you have HA the journey might require your body to change a bit, but remember you are SO much more than your body.
I now have a new passion for hormonal health and have learned SO much this year on how to balance them and support them through nutrition, mindset and lifestyle shifts. I can’t wait to share all of the strategies I've used with you!