Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Success Story: Jaclyn

Hi All! Jaclyn here. I’m so grateful Ashley’s passionate about hypothalamic-amenorrhea (HA) awareness and helping people combat it. I discovered her blog and story a few years ago in the midst of my own struggle. Her transparency and sharing of ‘tips’ played a role in my own overcoming HA.

Like many young women, I suffered from an eating disorder (ED) that lasted 7 years. An overweight kid, things started innocently enough with a diet (no soda, cutting back on the ‘bad’ stuff… you know the drill) my freshman year of high school. After 4 months, I’d lost a little weight and so decided to ‘step things up a notch’. That one move began the quick downward-spiral into full-blown anorexia. After seeking treatment from a dietician, who prescribed an 1800-calorie meal plan, my very-ill, food-obsessed mind tracked every teeny morsel that passed my lips. I began punishing myself with less food or more exercise when I strayed from eating ‘perfectly’. I’d developed a new form of ED… orthorexia.

Within the first year of the ED, my periods came to a complete halt. My doctor prescribed birth control for the first of many times to help me cycle. Problem solved… or so I thought.

I started college still hyper-vigilant about every piece of food I ate and exercised 6 times per week for over an hour each time. Super-strict food-wise throughout the day, I began binge-eating at night. Terrified of gaining weight, I purged to stave any off. If you’re keeping track, that’s a 3rd manifestation of ED…bulimia.

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Me on the left; Freshman year of college

This pattern of over-exercise + eat too little, then binge and purge lasted on-and-off for 3 years. I often prayed for God to remove this struggle from my life, but I wasn’t really ready to surrender it. How would I stay skinny without it? The only time I’ve been thin was when I had an ED. The summer after my junior year, the Lord moved dramatically in my heart and life, releasing me from the bondage.

While He took ED away, God wasn’t so ‘giving’ when it came to my periods. I stopped taking the pill several different times, to see if I could cycle on my own. Nothing ever happened; probably because I continued exercising too hard too often (6 days/week of weight-lifting and high-intensity running for a minimum of an hour) while not fueling enough for 2 more years.

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After a 6-month span off the pill, I went back on since I’d be getting married in just 3 months. That proved to be a big mistake, because I endured 9 months of night sweats & hair loss. For the final time, I went off the pill and gave myself 6 months sans-BC to cycle before taking more drastic measures. By July, nothing changed, so I stopped making excuses and started seriously researching how to heal my body by nourishing and not over-stressing it, which is when I found Ashley, in addition to others in the same boat.

One compelling approach I found was Maudsley Approach for ED. At the same time, I discovered Gwyneth Olwyn, who adapts Maudsley tactics to enable adults to treat themselves.

My approach consisted of re-feeding and limiting my physical activity. I consumed 3000 calories per day for 4 months straight. Simultaneously, I stopped all exercise, so all that excess energy from my food could be used to heal the organs my body had ‘eaten’ the years I didn’t feed myself enough. Unlike re-feeding, the no-exercise venture lasted only 2ish months before I added light yoga and walking back in. I couldn’t handle sitting around so much!

Four months of re-feeding and 25 pounds later, I ovulated and had my first period in 8 years (only 4 months… this after years of being ‘treated’ with the pill).

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A few months into re-feeding, already feeling more alive

Getting a ‘regular’ period takes time, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t have another for 4 months. Impatient and worried, I decided to visit my naturopath who prescribed some ‘potent’ homeopathic drops that enabled even a woman with just one ovary, who hadn’t ovulated for years, to conceive and deliver a healthy baby.

My experienced proved similar. The drops made me very fertile. After 9 months of taking them (and not ‘trying’ to get pregnant), we found out we’re expecting our first baby in August!!

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Our Valentine’s Day pregnancy announcement

My journey with HA has been long and hard with plenty of ups and downs. It’s terrifying to release the tight grip we often have on exercise and ‘healthy’ eating, to gain weight, to trust our bodies to tell us when and what to eat. In my experience, though, doing so not only helped me overcome HA; it finally demolished any residual exercise obsessions, guilt and shame over eating certain foods, and body-image issues left over from my eating disorder.

If you’re battling HA, know that you too can overcome it. Take things one day at a time, fighting each fear with the truth that you are more than your size or fitness routine. As exhausting as this can be, I remained hyper-vigilant of the lies and any destructive thoughts until they no longer came. Today I don’t hear them, so there’s no need for a fight. That’s a beautiful mental place to be.

Jaclyn is a mom-to-be and holistic health coach who specializes in disordered eating. She has a passion for fitness, nutrition, and healthy, balanced living. With a background in exercise science and 5+ years of personal-training experience, she quickly grew frustrated with the lack of solid, research-based advice for expectant mamas who enjoy lifting and/or high-intensity exercise. So, she started her blog, BumpSweat, to help women (pre-pregnancy, pregnant and/or new moms) navigate those waters and stay fit & active before and after baby comes. When not coaching, blogging, or working out, Jaclyn enjoys cooking nutritious meals, studying the Bible, hiking, and reading.

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Comments

  1. says

    Congrats on overcoming your struggle (and your pregnancy!) Jaclyn – this is so inspiring! It’s definitely scary to release any residual feelings about exercise and the ‘need’ to be skinny, so hearing stories like these remind me that everything’s going to be ok in the end!

    • says

      Yes, it definitely will be! More than okay. I couldn’t have imagined what life completely free from ED and HA would be like; to be honest, that unknown was kinda scary. But it’s a wonderful place to be :)

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing your story! Love the part near the end that says “fighting your fears with the truth…” That’s truly how we can overcome HA.

  3. says

    Congrats on getting your cycle back and being able to have a baby! It’s always nice to hear other stories of amenorrhea after going through my own years ago – I never knew anyone who had dealt with it. It’s always a shame I think when the doctors advise the pill since it covers up the issue. I get when they say it gives us estrogen but in my case and many others, covering it up isn’t going to help us figure out how to get our periods back on its own. I hate my cycle like nobody’s business- the cramps, the hormones, the way it interfered in my race last month but I know that I am healthy when I get it like clockwork so I will take it!

  4. Jess says

    Congrats on your pregnancy! HA isn’t something I’ve experienced personally but I’m glad you overcame it :) What were the potent drops your naturopath recommended called? I’ve been ttc for a year with no success and I’m hoping to enhance my cycles somehow!

    • says

      She put me on two. I don’t have them right in front of me due to being out-of-town, but one was a marjoram compound and the other a mixture of homeopathic herbs called ‘pituitarium-ovarium’. When I get home, I’ll double-check for you :)

  5. says

    Thanks again, Ashley, for sharing my story! And thanks to all of you for the congratulations! It’s beautiful that more and more women are able to know that others have been there and/or are going through this, so we can support one another along the journey.

  6. says

    Thanks so much for sharing, Jaclyn! It has been about 7 months since I have been off of the pill and no period yet… but I have significantly increased my eating and have gained weight (I’m not sure how much because I do not own a scale), have begun forcing myself to eat some of those fear (less “clean”) foods, and have greatly decreased my exercise (and surprisingly feel great/not guilty about this). Nothing yet.. but stories like yours give me hope and encouragement to keep doing what I’m doing :)

  7. lynn says

    Ashley, thank you for sharing these stories. I found your site searching for HA, and these experiences are so helpful.
    Jaclyn, congratulations on on your pregnancy! : )

    if you are reading this, could you follow up with how you were able to stick to Minnie Maud? I’m also trying to get my period back after 2 years of nothing (stress + dependence on distance running led me to a for-me-unhealthy 17.0 bmi), but am intimidated by the strict no-exercise, 3000 calorie diet. It just seems like so much food! Did you continue to follow it after your body began to show signs towards recovery?

    • says

      :) She put me on two. The first was a marjoram compound, and the second a mixture of homeopathic herbs called ‘pituitarium-ovarium compound’. I believe those are the correct names but don’t have them in front of me due to being out-of-town. I’ll double-check when I get home and let you know if I am off on one or both of those.

    • says

      I was placed on two different compounds. I’m away from home for the week but think the first was a marjoram compound, while the second was a mixture of homeopathic herbs called ‘pituitarium-ovarium compound’. I’ll check when I get home next week and let you know if I’m off on either of those.

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