More of Your Questions Answered Re: HA

This post has some lady talk in it. If you’re not into that, I’ll see ya tomorrow!

Believe it or not, I continue to get at least a dozen emails a week regarding hypothalamic amenorrhea from women who are seeking advice and have questions about it. I love that these women are taking the first step at recovery and acknowledging that something in their lifestyle needs to change. That being said, I only have so much time, and responding to numerous emails each day is nearly impossible for me these days. (Note: I apologize if I have yet to reply to your email or if it was a super delayed response. Please do not in any way take it personally – life has honestly just been crazy lately. Thanks for your understanding.) To help with that, I created a hypothalamic amenorrhea FAQ post last year that covers a lot of questions I often get asked. Now that I’m well into my recovery from HA and I’m also 14 months post partum, I seem to be getting a new flood of questions regarding my experience with hypothalamic amenorrhea – more so, how I am handling things NOW. So, we’re going to do a second round of Q&A to hopefully help some of you that may have more questions.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor of any kind. I’m sharing what I’ve learned through MY OWN experiences and research. Also please keep in mind that every body is so different and each hypothalamic amenorrhea case is unique to that woman.

How come your half marathon didn’t have any impact on your cycle?

I briefly talked about this HERE. I truly believe it’s because I was fueling my body well, eating plenty of healthy fats, and listening to my body and its needs. I followed a training plan that didn’t involve a ton of running compared to some of the other training plans out there. I did more cross training and mostly just focused on getting my legs moving and increasing my distance in my long runs. Running is a stressful form of exercise on your body, but it’s definitely a great way to exercise if done in moderation. Just because you run long distances doesn’t mean you’re going to lose your period. However, if you’re currently trying to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea and trying to regain your period, I would back off of running because your body is at a really sensitive place and needs all the extra rest and trust it can get from you.

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What about BODYPUMP? Isn’t that pretty intense? How is your body handling that?

Yes, BODYPUMP is pretty intense, but it’s not like HIIT (high intensity interval training). Regardless, it’s not a workout for the birds. So far, my body is handling it all really well. I’ve been going to BODYPUMP classes about 2-3 times per week for the past month now, and my body is continuing to respond great. I actually just got my period a few days ago, and my cycles have been just about 30 days apart, so there’s proof for ya. I almost always take at least two rest days per week, I eat quite a bit, and I don’t restrict, so I’m sure that all plays into it and helps too.

Are you the same weight you were when you got your period back after recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea?

No, since giving birth to Hunter, my weight has happily settled about 10-15 pounds below the weight I was when I initially got pregnant. My current weight is actually about what I weighed in high school when I was regularly cycling with no problems. I don’t count calories, but I’m guessing I eat anywhere between 2000-2500 calories per day, I never feel deprived, and I’m continuing to get my cycle each month, so I’m confident that my body is in a happy place.

How come your body is cycling normally now even though you look the same size as you did when you weren’t getting your period?

Each woman’s experience is so different, but I don’t believe my hypothalamic amenorrhea was set on because of my weight. (However, many women’s hypothalamic amenorrhea IS set on because of their weight, so please don’t discount that.) I’ve never been at a dangerously low weight. My weight has always been in what is considered a “healthy/normal” range. I believe my hypothalamic amenorrhea was initially set on when I lost my period at 18 years old because I was struggling with bulimia and binge/restrict cycles at the time. Those habits can totally mess with your hormone levels. Even though I stopped those habits stopped after a couple years, I continued to eat too little for how much I was exercising so my body was never given a chance to recover.

If your weight was within a healthy range at the time, why did you have to gain weight to get your period back?

My body needed to trust me again, and it needed some extra TLC. It wanted to know that I was going to continue to feed it well and not overstress it by bingeing, purging, restricting, and over exercising. I was also working at raising my estrogen levels, and fat = estrogen, so the extra fat helped increase the estrogen in my body.

I’ve regained my period after going through HA, but I don’t have a desire to get pregnant right now. What now? Do I have to continue to keep eating a ton and not exercising to keep my period?

I get this question a LOT, and it’s always difficult for me to answer because once again, every woman and every body is so different. I think it’s important to recognize here that your body is still in a really sensitive spot. Women with hypothalamic amenorrhea typically have more sensitive hypothalamuses in general, so it’s important to be aware of that. The last thing you want to do is go back to your old ways because that will confuse your body even more. I would recommend trying to find a happy medium. I don’t think it’s necessary to force yourself to stuff your face after you initially get your period back, but place your focus on feeding your body well and nourishing it with a well rounded diet of whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, full fat dairy, LOTS of healthy fats, and food for the soul (i.e. desserts). I would just make sure you’re confident you’re still getting plenty of calories as your body needs that energy to continue to help the reproductive system work. As for exercise, still do things you love but take it back a notch. Add in an extra rest day or two, scale back the super high intensity workouts, and most importantly, LISTEN to your body. If it’s tired, rest it. Don’t be scared of resting – it’s just as important as exercise itself!

Please let me know if you have any other questions relating to HA via the comments below or email (ashlw0304@gmail.com), and I’d be happy to add them to this post. Smile

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Comments

  1. says

    Loved this post! Thank you for continuing to show your love and passion on this sensitive topic. I sometimes wonder what the heck my body will do after I give birth, but the only thing I can do is treat it right and trust it.

    • Ashley says

      You bet! I remember wondering the same thing. I just really focused in on listening to my body and treating it well. It sounds like you have the right mentality about it all!

  2. says

    You know how much I love and appreciate these posts lady, thanks so much for doing them! Right now, I’m just trying to listen to my body – give it lots of rest, lots of food, and just do what it needs to do at any given moment.

  3. says

    Wonderful post, Ashley!

    I truly believe stress plays a HUGE role in the loss of a period–it’s not always about body fat or how much a woman weighs. Stress can come in many forms–restricting/stressing about food, exercise, life, etc. My period came back after 7 years of it being gone (eating disorder + disordered eating afterwards), but came back after a summer of self-care & meeting my future husband who calms me down. Gaining weight didn’t even get me my period back.

    So it’s awesome you took the time to give your body a break, and I am sure that is a huge reason it’s loving you back! You look fab & are so healthy. What a great role model! xo

    • Ashley says

      Unfortunately, it’s a very common thing within the fitness world, so I try to be as transparent as I can to help as many women as I can. :)

  4. Rebecca Quin says

    Fantastic post – really highlights the fact that there is no ‘one solution’ and that each person needs to learn to listen (and respond!) to their bodies and to trust that their bodies won’t morph overnight! I can imagine that, like myself, many women with HA have histories of controlled patterns of eating and exercising and they seek that same ‘control’ when trying to recover – “tell me exactly how much to exercise, exactly how much to eat, exactly how much I should weigh” were frequent thoughts of mine. The real cure, however is relinquishing that need for control and letting your body lead the way. You have summed this up perfectly in your wonderful post. Thank you :)

  5. Melissa @ Freeing Imperfections says

    Wow, I haven’t been here in a while. Love the new site design! I love that you share your story about this. It’s awesome for you to try and help other women by providing information that others would often just avoid talking about.

  6. Priscilla says

    Ashley, I just wanted to let you know how happy I was to read this post! I’m so proud of you and love the way you’re living your life : ) You are a true inspiration <3 ~P

  7. says

    Great post, as always, Ashley. You always speak very honestly and elegantly about this issue and I appreciate it and respect it. I am recovering from a restrictive eating disorder, and have yet to get my period back, but I know I’m heading in the right direction. It’s always so encouraged to be reminded of your story and to see that change IS possible. And I love seeing how happy you are now with your little family, nourishing your body properly, taking rest days, and exercising sensibly. Thank you!

  8. says

    Ashley, I just want to say thank you for putting your story out there and giving advice to others. After not having a period for 7 months since discontinuing birth control (for the second time in a few years), I saw a reproductive endocrinologist last fall; he briefly mentioned hypothalamic amenorrhea as a possibility, and I am so glad he did….after an online search, I found your site and helpful advice!

    Between nourishing my body with whole foods (and letting go of restrictions), discontinuing hot yoga, and going to weekly acupuncture, I regained my cycle within two months. Believe it or not, I didn’t gain any weight; it is amazing how your body stabilizes itself when you let go of those mental controls. And after just three cycles, I got pregnant and we are expecting a baby boy in November. Thank you for continuing to raise awareness because there are such limited resources out there for HA!

    • Ashley says

      Sarah – your story makes me SO happy to hear! Thank you for sharing it and commenting. :) Congratulations to you on your pregnancy! Being a parent is the best thing ever!

  9. says

    God is using you Ash! what a beautiful and encouraging heart you have. Thank you for doing this. I love what you said about how the body needs to trust you again. OH MY, yes!

  10. says

    It’s definitely an interesting topic. I wonder if I don’t have my period back yet because of still BFing or because of this. I don’t run as much as I did before getting pregnant and having HA, so who knows!

  11. says

    I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and say thank you so much for posting this! I am fascinated by this topic and I agree that you handle it well without overdoing it. I really appreciate that! Since getting into health/fitness, I haven’t really had any issues regarding my cycle, etc, but I’m just glad I found your blog because at least I can refer to it if need be! I’ve sent quite a few others your way as well :).

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