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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I’d be happy to add them to this post.