I lost my period for 4 years! Im sharing my 5 best tips for functional Hypothalamic amenorrhea treatment and how you can get your period back naturally!
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be as these are solely based on my experiences. Please consult your family doctor before considering any recommendations listed in this post. Thanks!
Functional Hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) is not a very common term but is a common occurance in the fitness space for female athletes. HA is charatorized by a missing period for 3 or more consecutive months due to low energy availability. This lack of energy can be created by one or more of the following:
- under eating (disordered eating behaviour)
- over exercising
Stress also plays a roll in HA (precieved or physical stress) which can interupt hormones and stop menses. Another name for HA is RED-S (reletaive energy deficiency in sport) or the female athlete triad.
The catalyst to my functional hypothalamic amenorrhea
It all started after puberty. When we go through the transition from girl to woman, we gain some healthy weight. It is necessary to gain some weight and I wish I knew I didnt have to lose it when I went through puberty. However, I come from a family of very active and health concisous people so my weight gain was getting noticed.
“Hailee, you’ve put on some pounds!”
“I think you should lose some weight”
“Why don’t you go for a run?”
*if you have a daughter or son, please be mindful of the words you use because it can lead them down avery dark path that’s is hard to get off of*
I am in no way blaming anyone else for my health issues. At the end of the day, I was the one who chose to diet, I was the one who took it too far, and I am the one who needed to fix it. However, hearing those words catalyzed an eating disorder that took about 5 years of my life and with that, I lost my cycle.
taking the diet too far
I had no idea what a good starting point was for calorie consumption so my fitness pal decided that for me. I spend about 6 months eating only 1200 calories and developed very disordered eatin behaviours like:
- fearing high calorie foods
- avoiding events
- thinking about my next meal CONSTANTLY
- never went a day without tracking all of my food intake
This is not normal. This is an eating disorder, you should not have to earn food or fear any types of food. Its ironic, I was trying so hard to be healthy and avoid sugars, carbs, and fats. However, it way my eating disorder that was the unhealthiest part of the picture.
I couldnt stop exercising
If you “never miss” even when you are sick, dont have time, or just are burnt out. Its time to take a reading. When I developed functional hypothalamic amenorrhea I would do anything and everything to get my workout in for the day (often times 2).
- I would pace in my room to hit my step count
- wake up before the crack of dawn to exercise
- walk to school even if it was raining
- run almost everywhere even though I had a car
This is not what a healthy relationship with exercise is. You should be able to take a break without feeling guilty. Be ok with missing a day because you are busy.
I held so much worth in my external looks
This was the route cause of my problem. I often asked myself “why am I doing this to myself?”. To which I had no answer other than I had to be the best of the best. I thought, “if im going to lose weight, Im going to do the very best I can and lose as much fat as I can”. Which is such BS. Read here why your body NEEDS FAT TO LIVE.
I put so much worth in how I looked but was the most insecure I have ever been in my life. HA was a by-product of my perfectionist mindset and the only way I was going to get my period back and be healthy again was to let go of trying to control.
What happens when your body is in an extreme deficit
When one’s body is deficient in nutrients and energy, it will start to shut down “unnecessary” systems such as the reproductive system. There is no need to have a baby when you are struggling to keep your own body functioning efficiently. Some may know this as starvation mode. However, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea does not just cause a loss of period, other systems may be effected as well and cause:
- Hair loss
- feeling cold all the time
- irregular or missing period
- poor sleep
- brittle nails and skin issues
- anxiety and unstable moods
Unfortunately, lean bodies are idolized in our society when being lean means giving up your health. Most people have to learn that the hard way because there’s not enough information on the repercussions of being lean. Learn about the short and long term effects of functional hypothalamic amenorrhea here
SO…What is the secret to Hypothalamic amenorrhea treatment?
I wont sugar coat it, its going to be hard. However, it will also be worth it. I know for myself and a lot of you reading this are wondering ” If i do gain the weight, stop exercising, and eat more will I get my period or will it all be a waste.” To that I say – you are a female with a female body who was put on this earth to reproduce. Your body wants to menstruate if you let it.
It will all be worth it, you may just need some guidance.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Treatment 1. EAT EAT EAT
The biggest factor in regaining your menstrual cycle is closing the energy deficit you put yourself in. The first step to doing that is EATING. As females we are told to eat WAY below our nutritional needs and with that end up damaging our hormones and metabolism.
You can increase food slowly or start eating more straight away. Personally, I chose the latter because I was so tired of restriction and wanted to get my period back as soon as possible. The recommended minimum for HA recovery is 2500 calories per day OR MORE. I know that is a scary number but trust the process.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Treatment 2. REDUCE EXERCISE
I did not completely cut out exercise in my HA treatment, though, I know some women have to. I managed to get my period back while continuing light walking and weight lifting some days a week. Exercise is a stressor on the body so if your body is very sensitive to stress, you will have to cut it out completely until you have regained your period for 3 consecutive cycles.
Exercise is very healthy for your body and mind in appropriate quantites so if you are chosing to exercise through HA recovery, eat A LOT.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Treatment 3. REDUCE STRESS
Any type of mental stress such as work, family, relationship, or having too much on your plate at once is best to reduce during HA treatment. your body is in a continuous “fight or flight” mode when you’re stressed all the time. I tried to incorporate self care activities everyday such as stretching, baking, reading, taking a bath, and watching netflix. My body needed rest and recovery so that’s what I gave it.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Treatment 4. GET SUPPORT
You will gain weight on this journey, how much? I don’t know. Will you lose it eventually? probably not… that may be hard to hear for some people, it was for me, but the truth hurts sometimes. A huge factor that helped me through the weight gain process and body image issues was having support from my family and friends. I was always the “fit” one and going through this journey stripped me of that title. BUT this journey also gave me life, genuine relationships, and a new perception of what’s important to me. spoiler alert: I don’t care if i have abs anymore!
Check out my instagram and join my free community of ladies just like you and get the support you need xx
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Treatment 5. WORK ON BODY IMAGE
Since Hypothalamic amenorrhea is very common in the fitness world, its common for women to be very weight focused. Being hyper focused on weight and how you look makes HA treatment harder when you dont like the women starting back at you in the mirror. Working on body image and how you precieve your self worth can be valuable in HA treatment! Here are some strateges I use in my our personal journey:
- create a list of affirmations that make you feel good
- when you do find a flaw in yourself, counter it with something you love about yourself
- take baby steps, tell yourself something you believe and then work your way up the later
On that last point, I find when I told myself I loved my body when I really didnt, It made things worse. Instead, I told myself I loved my courage to begin this journey which at the time is much more believeable. Be gentle with yourself.
Hypothalamic amenorrhea treatment is not an easy journey. Especially when you feel like your losing your identity. However, you must decide what is mor important to you: How you look? or how you feel and the health of your body? I know which one I would choose and I hope you choose the same!
If you have any further questions or would like to open up to me about your journey through hypothalamic ammenorhea, feel free to contact me!