Dieting is one of the most common ways women lose their period. I know, I also thought losing my period was not possible until it happened to me. The major factors that play into a loss of period are inadequate calorie consumption, over exercise, and stress. If you currently are missing your period, I suggest reading up on how to get it back and maintaining a healthy cycle before you try to lose weight. Your body needs some consistency and to feel safe before you embark on another diet.
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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!
I lost my period for about 4 years and went through a year of recovery trying to get it back. When I felt my relationship with food and exercise had healed, I tried to lose some (necessary) weight I had gained. However, this diet looked much different than your typical slashing calories and jumping on the treadmill. This time, my priority was health and with health, slow and steady wins the race. Every time.
The relation to energy and period loss
Secondary Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a result of lack of energy (calories) in the body. This lack of energy availability results in not only reproductive issues but also downregulates other processes in the body. Everything works in harmony, if you lost your period you also would have struggled with digestive issues, hair loss, sleep problem, the list can go on. This is because all of the processes that go on in the body require energy.
The human body is incredibly smart and designed to keep you alive. When one cuts calories, the body will adapt to that amount of calories. Therefore, it will shut down “unnecessary” processes and down regulate others. Reproduction is not viewed as necessary to your body when energy availably is not adequate enough to grow a baby. Therefore, the energy used for reproduction will be used for more important things such as keeping your heart beating, breathing, etc.
The relation between body weight and a loss of period
Body weight also plays a role in maintaining a healthy period, more specifically, body fat. Ever see those fitness competitors jump up on stage with not an oz of fat on them? They most likely do not have a period OR are very close to losing it.
Fat produces estrogen. Without body fat, you will not produce estrogen, one of the main female hormones needed for healthy reproduction. In addition, having a healthy amount of fat on your body allows it to feel safe enough to reproduce. Fat is just energy storage, when enough energy is available, your body will reproduce.
A healthy body fat looks like:
10-15% – Essential fat (you probabaly will have hormonal issues)
16-23% – Athletic and healthy (most women will menstruate at this level)
23-27%- not ideal for health
over 27% – over weight
*These numbers will vary according to your age*
How to know if your ready to diet again
You will know when you are ready to diet again after period recovery by these signs:
- You are not preoccupied with food or food thoughts
- Digestion is optimal
- Hair, skin, and nails are healthy and growing
- You do not binge eat or feel the need to eat large amounts of food
- Your mental health is stable
- Have a healthy relationship with food and your body
- Your doing it to feel good, not for anyone else
- And you have maintained a regular cycle for AT LEAST 4-6 months
Creating an appropriate calorie deficit
Most of us know a calorie deficit is needed if you want to lose weight/fat. What many people do not know is that a 500 calorie deficit is probably too aggressive if you want to keep a healthy cycle. I would suggests taking a more modest approach so your body isn’t thrown a curve ball. Cutting down about 10% of your maintenance calories should do the trick!
Cutting calories is a stressor on the body and also on the mind! Psychologically when we restrict particular foods, those foods become all we think about. In addition to a modest calorie deficit, be sure to include foods that feed your soul as well as your stomach. moderation is key.
The first step to finding the right calorie range for your weight loss journey is figuring out maintenance calories. Here are some calculators to help you out!
If you have been in the fitness and health game for a while you probably know how many calories you need to maintain. Just use that number and then cut maintence by 10% and that will be your deficit!
Creating an appropriate exercise plan
Exercise is a physical stressor on the body and too much can cause a loss of period. Therefore, you need to create an exercise regimen that is not too intense but also allows for muscle growth.
An exercise plan is very subjective to the person but for context I will outline the routine I had/have that allowed me to attain a lean and healthy body.
Monday: leg day! (45-50 minutes)
Tuesday: upper body day! (45 minutes)
Wednesday: circuit training, kettlebell work (45 minutes)
Friday: Leg day (45- 50 minutes)
Saturday: Upper body day (45 minutes)
Sunday: free day! Maybe a long bike rides or walk
5-6 days a week I will make sure to get 10k steps in and that is it! During my luteal and menstrual phase it will relax on my schedule and lean more towards yoga and walking. Due to low energy levels that’s what my body asks for!
Again, exercise according to your lifestyle! Exercise is only 20% of the puzzle when it comes to weight loss so focus primarily on calorie intake and nutrition.
What if I lose my period during my diet?
If you do lose your period even in a slight calorie deficit, then stop dieting. Your body may already be at its happy weight and that is amazing! Everyone is different with different weight set points.
Bring your calories back up to maintenance, lower the intensity of exercise and your period should be back in no time. It is important to not ignore it if it does go missing. You do not need a leaner body at the expense of your health <3
Wrapping it up
Considering your current situation and mental health, you may be ready to shed some fat you gained in the process of period recovery! With an appropriate deficit and exercise routine results will be slow but that is what you want! Rapid weight loss is a recipe for hormonal disaster so remember to take it slow.
Until next time xx
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or dietition. I am apeaking from experience and knowledge i have personally obtained through studies. Please consult with your doctor or dietition in regards to health concerns.