The 24th day of Molly’s love your body challenge calls us to appreciate and celebrate the resilience of our bodies–something I talked about a few days ago. I talked about how my body has bounced back from all the crazy things I’ve done to it and how amazing it is that our bodies fix themselves even if we wrong them.
One of the ways I’m most in awe of my amazing body is in terms of the way it’s come to a happy hormone place for the first time in years. WARNING: I’m going to talk about girly things here.
I got my period when I was 11 years old. At the time, I was excited–I always liked passing milestones earlier than my older sister had, and I’d beat her on this one (if this isn’t testament to my competitive nature, I don’t know what is). I had regular periods for the next 5 or so years and never gave my hormones much thought.
When I started to get into the world of dieting and exercising more, I started to have some hormonal issues: migraines, some facial hair I wasn’t too excited about, and missing periods. At the time, the migraines and the hair were obviously reasons for concern, but I sort of celebrated not having a period. I was irregular enough that I brought things up with my doctor. Usually, I ended up taking a pregnancy test–when I graduated high school, I’d KISSED two boys and maybe held the hand of three, so this was always funny to me–but eventually I started to see specialists. By the time I’d graduated from high school (and put on some weight after hitting a low point in my eating disorder story and starting to work with a dietitian and a psychologist), I was still having odd periods. I’d tried the pill, something that lots of doctors will recommend, but my migraines were worse whenever I gave it a shot.
Somewhere along the line, I realized what not having my period meant. Even as I dabbled more in disordered eating and lost a lot of weight in university, I wanted my period back. I didn’t want to take a birth control pill anyways. I thought of it as a band-aid and I knew that if I took it, it would be too easy to ignore the fact that I literally wasn’t doing the right things for my body to function the way it was supposed to. I knew that not having a regular cycle meant my hormones were out of whack, which scared me mostly because I knew what that meant for my bones: namely, I wasn’t doing all the bone building I was supposed to during the years of my youth. I wasn’t really thinking about babies, but I knew that long term I didn’t want to be struggling with fertility issues. I’d had warnings from people around me and I read about the female athlete triad all over–both of my own volition and in my sports nutrition textbooks, for instance. This fact sheet does a pretty good job of summarizing things, in my opinion. Given a bone scan that scared the crap out me, my admittedly messed up eating, and my missing periods, I knew that this was describing me. Giving a name to what was going on made it seem more pressing and made recovery all the more important, in my mind.
What I really struggled with was the weighting (I meant to spell it that way) game. I was told that part of my recovery would be getting to a happy weight where my body would function properly again. I was also told that once I got to a healthy weight, it might take time for my body to start to produce hormones again. I was concerned that I would go heavier than I needed to while I was waiting, wrongly thinking that I hadn’t gained “enough” weight.
What happened for me, and I hope that if you’re struggling with this now, was being patient and trusting that my body would weigh what it needed to to sort itself out. What I found was that at a certain point, it didn’t matter too much whether I upped my exercise or tried to “eat healthier” or whatever–my body was pretty comfy at a specific number. Then, that number changed. And then it stabilized again. And after about a year of being at that weight, I started to get my period. Like clockwork. It was a miracle. I think I might be the only girl who would text her mother and friends in excitement over that time of the month rolling around. It’s been about a year of this steady stuff and it feels so good to know that my body’s doing what it needs to do. I’ve fluctuated within 5lbs all this year and I think that being consistent with making sure that I eat enough–of food in general but also of fat and carbs and protein so that I have the energy, the raw materials, etc. to make hormones–has been part of this stability.
If you ARE struggling with missing your periods, my advice to you is to be patient with your body and to keep in mind that not having your period means something is up: maybe you’re not eating enough, maybe you’re exercising too much, maybe you’re not eating consistently enough (i.e. restricting all week and bingeing on the weekend–your weight stays steady, but you’re still not nourished in this case), maybe something else is up. Call on professionals to help you–doctors, dietitians, and naturopaths were on my side in the process. Most importantly, take it seriously. Your body is trying to tell you something!
Have you struggled with your hormones? What helped you get back on track?