Strong Arms Girl

How I Overcame Amenorrhea by Giving my Body What it Needed

How I Overcame Amenorrhea by Giving My Body What it Needed

To not have your menstrual cycle for an extended period of time sounds like a dream for a lot of women and may be a reality they wish they lived. Since the eighth grade, I have always experienced irregular cycles so I did not think much of it when I went a whole summer without my period. At first, I thought it was wonderful being able to go to the pool or on vacation without having to worry about my period, but I soon realized something wasn’t right when I started my first semester at college. 

For those of you who don’t know, Amenorrhea refers to the absence of a menstrual cycle in women of reproductive age. One or two missed cycles are normally nothing to worry about, but you may want to check in with a doctor when you start missing three or more. Amenorrhea can be induced in a number of ways, such as a hormonal imbalance, if you are taking birth control, lifestyle factors, or a combination of these. In my case, it was a combination of low body weight, excessive exercise, and stress.

When I started my freshman year at Manhattan, I decided I wanted to start working out everyday and only eat salads for lunch, which is what I thought defined a “healthy” lifestyle. I would wake up at 6:30 every morning to fit in an hour long cardio session before class and then eat a breakfast that barely made up for all the energy I had just expended. I started to lose weight that I did not even think was possible, but still decided to ignore it and remain set in my ways; restrictive eating habits and excessive gym sessions became my norm. It was not until I started opening up to close friends and family about my mental struggles that I started to recognize something had to change. Therefore, below I have listed the three changes I made to get my health and wellbeing back on track!

1. Talk to someone

    Recovery starts by opening up and talking to someone you trust. I know the fact of speaking your truth and being vulnerable to others is a daunting thought because it makes your situation real. We may be afraid or do not want to admit that something is wrong, but sometimes it is the best thing we can do for ourselves. Therefore, if seeking therapy is too big of a jump for you, start off by sitting down with a close friend who will listen to and support you. Sometimes it’s enough just to feel heard by someone even if they haven’t experienced what you’re going through. 

2. Change your workouts

    I knew that if I wanted to get my period back, I would have to make some major changes to my workout habits. I couldn’t bring myself to completely stop going to the gym because working out had just become such a big part of my routine. Therefore, I made a compromise with myself that I would start going every other day, take the weekends off, and significantly reduce the amount of cardio I was doing. I would only get on the treadmill or stairmaster once a week, and I began to focus much more on weight training. I realized I did not have to leave the gym sweating or absolutely exhausted to count it as a “good” workout. My focus shifted towards slow and steady weight exercises, such as deadlifting, squats, and lifting weights. 

3. Increase your calories 

    Increasing my portion sizes and eating more calories in a day than I was used to is probably one of the biggest mental battles I’ve ever had to face, and am still facing today. Remember that there is no quick fix; it is a process that will take time. I began by simply eating till I was satisfied. This meant I did not stuff myself until I was uncomfortably full, but had enough to eat that I still had room for more. Honor your hunger cues and give your body what it is asking for. Cravings often stem from restriction, therefore, allow yourself to give into those cravings (in moderation). If eating three large meals a day does not sound appealing to you, then try eating smaller meals more frequently. Allow yourself to snack and eat when you are hungry. 

In all, I am not claiming to be a doctor or an expert on this subject. I just hope that sharing my story speaks to those who may be experiencing this and are looking for some guidance. Like I said, change doesn't happen overnight and it is never easy. In no way is my journey close to being over and there is still progress to be made, but I refuse to give up. By implementing just one of these habits into your daily life can be a big step, so take it slow and go at your own pace, but have faith that you will achieve your goal!