Are you trying to recover your period and finding yourself stressed and confused about what to eat or not eat? You’re not alone. In today’s weight and “health” obsessed environment, it’s all too easy to open your phone or turn on the TV only to find yourself overwhelmed by unwanted nutrition “hacks” or “tips-and-tricks” from an up-and-coming “health guru”. Everywhere you turn you hear someone talking about diets, weight loss, or the new food you should avoid. Even some credentialed professionals will give out inaccurate advice, doctors included.
These nutrition “professionals” giving out “advice”, while their personal experiences might be working for them and their own lifestyle, there’s absolutely no reason you should believe those same “nutrition hacks” will work for you (especially if you’re already not getting your period). You are an individual with your own nutrition needs. These needs, and getting enough fuel are extremely important for your hormone health. Plus, so much goes into health and nutrition including your lifestyle, genetics, environment, social life, and mental health. The list goes on and changes on a day-to-day basis.
As mentioned, there are a lot of myths and bad advice out there (especially from those that do not have formal education in the field they are advising on). Even some with education in the field their advice is general. As someone with HA, you may be susceptible to this when you search online for advice. Remember, you are unique so please seek professional advice (one on one is recommended). So today I’ll bust three common myths for you.
3 Controversial Nutrition Myths for Period Recovery...Busted
It may be hard to see through all of this nutrition “advice” because it’s everywhere but it’s important to start with one fact - if you’re not getting your period, there isn’t anything healthy about that. I’m going to clear the air by busting three popular nutrition myths that often lead to orthorexia and can fuel HA (these are not the only myths, there are a bunch more).
Myth #1: Eating carbs is bad for you.
Carbs just can’t seem to catch a break, can they? Everyone seems so afraid of eating carbs and as a registered dietitian, I don’t understand why. This “evil” nutrient is essential if you want to be physically and mentally on the top of your game. It’s even more essential if you’re trying to recover from HA and get your period back.
While our muscles and liver have the ability to store carbs, that ability is limited. If you don’t give your body enough carbs, it will compensate by breaking down protein in your muscles, tissues, and organs. And unlike our muscles and liver, our brain can’t store carbs for energy. The brain’s main source of glucose is food. Long story short, not eating enough carbs can leave you feeling exhausted and unable to focus or pull from your memory. If you want to feel your best and support your body’s metabolism you must eat carbs, the more the better(don't forget about your other nutrients such as fats and proteins too). And remember that carbs truly fuel (not harm) your body. https://dieteticdirections.com/in-defense-of-carbs-stop-the-hating/
Myth #2: Eating fat will make you fat.
This couldn’t be further from the truth (not to mention there is nothing wrong with being in a larger body, especially when that larger body leads you to full hormonal functioning!). In fact, dietary fat plays a huge role in making sure you’re healthy, and will support your body’s ability to heal your HA. Not only is fat an excellent energy source, but it’s also responsible for regulating hormones, keeping your brain healthy and happy, allows you to absorb nutrients better, and leaves you feeling full and satisfied at the end of a meal. Without fat you’re unable to absorb necessary micronutrients such as Vitamins A, D, E and K. And that’s just scratching the surface! Fat is important to insulate your body and keep your temperature regulated. Do you often feel cold? This could be one sign you are not eating enough fat (and calories). As I’m sure you can imagine, depriving yourself of sufficient amounts of healthy fats can actually do a number on your overall health. https://academic.oup.com/biolreprod/article/77/2/190/2629661
Myth #3: All sugar (and “junk” food) is bad for you and “addicting”.
There’s a rumor going around that all sugar is bad for you - even fruit sugar. This is absolutely not true. Sugar is a form of carbohydrate which, as discussed above, is essential to the body.
It is true that some forms of sugar impact blood sugar differently but unless you're a diabetic this does not matter. All foods that contain sugar are created equal. For example, a banana versus a cookie. The only difference between the two is what your mind thinks and these “health gurus” tell you. Your mind is likely to think banana=good, cookie=bad. A cookie in fact has more protein and calories than a banana, which is what you need if you’re trying to recover from HA. I’m here to tell you, that your body will know no difference in eating the two. Don’t let your head tell you differently!
Believe it or not, the stress from worrying about sugar and avoiding it can do more harm than the actual sugar itself. Driving yourself crazy about your eating can cause you a lot of stress. Mental health is very important when trying to recover from HA. Eating a sweet treat and listening to your body when you do eat those foods is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s an even more important part of HA recovery.
You may have heard sugar causes the same effects of the brain as cocaine or other drugs. This is not fully true. In the studies done on rats, that only happened after forced deprivation AKA DIETITING. After deprivation and restriction of sugar a person’s reward response is extremely elevated. It is true that food and drugs do share neural pathways, but the brain does not develop a dependency on food such as sugar. You probably see this myth repeated frequently in social media, TV, magazines, etc., making it seem this is true and compelling. The fact is we love being able to control, and food and exercise are areas where we are really good at doing so.
The Bottom Line
The storm of health and nutrition misinformation can leave you feeling dazed and confused. This is especially true if you’re struggling with HA. Don’t let it! Instead, seek out a professionally trained, credentialed individual that can help you figure out what your needs are and help you heal your relationship with food. Again, do make sure they have experience with HA, body image or eating disorder recovery. They’ll be able to come up with a personalized strategy to implement positive dietary and exercise changes that will help you heal your HA and will ultimately lead to sustainable authentic health.
Lastly, I wanted to share years ago, I fell victim to this “health” craze and it lead me down the road of Orthorexia (and HA). This storm of misinformation often leads to orthorexia, or an obsession with “healthful” eating. Like anorexia, orthorexia involves restriction of the amount and variety of foods eaten. Therefore, the two disorders share many of the same physical consequences.
Don’t get me wrong; being aware and proactive when it comes to the nutritional quality of the food you eat and feed your family isn’t necessarily a problem. However, it’s important to know it is a problem if you find yourself fixated on so-called “healthy” or “clean” eating 24/7. And this fixation with healthy foods can cause a whole host of health issues, especially HA. Think of it this way, you’ve made all these changes in order to be super “healthy” but driving yourself crazy due to your fixation on these “healthy” ideologies is NOT “healthy” AT ALL. It is very possible to be too “healthy” in your eating.
Do you want to hear more on a nutrition “myth” you heard of? Do you need a nutrition myth clarified? Get in contact with me and I would be happy to debunk it !
A special thanks to the No Period Now What Author, Nicola Rinaldi for everything !
Cynthia Donovan, MS RDN CDN is a RDN who specializes in HA nutrition and is a HAES practitioner. Shoot her an email @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on IG @myrealisticrd
Who Needs a Period? They are a pain in the a** anyway !