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 @ email@example.com or follow her on IG @myrealisticrd
2/6/2019 1 Comment
One of the major causes of hypothalamic amenorrhea is under eating and low energy availability. This isn’t necessarily intentional. Some ladies don’t eat enough without knowing it and end up with missing periods, a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA). That being said, a huge portion of women who lose their periods due to under fueling (and/or over-exercising) do so because they have a bad relationship with food and their bodies. Learning to love your body and truly enjoy food is a huge part of healing hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Replace Restriction With Permission
Think about it. One of the major causes of HA is under eating. It’s logical to think that one of the major solutions to this problem would be to eat more. Unfortunately, in most cases it’s not that simple. For those who have a bad relationship with food and their bodies, eating more can come with a lot of guilt and other negative feelings.
It can be scary to let go of all of the food rules and allow yourself to relax and simply enjoy eating. Don’t let fear stop you! Your goal is not just to heal your hypothalamic amenorrhea. It’s also to heal your relationship with food. It will take a lot of hard work and commitment, but eventually you’ll feel less out of control around food.
Why & How You Need To Be Eating More
It is important to understand that while working to recover from underfueling, you have to be intentional about eating more. Over time, you have likely either trained yourself to ignore hunger and fullness cues, or if your underfueling has been unintentional, your hunger and fullness cues have not naturally led you to eating adequate amounts – likely due to not adequately fueling your exercise. To start with, you will probably have to plan your eating – making sure to eat first thing in the morning even if you don’t feel hungry, having at least a snack every couple of hours, and mindfully increasing your overall calorie intake during the day. This can mean larger portions or incorporating different food choices that contain more energy.
You may have heard of the idea of Intuitive Eating. This is a way of eating that encourages you to respect your hunger and fullness cues, but as we just discussed, until you have reset those cues from the time of restriction/underfueling, IE is not necessarily appropriate. However, overall Intuitive Eating is a great way to help heal your relationship with foods as mentioned in my blog post about Intuitive Eating in the link above.
Eating enough is absolutely crucial when you’re recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea. Recognizing that your hunger and fullness cues aren’t firing properly and working with a non-diet dietitian to make sure you’re properly nourished can be monumentally helpful. Traditional dietitians are often telling woman they need fewer calories than they actually do and are not familiar with HA. Eating more (calorically dense) food and eating more frequently probably won’t come naturally at first, but as your body and mind get used to the new amount of fuel and types of food, both the physical sensation of hunger and fullness signals, and the emotional aspect of going against many food rules you had in place before, will get easier.
Eating “Too Much”?
It’s common for ladies who want to heal their relationship with food (and their hypothalamic amenorrhea) to feel like they are eating large amounts, and to put the negative label of “binging” on this behavior, once food rules and restrictions are out of the equation.
Eating more (and eating enough, and even eating more than you “need”) is not the same as binging.
When you first start adding more food into your routine it might feel a little hectic and out of control, but that’s to be expected. Most of us find that food restriction leads to eating larger amounts when the restrictions are removed. Giving yourself permission to eat more foods (and foods that you enjoy) is what will ultimately improve your relationship with food and lead to more consistent eating.
At first, the feeling of fullness might deter you from eating enough and meeting your energy needs. This is because your body needs a little bit of time to get used to what eating enough feels like.
As you’re letting go of your restrictions and start eating more, you might need to eat past your initial feelings of fullness. It can be as simple as enjoying foods that you have been afraid of in the past, having a second helping of dinner even though it feels like you’ve had enough, or eating when you’re not necessarily hungry.
It is also important to realize that what you see or experience as a large amount of food is what your body needs to recover. It can feel scary to eat a lot at one time when you haven’t allowed yourself to eat enough for so long, because you wonder if you will be able to stop, and how often this will occur. Again, it comes back to restriction. If you continue to restrict in the times after you feel as if you have eaten a lot, the same pattern will repeat. This is another area where giving yourself permission is helpful – even if you ate more than felt comfortable at one meal or snack, it is okay to eat at the next meal time, whether that be breakfast, snack, lunch, or dinner – in fact, it is strongly encouraged to do so. The more safe your body feels that you will supply nutrients and energy that are needed, the less you feel the need to consume physically and mentally uncomfortable amounts at the times when you have given yourself permission to eat.
In addition, as far as the physical feelings around eating go, remember that having undereaten for however long means that you probably experience feelings of fullness more quickly when you eat what is, to most people, a “normal” amount of food. Pushing through these signals, for the time being, is often needed to get enough food in; over time your signals will readjust to encourage you to eat amounts that will truly fuel your whole body.
That being said, if you feel like you need a little extra help when it comes to eating more, what to eat, or the emotions that come along with eating more, reach out to a qualified medical professional. It’s all a part of the journey (especially in the beginning) but eventually you’ll feel less out of control around food and food will be just that… food. Think of it this way, for a very long time you have been following a certain “diet” or way of eating. You can’t expect to feel comfortable overnight once you start eating more or differently. This takes time, patience with yourself, and practice. I’m not saying it’s going to take years to do this but it will certainly take time. The more you “practice” this new way of fueling your body the easier it will get!
In the meantime, check out this post for a list of calorically dense foods designed to allow you to eat more without necessarily eating a larger volume of food. (Eventually, you’ll want to start increasing the volume of food you consume (however, it is possible to eat enough with calorically dense foods). This list is just to get you started by eating enough calories!)
“Bad” vs “Good” Food
There is no such thing as a “bad” food. Society and other medical professionals (that often have no experience with woman that have HA, body image disorders and all the other “fun” stuff that comes with HA) have deemed foods “good” or “bad”. Yes, as a Registered Dietitian I can agree that there are some foods that have more vitamins and minerals in them or other things that are beneficial to the human body. However, what your body needs right now is FOOD. Your body wants to be fueled with adequate calories through calorically dense foods (your body doesn’t know you’re eating a kit kat instead of kale, only your mind does. Right now you can’t necessarily listen to your mind). This includes but is not limited to candy, cookies, mac and cheese, chips, etc. All the foods society deems as “bad” or “unhealthy” are SO good for your body during recovery. If you eat an entire package of Oreos, there’s nothing wrong with that. This is not a binge, this is giving your body what it wants. This behavior of eating “lots” will diminish with time, especially with regular adequate fueling from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed (and even in the middle of the night if you’re hungry).
Remember all this out of control feeling and craziness is temporary (and normal). You can do this!
What is Intuitive Eating?Before we go into what intuitive eating is, let’s start with what intuitive eating is NOT. Intuitive eating is NOT another diet. In fact, intuitive eating flips dieting on its head.
Diets inevitably come from a place of weight stigma, deprivation, and self-control. The intuitive eating approach is so much more than that. Intuitive eating comes from place of love, self-care, body acceptance, and permission. Instead of telling you what you’re allowed to eat, intuitive eating gives you unconditional permission to eat.
While traditional dieting uses external cues to guide food and movement decisions, intuitive eating uses internal cues. Intuitive eating is all about tuning into your body, taking restriction and judgement out of the picture, and replacing it with mindfulness and self-respect.
In a nutshell, intuitive eating is normal eating. At birth, everyone is an intuitive eater. When babies cry because they’re hungry, they eat and then they stop eating when they’re full. It’s not until we grow up and are exposed to diet culture that we lose the natural ability to eat intuitively. Little kids are told to clear their plate at the dinner table. Teenagers are told that “bad” foods will make them gain weight. Adults are told that the only way to be healthy is to eat exclusively “good” foods. In short, diet culture strips our ability to tune into our body and “eat normally.” Rediscovering intuitive eating gives that back to us.
The 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating“Intuitive Eating” was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, in the mid-90s. Their evidenced-based approach is based off of 10 principles. Below, I listed out these 10 principles and briefly described them. If you want to learn more about what intuitive eating is and expand on these 10 principles (and I think you should!), check out their book: Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.
1. Reject the Diet Mentality. This is a big one. Without ditching the diet mentality completely, you won’t ever be free to really embrace intuitive eating.
2. Honor Your Hunger. Hunger is normal! Intuitive eating is all about listening to your body’s hunger cues and trusting them. Ignoring hunger cues and restricting food leads to cravings and binges. *
3. Make Peace with Food. Dieting inevitably ruins your relationship with food. But it doesn’t have to be that way forever! Embrace intuitive eating. Call a truce and make peace with food. This means giving yourself permission to eat guilt-free, no matter what.
4. Challenge the Food Police. There are millions of messages out in the media telling you that foods are “good” or “bad” - this is not true! It seems like the food police are shouting food rules at the top of their lungs. The next time you find yourself in the presence of the food police, challenge them. Or simply ignore them and listen to your intuition. Your body knows what’s right for you!
5. Respect Your Fullness. This is just as important as honoring your hunger. Your body will give you cues that you are no longer hungry. By embracing intuitive eating, you’ll be able to recognize those signs and assess your current fullness level. *
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor. It’s entirely possible to be physically full but not satisfied. This leads to lots of cravings and binging. If you’re not satisfied, chances are you’ll keep looking for that one thing you’re craving (and probably overeat) until you are. When you eat what you actually want, you’ll be both full and satisfied at the end of a meal.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food. It’s not uncommon for people to “eat their emotions.” Eating specific foods often results in a physical response that evokes an emotional reaction. And sometimes people eat for reasons other than physical hunger. That being said, it’s important to find ways to honor your feelings without turning to food.
8. Respect Your Body. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality, but it’s even harder if you’re overly critical about your body. Learning how to love and accept yourself as you are is a crucial component to truly embracing intuitive eating.
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference. Throw everything you know about exercise out the window. Instead of exercising the way that you think you should, try simply moving in a way that feels good to you. Instead of focusing on burning calories, focus on how it feels to move your body.
10 Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition. Honoring your health by being gentle with yourself and your nutrition approach really sums up what intuitive eating is at its core. Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be healthy. The human body is very forgiving. You won’t suddenly gain weight or develop a nutrient deficiency after one bout of eating. Your health depends on what you consistently eat over a long period of time, not what you eat at one meal. Be gentle with yourself and make food and movement choices that make you feel good in the moment.
Why You Should Embrace Intuitive EatingThere are tons of reasons you should embrace intuitive eating. Below I highlight why I think intuitive eating is worth embracing. My hope is that this list motivates you to ditch the diet mentality and embrace the intuitive eating approach!
Dieting is hard and not sustainable. Nobody likes being on a diet, right? That’s because dieting is hard! There are specific rules to follow, special foods to buy, apps to track your intake with, and exercise plans to follow. And these are just the first handful of reasons that came to mind. Trust me, the list of reasons that diets are hard is endless.
Not only is dieting hard, but it simply doesn’t work. There’s a reason that diets often come with a predetermined timeline. I’m sure you’ve heard of something like a “21-Day Weight Loss Challenge” or “How to Get a Beach Body in 3 Months.” Sounds promising, right? All you have to do is work hard for a few weeks or months and you’ll have reached your goal! Wrong. These short term promises are just that - short term. Sure, you can lose weight in 21 days or 3 months, but the chances that you gain the weight back (plus some) are high. This is because diets are not sustainable. Now don’t get me wrong, intuitive eating isn’t easy! In fact, it can be harder than going on another diet. But it’s worth it. If you really embrace intuitive eating, the benefits can last a lifetime.
Intuitive eating lets you reconnect with your body and improve body awareness.Reconnecting with your body and improving your body awareness is really important when it comes to your general wellness. By embracing intuitive eating, you’ll be learning how to listen to the subtle signals your body sends you throughout the day. Being in touch with your hunger and satiety cues really sums up what intuitive eating is in a nutshell. It’s not necessarily easy to reconnect with your body and rediscover those cues, but it’s what will allow you to always be in tune with what you need.
Intuitive eating is empowering.Like I said before, we are all born with the ability to sense our hunger and fullness. Diet culture inevitably takes that away from us and replaces it with rules. Ditching those rules and reconnecting with our bodies is extremely empowering! You know your body and your body knows you. Intuitive eating makes you the expert and allows you to choose how you want to live. And that’s empowerment in a nutshell.
Intuitive eating is backed by science. Yes, that’s right. Intuitive eating is an evidenced-based approach to health and wellness. Studies have shown that intuitive eating can be linked to higher self-esteem, lower rates of emotional and disordered eating, lower body mass indexes, better body image, and so much more. You can check out these research studies if you want to learn more!
Are you interested in the Intuitive Eating approach?While the intuitive eating approach can really enhance your quality of life, it can be a little complicated at first. Working with dietitian is really important so that you can have a qualified professional’s shoulder to lean on as you go through your own intuitive eating journey.
*Note: Respecting your fullness and honoring your hunger can be particularly tricky if you’re recovering from an eating disorder or are dealing with hypothalamic amenorrhea. This is because your body’s natural hunger signals might not be quite right. Be sure to consult with a dietitian to see if this approach is right for you.
For many of us with HA, eating MORE (meaning a larger amount of food) is a struggle. Either we are afraid just to eat more, afraid of certain foods, or we have consumed so little it’s hard to eat more because our stomachs have shrunk. At this time, we cannot listen to our hunger signals, something that intuitive eating (IE) encourages. Side note, there is so much more to IE than listening to hunger signals, it is really about healing your relationship with food. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my FB page where you can find past live videos on IE.
Enough fuel (aka calories) is essential when recovering from HA. So how can we get enough calories without necessarily eating larger amounts? Right now you’re probably used to eating your usual way, and feel very comfortable with that. So making changes is going to require some thinking. If you remember back to when you started eating the way you currently do, it probably required some thinking. So it’s alright to have to think about your new way of eating; it soon will become natural to you, just as your original changes to “clean eating” or calorie restriction did in the past.
I have put together a cheat sheet that will be helpful in adding more calories to your diet. As a Registered Dietitian who also recovered from HA, I assure you all of these foods are completely safe to eat. While your mind may question the foods listed and feel some discomfort with the idea of eating them, your hypothalamus will not question them. Your hypothalamus and body will be forever grateful you are giving it the fuel it needs to run as it should be. Side note, some of our bodies may feel differently after eating foods that we don’t normally eat. Please don’t give up here. My recommendation is to give it some time before omitting these foods, as your body/digestion needs to adjust to your new norm of eating. I used to eat “gluten free” because I swore my body reacted to gluten. Flash forward and HA recovered, my body or I would never be able to tell if I just ate a slice of cake full of gluten or an apple. My gluten sensitivity was all in my head. However, some food intolerances/allergies are not and can be diagnosed by a medical professional.
When going “all-in” or adding new foods in your diet, do what you feel most comfortable with over time. If you’re not used to eating 10 different foods on the list I provided, start out with the 1-2 foods you are most comfortable with. The most important reason why I made this list was to help you get more fuel in your body without necessarily increasing the amount/volume of food, although over time you made need to do this. Also, when going “all-in”, increase your calorie intake over time. If you’re used to eating 1300 calories a day and you're trying to work up to the recommend amount in the No Period. Now What? (NPNW) book (2500 calories) you may want to do this over time as well. You may need more calories than the recommended amount based on your individual needs and activity.
This is a difficult journey for most of us I totally get it. However, there is SO much support out there for HA. If you haven’t read the book, NPNW, pick it up ASAP. If you’re looking for more support with food and nutrition, you have me !
The moment we have waited for is here ! For almost 10 months of pregnancy bliss, I finally got to meet my Baby Boy. The picture on the left was my little guy in the hospital, 4 days old. Yes, I was one of those woman who LOVED being pregnant. Aside from the unsettled first trimester with pregnancy worries and illness, I felt like I could be pregnant forever. I knew I wanted more kids and would love to be pregnant again, but after all of the work of fertility treatments I wasn't so sure I wanted to go through that again.
We arrived home after almost five days in the hospital. My Son and I both had fevers post delivery, so he immediately went to the special care nursery and I started on IV antibiotics. They think this was related to my water breaking and delivering past the 24 hour mark in which they recommend to get baby out. Anyway, it was a LONG 5 days in the hospital and the sleep deprivation was making me feel like I should be in the psychiatric ward, not the maternity ward. I had a blissful pregnancy but I can't say the same about the first few weeks as a Mom. Learning a new role plus learning how to breastfeed was not easy !
Flash forward to six months post baby. I started to wonder, will I ever get my period back? A lot of research supports your body "resetting" after baby. I went back and forth thinking about how long should I nurse for to see if my period would come back. I wasn't in any rush to have another baby but I was curious to see if AF would come. I decided to nurse as long as Baby and I wanted. We both really enjoyed nursing and I didn't want to stop nursing just to see if I would cycle.
Around 10 month PP still nursing, I started noticing changes in my body with CM, dips in supply, pimples, etc. At the time I had no idea what my body was doing because I never had your typical fertile signs/period signs. As I approached 1 year of nursing, I started to think more about getting my period back. Throughout post partum, I continued my usual of eating whatever (intuitive eating) I wanted (that didn't upset the baby through my milk) and exercised when I felt like it (usually yoga and walking).
So was Aunt Flow coming? I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was a little over 13 months PP still nursing twice a day and went to the bathroom. There she was !! My period had returned. I could not believe it!! I haven't had a natural period in YEARS!! Like I'm talking since I was a teen (I was on birth control for 10+ years due to "cysts on my ovaries"). Its like I finally felt complete, I had my miracle baby and my period. After years and years of searching for Aunt Flow. She was here. I crossed my fingers she was here to stay.
So my period first came back at the end of September 2017, I was a little over 13 months PP and still nursing. I am grateful I listened to my gut and stuck with nursing because both baby and I enjoyed it and didn't end it because I was curious to see if my period would come back. Granted, if your in a hurry to conceive again, cutting back/stopping nursing may help bring AF quicker. However, you must still make sure your fueling your body with enough food, decreasing stress and careful on what types of exercise you engage in.
My cycles ranged from 32-36 days. Heck, I'd take it ! I know this might sound silly to those that don't/didn't have HA. But OMG it was SO exciting to experience all the hormonal changes during the month and even go to the store to buy pads/tampons !
At a little over 16 months, my period didn't come. Oh no! What did I do different?!
Nothing. I was pregnant !!
Baby is here !!! Oh my gosh, how I remember this moment like it was yesterday. The day I gave birth plays in my mind over and over again. Whether you had a vaginal birth or a C-section, from this life changing moment on you will never forget this experience.
Some of you may be at the point after baby came to start worrying about getting your "pre-baby" body back in moments notice. You may have even started worrying about your body and how it will look after baby during pregnancy. If you haven't read my blog post on "Loving yourself while growing a miracle" I encourage you to do so.
So why are we SO concerned on what were going to look like after the baby? Take a moment and ask yourself this, "Why am I worried about my post-baby body?" What did you come up with? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please comment at the end of this blog. Below, I share some things I personally think may influence your desire to have the "perfect" post baby body.
I share one of the most personal pictures above with you all because THIS is the meaning of pregnancy, a baby. For first time moms, its also going from Woman to Mother. This is the reason you should want to be your best self and be 100% fully present for this little baby that grows oh so quickly. Don't cloud your thoughts with worrying about your post baby body, your going to miss out on whats right in front of you. Your baby wants a mommy who loves them and a mommy who loves herself. Also, baby doesn't question his or her hunger, they just eat. Please do the same. One more time, ask yourself... Why am I worried about my weight? If you came up with health reasons, weight may be a concern. If not, let it go and come back to the moment with your baby. Not to mention, do you really want to add one more stressful thing onto your already life changing journey. Your hormones are flying across the room, your learning something new and maybe even nursing for the first time (which is another job in itself). For me, all of that was enough to handle. I couldn't possibly add one more thing to my plate to worry about and I encourage you not to either. You are beautiful and no body loves you more than your bundle of joy.
Be kind to yourself, it took you almost 10 months to grow a miracle and the only thing that should be of concern is your mental health/well being and baby's well-being and nourishment. Don't miss out on the most important precious moments, as you will never get this time back. Be the change you want to see in your children!
So much love to you all- I know this isn't easy XO !
It is often a struggle for most woman to accept their changing body during pregnancy. Personally, I did not care what I looked like or how much weight I would gain to grow my miracle. It took many years and many tears to conceive, I planned on continuing my pre-pregnancy mentality of not worrying about weight or shaming my beautiful growing belly. I do want to mention that I put in ALOT of hard work changing the way I thought of my body, food and weight prior to pregnancy. Including but not limited to making peace with my body no matter what weight or shape it took, no food rules, joyful exercise, self love and living my life to the fullest without thoughts of food or exercise present in the back of my mind. Yoga, intuitive eating, meditation, having fun, a supportive spouse and working with a soul coach are the tools that helped me achieve the success above. To my HA girls, I encourage recovery prior to pregnancy since these thoughts may creep in easier than before pregnancy.
First off society puts an unhealthy image on pregnancy as they do with any body image for females. Belly only pregnancy, fit pregnancy, I can only gain X amount of weight, leaving the hospital in your pre-pregnancy jeans, OB-GYNs telling you to lay off the carbs (this is another topic) and APPs to track your pregnancy weight gain. Do any of these ring a bell? How frustrating, we can't even enjoy one of the most special times in our life without regret from societies image on a "healthy" pregnancy. Just like in everyday life without being pregnant, there is no weight/size that defines "healthy" or "normal".
So what is a "healthy" pregnancy? Disclaimer- there is no one pregnancy that fits all and no advice (even the advice below) that fits all. Pregnancy is full of ups and downs, happy/sad (thanks hormones) and a life changing experience you will never ever forget.
A "healthy" pregnancy is being fully present with the miracle you are growing whether or not you had struggled to get there. What is being present? Side note: During pregnancy hormones play a HUGE role in how you are feeling about pretty much everything. So if you are feeling depressed/very sad it is highly recommended to speak with your doctor about this.
A "healthy" pregnancy is intuitive eating and giving your body what its craving, even if that means having a cookie for breakfast :)
A "healthy" pregnancy is trusting your body to let it gain the weight it needs to support the miracle in your belly while putting aside societies screwed up image on a "fit", belly only pregnancy. Comparing weight gain to friends or family members is not realistic, they are not you.
A "healthy" pregnancy is taking care of yourself mentally and physically. I do not have a definition of what taking care of yourself is but if you have read above you could see what worked for me. I can tell you it is extremely unhealthy to compare yourself to others, especially on social media. There are many other medical things that attribute to a "healthy" or not so healthy pregnancy which I do not have the expertise to talk on.
Sticks and stones may break your bones but names or comments should never hurt you. Lastly, I do think its important to not let others comments make you feel bad. Example, "How far along are you? Wow I thought you were ready to POP!" Or "Are you pregnant with twins?", "Your getting big", etc.. YOU are beautiful and growing a miracle! Do not let body image, weight, others comments ruin the most special time in your life.
I encourage most woman healing from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) to try their hardest in healing their relationship with their body and food prior to pregnancy. Pregnancy can often bring these not so fun old feelings up of controlling food intake, weight worries and increasing exercise. During my pregnancy these thoughts were not present due to the work I put in healing my thoughts around my body and food prior. Not to mention how long it took to get pregnant. Again, being grateful and mindful can help put you in a place to encourage positive thoughts and behaviors. I enjoyed moving joyfully (never planned or intentional exercise), yoga was my BFF and I swear helped me fit an almost 9 pound baby out of my 5'0" frame. I ate whatever I wanted and in fact struggled to eat enough due to morning/afternoon and night sickness. Thankfully I was able to add more calories in without increasing volume of food eaten and took advantage of the time when I had an appetite and ate whatever I could !
I want you to look back on your pregnancy and be able to fully enjoy growing your little miracle without negative thoughts of weight and body image aside.
So much love to all of you and never forget pregnant or not to be kind to that beautiful body that does so much for you.
On my drive home after finding out I was pregnant I was crying, shaking and overjoyed. I was really pregnant! I just couldn't believe it. It seemed to good to be true. Immediately some of my old thinking started to kick in. I started to get so nervous that I could lose the baby. I had to go through multiple HCG draws to make sure it continued to increase for a viable pregnancy. After about the third draw and continued increase I started to ease up. Still, knowing the first trimester was such a touchy time I really had to get my shit together and calm down.
We had our first ultrasound, we were so excited to see the baby. Little did we know we weren't seeing a baby yet LOL but just a little dot with a sac. I was very early and they couldn't detect a heart beat yet. Which was completely normal. Everything looked great the RE said. We would be seeing the RE until he felt I was ready to transfer to my OB-GYN. During the first 12 weeks I had to give myself progesterone suppositories to make sure my lining was nice and thick for baby. The uterus eventually takes over. We planned on sharing our news with our parents and siblings on Christmas Eve. I would be about 9 weeks at this point. I did share our news to the Hypothalamic Amenorrhea TTC Facebook group right away as those girls had been through thick and thin with me ! I was so excited to share our news in a group that really helped me get where I am today. Special shout out to Dr. Nicola Rinaldi for helping me navigate my fertility treatment and Anna Phelan for creating such an amazing Facebook support group.
From the time we found out at around 5 weeks until the first trimester was completed, I had to try really hard to keep my worry at bay. Waves of anxiety would come over me and I would think "I tried so hard to get pregnant and its been such a long, hard journey, what am I going to do if I lose the baby?!" I know this was a normal feeling to have ESPECIALLY after the journey I had been on. I decided I was not going to let these thoughts get the best of me. I decided to turn any bad thought into something real or positive. Plus I wanted to be 100% completely present during this pregnancy. One of my mantras was "Wherever I am, is where I am supposed to be". A mantra is a word/phrase that is repeated that expresses ones beliefs. This helped me a ton, as the crazy thoughts poured in I would say this mantra. I also continued regular meditation/breathing and yoga practice.
Finally around week 7 I started feeling crappy. Nausea and food/smell aversions. I was SO excited to feel this ! It was so cool to finally experience what you heard from other pregnant people. I was so grateful to have aversions to food and smell. I also became a vegetarian (baby's choice, not mine) during pregnancy. The thought of meat was so gross to me ! I found many other ways to get adequate protein for baby and I.
The word was finally out to our family on Christmas Eve. To share this news we waited SO long for was such a blessing during such a beautiful time of year. I didn't want to wish time away but I couldn't wait for the second trimester knowing my miscarriage rate would go down and also to share our blessed news with all !
Stay tuned to my pregnancy journey, having a beautiful little boy and regaining my cycle post partum.
Dr. Rinaldi and help with fertility navigation.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea TTC Facebook support group
The dreaded TWW. Two weeks where you wonder if you will conceive or not. Two weeks when you wonder, am I going to have to go through fertility treatments again and everything that comes along with it? Two weeks where your scared to sneeze wrong thinking it might decrease your chances of getting pregnant. Two weeks where you question so many things.
Two weeks where you live your life in the present moment and being so proud of yourself for being SO strong to go through fertility treatments. Thinking to yourself, whatever happens, happens. This is my journey and I accept all that comes my way. I decided the dreaded TWW wasn't for me. I tried it once and let most of those negative thoughts penetrate my mind. That wasn't fun for anyone. Not for me, not for my body or my husband. This time around I let those thoughts go if they entered my mind and focused on being mindful through gentle yoga and meditation. I also surrounded myself with family and friends ( even though they didn't know what I was going through) and treated myself with loving kindness. Don't get me wrong, this didn't make the TWW move any quicker! Those two weeks are seriously the longest two weeks of your life. Try to stay busy if you can, but most importantly stay positive and treat yourself kindly.
During my TWW, Thanksgiving was here and all the fun of the holiday season was underway. We also celebrated my nephews baptism during the TWW (picture above). It was a joyful time for myself and my family. Of course I had thoughts of maybe next Thanksgiving we will have our baby with us or I can't wait to celebrate my child's Baptism. All beautiful thoughts, there is nothing wrong with hoping and wishing in a positive way. It is when these thoughts may turn to envy or jealousy that it can be detrimental to your mind and well-being.
So, the TWW was coming to an end. I had my HCG drawn and I would call the next day to find out my results. I had to travel for work the day I was going to find out. I waited until I was done working for the day to find out the results. I felt that if I found out before work and I wasn't pregnant I would be sad all day and if I was pregnant I would be so excited I couldn't concentrate. So I walked to my car and called the nurse before I left to travel back home. My heart was pounding. I was put on hold. I brought myself back to the time I called when she told me I wasn't pregnant and quickly got those thoughts out of my head. The nurse gets back on the phone and says "Well Cynthia, your obviously pregnant". I shed tears writing this over 2 years later. It took so much change, so much hard work and so much love to bring me here. I did it, I finally was pregnant. Note, I did have some symptoms during my TWW like increased hunger, some cramping and some insomnia. My hair fell out from the time I had my first fertility treatment in May and had finally stopped when I conceived. I was so thankful for my hair to stop falling out as it reminded me each day what I was going through. Anyway, the fertility drugs themselves can mimic pregnancy symptoms, I didn't want to get too excited. So it was not obvious to me I was pregnant.
I had a 1.5 hour drive back home and I wanted to wait to tell my husband in person but I couldn't. So I called him as soon as I got off the phone with the nurse. We were both overjoyed !
After a summer of fun and turning 30 years young, it was time to continue our TTC journey. I felt more relaxed and confident that I would conceive soon. I had a summer full of fun and self care. Stopped exercising (only joyful and unintentional exercise and really started enjoying food through intuitive eating). I felt different from the initial time I started my TTC journey, I felt ready and my body felt ready.
So in September of 2015 my RE decided to try letrozole with me to see if I might respond. I forgot to mention a few posts ago, when I was diagnosed with HA I found this AMAZING support group on facebook called "Hypothalamic Amenorrhea" and "Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, TTC". These groups served as a HUGE support. It really helped to talk to other woman about what was happening to me that could relate 110%. During our journey we decided not to share with anyone, so these FB groups were so helpful. So, the RE did some follow ups with me on letrozole and he didn't think I was responding. I shared my situation with the HA TTC group and Nicola Rinaldi, the author of "No Period, Now What", responded to one of my posts. She encouraged me to say on letrozole for a little longer to see if I would ovulate. My RE was agreeable, we gave it a little more time and in fact I did ovulate. Woooooo!!! I was so excited my body was doing something !! So the following cycle in early November 2015 my RE combined letrozole with follistim injections and HCG trigger shot. This time he encouraged an IUI. At the time when my RE prescribed this, I was actually away for the weekend at Kirpalu taking a mindful meditation and yoga course. The picture above is the beautiful lake at Kirpalu. Cultivating more self care for myself and appreciating all the things I took for granted (such as the beauty of mother nature) allowed me to heal even deeper than before. I started taking letrozole while I was away and a bit after I got back I started injections again. Multiple follow ups for ultrasounds an hour away and blood work confirming everything was going as planned. As I got closer to ovulation, it appeared I had 5 mature beautiful follicles. Which meant, high risk for multiples. AH! We had waited for so long we decided to take our chances. We completed our IUI at the middle/end of November of 2015 and would find out in 2 weeks if it was successful. I said to myself I don't know if I could go through this again if it didn't work because fertility treatment is really mentally/physically draining. I softly reassured myself, this is my journey, be present and go with the flow......
Who Needs a Period? They are a pain in the a** anyway !