HA Recovery: How I Got My Cycle Back

1 Apr

Disclaimer: All opinions on If Gravity Happens are my own personal opinions, views, and experiences. I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or anything like that; I am strictly talking from experience as just a normal person who is in the process of recovering from HA. Please contact a professional for any specific questions regarding your diet/exercise/medical issues.

When I was diagnosed last May with hypothalamic amenorrhea, I had already done a little Google searching and was following a forum online from other women who were going through the same thing as I was. I had this feeling in my gut that was echoing all of what they were saying and I knew I had to make some big changes in order for us to ever have a chance at having a baby.

Taken in Oct. 2011, I had lost about 10 lbs after. Hello, HA!

Taken in Oct. 2011, I had lost about 10 more lbs after this picture was taken. Hello, HA!

From February through April, I cut way back on my running. I was running a good 6-8 miles every day prior to this time period but during these months I cut down to about 3-4 miles a few times a week, I tried to add in a little bit of peanut butter and sweet treats in the mean time and started incorporating some full fat dairy into my diet.

Without being officially diagnosed, I had a lot of denial that this was causing my cycle to be MIA but again, my gut knew something with my running and weight (as well as weight loss) was a factor so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to cut back a little, plus I was mentally not able to quit cold turkey at this point so if I did have HA, I had to start weaning myself. I was depending so much on my running to help handle the stress that I felt there was no way I could just stop.

Through April, my running started to be ruined by guilt. As my cycle was still not returning and I was continuing to follow the online HA forum and I gained knowledge on hypothalamic amenorrhea; after every run I would feel tremendous guilt that I was ruining any progress I had made and that I was never going to get my cycle back continuing to try to maintain my lower weight while still running. I also had witnessed plenty of women on the forum who gained weight and stopped exercising, and it paid off!

The forum saved me. Every day when denial would set in, I would read someone on there expressing how important it was to stop exercising, start nourishing, and eat up. I decided if I was going to do this, I was going to go all in. If I can control how my recovery is going to go, of course I’m on board! I couldn’t continue fighting to hold onto exercise and eating habits that got me here and I had to bite the bullet and make some huge changes. It worked for them; maybe it would work for me.

The beginning of May, we had my first doctor’s appointment with the fertility specialist who finally diagnosed me with HA. She started talking about the different fertility medications that would help, etc. which scared both of us and we were definitely not ready for that. With our sense of hesitation, she said I could try and gain some weight and STOP running. She made David swear he would keep me accountable and make sure my running shoes weren’t putting on any miles. That’s what I needed. I needed a Dr. to tell me that so I could finally stop being in denial.

So I stopped.

At this point I had gained 10 pounds on my own with eating more and cutting back on my running but she still wanted me to gain so I continued to gain. I quickly went up pound by pound and enjoyed the extra tablespoons of peanut butter, sweet treats, full fat cottage cheese/yogurt/cheese/ice cream, and continued to work on pushing out the negative thoughts on eating these foods and not exercising.

“As you attempt to recover, you will feel an increase in the anxieties around food intake, weight increases and body shape changes. It is one of the major reasons why going “low and slow” outside of an inpatient setting, is almost always unsuccessful. “Low and slow” is the terminology used for taking a patient slowly up from her current restrictive intake up to recovery intake amounts. As we now know, this approach is not evidence-based and appears to have weaker outcomes both for reaching remission and maintaining it even within inpatient settings. [A. Garber et al., 2012]” (youreatopia.com)

Once I stopped fighting it and started really healing my body, eating a lot more, and allowing it to trust me again, the crazy obsession of needing to run and needing to watch what I ate got less and less every day (never going away even still today, but it’s a lot quieter…)

I needed to do this. I’ll be honest, without HA, I would have never thought anything I was doing was wrong. I never would have known how to really eat and exercise or how to balance it all (still working on that…), and I would have never rid myself of the fear of not running and gaining weight.

When you get pregnant, you gain weight. I can’t imagine the mental, physical, and emotional struggle that I would have had to overcome if I would have gotten pregnant back then. I would have had a harder time not running (I wasn’t planning on running throughout my pregnancy as I was a fairly new runner…) and I would have really had to fight some personal battles to eat to nourish myself and more importantly another human being.

That is one of the many reasons I am glad (did I really just say that?!) I had HA. Looking back I know that I had to learn way more than I ever realized and I had to get to a point in my life that I could no longer be selfish if I wanted to be a mom someday. I had to start thinking about what I was doing not only for my health but for my future baby’s health.

It took 6 weeks of absolutely no exercise (other than walking my dog 20-40 minutes a day…no elliptical, no running, no weights, no videos, nothing), about 3,000 calories a day minimum (I wasn’t counting so this is an estimate but I do know that the more you eat, the faster you gain, the faster recovery would happen. Read from youreatopia and specifically “The Math of the Calories” section, so helpful!), and a weight gain from a BMI of 19.6 to a BMI of 22.3 to get my cycle back.

I thought I was set, I thought it would come back regularly and my cycles would get shorter, and we would be pregnant in no time. Unfortunately, I didn’t recover as well as I’ve seen others. I had a few cycles (long but regular) and then things were all screwed up. I was still gaining, still not exercising, but my hormones were still so out of balance that our chances were few and far between. I continued to gain and nourish hoping that it would help my hormones regulate and shorten things up.

After our year mark in January, we decided it was time for a little bit of help after having long, irregular and unbalanced cycles and a new Dr. who agreed.



Recycled Photo (Taken end of Feb. 2012)

I am on my 3rd round of Clomid and responding nicely to the lowest dosage of medicine because of my weight gain and limited exercise (still just walking, since I’ve gotten my cycle back I’ve slowly added in a little bit of Pilates and yoga).

I am up 25 pounds. Some days, I really struggle with this but I do my best to stay off my scale and wear clothes I feel confident in.

I have been maintaining a BMI of 23.5 (give or take a pound or 2) for 5 months while continuing to eat and rest.

I am doing my best to love my body and regain my confidence.

I am doing my best to fight the urge that even though I am “recovered” I don’t want to find out where my body’s set point is for exercise. I suddenly have a fear that I will over do it and take steps beyond steps backwards.

Daily I have to remind myself that my goal for a baby goes beyond the goal to be fit.

Things to Remember:

Knowing that fitness will always be there for me. Not being able to work out or run right now doesn’t mean I am unhealthy. It also doesn’t mean I don’t want to. I like to think about HA as an injury much like an IT band or pulled muscle, you rest it, nourish it, and it makes you stronger.

Knowing that the extra weight I’ve gained and each little part of my body that I’m not loving right now, is serving as a comfy little nest for my future baby and will allow me to be a mommy some day. Also, once I get pregnant if I have any sort of morning sickness and am not able to gain or worse, lose weight, I will not be teetering on an unhealthy scale.

Knowing that I am in this situation for a reason and that reason is to overcome some very challenging personal struggles to allow me to grow into the person I am today. I have gained patience, strength, selflessness, and I imagine qualities I don’t even see until I am a mother some day.

If you are dealing with HA:

Feel free to email me at ifgravityhappens@gmail.com and I can hopefully offer you some support and at least some friendship!

Our bodies run on trust and need to learn they can again. Eat more than you think you should, rest more than you ever have…

Know that you will overcome this. Stay positive.


19 Responses to “HA Recovery: How I Got My Cycle Back”

  1. Priscilla April 1, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    Amazing post! Its been such an honor to watch you grow into the person you are today and I can’t wait till you finally see those double lines!! Actually I’m a little bummed I won’t get to see it in person hehe 😉 love you so much and think you’re the most beautiful person inside and out!! I know some days are hard when it feels like its all for not, but if I can do it so can you!! I have so much faith in you and know you will get there very soon~xoxo

    • Mallory April 1, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      Thanks P! I’ve learned from the best 😉 don’t you worry, I’ll make sure you feel like you were right there with me! hahaha 😉 love you lots & thank you for teaching me how to be patient, positive, and always inspiring me!!

  2. maureenbreakingfree April 1, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    What a brave post! Thank you for sharing your story. All of us struggle in some way with our body image and feeling beautiful, but remember you ARE BEAUTIFUL, inside & out, and you will make an awesome mama to a very lucky baby soon!!

    • Mallory April 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      Aww thanks Maureen! I appreciate all of your support!!! & thank you for your always sweet words!! It really does mean so much to me!!!

  3. Jcee April 3, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    Wow Mal, thank-you for sharing your journey so openly – so much of it resonated with me, and I was nodding along to so much of what you were saying. It is truly inspiring to see what you have achieved, but more so, the beautiful spirit and grace with which you have done it. You will never know how sharing in this way helps sooo many other women with their struggles along this journey (including me :))

    • Mallory April 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      Thanks Judith!!! That was so nice what you said! I hope it’s helping others, including you 🙂 and I KNOW it’s helping me!!! Just the feedback I get from ladies like yourself that make me smile from ear to ear! Thank you 🙂

  4. Nico April 4, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    hear, hear! I love reading posts like this. To this day, almost seven years after I would say I was fully recovered, I still have times when those feelings about restricting and exercising off those calories pop up in my head. But I just beat them back with a big stick. Because really, what exactly do I get out of being thin? I have a husband who loves me and three beautiful boys- the most important thing is that I am nourishing myself (and getting a truly healthy amount of exercise) so that I can be the best wife and mother I can be. Spending hours in the gym and eating barely nothing is both time and mental energy that is really being wasted. xox

    • Mallory April 10, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

      Thanks Nico! You are a HUGE HUGE HUGEEEEEEEE reason so many girls, including myself, even know what HA is and what to do to recover and have given me so much hope and not just false hope because you are so sweet but real hope, hope with facts. Hope with statistics and proof! Thank you for that and all you have done for me and so many other women with your blog, your time you’ve put into the board, and always being there to help with any questions even with 3 little ones keeping u busy! We all owe so much to you and I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve taught me!

  5. Nico April 4, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Oh, and please don’t ever go back to being that thin again. You are so much more beautiful now!!! (I can’t even imagine 10lbs lower than that first pic!!)

    • Mallory April 10, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

      Thank you Nico!!! I know, I just said to my mom that if i would have lost from 157 after the wedding to where i am at today, I would absolutely LOVE my body and be completely content and happy but because I pushed it too far I now have to let go of what once was so fleeting and begin to love this new me!

  6. Happybaker April 5, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Mal just read this and the ectopia article, first off you are an amazing writer, secondly you are one of the strongest bravest people I know! I’ve been a coward, I was lucky to get my cycles back but wouldn’t face the weight gain and deal with it so chose to be ‘comfortably bigger’ but not all in! Reading your posts gives me strength to do what is necessary. I cannot begin to tell you how beautiful you look in all your pictures now at the higher weight but hearing how you still struggle with the weight but don’t allow it to set you back truly inspires me! I so hope this is your time no one deserves it more than you Mal xx

    • Happybaker April 5, 2013 at 10:24 am #

      Meant eatopia dam autocorrect!

    • Mallory April 10, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      Helen, thank you for being such a positive encourager and supporter through all of the good and bad days!! You are definitely not a coward!! Sometimes it just takes a little bit of an extra boost to get on the right track and I will be there to keep pushing you to be uncomfortable because you will be giving your little one a sibling, I have no doubts in my mind for you Helen! You are an amazing mom & just think of the role model you are to your daughter showing her that self confidence and love is about whats inside 🙂 Xoxo

  7. christina April 9, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Mal, you are simply incredible. Your courage and inner strength are so encouraging. You radiate positivity and composure despite the difficult journey you’re on. I hope to someday have the sense of peace that you exude so naturally. I don’t know what clicked when I read this entry and it doesn’t really matter–what does matter is that we find the inner strength to persevere through trying times and learn to love ourselves at EVERY size, weight, and fitness level–we are so much more than how many calories we burn or eat AND even more than what the scale tells us. I have learned so much from you already and I am rooting for you–you’ll be an amazing mom!

    • Mallory April 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

      Christina, you are so sweet! Thank you!! Just through our emails back and forth YOU have also inspired me! You are so strong and will get through this, I promise you! It touches my heart to know that I helped something click for you to dive in and make the necessary changes…you are going to be an amazing wife and mother because of that!!! big hugs to you Christina!

  8. sgreensmith July 18, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Wow. I’m new to your blog and I seriously love you for this post. For your bravery and for being so candid and honest! It takes so much to give up your exercise. I’m currently at a bmi of 19, I used to exercise pretty much everyday but now I’m doing weight lifting 4x a week and wondering if that is even too much? I sadly suffered anorexia and was down to a bmi of 14. I did gain up to a bmi of 21 but got meningitis and lost 13lbs. I’m so scared of losing my healthy habits and gaining any weight but at the same time I know my bones and my future of having a baby are way more important! And healthier! I think I may have to email you. Seriously amazing for this post! Side note: you look amazing! (Is it just me or do most people actually look better when they gain healthy weight?!)

  9. sgreensmith July 18, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Argh I just left a comment but it didn’t post boo! Anyway it was just saying how amazingly brave, honest and candid you are. I admire you so much for this post!! I’ve had HA for 4 years after having anorexia and getting down to a bmi of 14. I got up to bmi 21 however got meningitis and lost 13lbs. I used to exercise every day however I’ve reduced it to weight lifting 4x a week. starting to wonder if this is detrimental to my recovery? ! I so want my periods and to be normal again yet the habits of being ‘healthy’ are hard to lose. My doctor put me on a progesterone tablet and I did get a very light period afterwards however no more came! I respect you so much for having the courage to stop running and getting your health back. Seriously you are so amazing for this post! Think I will have to email you! Side not: you look amazing!

    • Mallory July 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

      Hey Sophie! I’m so glad u wrote to me (sorry so late at responding!) Please feel free to email me and we can chat! Ifgravityhappens@gmail.com

    • Mallory July 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

      Ps- the fact u responded to progesterone is fabulous!! Keep resting and nourishing and your body will start working for you hun! So proud of u and ull get there u know what to do 🙂

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