I used to be the girl with the perfect period. In my school years, my friends would talk about missing periods, backaches, cramps, acne, and other uncomfortable period symptoms. My period would come and go in a few short days but I never had problems. Until a few years ago, when I lost my period.
When that happened, I read anything I could find online from WebMD, to small blogs, and even random online forums to just get as much information as I could about why this was happening to me. Admittedly, I know what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else. The advice I found online was just to eat more or cut out exercise completely but neither of those felt right to me. For nearly two years, I lived without my natural period but I finally found a method that works. My hope is to share my experiences and possibly be a resource to someone else who is struggling with the same problem.
Melanie Tries to Get Fit
First, I’m going to take us back to summer 2015 when I was bright-eyed college student looking for a distraction. I was taking an online class and wanted an activity to break up all of the sitting-at-my-computer-work. Throughout my life, I was never into exercise but, now, I thought it would help me channel my pent up energy and get fit at the same time. I found Tone it Up on YouTube and spent any time I wasn’t working on schoolwork getting sweaty 😉
In fact, I started spending an obscene amount of time working out. I would exercise first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Each day, I would kill 3-4 Tone it Up workout videos like: HIIT, a total body workout, arms, and an ab video. I felt the exercise high for the first time in my life and overdid it big time. I was working out at a high intensity (especially for someone who used to be a couch potato) and consistently did this each day for two months.
Lettuce Eat Low Calorie
Here is the cherry on top: you know how I said I knew nothing about exercise? I also knew zilch about nutrition. Basically, I was aware of calories and I knew that people who wanted to lose weight needed to eat less calories. So, I stayed away from any food with fat and calorie-dense carbs. I used an app called MyFitnessPal on and off to track my calorie intake. It served me well and my proudest days (at the time) were ones where I had calories remaining so therefore I was in a deficit. At the end of a day, on MyFitnessPal, the words “If every day were like today you’d weigh…” came onto the screen and I would either jump for joy or punish myself if I wasn’t happy with the number.
So, to put it plainly, I exercised and starved myself into losing my period.
My disordered thoughts around eating were long-standing ones (a story for another time) but now I was exercising, too. I needed to eat way more than I was allowing myself and that took a toll. Finally, after going the summer without my period, I went to see my general practitioner in fall of 2015. She said I was just too thin and needed to eat more. My GP assured me exercise was not the problem and I just needed some fat on me to kick my body back into period mode. In the meantime, she referred me to a gynecologist who then had my hormone levels tested.
It turns out, I was low in progesterone so she gave me a prescription for progesterone contraceptive pills. I held the prescription in hand and remember asking the gynecologist if there could be any other reason as to my mysterious period absence. You know, if there was a reason, then I could try to fix it. Instead she told me I could just try eating more. In addition, the pill would help my hormone levels balance out and, in a year, we could see if my body was ready to produce a period naturally. I stayed on those pills for almost two months before I switched to an estrogen + progesterone pill. Both pills made me feel emotionally unstable but the latter ones were manageable. That is what I took for the entire year of 2016.
Although my body had a rocky adjustment, my hormones eventually evened out. Well, evened out enough so that I didn’t feel like an emotional mess. I took the bleeding week each month as a sign that my body was having a period and all was good. Deep down, I knew I needed to make some minor changes but the contraceptive pill was enough to allow me to carry on with my fitness routine. I followed the Tone it Up workout schedules which involved lots of cardio, HIIT, and strength training most days out of the week.
While the cardio high kept me thriving, I made an effort to fuel myself with larger meals, too. I ate a bit more but filled up my meals with lots of low-calorie fruit and splurged on desserts regularly . Looking back on it all, I thought I knew what I was doing. I was so dedicated to my workouts that I could not go a day without exercising. I was burning calories like crazy but feeding myself mostly sugar in return. Realistically, my body was exhausted and wanted a break but my mind was telling me to push forward.
So, around the month of October 2016, I dabbled in lighter workouts. I found yoga through Boho Beautiful on YouTube. Her yoga workouts were challenging but satisfying for days that I didn’t want to do a crazy hard workout. Then, I learned about Yoga with Adriene and her 30 Days of Yoga Challenge. I still did my regular Tone it Up workouts but added on a yoga video. Though, I’d look forward to the moments I’d get to do the lighter, gentler, yet invigorating yoga workouts. I started to think maybe this was what my body needed.
Come January 2017, Yoga with Adriene was doing a Yoga Revolution 31 Day challenge and I decided to quit all my other workouts to just focus on this. I strictly allowed myself one yoga video and then carried on with my day. It also seemed like the perfect time to stop taking the pill. The changes in my fitness routine encouraged me to tune into my body’s signals and something told me I would feel better without the pill.
Well, I definitely did not feel better off the pill. Without the fake hormones to assist me, I could feel my energy and emotions were all over the place. Still, I persisted.
On Instagram, I sought out others who had experienced the same and finally learned about a book called Woman Code through Lee From America. I finally checked it out for myself at the start of summer 2017. If you haven’t heard of the book, it is an incredible guide to improve and balance a woman’s hormones. The doctors I previously saw would tell me to eat more but not what to eat or when. Or what life factors could be affecting me. Unlike WomanCode author Alisa Vitti, they didn’t have a holistic understanding of my issues. They were not something I could simply put a band-aid on.
I am now proud to say that after following the recommendations in the book, AKA cycle-syncing, I was able to bring my period back. 🙌
Along the way, I’ve picked up a few specific tips that worked for me:
Establish a routine
A few set patterns can really help bring balance to our bodies. Our bodies function optimally when we have a consistent schedule for our basic needs. When our bodies have reliable sleep and wake times, meal times, and even an evening relaxation time to wind down, they will know how to proceed through the day. If we are constantly skipping meals, staying up late, napping through the day, then our internal clock is thrown off.
Emotional and physical stressors take a toll on our bodies. I wasn’t giving myself proper recovery time between exercise and different life factors weren’t helping. One way I alleviated stress was by adding a peaceful morning ritual of journaling and yoga each morning. I feel so much less tense and more emotionally stable when I can start my day calmly and gently.
Eat more fats instead of sugar
Fats are what help keep our blood sugar and energy levels stable. Sugar causes disruptions in that stability which then throws off our endocrine system functioning. Personally, I love sweets. I was the girl who would eat 4-5 servings of fruit a day not long ago. Fruit it not the enemy but sugar can be. I’ve since trained my taste buds to crave the richness of fats which allows me to comfortably intake less sugar. You can read more about how to begin in my post on How to Reduce Sugar In Your Life.
For women, our periods are just one sign that our bodies are functioning as they should be. Inconsistent periods can also be a sign of a deeper hormonal issue that can have a number of other repercussions. As you may have gathered from the tips, I believe our bodies are sensitive to even the smallest disruptions. If we lack a routine, are filled with stress, and further throw off our energy levels with constant sugar in food, it is no wonder a period may skip or be out of the picture for months.
Over the past few years, I tried to ignore my period problem and that didn’t benefit me. I attempted to eat more food and workout less but that wasn’t the magic ticket either. The tips I shared are probably the biggest takeaways I’ve noticed in myself. Still, I can’t recommend checking out WomanCode enough if you haven’t yet. I’ve also got a series here on my blog to journal my cycle-syncing observations when I started.
At this point, I’ve happily enjoyed a period the past two months. My monthly cycle lasts a bit longer than it should but I feel good about what I’m doing. I really believe in my tips and the WomanCode protocol to regulate my period (and hormones in consequence!). Please, feel free to reach out if you want to chat more about this. I’d love to be a resource to others who currently face these same issues.