8 Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Get Your Period Back
Truth be told, I tried to recover my menstrual cycle and to get rid of my past disordered eating behaviours for more than a decade. I read every book available (but I always skipped the homework), I tried every new “lifestyle change” I came across, I went to yoga, and became a yoga teacher, I studied nutrition and dietetics, and I saw countless of specialists.
I spent more money than I care to admit, but the reality is that I wasn’t ready, as I kept making the following mistakes, as if I was stuck in a never-ending cycle I couldn’t get out of.
I Weighed regularly
At the beginning of my recovery, I weighed myself fairly regularly. I made myself believe (although I knew deep down inside that I was cheating all along) that stepping on the scale was a good thing, as I could monitor my progress and see how fast it would take me to gain weight. Right! As if it was THAT easy!
The truth was, especially in the very beginning, that if I saw the number going down, I would put on a sad face, but cheer inside. If instead, the number had increased more than I intended to, I would restrict my caloric intake for the rest of the day, or I would compensate by walking on exercising for longer.
There is no way to sugar coat the pill; if you really want to monitor your weight, let a doctor, or a nutritionist to do so. You can set up a monthly appointment and take it from there.
The reality is that you won’t get your period back by monitoring every gram you put on (which is sometimes due to stress, dehydration, and lack of sleep), and you give yourself a headache instead.
I kept Body checking
Body checking is so triggering, and such a difficult habit to break. Sometimes we do it unconsciously, and we don’t even realise we are sending the wrong signals to our brain. To give you an example, when I started recovery, I kept touching my hip bones whenever I was under stress or nervous. It didn’t occur to me that it was a nasty habit I had to drop, as much as the constant mirror checking.
I had to become aware of it before moving forward and taking the next step. Whenever I found myself reaching for my bones, I stopped my hands mid-air and circled the table and took a break instead. Whenever I caught myself staring at my belly with a less than excited face, I hugged my body and stated 5 things that were just perfect with myself; my sense of humor, for example, or my single yellow tooth that makes me stand out of the crowd.
Find your way to break the habits, but make sure you write it into this week to-do list.
I Downloaded a fitness or food tracking app
When we start recovering, usually, our determination is through the roof, and we don’t want to half-ass anything. We are ready to get our cycle and health back. And so, we do everything in our power to control the amount of food we eat and the time spent exercising. We are so keen that we even download a fitness and food tracker app, or we rely on an expensive watch. We really want to make sure that our caloric intake is enough to compensate our 10 miles run: as we all know, calories in=calories out.
Well…yes and no. The truth is that recovery is all about energy availability, and our body will ovulate and menstruate when it feels safe enough to do so. Adopting a controlling, stressed out, maniacal attitude towards what we eat and how we move, won’t really help us, and it is not sustainable in the long run.
Try instead to tune in with your body’s desires and give a rest to your beautiful and clever brain.
I kept following triggering accounts
You finally decide to recover and put all the ducks in a row, but at night time, after a tiring day filled with activities, when your attention spam decreases dramatically, you indulge in “harmless” scrolling of fit/clean eating accounts. You have always done it, and you are sure they don’t trigger your old habits. Or you may sit and flick through a gossip magazine, with all those half-naked celebrity bodies and their 500 calories celery diet, or you may google intermittent fasting or the latest trend that pops up into your mailbox.
Stop it right now. DELETE. DELETE. DELETE.
Your brain is very sophisticated, and it does whatever it can to make sure you thrive and survive; if you spend time on these sites, it will automatically think they are essential for survival, and it will keep reminding you of what you have just read and learned. Don’t do it. Same goes for reading the caloric labels on food. Don’t! You don’t need it right now.
I avoided sharing my recovery
In all honesty, this point is tricky and subjective. If you are used to do things alone, or if you don’t trust the people around you, please do so (and find new friends). But it is so much easier to recover when you can talk it out with the people that love you. You will have shitty days, waves of guilt, and you will also overcome immense obstacles and feel that you can achieve whatever you want in the world. Wouldn’t it be better to have a pal that support you and stand by your side?
On the same token, I tried to recover 45,000 times without the help of a nutritionist, dietitian, or counselor. I found it very hard not to have anyone to keep me on track; I would get to a point and then hide back into my old habits. As soon as I joined a program, shared my story, and found the right fit for me, it took me only a few months and less stress to get my cycle back. It was more expensive than to do it on my own, but it was so much more rewarding, and it allowed me to become a mother in a short period of time.
I Avoided making goals
Goals setting is super important in life, business, and in your recovery. How do you know if you are walking the right path if you don’t have any goal in mind? It is like setting up a business with no idea of how much money you want to make or how many hours you want to work per week; it is messy, frustrating, and utterly confusing.
So, what about you dust off your journal, and you start writing your goals now? What do you want to achieve? When do you want to get your period back? Goals are different for everyone, but they are so important to track your progress and motivation. And don’t avoid them for fear of failure. Let’s say that you want your menstrual cycle back by June, and you don’t make it. What’s the worst-case scenario? Look at what you have achieved by having a goal in mind. Maybe you are less afraid of eating out; maybe you feel more energetic, perhaps you have given away those tiny skinny jeans. Hurray! That’s a reason to celebrate, not to put yourself down.
I didn’t have a strong why (s)
This is different from setting goals. This is the start-up point.
Why do you want to recover? Not your best friend, cousin, or that girl you met on the FB chat. What is going on in YOUR life?
It is not enough to recover because you want your menstrual cycle back; please dig deeper, spend time to find out the reason(s) you are on this life-changing, yet super challenging journey. Don’t start before you have your whys set in stone.
Write them down, repeat them every day, and rewrite them when you think you have grown, and it is time for a change. And give yourself the permission to feel the feeling; maybe you are lying to yourself that you want your menstrual cycle back, but in reality, you would like to have a baby by the end of the year. Say it, and make it happen.
I didn’t work on my mindset
Let’s say that you decide to overcome your disordered eating behaviours and hypothalamic amenorrhea, but you still under eat because you like going to sleep with an empty stomach, or maybe you keep up your fitness regime, and you sign up for the next marathon, or you sleep a few hours because you are working your brain to the ground, and you accept that new promotion that comes with a bit of extra money and tons of responsibilities.
Recovery comes first; you need to prioritise it and be aware of it. It is a full-time job that requires you to make sacrifices and change your lifestyle for a better outcome in the future.
If you don’t change your mindset, if you don’t believe that you are recovering, and if you don’t act like someone that wants to recover…Sorry, but…you are just wasting your time.
These are my past mistakes; maybe your story is different; maybe you have a different experience to share. And if you do, I invite you to do so, as life without disordered eating behaviours is a life worth living.
Claudia is a Qualified Nutrition & Dietetic Consultant (BHSC) specialised in hormonal balance, women’s health, and disorder eating behaviors. She sees clients online and in clinical practice; you can find more about her or the Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery program by following her on Instagram, Facebook, or by checking her website.
If you want to find out more about me and my recovery story, please click here