Do I need to gain weight to restore my period?

by Health

Often when it comes to recovering from eating disorders, hypothalamic amenorrhea or disordered eating, the idea of weight gain is the thing which keeps people in quasi recovery, or delaying recovery altogether. While many people say they want to recover, the idea of needing to gain weight is just too overwhelming, scary or unimaginable.

So do you really need to gain weight to recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea, or is it possible to avoid putting on the extra kilos while still regaining your period?

Why do you lose your period?

Hypothalamic amenorrhea occurs when your hypothalamus (a gland in your brain responsible for your menstrual cycle) tells your body to slow down or stop producing reproductive hormones altogether, in order to conserve its energy for more pressing bodily functions. Basically, your body isn’t getting enough energy to support all its necessary processes, so it has to pick and choose which ones to prioritise.

This can happen as the result of disordered eating, low energy availability and inadequate nutrition or energy intake, excessive exercise, or even stress. And often, it will be a combination of more than one of these factors.

Who can this happen to?

The most important thing to note is that any body (of any size or shape) can suffer from HA. If you’re under-fuelling your body, regardless of how large or small, underweight or not, your body is, you can absolutely lose your period as a result.

Recovery is all about restoring and nurturing your body…

In recovery from hypothalamic amenorrhea, the focus is on helping your body to restore and repair itself from all the damage and deprivation it has endured after long periods of dieting and/or excessive exercise.

And guess what… You need to be providing it with adequate energy in order for this restoration to happen.

The most important part of recovery is ensuring you’re eating enough to support your body’s recovery and optimal function, and learning how to continue this way of living in the long-term.

Consistency is key. When you commit to recovery, you say goodbye to food rules, diets, “cutting” and “shredding”, depriving yourself, needing to earn or burn off your food. And you allow yourself to eat enough, and to eat whatever foods you want to. This is known as food freedom.

During the process of recovery, often your body requires a greater energy intake than you’d need once you’ve “fully recovered”. This could look like requiring around 2,500 calories per day as a minimum, including on days you’re not exercising whatsoever. This might sound like a lot, but it can be essential in order to restore your body to a healthy, happy state.

And most of the time, this involves restoring some weight in the process.

So weight gain is a requirement?

Weight restoration is most often a key part of recovering your period, yes. We refer to it as weight restoration, as this change to your body is simply bringing you back to your healthy weight, at which your body can continue all its critical functions and processes, including menstruation.

And it’s important to note that everyone’s “healthy weight” is entirely unique and individual to them. So one person’s optimal weight might be significantly higher or lower than the next person, and that’s okay!

If you’re completely focused on avoiding weight gain during recovery, you might find you regain your period for one or two cycles thanks to the reduction in overall stress you’re putting on your mind and body, as well as the reduction in your exercise intensity, but it’s unlikely you’ll continue to experience a healthy period in the long term.

It comes down to this: your body needs to be at a weight that allows it to function and feel its best. You need some amount of fat on your body, to prevent your body switching over to survival mode and conserving energy however it can. Not only does your body halt menstruation when it’s in such a state of low energy availability, it also means you’ll feel lethargic, fatigued and lacking in energy and concentration at the same time. And that is no way to live your life!

So while recovery from HA relies on you allowing your body access to enough energy to restore itself and all its functions, including switching your hypothalamus and menstrual cycle back on again, your weight and body fat are usually a key piece of the puzzle. You need to eat more and increase your energy intake, improve your relationship with food, reduce the frequency and intensity of movement and embrace rest. And this is normally accompanied by changes to your body and weight.

If you’re struggling with the idea of weight gain in recovery, know that you’re not alone. Particularly given we’re taught that our worth is so intrinsically tied up in our appearance and our bodies, it can be a very challenging and confronting idea to grapple with for many of us.

But ask yourself: why are you doing this? Why are you choosing to recover? What do you have to gain? Weight, yes, but also freedom, presence, connection, spontaneity, a broader view of the world, more time, more energy… The list is endless. So while weight may be one of the things you gain in recovery, the other gains make it so incredibly worthwhile.

The truth is, you are so much more than your body or appearance. 

 

So if you’re ready to do the work, confront your reluctance towards weight gain, and fully commit to recovery and healing your relationship with food and your body, you’ve come to the right place! Join us for our next round of Healing HA to achieve lasting behavioural change, and reclaim your life and your power for good!

 

Ready To Improve Your Relationship with Food and Get Your Period Back?

The Healing HA program gives you the exact steps to getting your hormones, period and fertility back WITHOUT the overwhelm or loneliness of trying to do it on your own.

In just 8-weeks, you’ll learn absolutely EVERYTHING you need to know about Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery, so you can get your period back AND make sure it sticks around forever while improving your relationship with food.

Click below to join the next round!

Sarah King

Sarah King

Hi future friends, I’m Sarah King, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and health coach.

Science, not trends is the foundation of my approach. By nourishing the body and mind with scientific facts we can build foundations for a life of realness, not just wellness.