In today’s episode I’m discussing the best diet to follow when recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea. During this podcast I answer the most common period recovery nutrition questions including:
- What food groups should I be focusing on during hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery?
- How important are carbohydrates when it comes to hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery?
- What is the minimum amount of calories to eat for hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery?
- Do I have to eat 2500 calories to get my period back?
- What does a balanced plate look like during hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery?
- Do I still need to eat even if I’m not hungry during hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery?
- How can I eat more without feeling stressed or guilty about it?
- Examples of what to eat in a day for hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery
- Meal and snack ideas for hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery
Hi everyone and welcome back to Holistic Health Radio. I’m your host, Sarah Liz King. I’m an exercise physiologist and health coach empowering you to find your healthy balance with food, fitness and your body.
Through my one-to-one and group coaching programs, both myself and my team help women regain their periods, find food freedom, have a healthier relationship with exercise, all while gaining body confidence. This episode is proudly supported by my upcoming group program, Healing Hypothalamic Amanorrhea, an eight-week hybrid group and one-to-one coaching program with supportive materials, hormone-nourishing recipes,
friendly workouts and workbooks designed to help you recover your period while improving your relationship with food, exercise and your body. Enrollments are now open and the course commences on Monday October 16th with enrollment available to participants worldwide. If you are listening to this and it’s after October 16th, don’t stress, we run this course multiple times during the year.
So you can head to the link in the show notes or type in www.saralizzking.com forward slash healing hyphen HA to secure your spot or see if we’re open for another future round. Now today on the podcast, I’m going to be discussing the best diet for hypothylamic amenorrhea recovery.
And at the end, I’m also going to give you an example of what I would eat in a day if I was someone that was going through recovery. But for anyone that’s new here, let’s recap what hypothalamic amenorrhea is. So hypothalamic amenorrhea is mostly caused by low energy availability, often due to under-eating, over-exercising.
excessive stress or a combination of all of the above and usually it is a combination for most people. Given a regular menstrual cycle is a really good indicator of good health as well as a crucial body process you want to maintain for those suffering from HA or an absent period, recovery often involves changing your eating, your diet and also your exercise habits and patterns.
to support that return of a regular healthy menstrual cycle. So what is the best way to achieve this? What diet should you follow to help you recover your period as efficiently and as effectively as possible? What way of eating should you adopt to ensure that your body returns to its optimal function and restores its menstrual cycle?
And I’m gonna answer all of that question, all of those questions for you. And the first thing is probably the most crucial thing, which is the best diet for hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery is no diet. So much of the time, this state of low energy availability, which leads to HA, is the result of under-fueling your body, avoiding or fearing foods or entire food groups.
and simply not providing your body with the energy that it needs to function and support all of your body’s natural processes. And often it’s diet culture, which at least is partly to blame for this. Diet culture often instills a fear of certain foods and eating behaviors in us. It tells us to always aim to eat less.
to take up less space, it tells us our worth is determined by our shape and our size of our body. So guess what? The best way to address hypothalamic amenorrhea is to address the underlying causes, including diet culture. This means there’s no quote unquote best diet to follow when healing from hypothalamic amenorrhea.
One of the most important parts of recovery is actually healing your relationship with food and your body. And in order to do so, you actually need to confront and work through all of the fears, the food rules, the restrictive behaviors that you have learned for months, if not years for most people. This means that you are undoing or unlearning all of those diet rules.
that you’ve gradually subjected yourself to and giving yourself unconditional permission to eat any and all foods as you please. And in essence, this is the exact opposite of any diet, right? So perhaps like the best quote unquote diet for healing hypothyme like amenorrhea is.
anti-diet or non-diet or the absence of any diet rules or restrictions and the unconditional permission to eat any and all foods as I mentioned before. Now the second thing to consider in terms of the best kind of diet or way of eating for HA recovery is that your macro split may look a little bit different. So when you’re in recovery your focus should be primarily on how much energy you’re
But in saying this, if you’ve previously aimed to get a large portion of your energy intake from, for example, protein sources, and far less from fats and carbs, you will need to shift this mindset. Instead of protein everything, try to prioritize carbs and add in plenty of healthy fats. Essentially, you want around 50% of your energy intake, 50 to 60% of your energy intake to be from carbs.
30 to 35% from fats and the remainder from protein sources. You can also add in quote unquote, like extras and fun foods to help you provide your body with the energy that it needs to heal and repair after long periods of neglect and deprivation, but focus on getting enough food into your body. And feel the difference that really makes. Be sure to include a wide variety of foods from all of the food groups.
While your macros do matter in recovery, by no means do you need to count them or aim for absolute perfection each and every day. Significantly increase your carbohydrate intake, add in some fats, reintroduce those soul foods you feared for so long and restricted for so long, and you’ll definitely be headed in the right direction without getting wrapped up in the specifics of everything. As mentioned before,
you definitely wanna eat your fats, right? If we’re thinking about a great diet for HA recovery, you need your fats. If diet culture makes you believe or has made you believe that fat makes you fat or low fat is the way to go, it’s definitely time to change that narrative because your body needs fats to function and to produce hormones. So particularly for anyone suffering with HA, eating enough fat is paramount to your recovery.
Not only do fats help you meet your daily energy requirements, but they’re also critical for supporting a healthy menstrual cycle and maintaining the production of your reproductive hormones, which again play a key role in regaining your period. So if you’re always opting for low fat varieties of yogurt and milk and cheese, et cetera, making a really simple swap to the full fat varieties.
or focus on including many more healthy fats in your daily diet, nut butters, oily fish like salmon, mackerel, things like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, they are going to be absolutely amazing in your period recovery journey. As are carbs. Carbs are gonna be your new best friend. We know more recently low carb diets have been the go-to along like below sugar trend, but diets like keto or paleo,
pretty much allow for only an insufficient carbohydrate intake, which again, reeks havoc on your hormones and stress levels and your menstrual cycle and restricting your carbohydrate intake can send your hormones entirely out of whack and even result in low energy availability and an absent period. So your body fundamentally needs carbs. They’re your brain’s preferred source of energy. Well, it’s the kind of energy, the only kind of energy your brain can use.
So denying it carbohydrates can send your body into a state of stress and often even into this like survival mode which we see in HA. This signals to your hypothalamus in your brain that it’s really time to conserve energy for this dangerous situation that you’re currently in, causing it to shut down functions like menstruation, reproductive function, down regulate your thyroid, among other things. So.
reintroduce carbs plentifully. Your body doesn’t care if you’re getting carbs from bread or rice, potatoes, quinoa, it just needs more carbs and the energy that carbs provide. So consider this your invitation to enjoy any and all of the soul satisfying carbohydrates. But don’t forget this one thing, the calcium. So we know that HA can also wreak havoc on your bone health and your bone mineral density.
thanks to the interruptions to your menstrual cycle, you know, your sex hormone. Estrogen plays a key role in your bone strength, repair and health, and when your menstrual cycle is absent, your estrogen levels are directly impacted. So naturally this impacts your bones too. So in recovery, it’s a really good idea to consider your calcium intake in order to support and repair the health of your bones.
So this includes things like dairy foods, yogurt, cheese, milk, you know, the natural fats that occur in there as well and fortified dairy alternatives. Additionally, ensure that you’re getting enough sun exposure to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D. Supplementing these two nutrients, so calcium and vitamin D, may also be useful in supporting bone health and bone repair under the guidance of, of course, seeing a health professional.
But at the end of the day, adequate energy intake is the only quote unquote diet that you need to worry about when recovering your period and healing from hypothalamic amenorrhea. The bottom line, you need to focus on getting enough food right now, eating enough. In recovery, obviously it’s recommended that you eat at least as a minimum 2,500 calories per day. And yes, that applies.
Even if you’re resting completely and doing no exercise whatsoever, your body needs to be in an energy surplus in order to heal, recover, restore your menstrual cycle. It doesn’t matter so much what you eat to achieve this target each day and it more so matters that you do eat enough to achieve this goal in the first kind of instance.
And remember, this is the minimum amount that you need. If you’re still hungry, if you have an active job, or you are exercising, go ahead and eat more. I encourage you to make sure that your body is eating enough. Listen to your body. Fuel it with whatever it needs, whenever it needs it. And the key takeaway is nourish your body. Work on your relationship with food and yourself because a really fraught relationship with food will only add
to the existing stressed state that your body is in, further increasing your risk of developing or staying in a state of hypothyroid, like amyloid. So there may not be a quick fix diet to help you recover, but investing the time and the effort into healing your relationship with food and your body is your one way ticket to recovering your period and your health for good. So it is an investment that is so worthwhile, which I think brings me to
If we were to tie this all together and maybe I was someone that was starting my period recovery journey, how would I put all of these things into practice? Now I don’t like sharing things like what I eat in a day, but today I’m going to give you a little, I guess, general vague idea of what this might look like considering all of the concepts that we just discussed. So breakfast, a really nourishing, soul satisfying breakfast.
I see so many people have things like protein oats made with water or egg whites, and that guys is not going to do the trick. So if I was someone that was working on healing my relationship with food and getting my period back, I would be making sure that I was having a generous portion of oatmeal made with full cream milk, a source of, obviously that’s a source of calcium that we need, and then I would be adding at least three to four additions into that bowl. So fruit, nut butters, nuts and seeds.
coconut, dried fruit, all kinds of chocolate. And I’ll be making sure that everything that I was having in that bowl kind of ticked all the boxes. So enough carbohydrates from obviously the oats and enough healthy fats from all of the additions of nut butters, nuts and seeds, full cream milk or the alternative dairy-free alternative. And then flavor, because food should be enjoyable. On the flip side, if you have a-
a savory gal and I wanted something, you know, not on the sweet side. Whole eggs. I would be having whole eggs and a minimum of two and having a side of carbohydrates, which we know we need. One piece of toast is definitely not going to cut it. Having at least two pieces of toast and having some healthy fats and colors in there. So if it was me personally, I would be putting avocado on my toast. I would be having some, you know, a handful of like sauteed veggies.
that was something that appealed to me, some mushrooms or spinach and I would be making sure that my eggs were cooked in a source of oil as well. So that’s where I would start with breakfast. Then mid-morning snack I would again aim for a source of calcium, so yogurt or a milky drink and I would be having that with a very nourishing snack. So a handful of nuts is not going to cut it here, a slice of banana bread or
A really good sized muesli, granola or protein bar is going to be your go-to source here. For lunch, it can be really simple, but having a salad isn’t going to be your best go-to. I would swap that for a nourish bowl. And I always think of a nourish bowl as like a base of kind of grains or potatoes being the bulk of what you’re having. Adding in a source of protein, adding in some healthy fats like avocado, maybe some hummus.
Maybe you’ve got a salad dressing that you add in and not overdoing all of the salad veggies on there. That is not going to be the winner for you. And then I would finish whatever lunch I had with a little bit of something sweet. So having a cookie and like a cup of tea or you know a couple of rows of chocolate because that is going to help you meet those energy requirements. Maybe if you don’t want a nourish ball you go for
sandwich and a pack of crisps. I know that was one of my favourite meals to have when I was working on healing my relationship with food. It’s still such a simple and pleasurable meal to eat nowadays as well. You don’t need to over complicate it. Moving into the afternoon, this is where I personally would probably not feel as hungry, so I would go towards something that would be really easy for me to eat, which…
In essence, I would go towards something like a smoothie, right? You can pack a lot of nutrients in. It’s another opportunity to get a source of calcium in there, whether you put some yogurt in or use milk, but it’s easy to chuck some nut butters and different kinds of fruit in there. Don’t just go for berries. Have a variety of things. And then it won’t sit in your stomach for too long, but you’ll ensure that you get enough energy to kind of meet that 2,500 calorie plus mark.
And then dinner, right? Moving into dinner, this is where I would really ensure that you’re getting a variety of different protein sources. So don’t just go for the leanest cuts of meat. Instead of having chicken breast, go for chicken thighs. Instead of having white fish, go for oily fish. If you are someone that is vegetarian or vegan and you’re having something like tofu, make your tofu sauteed in a healthy amount of olive oil or other oil to make sure that you’re getting a really nourishing amount of energy.
into that protein source. Again pairing it with some kind of carbohydrate. So if it was me and I was on my recovery journey I would go for salmon, I would make my favorite like teriyaki marinade salmon, I would cook some quinoa on the side and then I would roast some veggies in olive oil and make sure that I drizzle over a little bit of the extra marinade and also some delicious
mayo because it just adds that extra touch that ties the whole meal together. So a little bit of cupy mayo over the top and you have got yourself a delicious dinner. And rounding that out, never skip dessert. The snacks in between your meals are really going to be the game changer for making sure that you reach your energy requirements. If again we’re thinking about like helping you hit that calcium requirement for the day, ice cream! Ice cream is definitely a great one or a hot chocolate in…
Wintertime made with full cream milk can definitely help you get there. If you are more, you know, you maybe don’t want something as sweet, I would say like a piece of toast, nut butter, banana on top is a great option, bowl of cereal, or again going and having your favourite chocolate bar. But all of those things really help you meet your energy requirements and tie in everything that I spoke about today about the best diet for healing hypothermic amenorrhea, which is no diet at all.
And if you’re kind of thinking about all of the meal suggestions that I’ve just given, don’t take them as gospel because there are only suggestions. Your body might need something different, which is why getting individualized support and guidance on this journey is so, so helpful. So if you want to supercharge your recovery journey, feel free to join the next round of Healing HA. We would love to support you as you move towards a healthy relationship with food and get your period back.
good. So again you can click the link in the show notes to check out the Healing HA page and everything included. But if you found this podcast incredibly helpful and insightful in itself be sure to leave a five star rating and review on Apple podcasts or on Spotify, really helps support us. Or if you’re listening on YouTube be sure to give it a thumbs up and subscribe so you never miss an episode. But I will leave this here for today and again I will be back next week with a fresh new episode that you can wrap your ears around.
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