Periods. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t live without ’em. Well, actually, we can live without them but if you want to find balance and optimize hormone function and fertility, you won’t want to. Sometimes it takes losing something to gain gratitude for it and our menstrual cycle is no different. For most women, our period starts around the ages of 12-14. Some may start sooner or later but, generally, it starts around the time we start to ovulate and notice the hormonal changes happening in our bodies.
For those of you who are lucky, bleeding may be the only thing you experience when that time of the month approaches but, for the rest of us, it’s accompanied with painful cramping, bloating, fatigue, sore breasts, headaches, digestive upset, mood swings and/or intense cravings that we may or may not indulge in (really, who am I kidding… indulgence is likely in full swing.) But, aside from that, there are times in a woman’s life where she may lose her period for a month or 3 months or 3 years and, often, has no idea why. This is what happened to me and I hope by sharing this experience, I can inspire you ladies out there to prioritize your health and self-love throughout whatever stage of life you’re in, period or not.
I started my period in 2008 at 13 years old. From the beginning, I had all of the symptoms listed above and I remember dreading my period’s arrival because I knew it would be nothing but discomfort. However, I can say that regardless of those symptoms, my cycle had always been extremely regular. Every 28-32 days I would start and, the older I got, the more consistent it became.
Around the age of 21 I started noticing that my period would sync up perfectly with the lunar phases. With every new moon I could expect to start and it was extremely fascinating and comforting knowing that my body was intuitively aligned with such a powerful force of nature. I really began to appreciate the beauty and value of having a menstrual cycle because I realized my body was healthy enough to sustain a life, if and when I choose to.
This regularity lasted for a few years but at 24 years old when it didn’t start I was concerned because, on the rare occasion my period was delayed, it had only ever been a few days. I always chalked it up to stress and, eventually, it would show up when I relaxed. But this time it didn’t and after a week I started wondering what was going on with my body.
LOSING MY PERIOD aka AMENORRHEA
When I look back to what was going on in my life during that time, I realize how different my life had become compared to previous years. My diet changed drastically. I had begun intermittent fasting through the day- only having one cup of bulletproof coffee in the morning and a moderately-sized dinner of veggies and animal protein at night. I didn’t snack and, compared to my diet years before, I had significantly cut out carbs. I started to adopt a very rigid attitude toward food and didn’t allow myself to eat anything that wasn’t “clean” or “healthy” according to certain health experts.
Additionally, I had adopted a mentality that unless I exercised, I didn’t “deserve” to eat. I felt I had to earn every meal, even though I was already eating much less day to day than I used to. To top it all off, I started doing longer fasts (essentially skipping dinner) 1-3 times a week, each lasting between 24 to 30 hours. I believed that by restricting my calories and exercising every day, I would be able to achieve deeper levels of cleansing and detoxification. I’m not confirming or denying that way of thinking, but I do attribute my period loss to those beliefs and actions.
Along with this diet shift, I had started exercising much more. Granted, I had always been one to do yoga and light weight training, but I had entered into a whole new phase of life in which long, strenuous runs and high-intensity exercises had taken over. This lasted for over 8 months and, had I gone to see a physician, I likely would have been diagnosed with “secondary amenorrhea”, which is defined as period loss for 3+ cycles in a row.
ORTHOREXIA: The “Healthy” Eating Disorder
Fast forward 6 months later and still no period. I had a strong calling to slow things down, move back in with my parents and hit the reset button. Even though I had been living in a way I thought was healthy by eating nutritious foods and getting exercise, it was imbalanced. My mind and body had become physically drained and, emotionally, I felt very detached to the beauty of life and relationships. My sex drive was nonexistent and I had stopped having signs of ovulation, such as discharge and basal temperature increase. I found myself to be cold and tired all the time and was in a state of depression more often than not. I decided it was time to ditch the lifestyle I had been living and create a balance with food and exercise.
With a lot of self love and reconditioning, I began to accept that it was OK and NORMAL to eat more often, especially when I felt hungry, even if those foods weren’t the “healthiest” and that I didn’t have to “earn” it, so to speak, through high-intensity exercise. This was a hard battle to fight because I had spent many months with strict rules surrounding food. I had rigid rules around what I should eat, what time I should eat, how much I should eat and what I had to do before I could eat.
Upon scouring the internet for answers and advice, I found that my behaviors fell under an eating disorder called Orthorexia. It’s an imbalance in which an individual obsesses over perceived “healthy” and clean foods and restricts perceived “unhealthy” and “unclean” foods. Someone with this disorder may also have the tendency to over exercise and fast completely to avoid eating undesired foods, which I was definitely doing.
GETTING MY PERIOD BACK
I began to adopt a more sustainable and balanced lifestyle- one that involved eating a lot more, exercising a lot less and making time to relax. It took about two months to start my period again. The week that I got my period back, my cravings were intense. I fantasized about chocolate, pumpkin seeds, avocado and ALL the carbs- specifically, whole grain bread, white rice, oats and beer. Mmm… Needless to say, I listened to those cravings and made the decision not to feel guilty about it, even though they were all foods I had previously eliminated from my diet. The night before getting my period, I gave myself a loving, oil massage with my absolute favorite essential oil blend, Moon Goddess by Kate’s Magik. In doing this, I had the intention to stimulate my hormones to regain my menstrual cycle.
The morning of, I started to feel some light cramping and fatigue and, sure enough, there she was in all her glory. It was incredible to see all of the changes I made actually working and, not only that, but it was right around the time of the new moon so I knew I was right on track. I was on the phone with my boyfriend at the exact moment I noticed it came back and the conversation went like this, “OH MY GOD!!! I JUST GOT MY PERIOD BACK! THIS IS SO AWESOME! I KNEW IT WAS COMING!” His reply, “That’s awesome babe…” He wasn’t quite as thrilled as I was but at least he was supportive.
There’s never just one reason why a woman loses her period, but rather several that, ultimately, enhance one another. Below are some realizations I’ve made since regaining my menstrual cycle. I hope to never lose sight of this wisdom and, hopefully, it can give you comfort in knowing that it is possible to get your period back once you’ve lost it (but hopefully you never will).
- Trust Your Body – Our bodies go by feeling, not logic, so even if you just had breakfast, brunch AND lunch, it’s perfectly ok to have a snack if you’re body is still hungry. If you haven’t exercised in a few days because you’re low on energy, don’t worry about it. Do some light yoga instead or simply just rest. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s important that we learn to trust the cues our bodies give us so that, in turn, it can trust us to do whats necessary for fertility.
- Quality AND Quantity Are Equally Important – A woman’s body needs a lot of calories to feel safe and supported enough to create and carry another life. If we aren’t eating enough, our bodies will essentially turn off it’s reproductive function to conserve energy so if you want to promote a healthy menstrual cycle, caloric-restriction is not the way to go.
- Light Exercise Is Enough – If we are consistently over-exerting our bodies past what’s comfortable and burning more energy than we are taking in, it can put us in a caloric deficit which can result in inadequate fuel for repairing it’s muscles, tissues and vital organs. Therefore, giving yourself the option to opt for a lighter, less-strenuous exercise like yoga may be the golden ticket.
- Self Love is CRUCIAL – What makes you feel good about yourself and your body? Get that image in your mind. Now go do that. Loving yourself enough to provide the things that feel good, promote peace and boost confidence are essential to reducing stress and healing emotional and mental blockages. For me, self love includes giving myself a massage with coconut and essential oils, preparing myself a nutritious meal and writing in my journal. Whatever that is for you, it’s important and you should do it every day if you can.
If you or someone you know has lost their period, have no fear, it CAN come back if you take the necessary step to find balance in your life. As always, consult with your healthcare practitioner before incorporating any new dietary/exercise routines. And, as always I’m here if you have any questions. Feel free to leave a comment down below if you’ve gone through a similar experience or have any questions. I’d love to hear from you!
∞ Love & Gratitude