If you’ve struggled with a restrictive eating disorder then you may have experienced something that’s known as an amenorrhea – the loss of your period. As much as this may seem appealing – no period pains is definitely welcome – it’s not a good thing. No period means your body is physically not healthy and can also damage your chances of having children, so the sooner you’re able to get it back the better.
Since my period has thankfully recently returned, I thought I’d share my experience and also some tips on how to get your menstrual cycle going again.
August 2013 was the last time I saw a proper period until July 2016. For almost three years I was ‘blessed’ with zero cramps, zero worries about having nothing on me and zero embarrassing leakages. Despite not having to ever think about it, I always knew that it was a sign my body wasn’t healthy. When you restrict yourself of food, you’re restricting yourself from energy. Your body begins to slowly shut down and doing anything it can to keep you alive. Since you can continue breathing without your period, the body shuts this function down in order to conserve energy that is used for other functions such as your heart.
I knew that in order to gain my period back I had to gain weight, but not just any amount of weight. You could be sitting in the healthy weight range but still not have it. When I finally reached a healthy BMI back in October 2015, it still took a good few months for my period to come back fully. This was because my body still wasn’t at its set weight. Our bodies all have a certain weight that it naturally sits at. This can be higher for some and lower for others, but it’s the weight that our bodies are able to function 100%. So, if you’re currently in recovery and have reached the healthy weight range, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s YOUR healthy weight.
When I first reached a healthy BMI, I wasn’t completely free of anorexia’s rules and regulations. I was sitting at the minimum and ideally wanted to stay there. There were still foods I avoided and feared. It isn’t until now that I realise that I was still fairly unwell. Back then I avoided eating chocolate too frequently and rarely ate out with friends. Fast forward to now and I eat chocolate several times a week and am not one to say no to a McDonalds or pizza. Naturally, the more I ate, the more weight I gained and the more chance I had of my period coming back.
When you first get your period back, it’s not going to be frequent nor will it be as you remember. For about four months all I got was a bit of spotting for a few days. It never really came to anything. I remember the first time I saw evidence of it, I started crying tears of joy and then the next day there was nothing. I was a bit confused and disheartened but my Mum reassured me that it was simply because it was as if I was starting my period all over again.
When I got my first proper period back in July I was hit with the realisation of what I had been doing wrong before. Over these summer months I have definitely eaten a lot more than I had been and that isn’t a bad thing! In fact, it was a very good thing. It was all thanks to the chocolate, pizzas, burgers and cookies that I had enjoyed that got it back. Because I had let go of the restriction and became more free with my food choices, my body was able to gain that bit of extra weight that I was so reluctant to put on in order for my body to be physically healthy again.
If you’re in recovery and are in need of the return of that menstrual cycle, here are some things to remember:
- Up your fat intake. Don’t ask me about the science behind it but apparently your period needs those fats. So dive right into that pizza and ice cream but remember you can get your healthy fats too from nuts and avocados.
- Be patient. You can be sitting in the healthy weight range for months and still have no sign of your period. Don’t worry. As long as you aren’t restricting yourself and are eating plenty of fats it will come eventually. It can also depend on how long you’ve been without it. If it’s been missing for only a few months then it may return quicker than someone who’s been without it for a few years.
- It won’t be frequent. Your body is basically starting up your menstrual cycle again. You’ll likely get spotting and then it may end up disappearing again for a month before coming back. Don’t feel disheartened. This is completely normal.
- Come off the pill. If you’re taking a contraceptive then this can fool you into thinking your period has returned. Ideally you want to wait until you know for a fact that your real period has returned otherwise you could it has when in fact it hasn’t and your body is still restricted in some way.
I know this is a bit of a lengthy post but I know for a fact that while I was recovering it was reading about people’s own experiences that got me through it.
It’s all about patience and not restricting yourself.