recovering period Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
  • May 26, 2023

Six Mistakes I Made in HA Recovery | Imbodi Health Eating Disorder Dietitian Clinic

In this article, Tara Finn highlights 6 mistakes she made during HA recovery, and how you can avoid making the […]

In this article, Tara Finn highlights 6 mistakes she made during HA recovery, and how you can avoid making the same mistakes in your recovery journey.

 

What is HA?

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) refers to the absence of a menstrual cycle, commonly as the product of stress, disordered eating/eating disorders, and intensive exercise (1) 

These factors place stress on the body, which suppresses the release of the hormone gonadotropin (2) from the hypothalamus. 

Menstrual cycles are a core component of one’s health, and the lack of a period is a significant indication that something is wrong.

Hormonal health plays a vital role within the body, well beyond just producing a monthly bleed. Maintenance of stable hormones prevents deterioration of bone health, manages irregularities within emotional health, and preserves fertility. 

In this blog post we’ll take a deep dive into all things HA recovery.

 

Why do people experience HA and how do they recover?

People experience HA for a variety of reasons, unique to each individual and their personal circumstances. Treatment, management and recovery from HA involves discovering the root cause behind the condition. With this, changes need to be made to one’s life to maintain hormonal stability and establish a regular cycle (3)

 

I experienced HA for 5 years, as a result of a restrictive eating disorder. As many do, I made mistakes over these years…mistakes that seem obvious in hindsight – but not at the time. 

 

1. Not prioritising an adequate intake of dietary fat

I was a teenager when I lost my period, living in a world riddled with diet culture and the demonisation of dietary fat.

Fats play an essential role in the restoration and maintenance of hormonal health. Consuming a diet low in fat decreases the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones essential for bodily homeostasis (4). 

I noticed real, substantial change to my physical and mental health when I worked with an online dietitian to increase my intake of fats. I discovered that small additions such as nuts, nut/seed butters, oils and avocado make a significant difference on your body, allowing for your body to learn to trust you again. 

So much of recovery is about mending this relationship to self. 

 

recovering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea with fats

 

2. Looking to fitness influencers for inspiration

It’s easy to get trapped in the comparison mindset. Looking to others who restored their cycle through daily exercising and fixation on macronutrients, under the guise of wellness and health. In reality, it is swapping one eating disorder for another. 

The reality is, everyone has a unique body and set of biological factors which compose their health. Comparison to others, where you aren’t sure what is going on behind the scenes, is incredibly damaging to your recovery. 

Needing support from a  healthcare professional is not a sign of weakness.  It actually shows great strength and power. The most pivotal person I ever had in my corner was my online dietitian, who encouraged and supported me in nourishing my body, more than any fitness influencer who recovered through going to gym 7 days a week. 

Yes, that works for some, but each person is unique and independent of one another.

BOOK IN A FREE DISCOVERY CALL WITH OUR DIETITIANS
 

3. Not managing my stress levels during HA recovery

Stress plays a vital role in hormone health.  HA often occurs as a result of too much stress being placed on the body. I regained my period once I left a job that made me incredibly miserable and distanced myself from people who caused me anxiety. 

When you are stressed, you release higher amounts of cortisol – the stress hormone – which can lead to hormonal imbalances, and irregularities with menstrual cycles (5)

 

stress can impact regaining your period in HA recovery

 

4. ‘I can restore my period at a minimum healthy BMI’

It is so, so easy to fall into the trap of ‘she regained her period in a small body, I can too’.

But, it’s just not that simple!

Every human has a different set point and place their hormones, body and mind are happy at.

Bodies are unique and incredible and it’s damaging to hold the belief that you can still manipulate it while trying to make peace with it. 

I had to surpass the ‘minimum’ BMI threshold to see real change to my mental, physical and hormonal health. I came to learn that my body’s happy place wasn’t scraping at the edge of being healthy. It wasn’t safe for me to determine its set point myself!  I worked with an online dietitian who helped me create a stable meal plan which encouraged adequate nourishment, allowing for my body to settle where it was happy. 

 

5. ‘Tracking my calories’

The dreaded app ‘myfitnesspal.’ It is most certainly, not your ‘pal’.

Everyone has heard the 2500 rule for HA recovery – so tracking under the guise of ‘I’ll just make sure I’m eating enough’ is a recipe for disaster.

Delete the apps. Throw away the kitchen scales. Challenge the narrative that your body is a calculator. 

I experienced HA as a result of an eating disorder. So I had to relearn and rewire the pathways in my mind that viewed food as numbers and exercise as compensation. 

Nutrition and exercise is more complex than simply calories in – calories out, and your body will not feel safe to begin a cycle if you are still playing games with your nutrition.  

Bodies are smart. It knows where it is happy, and let it determine that without manipulation. 

 

Online dietitians discuss how calorie counting can hinder recovering from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

 

6. Going back to ‘normal’ after my first recovery period 

This is definitely the biggest mistake I made.

Once I had my first recovery period, I thought that meant I could reduce my intake and start exercising more like I saw so many others do. My body had just started to trust me enough to give me a cycle. I was again causing damage by not continuing to rest and fuel in a surplus.

In recovery, you need to continue eating in a surplus, and stay away from cardio, for many months after the first period, so your body can learn it is safe and okay to trust you again.

The road is long, and the race is only with yourself. 

 

Complex and Unique 

HA is a complex topic, completely unique to the individual and their circumstances. Despite this, there are many common contributing factors and mistakes that people make along their recovery journeys. 

For another perspective on this unique topic, listen to the Imbodi Health Podcast’s interview with Sarah Liz King where we chat about her journey with HA recovery.

An online dietitian can work with you to establish this trust within your body, empower you with nourishment and movement, and provide you with skills and tools to manage problems you may experience.

Recovery is possible, and freedom is liberating. Don’t settle for a life stuck in this painful state – give yourself the chance of a life of balance and growth.

BOOK IN A FREE DISCOVERY CALL WITH OUR DIETITIANS
 

Written by: Student dietitian Tara Finn
Reviewed by: Accredited Practicing Dietitian Jade Wrigley

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