Hello everyone! Today I want to share my experience with dealing with weight gain in HA recovery. HA stands for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and is when your periods stop because of under-eating or over-exercising. I am sharing this because I know a big proportion of my audience have found my page because you are trying to get your period back. You want to balance your hormones and find true health after years of restrictive dieting and/or over-exercising.
It has been 5 years since my recovery from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. I don’t talk about it here as much as I used to. However, I know so many women are still struggling with this and I want to offer support and inspiration. Dealing with weight gain in HA recovery was one of the most challenging aspects for me. I hear from many women the same thing! It was a struggle to let go of exercise and to eat more food. But accepting my changing body was very difficult.
If you haven’t already, you can read my story of how I got my period back after 8 years of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. I also have written other posts about the reasons you can lose your period and the recovery process including how to eat to get your period back, exercise during HA recovery and can you recover your period on a vegan diet. In this article I want to focus on the weight gain aspect of recovery. Particularly my tips for dealing with weight gain in recovery.
Why is dealing with weight gain in HA recovery challenging?
Most of us who have experienced Hypothalamic Amenorrhea did so because of a fixation on maintaining a lower weight than is natural for our body type. A major part of the recovery process is therefore gaining weight. It sounds simple but for many not accepting weight gain is a major roadblock to recovery. I know for me this kept me stuck in “quasi recovery” for years. I was unable to allow myself to let go and let my body reach it’s natural set point.
Often with HA we become attached to a certain image and identity as the skinny one or the fit one. Our mind is corrupted with beliefs around our self-worth and our weight. We believe that gaining weight means letting ourselves go or giving up. We also compare ourselves to others. Especially those who are thinner and still have a healthy period. And we are hyper-critical of our bodies. We are constantly checking and assessing our body against our internalised ideals.
My weight gain in HA recovery
Accepting weight gain is one of the most important mindset shifts we need to make during HA recovery. Allowing yourself to gain weight can also be one of the most difficult. For me personally, I was never underweight according to the BMI scale. This made accepting that I needed to gain weight even more challenging. I am not going to share specific weight numbers as I don’t want to trigger any comparison. However, I will share that during my recovery I gained a total of 30lbs. This was 10lb during the initial “quasi recovery” stage then a further 20lbs in the space of 4 months when I went “all in” . By that I mean zero exercise and completely unrestricted eating.
On my 5ft 2 frame, this was quite shocking to me and I felt extremely uncomfortable in the beginning. My clothes didn’t fit and I felt like I didn’t recognise my body anymore. I also got tired more easily and I just felt this over all sense of heaviness and lethargy. Now I realise that my tiredness was partly because I had finally stopped exercising and started eating enough food. This allowed my body to go into a deep rest and healing phase. But at the time I blamed my recovery body. Every day it was a struggle not to give up and go back to my old ways.
Tips for dealing with weight gain in HA recovery
In this post, I want to offer my top 3 tips for dealing with weight gain in HA recovery. I also summarise these tips in this video on my Youtube channel, which I filmed earlier this year. These are physical actions you can take to support you through the weight gain process. Alongside this, it is also important to do the mental work of changing your beliefs around body weight and your self-worth. But I will save that for another post! So go ahead and watch the video and read my 3 tips below.
3 simple actions to help with dealing with weight gain in HA recovery
Wear comfy clothes which fit
My first tip for dealing with weight gain during recovery is to wear comfortable clothes which fit. It might seem obvious but how many times have you gone back and tried on old clothes during your recovery process? I know I did this a lot in the beginning and I was only torturing myself. I might have woken up in the morning feeling fine in my body. But then I’d try on an old dress or a tight pair of jeans and be totally crushed when they didn’t fit or no longer suited my body. It might seem superficial and I guess it is really. But at the time my mood and self-worth were so tied to my body image and to the thin ideal that I had internalised that it seemed perfectly normal.
So, wearing comfortable, loose fitting clothes that don’t bring awareness to the changes in your body can really help! For me that looked like soft yoga pants with loose tops or flowy, feminine dresses. I avoided tight waistbands, form-fitting dresses and crop tops. I have to say, once I had accepted my new body I went back to wearing these things without an issue. But at least in the beginning it helped to feel more relaxed and less self-conscious of my body as it changed. Also, I spent a lot of time relaxing during my recovery process. So it was really nice to feel comfortable and cosy.
Hide the full length mirror
My second tip for dealing with weight gain during recovery is to hide the full length mirror if you have one. I used to have a full length mirror in my bedroom. I would check my body in it several times a day, even more during recovery as I was anxious about the changes I was seeing. In my mind it would ease my anxiety. However, checking the size of my stomach or thighs only made me feel worse and focus on my body more. I am sure many of you can relate to this excessive body checking if you are experiencing Hypothalamic Amenorrhea…
One of the best things I did for my recovery was covering up the mirror with a big colourful scarf. This helped me to break the habit of body checking and shift my awareness to how I was feeling on the inside. After the initial period of fatigue I actually started to feel more energetic and alive and I think not focusing on my outer appearance helped to observe this positive change. I won’t say that it was easy, in in the beginning I found it tough not to just take a peek. Body checking was almost like an addiction and after quitting cold turkey it became much easier not to do it. It was exactly the same for weighing myself daily, I got rid of the scales and this helped immensely to let go of the fear of seeing those numbers creeping up.
Do a social media purge
My third tip for dealing with weight gain during recovery is to do a social media purge. If you are a social media user, you are trying to get your period back and you follow any diet, weight loss and fitness accounts, you are not helping yourself! I know I used to follow so many health and fitness accounts and I would be constantly negatively comparing myself to other people’s bodies online. Every time I opened up Instagram or YouTube, I would be feeding my mind with ammunition to beat myself up with later. I’d constantly find new things to dislike about my body or areas I didn’t measure up and needed to improve.
At one point it had to stop and I did a huuuuge purge of all of my accounts, unfollowing anyone that I compared myself to or anyone who shared content relating to weight loss or the diet mentality. Instead I followed normal people with normal, unedited bodies as well as accounts promoting body positivity and the non-diet approach to health which is what I now use with my health coaching clients. This was such a big step and helped me to shift my perspective and let go of some of the ideas about how I should look. I reprogrammed my brain to see what a healthy, female body should look like and this helped me to accept the changes I saw in my own body during recovery.
Over to you…
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