“If you are a runner whose periods have become lighter or stopped, consider dropping your mileage and visiting your GP”
As I pounded on the cross trainer at the gym, sweat running down my face, I took a double take as I read the above advice in my first issue of Women’s Running. I’d bought the magazine for the half marathon advice, I was so nervous about failing and letting everyone down.
That’s what ran through my head with each stride taken during earlier and earlier runs in the morning. Pushing myself up killer hills, feeling cross if I managed less than six miles. I wanted to run the half marathon, I wanted so much for my loved ones to be proud of me.
When my periods stopped, I put it down to stress, a change in diet (I dropped chocolate), the fact I was running. I wasn’t concerned, after all, I wasn’t trying to get pregnant and mother nature’s monthly ‘gift’ is hardly a bundle of joy.
I read that advice and simply thought “it’s such a common thing they’ve put it in a magazine”. It didn’t occur to me that my body was screaming at me to ease off, that I was simply doing too much on too little.
Then the months rolled on. My weight didn’t change -I really want to stress that I was always a healthy weight - but my body did, curves became muscles and the shape of my face changed. I became afraid of eating a potato unless it “undid my good work”.
I ran the half marathon under my time goal of two hours and decided to let my body recover, to gain weight, get more of a sensible mindset to exercise and feel like a woman again.
Running became replaced with walking, breakfast tripled in size. Cake and halva were part of my daily menu, yoga counted as the exercise for the day and the pounds started adding back on.
But my periods didn’t return. Months went by and honestly, I was a horrible mess, altering between gorging myself to gain, feeling guilty that I had, reverting back to my previous meals. Stepping on the scales was a horrible experience – guilt if the number stayed the same or had dropped, guilt if it had risen.
I can’t tell you exactly what pushed me out of that cycle, I simply forgot to weigh myself one day and stopped obsessing over it.
- Lots of almond butter. As in spoonfuls straight from the jar, three with breakfast each morning
- A daily omega 3, 6 and 9 supplement
- At least half an avocado a day
- Sweet potato with my evening meal, with feta and coconut oil drizzled on top
After six months I started getting really awful mood swings. I’m a positive, happy person but had episodes of screaming on the floor, weeping for hours, feeling hideous. I was a treat for James, I can tell you!
Then one day, my period came back.
I can’t tell you how happy I was, how I strutted round feeling a million dollars. It was a painful battle but I had won, working with my body instead of against it.
I feel like we are constantly told we are not doing enough, how we can slim down, how we can lose weight, tone up, lose our “wobbly bits”. I’m not saying we should all become obese but isn’t a little softness what makes us feminine?
Yes I have gained weight, yes my clothes are tighter, some don’t fit round my bum and hips in an appropriate way any more (French Connection pencil skirt, I’m thinking of you!). I can’t lie and say that makes me feel great, some days I really struggle. In a society where less is more when it comes to weight, those extra pounds sometimes play on my mind.
But I feel fit, healthy and so much stronger than I did. I don’t run very often but when I do, I’m faster. I can go for longer. I can lift weights. I’m not afraid of food any more.
Most importantly for me, I’m a woman and my body is in harmony again.
* I haven’t really explained what HA is or why it occurs so please check out these wonderful ladies’ blogs. Their experiences and advice were a crucial source of information and advice for me.