Afraid to Stop Exercising?Amenorrhea, RED-S and Weight Gain Fears

Healthy Habits That Turn Bad

A healthy habit of working out can easily slip into being too much for your body. There is a thin line between over exercising and Exercise Addiction just like there is a thin line between Disordered Eating and Eating Disorders. There is no secret recipe for how much one’s body can handle. Some people can handle two a days and some people get burnt out from 5 days a week.

My Story

I have always loved exercise so for me it wasn’t a big deal to exercise everyday until I took it too far. I began to cling to exercise and became so fearful of gaining weight and becoming deconditioned if I took rest days or time off from the gym. I used exercise as an outlet for me to get away and relieve stress.

So a bit of my backstory in regards to exercise. I have been lifting and doing cardio for as long as I can remember. Initially it was always to change the size of my body but I found that I loved it once I started. I wasn’t into organized sports but loved Taebo (that was a thing!), kickboxing and lifting weights when I was in middle and high school. Fast forward to when it became too much. It started when I was dropping weight for my wedding. I was barely eating and lifting moderately. Ironically, I never lost my period at that time but my body didn’t stay long at such a low weight. I bounced up in weight not matter how hard I fought it. Years later I fell into overtraining again when I was trying to have a baby. I was on a ton of fertility meds, doing a lot of cardio and weight lifting in between IVFs to loose the weight I put on during the IVF cycles. I was doing Jamie Eason’s Livefit program and I was always keeping calories low and it would send me into binges.

My very pregnant self still working out.


Finally, I took it down a notch let my body gain and I finally got pregnant on my 5th IVF cycle (a FET). I lifted throughout pregnancy ans was very fearful of the weight gain after the baby. The overtraining began again postpartum. I was lifting 5-7 days a week despite not sleeping with a newborn, breastfeeding and exhausted and definitely not getting enough energy through the calories I was eating. I was scared to cut back in exercise. I got back to my prebaby weight but I kept going. I loved eating so I didn’t want to have to cut back on exercise and was just so fearful of gaining weight if I did. I kept pushing myself harder and harder. I would do lots of active rests where I would be doing jump squats, jumping jacks, box jumps whatever I could do to burn more calories. I would do more than what was on my planned program to get better results or what I thought was better results. I felt like I just couldn’t really control it for all the fears I was feeling if I would stop. Obviously, I never got my period back after my daughter because my body was in shock.

RED-S and Overtraining Syndrome

What is over training syndrome? It is when you can’t recover appropriately and in impairs performance. There is a lot of controversial information on this so I am going to stick with RED-S which is more in line with amenorrhea. RED-S is Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport. You don’t have to be an athlete to have this. You can be someone that is just heavily involved in working out like runners, cardio bunnies and lifters and not eating enough to withstand the amount of energy that you are burning .

The cause of this syndrome is an energy deficiency created from the amount of energy that is burned from exercise and daily activities in relation to what one is eating. Psychological consequences can happen either before or after you have RED-S. By the way RED-S has basically replaced the female athlete triad because you don’t need to have all three to have it.

There are multiple signs of RED-S very similar to Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

  • Fatigue
  • Hormone Issues
  • Injuries and acute inflammation
  • Insomnia/Sleep Disturbances or Wake up unrefreshed
  • Moodiness or Depression and Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite

The psychological impact can be thoughts around exercise, food and weight gain which tend to lead into the unhealthy obsession. Fears if you do stop that you will gain or lose your strength. In the back of your mind you may want to stop. You may feel an uncontrollable urge to train. You may have disordered thoughts about earning your food. Fears because it’s your way to decompress or manage stress so you don’t want to stop.

I remember in the past researching over training and exercise addiction. That right there should have been a clue that there was something. I didn’t think I had it because I still had energy to workout.

Are you exercising too much?

If you are teetering if you are doing too much or you are trying to recover your period you most likely need to cut back, cut it out or at least ask yourself on a daily basis “Is my body rested enough to exercise today?” Many people fall into the trap that more is better with exercise. Remember, more isn’t always better. This is the exact opposite of the what you have always been told. It’s all in the audience. If you are that person that pushes the limits and is an overachiever you may be doing too much. I recall Bret Contreras, the “Glute Guy,” saying one of the biggest mistakes he sees most of his female clients make is exercising too much. Imagine if you could actually exercise less and get better results? If you are unsure if you are exercising too much start asking yourself the following questions:

Do I have any of these symptoms?

Am I scared to stop training?

Am I exercising despite being exhausted or not sleeping enough?

Do I enjoy it?

Would I feel a sense of relief if I were forced to stop?

Am I taking rest days?

Am I seeing improvements in my performance?

So after answering all those questions you probably know the answer whether or not you need to stop or slow it down. If you are thinking HELL NO I am not stopping start to ask yourself why?

Are you worried about weight gain? Are you using it to earn your food? Are you wanting to eat more but fearing that you will gain weight? Are you fearful that it’s your way to let go of stress or that maybe you will lose friends?

Just take a deep look at yourself only you can answer this.

How to Stop?

The best way to stop is to try cold turkey if you are completely depleted and exhausted. You should at least try to take a week off. If I mention try to take a week off and you just got anxiety then you probably need to reevaluate what is going on with you. If anything cutting back on intensity, start taking deload weeks and take at least a week off every quarter.

Prevention for RED-S

It’s important that you learn to exercise mindfully and find a healthy balance. There are so many stressors in life like being a mom or if you have a high stress job or there are a lot of things happening in your life. It’s easy to use exercise as a crutch and say you can’t cut back or a way of controlling something in a world that feels so uncontrollable. I am by no means saying not to exercise for stress reduction but if you lost your period or have RED-S you may need to stop and then find your sweet spot once you recover by doing the following:

  • Balanced Training
  • Deloads and Periodization
  • Rest Weeks
  • Fueling Properly
  • Timing of Foods around exercise
  • Sleeping Enough

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c7a1/83e2e89d257b3e62b6f0e6bb6fe0584eba42.pdf

Weight Gain In HA Recovery

Don’t Have Recovery Weight Expectations

Recently I posted on my IG stories how I was having a such a tough time with weight gain. I went out to buy clothes and it was awful. Nothing fit. So why was it bothering me so much? I am not meeting expectations that I should have never set with myself. I keep setting myself up for failure because I was setting an expectation to be recovered at a certain weight. This weight was a number that I had gotten pregnant at a number I had cycled at with no issues. At first it was a certain number on the scale. Once I got there I got panicked and I then set another number to try to not bypass which was a BMI of 22 the fertile BMI which is recommended in recovery. I got there and then I kept gaining and I was like “No, I can’t gain anymore!” but I could still fit in a certain size jeans so I was OK with it. And then guess what? I gained even more weight and I no longer fit in that size and this is what really pushed me over the edge. I am now over the 22 BMI and I am no longer fitting in the size I wore after I had a damn baby.

Your Body Decides Your Recovery Weight

All this goes back to my body either doesn’t feel comfortable yet or still has more repairing to do. This takes time. The more days that pass the stronger I get. So I keep going. Even if you feel like giving up on where you are on your journey don’t give up. Weight gain is tough. This is all about perseverance. In a blink of an eye it will be another year and you will be restored and it will all be a distant memory. Think back to something you regret. You don’t want this to be that. Be strong and keep going.

The fact that I have gained this amount of weight and I still don’t have a period is telling me I am not recovered yet. I am close to the highest weight I have ever been at. I have probably overshot by now but that shouldn’t matter but let’s be honest it feels like it does. It doesn’t feel good to put on clothes and be spilling out of them but let’s talk about that.

What are You Making Weight Gain Mean?


Let’s talk really about what you are making it mean. What does it mean to you that you have gained weighted? Are you making it mean you let yourself go? Is the problem the weight or is it truly the thought around what you are making it mean? Are you making it mean you aren’t worthy anymore. That you aren’t beautiful? Are you worried about what others are thinking of you?

My guess there are two big things here. One you are worried about what others think which I will cover in a future blog post and the second thing is you are probably upset with what you are making this mean. So ask yourself what are you making it mean? Write down why it is bothering you and take a good look at these reasons.

You are Not the Number on the Scale

Remember you are not your weight. I guarantee if you were to describe yourself or someone else it would not be by what they looked like. You would say that they are a great friend and great listener. Or maybe you would mention their funny sense of humor. You would describe who they are as a person. Gaining weight does not change who you are. It only makes you better and stronger for wanting to better yourself. Even if you are not recovering and maybe you are just gaining weight who cares?

There is a saying that “What you resist persists.” What needs to happen is you need to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and look like. If you are resisting this weight gain it is going to resurface two fold. If you aren’t allowing your body to recover and you are still holding on to having that lean physique you won’t get out of this. These expectations will set you up for failure and disappointment. You yes you are all about what is on the inside not the outside.

During recovery, we have a distorted view of what we see as normal. I am not going to go into all the diet industry and that BS because I think we already know that. But normal is what is healthy for you and no one else. Others may be able to be at 15% body fat and cycle but that is not you or they may be able to be that low of body fat and feel good. It’s OK to gain weight. I am giving you approval to and it’s also OK not to feel great about it all of the time. This is about accepting your feelings about it and to try and make improvements. Body’s have seasons. You may have a fit season, you may have a postpartum season you may have a prenatal season. There are times in your life that you don’t have the time to exercise or worry about your weight and times you are super fit. This is your recovery body. Love it for all it does for you.

Thanks for reading and let me know you deal with weight gain in recovery.