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

Mind and Body after Baby: Month 6

6 Month Update

The past week or two have had some rough nights.  No sleep and being sick are not a good combo but I have finally decided to take pics for this post.  Yawn.  I wrote most of this last month so although some of my feelings or thoughts have changed I want to still post this because it was what I felt at the time.

Mind:

This month was very trying because I was being pushed at work with a ton of new responsibilities.  we also went through some sleep training after weeks of the baby up multiple times a night.  The past month I fought with myself about stopping breastfeeding.  It began to really become difficult because I wasn’t sleeping and my supply started to drop after I was sick.  I really hate pumping and if I was with him all the time I feel like it would be easier.  I wouldn’t stress about getting enough for daycare and then adding extra sessions if I didn’t get my magic number.  I did not stop though and I made it to my goal of 6 months!  I have not decided when I will stop and I go back and forth all the time.  I have been stressed to the max with my new role at work.  I have a ton of projects, meetings and work and I have been feeling a little like I am a bad mom.  I feel guilty I can’t be with him 24/7 and the other day when I picked him up from daycare I started to wonder does he still know I am his mom? It is heartbreaking thinking that.  Lately I miss him so much during the day and I would give anything just to snuggle with him.

Body:
I decided since it has been half a year (I don’t know where the time went) that I would do a comparison from the first month!  I really see a lot of the weight loss in my face.  My body has definitely changed and my old body at this weight was much different.  I am very proud to see how far I have come.  I am 6lbs below pre-pregnancy weight and my goal is to lose probably another 2-4lbs.  At that point I am going to focus more on how clothes fit and building muscle rather than the number on the scale.

1 Month Postpartum

Blog 1 month front

vs 6 Months Postpartum

Blog front

1 Month Postpartum

Blog 1 month

vs 6 Months Postpartum

Blog side

Stats:

Measurements month 6

Goals for month 7:  The usual…start running and sign up for 5k.  This has been on the backburner but now it is (somewhat) nice I can take the jogging stroller out for run!

Mind and Body after Baby: Month 5

I’m really late this month!!

Mind:

Between work and home I feel like a crazy lady most days.  I literally have no time during the week.  Between waking getting myself ready, pumping and then feeding the morning flies by and then nighttime is spent playing with the little guy.  I have still been going to bed when he does because of all the night wakings.  It is a bit taxing but I know once he starts sleeping more that I can start to stay up a little later and have at least a half hour or hour to myself!  It  is all worth it though.  Making him giggle and smile is the best thing ever.  Love those belly laughs.

Body (Please ignore the cheesy pics):

I am very happy with my weight loss.   It continues to be slow and steady.  I am 3lbs below pre-pregnancy weight which makes me very happy but my body is definitely different.  Maybe it is the extra skin on belly or something or the linea nigra that is still hanging around but my stomach just doesn’t look the same.  I am getting some morning abs but it goes away with first bit of water or food leaving me looking bloated most days.  My next goal is about another 5-7lb loss and then focus on maintaining and building muscle.  I am still working my butt off in the gym.  I am lifting anywhere from 4-6 days a week with maybe one longish session of cardio a week and anywhere for no cardio to 20 minutes at the most.  I do a lot of sprinting or intervals which helps keep me burning lots of calories and not being a slave to the treadmill.

 

Here are some more post workout pics that are less than flattering……they don’t show much progress but if I look from month one to now there was some big changes.  I think at 6 month I will do some comparison and may even show some of my other before and afters that include my belly. Scary!

5 Month Postpartum

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vs 6 Months Postpartum

DSC_02465 Month Postpartum

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vs 6 Months Postpartum

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Stats:

Measurements month 5

Goals for month 5: My goals for this month was to focus on lifting heavy still.  I haven’t been running as far as longer distances because we pushed the 5K out.  We both were sick and hubby doesn’t feel ready yet.  We will probably end up doing one in April or May.  I would LOVE to find one we could bring the stroller and test out the BOB Stroller!

Mind and Body after Baby: Month 4

Of course about a few weeks late again but pics and stats are from 4 months!

Mind:

Another whirlwind of a month.  In my mind, I keep thinking Coen is 3 months for some reason.  This will be a short post because to be honest I have momma mind and I don’t even recall how I have felt this past month!  I fell back into a funk after starting the year of with great motivation.  I think I am over that hump again but it is hard to keep up the momentum.  Working mom is tough and the is so little time to get everything I need to get done like writing posts.  I do feel back to myself almost 100% though.  Almost like I never even was pregnant!

Body (Please ignore the cheesy pics):

I am still happy with my weight loss each  month.  I lost 2.6lbs this month but saw some nice decreases in measurements!  I think slow, steady weight loss is lasting weight loss so even if I am only losing half a pound I week I am happy! Pics don’t show a big difference each month but I bet if I compared them to the first month I would see big changes.  I feel like my belly needs the most work.  I am back to and a little below pre-pregnancy weight but there is still extra weight around the belly that hopefully will improve with time and exercise.

Here are some more post workout pics that are less than flattering……

3 Month Postpartum

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vs 4 Months Postpartum

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DSC_0074

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Stats:

Measurements month 4

Goals for month 4: My goals for this  month are to start increasing weight when lifting and really push myself.  I need to start adding in some steady state cardio aka jogging because we will be doing that 5k next month and I am not prepared!

Post Baby Mind & Body Update: Month 3

Of course about a few weeks late again but pics and stats are from 3 months!

Mind:

As I said in Coen’s post, this month flew faster than the last two.  The holidays are always so busy and I kept dreading knowing I was back to work soon.  The first day back was pretty awful.  It was go go go.  I felt defeated by the time I got home.  Between the emotions of leaving the little one and trying to give it my all at work I was drained.  Pretty sure there was a moment that I was ready to just give up and wanted to just walk out but I made it through.  I will try and do a day in the life post of a working mom.  It is so much harder than I expected.  There really is no down time during the week.  From the second I wake in the morning to when I go to bed I am non stop.

The little me time I had before has decreased even more.  I am alright with that but it just takes some adjusting.  I really need to work on trying not to do everything.  I have a hard time accepting help even from my husband.  Apparently I am always trying to prove I can do everything myself and I don’t know why.  I have also found that the past 2 years before getting pregnant I focused 90% of my energy towards getting pregnant and then while pregnant I focused all my energy into making sure I had a healthy baby and that we were prepared for him.  I now feel that I can finally focus some of this energy on me now.  I really want to focus on doing my best at work and really proving myself.

Body (Please ignore the cheesy pics):

I was really frustrated with my body this month.  I did not see any changes till about 3 weeks into the month.  The scale was stuck and there were no changes in how things were fitting.  I was recording what I was eating but it was hard to keep my calories in check during all the holidays.  All of a sudden it was January and between the new year, stress of knowing I will be going back to work and really watching what I was eating the scale started moving.

I dropped almost 3 pounds this month and only a 2lbs away from pre-pregnancy weight!  It feels so good to finally start seeing changes again.  My belly is still squishy and hips are much wider but I feel like the rest of me is back to normal.  To be honest, I am not sure my stomach or hips will ever go back to what they were but that is alright with me.  I still feel like with more fat loss I can achieve that flat stomach once again.  Much to my surprise I have found that my cardio is actually way better than what it used to be.  I have much more endurance and I think it is because I was in such great shape carrying around that extra weight when pregnant.  I haven’t been running but will need to start because my husband and I are set out to run a 5k come March.  A little St. Patty’s day run which will end at the bar for a victory drink.  This will be our first 5k and I have to admit I am not much of a runner.  Being only 5’1 I have little legs and definitely not a runner’s body.  I am slow and awkward but that is just fine as long as I finish it.

I took these after a workout so don’t mind the fact that I’m a sweaty mess.  The angle of the camera is a little different but my stomach has definitely become a little flatter this past month.  I also feel like my arms are just beginning to get some definition.

Two Months Postpartum

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vs.
Three Months Postpartum

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Two Months Postpartum

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vs.
Three Months Postpartum

Stats:

Measurements month 3

Goals for month 4: I managed to actually meet all of last months goals so that means I owe myself something special.  I am thinking a pullup bar or a new jump rope because the one at the gym is awful.  This months goals are to keep up the cardio, start doing some running, eat more veggies and eat when hungry not when bored.  I also want to start lifting heavier.  I toned it down a bit when I first started lifting after the baby from what I usually did just to ease into it.  I want to start setting some personal records for myself like pushups, pullups (can hardly do one anymore), how much I can squat, run, etc.

 

Post Baby Mind & Body Update: Month 2

Of course about a week late again but pics and stats are from 2 months!

Mind:

Everyday I feel like a different person.  The days I get a decent nights sleep I feel great and then the days I am waking 2-3 times a night or can’t fall asleep after a night feeding I feel awful.  I have always needed a good nights sleep to be at my best.  I am not one of those people that can function on minimal sleep but I am learning how to (sort of).  In a little over two weeks I go back to work.  I am pretty much having an anxiety attack over it!  It is bittersweet.  In one way it will be good to get back to a routine and I think having a career of my own is healthy for me as well.  I worked hard to get my masters and it would feel a little bit of a waste if I could not use it.  Could I (mentally) be a stay at home mom if we could swing it?  Definitely.  On the not so sweet side, it hurts to think I will be missing so much of my son’s life.  In a perfect world, I would be part time or work from home or would work part time.  Or of course if we win the lottery and never have to work would actually be ideal! Haha! I just don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Body (Please ignore the cheesy pics):

Blog 1 month

One Month Postpartum

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Two Month Postpartum

Blog 1 month front

One Month Postpartum

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Two Month Postpartum

Although I do see some changes on measurements, I only lost about 1.5 lbs.  I am now 5lbs away from my pre-pregnancy weight and about 12lbs away from pre-IVF weight.  The first few weeks of this month my diet was not so perfect.  I ate well during the day but then I ate a lot at night so I know that played a factor in things.  I have cleaned it up but scale is hardly budging and that extra flub seems to be sticking around.  I am trying not to let it bother me and know that my body is doing a lot right now.  It is providing life for our son and I need to not let a little extra weight bother me.  I would never stop breastfeeding just to lose the weight.  I am actually beginning to enjoy breastfeeding because it creates such a bond between us and I know in a few short weeks I will not be able to it as much.  Instead I will be bonding with that damn breast pump.

I am hitting the gym 5 days a week still and mostly lifting.  This week after the scale has been at a standstill for 3 weeks I have upped my game and added in some cardio intervals a few times a week.  I am not a big fan of cardio but since I am keeping my calories high to keep my milk supply up I need to burn them another way.  I have been tracking my calories and only creating a small deficit.  I have dropped it about 200 calories and keeping a close eye on it.  If it affects my milk supply I will eat more.

I have been also been trying to keep my motivation up by following some positive influences.  I love Natalie Hodson.  She has such a positive perspective on things and is so real in her postpartum journey.  She also looks absolutely amazing after having her second almost 10lb baby.

Stats:

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Goals for month 3:  At least 3 20-30 minute cardio sessions, eat more veggies, not beat myself up and keep track of calories.  If I can do all this, lose weight during the holidays and going back to work, I deserve something nice like a massage or new gym gear!