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

Recovery Weight Gain: Stop Caring What Other People Think

I spoke about body image in my last post and dealing with weight gain. Today I want to address why you need to stop caring what other people think and how to deal with people that may make comments about you. I think this was one of my biggest concerns when I started gaining weight for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery. I was concerned with what other people would think about me as my body and habits changed.

First off, I can tell you making the decision to recover is the best decision I could make and I am damn proud of it. It will also be the best decision that you can make. Here’s the thing at the end of the day it’s you that has to deal deal with the repercussions and other people are far more interested in themselves than you. Think about when you go to the gym. Look around. Everyone is looking in the mirror at themselves too worried about what others think of them.


I’m sure if you are in recovery you have had these concerns or are afraid to start recovery and change your habits because you are fearful of making changes because of what others will think. It seems to be a trend that those suffering from HA or eating disorders may be a bit of a perfectionist, an overachiever or set very high expectations for themselves. You may always beat yourself up or maybe you don’t feel good enough or thin enough or pretty enough as others. Maybe you hear the words self love and wonder what that means and how can anyone feel that way about themselves. I am here to tell you that the relationship with yourself is your most important relationship. If you have a poor relationship with yourself then you need to make it a priority to change it.

The Perfectionist and Overachiever


From my perspective, there seems to be this relationship with women that overexercise, are always on diets and restrict calories who develop disordered eating patterns all because we are trying to put ourselves in this box of what we think others want us to be or what is acceptable or what we think we should be.

This ties into being concerned with what other people think because if you are going through HA recovery you are most likely going to have people make comments at some point. It could be compliments, it could be insults or it could just be observations. It’s all in how you take it. I know for me there are certain people that can make comments that really trigger me. Mom, that’s you!

You Won’t Recover or Get What You Want in Life

One of the main reasons not to care what others think is you won’t get what you want in life and you will not recover. You will be too worried about pleasing others or what other people think of you so you won’t take action and won’t get to the place you need to be.

The number one reason to not worry what others think is that it will hold you back. You won’t get what you want in life and you won’t get to a place where you are recovered. You may not give in to what your body is asking for because you are scared that people may comment on your food choices and your body changes. Think about on your death bed are you going to be caring what that girl at work thinks about you or are you going to be content because you made decisions for yourself and not others. You are going to be happy you made the decision to recover for your health and didn’t stay in that place of disordered habits because you were concerned that other people think you let yourself go. At the end of the day, you are making this choice to recover. Own it. Be proud of it. This isn’t some sort of victim situation. You are choosing to recover.

You Will Never Get To Know Yourself

Another reason to stop caring is you will never get to know yourself and what you want. I am a recovering people pleaser so I fully know that I chose not to do things because I was worried about what other people think and it really held me back. In regards to your body you may abuse it and you won’t love yourself. It’s really hard to get to a place of self love if every time you look in the mirror you say nasty things because your body isn’t what you think the ideal body should look like.

You may feel that others look one way and it’s different than what you look like so you do things to put a lot of strain on your body because of the stress you cause it by under eating or overexercising. Your body will never be what you want it to be if you want it to be someone else ideal. You don’t want to punish yourself for not being the way you think other’s think you should look like. Remember you are only given one body. Take care of it. Be compassionate with it. It’s the one thing that is going to stand by you through all of this.

Stop Feeling Not Good Enough

What goes hand in hand with doing things other people want is never feeling good enough. What you need to learn is that you are good enough and being good enough has nothing to do with other people it has to do with being enough for you. I hear often Brooke Castillo on The Life Coach podcast say “you can be the sweetest peach but you will always have someone that doesn’t like peaches.” Another way you may not feel good enough is when people start making comments and I guarantee through recovery you will have at least one person say something to you. It could be compliments, it could be insults or it could just be observations. First off you are good enough and what you look like is no one else’s concern and what they think about you has nothing to do with you and all about them.

Worrying about others and comparing is only going to make you feel inadequate. I know it is difficult to let things roll off of you but find something that works for you. Have that one support person you can go and cry to or the person who can be that voice of reason. If not, you are going to get really resentful of others and yourself or you may start playing victim and start blaming someone else for things. Lastly, if you worry what others think you are going to feel unfulfilled in life in general. Are you living someone else’s dream and not living your own purpose because you are too worried about what other’s think? Are you too concerned about what your body looks like that you don’t have the energy to do what you want in life? You lose your chance to be self aware because you are suppressing your feelings. If you take anything away from this realize one of the main reasons not to care what others think is you won’t get what you want in life and you will not fully recover.

Remember you are one step close to getting the life you dreamed of. Take Care.

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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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!

 

Post Baby Mind & Body Update: Month 1

I have been busy with the little guy so this post is a little late but the pictures and stats are from one month postpartum!

Mind:

After dealing with infertility, going through IVF treatments and having a history of depression, my counselor wanted me to be aware that I have a good chance of getting PPD.  I am definitely not out of the water as it has been only a month but I feel really good.  PPD can show up anytime within the first year after baby from what I am told.  I didn’t get the baby blues and have yet to have a breakdown and even cry since Coen has arrived.  Like I said this has YET to happen! This first month I have been in a euphoria.  I just look at our little miracle and can’t help but smile.  Of course it is not all easy and I have good days and bad days.  The days I get less sleep I do feel a little down and off but that’s how it has always been for me.  There are a few things that I have learned in the past that really keep me balanced…sleep, eating well and working out.  When I am doing enough of all three of these I have a sense of contentment.  Well since I hadn’t been able to work out because of the C-section and sleeping isn’t always a given I have at least been eating healthy.  I really think this has helped a lot.  I am still eating clean (most of the time) every 2-3 hours for about 5-6 meals a day.  Since I am breastfeeding I find myself eating a ton.  I think I am eating more now then when I was pregnant.

Body:

I had a very active pregnancy which I will post about later.  I took the first trimester off from anything other than walking.  I gained very quickly in the beginning but it seemed to slow down at about 6 months.  Before that every calculator I used and every time I would look online at other woman’s weight gain I had gained too much.  It was discouraging but I knew that my body was doing what it needed.  I would recommend staying away from the scale, calculators and just listen to your body.  Pregnancy changed my view on my body image.  I realized how hard I had been on myself and how truly amazing the body is!  I ended up gaining a total of 26lbs which is right at the low end of normal weight gain..  But don’t forget I was up about 7-10 lbs from all the IVF meds and stress when I got pregnant.

The day my water broke:

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One Month after Baby…..some very less than flattering  pictures but they will help with accountability and motivation!

Blog 1 month front

Blog 1 month

At one month postpartum I have lost all but 7lbs to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and I probably have another 7 to get to my pre-IVF weight.  Although, the number on the scale is really not as important as how I feel and how my clothes fit!  I can button my pre-pregnancy jeans but I am just about busting out of them.  I wear yoga pants everyday because of the C-section incision and I don’t want to buy new jeans for just a few months!  My game plan to get into shape?  Not really quite sure yet.  I need to find something that works for me.  It will most likely include some cardio and mostly lifting at home and at the gym.  It will be all about how to squeeze in a workout while the baby sleeps.

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