This post may seem a little ironic, given my main message is to not let bloggers tell you what to do, or scare you. Now feel free to use my own advice against me and completely disregard this post if you wish, haha.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Bloggers
You will find several blogs, and increasingly so, regarding Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA). It seem that this phenomenon, which you can read more about here, is not well understood among the medical community, or at least this is the rationale behind so many blogs related to HA.
One blogger in particular, who shall remain unnamed, has really started to bother me recently. This blogger, who we shall call B, does not seem to have any formal education in nutrition, nutritional therapy, or any other medical degree. She also went through a series of weight fluctuations, restrictive eating, and diet fads, but mended her ways once she was diagnosed. B’s mantra: high-calorie, high-carb, low-fat, and all-vegan. B seems like a wonderful person, and it seems as though her regime worked to help her get her period back. Oh, what I forgot to mention is that she is still extremely skinny.
Now here’s why B’s advice bothers me:
1. She has no formal qualifications
2. I don’t quite believe that she practices what she preaches
– She is constantly talking about how it is wrong to look in mirrors, and take photos of your body, but B frequently posts pictures of her super skinny waist, with her bones showing
3. She may have been lucky, but not everyone is – there is NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL
– She went through the whole IIFYM (“If It Fits Your Macros”) phase, where she counted calories. She said this drove her insane, so she is completely against calorie counting. B says that everyone should eat whatever they please, so long as it’s plant-based, vegan, high-carb, and low fat. Unfortunately, B, while you were able to ‘miraculously’ maintain, or even lose weight (she supposedly got her period at a lower weight than that at which she was diagnosed with HA), that doesn’t quite work for everyone. Additionally, what B considers to be a feeling of ‘fullness,’ may not be something that others experience in the same way. I, for example, am still trying to understand what feeling ‘truly full’ still means for my body, which is why I think it is impractical to give people (who have struggled with restrictive eating) the advice to “just eat” and “stop when you’re full” – some people can’t do that, yet.
4. What’s with all the fat-hating?
– Fats (unsaturated and saturated) are the building-blocks of our hormones. This is where I am calling a little BS on our friend B. If her philosophy really is no longer about minimizing calories, then why substitute peanut butter, which is packed with healthy fats and omega-3s, with PB2, which just gives you the taste of peanut butter, but without all of its benefits. Sure, PB2 is about half the calories, but if you’re trying to help your hormones, then you need those fats! This is not only backed by science and the Internet, but also by my Ivy-League doctors (sorry, I know it sounds snooty, but I thought the Ivy-League plug would make it more compelling).
So, long story short, unfortunately I think that B’s mantras, and immense following of worried fans looking for anything that’s worked on the Internet, may be going down an unhealthy rabbit hole.
Do What Works For YOU!
Let me cut to the chase – don’t let people like B shame you for counting calories. Different things work for different people – being vegan, and following a high-carb, low-fat diet is B’s equivalent of counting calories. I say do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable with yourself and feel as though you have control. One thing that B and I agree about is that you do need to be eating more. However, per my doctor’s and registered dietitian’s advice, this does NOT need to be excessive (2500-3000 kcal). It can be, if that’s what your body needs, but it really doesn’t have to be.
You don’t have to give up on your goals!
Girl, if you want to look like a Victoria’s Secret model, don’t think that you have to give that up because you have HA. What you DO have to do though, is pause and maintain, until your body trusts you again and gives you your period back. After that, consult with your primary care provider, registered dietitian, and / or sports nutrition to understand how far you can push your body, and the healthy road to get there. Now, I’m not promising anything – maybe some of our body’s need a minimum body fat percentage to have a period. However, you can’t base what works or doesn’t work for you based on what others experience. Just because girl X had to gain 20 lb to get her period back, doesn’t mean you do. By the same token, just because our friend B can (supposedly) eat whatever she wants, with a ton of carbs and hardly any fats, does not mean that you won’t gain weight and will get your period back by doing the same.
The bottom line: you are your own boss, and other’s experiences can guide, but should not dictate yours!
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE only use the Internet as a supplement or guide. Do NOT let bloggers scare you, or tell you what to do. Work with medical professionals like your primary care provider and nutritional therapist to find what is right for you.
Lots of love,