I noticed my period stopped around March or May 2017 but I decided to ignore it because it’s convenient. I need to travel for 2 months abroad so I will take care of it once I am back. All cool.
I did start reading and researching about what caused it. Learned about the term for it: amenorrhea. Found a couple of articles linking it to intermitent fasting, overtraining, nothing very conclusive in terms of how to recover from it (in hindsight I should have checked Youtube because apparently there are a LOT of women sharing their recovery experiences and advices there; only realised this Feb 2020).
I’m not going to go into too much details about amenorrhea here but basically it’s a self defense mechanism where your body shuts down your reproductive system because it senses you are not safe (lack food, physical and mental stress).
I visited an ob gyn in January 2018. She prescribed some birth control pill (I think). I took 5 of them for 5 days and it did trigger a period. But it never became regular. I tried triggering 3 more periods that year, thinking I could “jumpstart” it like a car. Of course it never became regular either.
Then I moved on with life. Got busy, rolled with the convenience, dismissed the importance. Work was crazy from July, then October another trip, and life keep on happening and I was cruising along with the condition.
And it was fine — heck it’s more than fine, it’s super convenient to not get periods.
Of course I “know” that losing period will affect:
- bone density
- cholesterol level (impacted by cortisol)
- estrogen -> collagen -> skin elasticity or shininess or something
- reproductive, have babies
But yo, I feel fine, I have other stuff to work on and take care of. Trying to keep up at work, showing up and doing great work while recovering from burnout, errands, family stuff, exploring ideas of creating extra income streams, maintaining relationships, juggling social responsibilities, yadda yadda.
So I kept on downplaying the importance. Having kids is probably #38 on my list of priority. And “osteoporosis can wait”. Jeebus. It’s interesting how irrational I can be, as a self-confessed logic and intelligence worshipper.
I felt fine physically. Well, aside from the amenorrhea, which is a very clear signal from my body that it is not fine. But it never registers.
What did register and I did notice is that I am not healthy mentally.
Very early on, eating started becoming this sacred rewarding activity after working out and after fasting. The dopamine hit from the workout is followed by the dopamine hit from the food. Pain amplifies the pleasure.
I started becoming obsessed with food. Food and eating became the main activity and topic in my life. I used to be one of those people who “eat to live” people but now I am full-on “live to eat”.
I spun and spent endless mental cycle to decide what to eat, when to eat, how much, exerting willpower, Coming up with all the logical dialogue trying to control the emotional actions.
Fasting is inherently about scarcity, resisting. And what you resist persist.
I would start to binge eat, feeling like I can afford to do so with the muscles (metabolic asset) I have developed, compensate with a fast, then train more to make use of the extra energy and maintain the body composition. I started calories tracking (fixating on numbers is type A’s favorite game), had unspoken resentment towards and triggered by family members keeping snacks around the house, played games of portion control, the food coma, and all the shebang.
Change is the only constant, they say. And obviously I wasn’t able to keep my perfect shape forever. Life happens, and I was slipping away from the maintenance mode. The calories intake fluctuate, the workout intensity fluctuates. This fuels the obsession further.
Luckily (or not?) I tend to binge on food that are still somewhat low in calories, so it never manifested ina significant way. I never went “over the line” to reach a “wake up call”, if that makes sense.
I know I needed help but it is not that bad.
I know I am not fat. I am just fatter than where I had once been. And I am just obsessing over getting back there. One of the main thing that kept me going is knowing I am only a comfortable distance away from “that body composition”. But then life happens, and of course I further and further drift away from that state. I then get into the loop of being anxious about falling out of maintenance mode and trying to accept / make peace with my “new body”.
To be clear, I know and am 350% sure no one notices these subtle change in body fat that only I touch and pinch. Heck the craziest of all, I don’t even meet any human being, 80% of the time. I work remotely ffs. I don’t rely on my looks (I still don’t wear make up for conference calls and I wear just casual yet presentable clothes when I’m out) and I don’t have any specific person whom I crave validation from.
The craziest could be even right now after 7 days of eating more, deliberately increasing my calories intake, my belly flab is still less than a third than that of Tara Basro’s.
My BMI is 17.8. That is classified as underweight. I don’t look underweight though, thanks to my muscular arms and square jawed skull, lol.
I am completely crazy. I know.
Hi there! This is the second part out of 5-part series on my experience with eating disorder and amenorrhea. Hopefully this can help someone out there going through the same experience.
If you relate with any of these or have any question, feel free to hit me up on Twitter. Happy to chat.
- Talking Body: Part I: I Have an Eating Disorder
- Talking Body: Part II: Amenorrhea and Food Obsession
- Talking Body: Part III: What Caused My Amenorrhea and The First Mindset Shift
- Talking Body: Part IV: The Second Mindset Shift and Recovering From Amenorrhea
- Talking Body: Part V: Battling Eating Disorder: Listen to Your Body.
Also published on Medium.