So many women show up to my free phone consultations worried because their periods just aren’t showing up. Amenorrhea is pretty common these days and while lack of menstrual cycles can occur for several different reasons, 90% of my clientele have one thing in common: They are all super healthy.
I meet this woman time and time again. She doesn’t understand why her periods don’t come regularly because she is so healthy! She works out consistently, loves her juices and super foods, and more than likely she’s a practicing vegetarian or vegan. At the bare minimum she follows a “plant-based diet.” Sometimes she has a history of restricting diets or eating disorders. Sometimes she used to be an athlete or dancer. But whatever her past, she feels healthy in the present.
She knows that excess exercise and low body fat are major contributing factors to amenorrhea, but she doesn’t think she fits into that category. She exercises, but not excessively, and she’s skinny, but not exceptionally. With women that fit this archetype, there are a few contributing factors to her underling endocrine disturbances.
Not Enough Fat
So many women don’t see themselves as too skinny because they spent their early twenties trying to avoid the weight gain that is naturally associated with maturing. For this reason, women who are under 25 and are already experiencing lack of menstrual cycles may be a little too healthy. She doesn’t feel like she is “restricting” her diet yet she eats loads of lettuces, raw veggies, and low calorie foods, and as a result suffers from low estradiol levels, and ultimately, amenorrhea. Adding quality, fatty, animal proteins to every meal can make a huge difference, as can eating nut butters, avocados, salmon, seeds and other full-fat, rich, or high-calorie foods.
Too Much Exercise
In addition, many of these women are doing far more work than her body actually needs. Sure physical exercise such as running or power yoga are great for women with depression or low self-esteem who need to embrace more of their warrior spirit. But more often than not, women who aren’t menstruating are suffering from warrior excess and need to start embracing their goddess spirit. Switching to activities like walking, gardening, or even just taking a long bath can give your body the break it so desperately needs.
In my ideal scenario, I would love all my clients to replace their sweaty gym sessions with a walk out in nature (provided it’s what her body needs that day). However, as usual, easier said than done. It’s not easy to shed that workout guilt and find peace in a walk through the woods. We’ve been taught that being healthy means self-deprivation, or forcing ourselves to do something we don’t want to for the sake of our health. Changing the way we think about health and allowing our body the space it needs to heal and replenish can make a drastic improvement in your endocrine health.
Chances are, if you are restricting your diet or your exercise, you’re probably restricting yourself from other things as well. As usually is the case, more often than not, this fine lady is a health nut for a reason. Perfectionism, a harsh inner-critic, following all the “rules” but never actually paying attention to what her body needs are all emotional barriers that may be hindering her hormonal health. She does everything in her power to be healthy, ticking off her healthy checkboxes boxes one by one without devoting any real love and attention to what actually makes her happy or feel good. In trying to control her health, the health nut does just the opposite.
Control, perfectionism, self-pressure, harsh inner-critic. These are words I hear every day from my healthy, beautiful clients. Her vocabulary is loaded with “I should’s” and not nearly enough “I’m allowed to’s.” She blames her body for not responding to all her efforts and forgets to thank it for keeping her alive. Lacking a compassionate language of self-love, many women try to “earn” their worth through exercise and eating healthy. Receiving constant criticism (either from herself or others), her endocrine system shuts down in an effort to protect her precious nervous system.
By taking a step back, most of these women might realize they are trying too hard. That by giving themselves permission to break their own rules they can stop putting so much pressure on themselves and heal their hormonal imbalances. That they don’t “have” to do all the things they are packing into their already busy schedules. That she is already enough as she is. She’s already worth it.
This woman was (is) me and I’m still working to shed that health fanaticism and listen to my own body. The hard part is realizing that your body is right. For me, I used to feel guilty if I sat on the couch to watch an episode of Downton Abbey or if I didn’t make it to yoga one day. Now I realize that if my body wants to watch a show, that is ok with me. If today I want to have chocolate cake for lunch, great! It’s all part of an experiment in how I can best support myself. I’m allowed to break my own rules and by pursuing my wants over my shoulds, I realize my self-worth over and over again and my endocrine system flushes with feel good hormones that nourish my self-deprived system.
Have you ever turned down cake at a friends wedding because of it’s high glycemic load? Ever wanted to spend the day watching movies but forced yourself to workout instead? How can you let yourself break your own rules? How can you treat yourself with love rather than criticism? How can you treat your body as if it is already healthy enough?
If you recognize yourself in this woman, I’d love to help you unravel the limiting blockers that may be inhibiting your precious endocrine system. Start here to find out how we can work together to heal your hormones and get your period back!