So this post is a LONG time coming. I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write about this because for a while I felt like I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have any answers. Here’s the short of it: After seeing more and more talk of amenorrhea by Heather, Robyn, Tina and others, I realized that it was something I needed to confront. I lost my period in high school, during a period of social stress and disordered eating, and never really got it back. I decided to stop ignoring the issue and finally, truly, focus on getting it back. Thanks to a lot research, doctor visits, reading (highly recommend No Period Now What by Nicola Rinaldi if you are curious or going through something similar), I figured that I needed to stop exercising. What took me longer to get comfortable was the ultimate reality: I needed to take a hard look at my habits and let. them. go.
A critical thinker by nature, attempting to let go of the reins and adopt intuition about eating and exercise has been difficult. I’ve taken the ‘curiosity’ approach to heart, maybe too much?, but overall I’m SO glad for it. I’ve been asking myself ‘why’ a lot these days. Why did I lose my period and why didn’t it come back? Why did I start running and why is it so hard for me to let go of the reins? Why do I need my period to come back? Why is it so uncomfortable to gain weight even though I logically know I need to?
Intuitive Eating helped me realize just how deeply internalized many dieting messages were in my mind, even as I actively rejected dieting and thought I had healed my relationship to food. “Am I hungry or just bored?” I would ask myself, while simultaneously coming back with “even if I am just bored, will eating now make me less of a person?” “What’s wrong with eating an apple for a snack if it’s what truly satisfies me in that moment?” and then immediately asking “Am I only satisfied by the apple because I don’t want to go *overboard* on my intake during the day?”
Questioning my questions has opened up a lot of realizations about how I had adopted habits with food and exercise as part of a lifestyle that I was trained to view as the healthiest. What I’ve discovered after thoroughly, curiously and non-judgmentally assessing my choices and desires is a quest for control that stems from a lack of trust with myself. A lack of trust between myself and the world.
I genuinely believed (subconsciously) that I could not be healthy if I did not maintain tight control on what I ate and how I moved. Even if I allowed myself to indulge every day, I counted these as measured indulgences that would eventually be *balanced* out by restriction of some kind in another area. I noticed that sometimes the intensity of my exercise correlated with how *loose* I let my eating habits become. I’d make sure to sweat extra hard if I had gone out to dinner or drank a few too many glasses of wine the night before.
This is a practice I see prescribed to people every day as perfectly normal. Is it healthy? I can’t answer that for you, but my missing period tells me otherwise.
Intuitive Eating is like that scene in The Notebook where I am Noah and my brain is Allie. With less romance. What do I want? Why do I want it? I’ve rejected the diet mentality. I’m learning to accept the ‘why’ and not question it to death. Trusting my gut and following my intuition takes practice every day, but I think I’m finally ACTUALLY getting the hang of it.
My philosophy about nutrition and health has grown more than a 14 year old boy over the past year. I’ve been become a permanent eye-roller when it comes to the diet industry. I’ve learned to accept that ‘health’ has a different definition for everyone, and is not a moral obligation for anyone.
Even though I’m faced with the reality that I’ve been inadequately honing in to my actual health needs (or else I would have a functioning hormonal/reproductive system), I’m motivated to continue to learn more about what I need every day. It’s been three months since I’ve stopped running and I still have a lot of work to do. There was a whole lot of denial at first, but slowly and surely I’ve been able to find a happy medium. I’ve given myself yoga as a way to feel like I’m moving with purpose and it has the double benefit of being both a gentle movement and giving me an extra hour to hone in on appreciating my body. I stopped wearing my running watch every day. I wear it every so often, but I no longer use it to track anything other than steps – and I don’t use these numbers to tell me about how I feel. If I feel tired even though I’ve only walked 5,000 steps, fine. Maybe I biked a lot that day or had an exhausting mental day. I’m not going to go out of my way to hit a certain number if my body is telling me otherwise. I have good days and bad days and have realized that I’d rather fit movement into my day when it feels right than completely avoid it and feel frustrated. I exercise when I want to and chill when I realize that the desire to exercise comes from an unhealthy place.
I’m looking forward to lacing up my running shoes again some day but at this point I’m choosing to be grateful for the mental work taking a break from running has forced me to do.
Follow along with more of my musings on instagram @abalancedpaceRD
If you’re an active women who resonates with any part of what I’m saying, check out The Lane 9 Project for a welcoming and supportive group of new friends who know what it feels like to be lost, confused, or betrayed by food and exercise. As an ambassador for the program in Boston, I’ll be organizing monthly meet-ups and would love to get to know you and have more real-talk conversation in person. We don’t need to go at this alone.
The Lane 9 Project Medium: https://medium.com/lane-9-project
The Lane 9 Project Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lane9Project/
The Lane 9 Project – Boston: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1976977182576604/