I would be lying if I said that my recovery journey was plain sailing. There were ups and downs, periods of super-human motivation but also moments of doubt. After almost a decade of hypothalamic amenorrhoea, it had become normal to me. I wasn’t thinking about having babies any time soon and in truth, not having my period was actually pretty damn convenient. No hormonal mood swings, no acne, no cramps and saving money on tampons… win!
On top of all of that, recovery is hard. You really have to dig deep and look into all of the old stories and beliefs that kept you stuck for so long.
It is hard to give up exercise when you have believed for so long that you need intense daily workouts to stay healthy and you believe you are lazy when you take a rest day, never mind a rest month.
It is hard to eat more when you have spent years training yourself to eat less and letting yourself be brainwashed into believing this is the right thing to do.
It is hard to gain weight when you have been focused on achieving or maintaining the “perfect body” for so long and you feel like you are letting yourself go by gaining a few pounds.
It is hard when you have made such a strong connection between thinness and beauty that you feel ugly and not good enough when you are actually at a perfectly healthy weight for your body.
If recovery is so hard, is it actually worth it?! I would say 100% yes.
Recovery is not just gaining back your menstrual cycle, although this is an amazing goal to aim for and a clear indicator that you are on the right track! Real recovery means learning to listen to and nourish your body, rather than abusing and manipulating it at every possible opportunity. If you surrender to the process and take the time to relearn how to look after yourself, your body will pay you back in so many ways.
Greater sense of inner peace
With the initial anxiety of eating more and gaining weight, it probably doesn’t seem like this is possible but in time, a deeper sense of peace and calmness will arise. Without the constant mind-chatter about what to eat and when to work out, we get the chance to just be still and enjoy being present in our lives.
Improved bone health
Did you know that the estrogen surge we get as part of our monthly cycle is important for building our bones? Extended periods of amenorrhoea, especially in our teens and early adulthood, can have a huge impact on our bone density and may lead to osteoporosis in later life. We still have the opportunity to build bone until approximately age 30 so the sooner you can recover the better!
Toasty fingers and toes
Yep, if you have constantly cold hands and feet it is entirely possible that this is your body’s way of trying to conserve energy. If you allow yourself to give your body the calories it needs, especially in the form of carbs and fats, then you might not need that extra pair of socks!
Super strong hair and nails
So many women with HA or have a history of chronic dieting report poor condition of their hair and nails. Beautiful, shiny hair and nails are a luxury that the body will sacrifice if it’s energy needs are not being met. If you have thin, brittle hair or nails that never grow, there is a good chance that recovery will change this. My hair and nails were weak and constantly breaking for years and after a year in recovery they are growing back long and strong!
If you have been stuck in the dieting cycle for years, you might have found your social life taking a turn for the worst. Maybe you don’t feel as connected to your friends and family as you are distracted by thoughts about body and weight. Maybe you don’t go out as much as you are too scared to eat out or miss a workout. Either way, recovery releases so much mental space that you can dedicate to improving your relationships with people in your life.
Reaching your goals
Maybe you have been so distracted with trying to reach your weight loss or fitness goals, you haven’t realised that there is a whole other world out there. Or maybe you have had other goals that have been on the back burner whilst you strive for that ideal body. Recovery gives you the time to consider what is truly important to you and the energy to chase after it. You could have a creative calling or the urge to fight for a cause but whatever it is, I am sure it is more meaningful than “maintaining your weight”.
So those are my top motivators for any of you in recovery without the motherly calling to motivate you. But the biggest motivator of all is simply the idea of freedom. Being free of the rules and limitations that you place on yourself and realising that there is so much more to life!