If you’ve been reading since the beginning you know it wasn’t always roses, though. I went through some years where I still wasn’t eating enough, periods of obsessive exercise, and lots of stress and anxiety about it all. But I’ve been in such a good place for a while now that it rarely even comes up here on the blog! My eating disorder doesn’t affect my day-to-day life now, which is incredible and seemed impossible for a while. Right now I’m far more interested eating disorders from a professional, future clinician standpoint.
My “I Got It Back” post remains one of my most popular. I get emails about this topic all the time. While I’m so glad that I’ve been able to help so many, it also shows me that this is a big problem! I respond to each email individually (and will continue to do so) but I thought I could also consolidate the frequently asked questions into one place. So here are answers to your FAQs about anorexia recovery and getting my period back.
I think I have an eating disorder. Can you help me?
I’m so sorry you’re struggling! I’ll share my story and some things I learned, but I can’t give you any medical advice. I am not a licensed physician or mental health provider, and email isn’t appropriate place. I strongly encourage you to make a doctor’s appointment to get professional help. Eating disorder treatment is often best conducted in a team approach, so you may also want to establish care with a therapist, psychiatrist, and registered dietician as well. If you’re looking for a good dietician that specializes in eating disorders, I highly recommend Nutshell Nutrition.
How long did it take to get your period back?
i hate answering this question because each situation is unique. It only took me one month of dedicated efforts to get my period back. Dedicated efforts means absolutely NO restriction, eating 3000+ calories per day, and NO exercise. Even with this approach (which I call “ripping off the band aid” and very much recommend) one month was still really quick. It can take up to 6 months or a year for many people! It all depends on where you are starting and where your body needs to be to have a period. That is so different for each person! It’s important to get into the “whatever it takes” mindset — you will continue this process toward true health as long as you need to.
Do I have to cut out all exercise to get my period back?
I don’t think you have to cut out all exercise. Exercise-induced amenorrhea is not uncommon, but the “too much” point is, again, different for everyone. Some professional marathon runners have their periods, but for me it was much less exercise than that. I decided to take the “ripping off the band aid” approach and go all in. Just lessening my exercise may have still worked, but I didn’t want to mess around and delay the process at all.
Plus, the need to exercise was part of my problem. If you don’t think you could possibly take time off of exercise, that may mean you need to try it! I am obviously very pro-exercise for a number of reasons, but if it has become an obsession so much that you are terrified to take it away, that may be a problem. I chose to just do some light stretching yoga videos for stress relief while getting my period back. It taught me that I can live without regular workouts, but I also feel best when I am moving my body in some way. My relationship with exercise is so much healthier now!
How long will the extreme hunger last?
Extreme hunger is so disconcerting! Especially coming from eating a very regimented, low-calorie diet, giving into extreme hunger feels crazy. It’s a common phase when you finally start eating whatever your body craves, and your body starts to tell you that it WANTS MORE! It doesn’t fully trust you that you’ll keep feeding it well yet, so it’s going to take as many calories as it can right now. I was eating huge meals every 2 hours as this point, I think! It lasted for a week or two before I started to settle in to a little bit more of a regular schedule. My meals were still much bigger than before, but it didn’t feel as wild or unhinged. It felt more like normal eating.
How much weight will I have to gain?
I totally understand and remember having this question, but the goal is to get past it. Focusing on true health and returning to a normal reproductive cycle is a huge change from society’s “skinnier is better” version of health. It’s hard to do! Work on your relationship with your body, your self-love, and your priorities so that you are okay gaining whatever amount of weight you need to. It will be different for everyone (similar to the length of time it will take) so I really can’t answer this question. I wrote a post a few years ago about how looking at your pediatric growth chart can help show you the natural curve of your body. But also remember that you may gain a little extra at the beginning. I got up to my heaviest weight the year I got my period back. But over time, once I had a few years of normal eating and exercise under my belt, my body settled in right where it probably would have been had I never gotten sick.
Trust your body. Give up the need to know and the need to control. Focus on TRUE health.
Have your periods been normal since then?
YES! After about four months I felt confident that I had a regular cycle. I slowly started to add exercise back in, but continued with my higher calorie meals. I just let my body tell me what to do. It seemed like a lot compared to my routine before, but really it was just normal for my new body and metabolism. I can eat so much more now!!
Full disclosure: I chose have an IUD placed a few years later. At that point I felt confident that my body was healthy and comfortable. I also knew that I would continue with my new lifestyle and never let myself get back to that obsessive, unhealthy place. I haven’t had any problems since!
How do you keep yourself motivated when it gets hard?
Staying motivated can be the hardest part. I have written a few posts on the topic! Check them out, but also make sure you have someone to talk to and vent. Seeing a therapist regularly is a good idea, too!
- How to Find Your Motivation for Recovery
- Things To Read, Listen To & Look At During The Hard Days of Recovery
I hope this answers a lot of your questions. Remember that you can do this! You are worth it!