For some time now, I have been wanting to write about exercising, fitness and a healthy diet. What stopped me? Well, around ten months ago, I discovered that I had eaten a little "too healthy" and thus not gotten enough nutrition, which resulted in amenorrhea. So who was I to speak about fitness and nutrition, when it turned out I had been doing it wrong all along? I went from being chubby, to not eating enough of the right things. This came as a surprise, as I had thought I had been living a very healthy life-style, feeling fresh as a daisy and full of energy.
Around 2 years ago, I weighed 69 kilos, that was when I realised something had to be done. I wasn't comfortable in my own skin, because I hadn't always been as chubby. I was working full-time, and dinner usually consisted of something that came out of the freezer, made by some random factory somewhere... I thought I didn't have time to fit in exercising and cooking, but what did I know? It turns out you can fit in both, and quite easily as well, it's all just a matter of convincing yourself and getting started! The progress was slow, I did it the way we are told - to lose weight slowly and healthily, by eating well and exercising regularly so as to not gain the weight back on as soon as you stop being as active. Now, I am around 50 kilos - and my goal before I started to change my life-style, was to go down to 55.
5-a-day might sound like a challenge to some, but whenever you're avoiding this food and that, all of a sudden you have had 7 out of your 5-a-day! That was were I was at, and after a long session at the gym, I would normally go home and make something to eat, usually very low in calories which ended in my body not getting enough protein, calcium and carbohydrates, as well as iron.
Since then, I have and still am suffering from amenorrhea - which some girls might already have heard of. Because this is a blog for everyone to see, I feel a bit queasy about posting up the description of it, as it basically just messes up girls' hormones. I am sure Google or Wikipedia can make you a little wiser, should you wish to look it up (or just go to http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/women/a/Amenorrhea.htm)
Mainly, I am writing this in case any girls or women who come across this blog, is going through the same, and are looking for advice. When I first discovered it, it was easily enough to find information about it online, but to actually read other people's experience was a little more difficult to come by. I thought I'd add a quote from the movie "Patch Adams" on how we each learn from one another:
-Mr. Adams... have you or have you not been treating patients at your ranch?
-Everyone who comes to the ranch is a patient, yes. And every person who comes to the ranch is also a doctor.
-Every person who comes to the ranch is in need... of some form of physical or mental help. They're patients. But also every person who comes to the ranch is in charge of taking care of someone else-- whether it's cooking for them, cleaning them... or even as simple a task as listening. That makes them doctors. I use that term broadly, but is not a doctor someone who helps someone else?
We all learn from each others' life experiences as well as our own, be it bad or good!
In itself, as long as you ackowledge amenorrhea and start eating more, making sure you get a little bit of everything, it will go away and you will go back to normal. If you choose to ignore it though, it will as far as I've understood, lead to lower bone density which can be a big problem should you get osteoporosis at an onlder age. It will also take longer for your bones to heal should you get a fracture. The stress factor increases, and your body, nutrition-wise, is not healthy. There are medical ways of "fixing" the problems, but in my opinion the best way is the natural way - decrease the amount of exercise you do for a short period of time, and also eat more. Within a few weeks or months, the body usually gets back to normal.
Calorie counting: I had been feeling stronger and more energised than ever, going to the gym twice a week, steadily increasing the amount of time I spent there each session. As soon as I realised my body wasn't catching up with me though, I figured I would have to be careful, making sure I would get enough calories. Now, I thought I could get enough nutrition once I started counting my calories - it made sense to me! I kept trying to avoid bread, rice, pasta, fats and sugary products still, and all the obvious "unhealthy" foods, and just ate more of what I already was eating, counting between 1800-2000 calories each day, but aaalways rounding the calories up. Say, if I had a snack that was 66 calories, I would count that as 70 and so on, which meant I was getting less than I needed.
I saw my Doctor once I had sussed out what was wrong with me, I had my blood tests taken, and because I had already started eating more of what I had been avoiding before, the blood levels came out "normal", but my body didn't recover... Again, a few weeks ago - over half a year since I last had seen the Doctor, I went back there - because I had been told that if the issue didn't resolve itself naturally, I should come back and talk to him to see if there was anything I needed to do. It turns out I had lost more weight since my previous visit, and I was told that it was not a problem, I would just have to gain a few kilos. I already knew this, but because I have been avoiding certain foods for so long, it almost became like an OCD way of thinking around it. So I tried to figure out what products to swap for what I was eating now that had more calories in it. This means I would eat the same types of foods still, except they were only slightly higher in calories, and the difference in the fat- and sugar content was miniscule. So even if I was counting calories and getting my GDA, this was still not enough, I still tried to stay away from certain foods that my body required.
After also having spoken with a PT and nutritional expert in my local gym, only about a week and a half ago, I have been set straight - hopefully... I was told that if you want to lose weight, you shouldn't both go on a diet AND exercise. Exercise, sure, and make sure you eat healthily, but healthy means that you need fats and carbohydrates, protein and sugar. Instead of getting it directly through chocolate, cheese, or other things that you only need a little bit of though, you can always eat fruits and nuts, add a big dab of delicious red pepper hummous on a slice of bread, and have wholemeal bread and brown rice. When you exercise on a regular basis, your body usually needs quite a bit of all the things you should "avoid" when on a diet and not doing much exercise.
Oh! And when I said I had been avoiding carbohydrates, the PT just looked at me surprised (and not the good kind of surprised...), with an expression saying "carbohydrates is one of THE most important part of an athletes diet!" When talking about eating healthily in general, he said I had been on the right track when I told him that I'd rather have a bit of chocolate or a piece of fruit to get my sugar kicks, eating a lot of vegetables, but also that I had to make sure I treated myself every now and again, and that I should perhaps consider having one or tro protein shakes a week to top up on my protein leves (I've still not gotten around to that yet, as I previously said - I prefer getting the right nutrition the natural way!)
I was assured that my problem was not uncommon, by the sound of it, athletic amenorrhea is something almost all female body builders suffer from and a lot of female athletes in general, and here is little me going on the treadmill and running a bit here and there having the same problem. The PT informed me that it wasn't my work-out session as much as my diet, but that I should definitely make sure to eat normally, fresh, using my common sense, and add a bit of resistance training into my weekly work-outs so as not make my body used to running and pushing itself, because it also needs exercises that help building muscles, so the body can support me when doing all the cardiovascular exercises.
I am still "recovering", and I will probably post an update on it as soon as everything is back to normal. I just felt that I should write about it, seeing as cooking and exercising is a big part of my life now. I didn't know anyone personally who had been through the same situation as me a month ago, but then I met someone who gave me a kick in the side telling me to make sure I'd eat enough, as she had had amenorrea herself and recovered by making sure she put on a couple of kilos. Most guys love a girl with a bit of curves anyway, right?
...It just goes to show that you can feel as fresh as ever, but not realise there is something wrong.
So, if you're an athlete, or exercise on a regular basis, you don't have to be afraid of certain foods, eat healthy, a little bit of everything but in moderation - your body needs it! And should you have a craving for something, that is probably your body telling you that it's short of it, have a bit of chocolate, a Babybel or a small bag of crisps. Make sure you get a lot of protein and carbohydrates, a bit of sugar and fat and also a lot of iron and calcium. It seems to be a fine balance between it all, but I had no clue exactly how big a deal your diet is in context to exercising until I learnt the hard way myself
You live and learn, try and fail, try again - and hopefully you get it right at least the second time around! We all have our moments where we feel like a clumsy puppy.
I just remembered I'm a libra, ha! So much for being indecisive and rambling on about scales eh?
PS. All three photos in this post is from Google images, whereas usually I take them myself.