Thursday, November 16, 2017

Q&A: Allowing for Diet and Exercise Changes During Pregnancy

I had an endurance planet question come in from a fellow preggo mama-to-be that really stuck with me, and I wanted to share the question and my written response. I normally never write replies to our fan's questions (that'd be a full-time job), and we just answer as many as we can on the podcast. But this Q was a bit different than any I've ever had before and I wanted to get back to her because, for one, her's is a situation where every day counts, and secondly, this topic is forefront on my mind and super relevant to my current theme of life too, hence why I'm sharing on the ol' blog...


R: "A followup... I didn't end up qualifying for Boston, because I found out a few weeks before the marathon that I was pregnant.  Now, I have a question for you about eating/training during pregnancy.

I am still in my first trimester (about 10 weeks), and I am having a hard time eating anything other than carbs (fruit, oatmeal, sprouted grain English muffins, Chex Mix and popcorn :0(. The thought of meat or vegetables is absolutely the most disgusting thing to me right now, and I feel pretty nauseous (but strangely starving) most of the time.  Over the past few years, I had reduced the amount of carbs I was eating to about 100 - 150 g a day (not super low, but lower than I used to eat), and noticed I felt much better and no longer got "hangry."  I know pregnancy increases your insulin resistance, so I am worried about getting carb-addicted again, or worse, getting gestational diabetes.  At the same time, though, I am also worried that I am undereating.  I think I have been averaging about 1600 calories a day while still running around 40 miles a week and lifting 3 times a week.  I'm 5'4 and about 113 pounds.

My question is - is it better to eat more (even if it is mostly carbs) or should I cut back on running until I can get back to a more balanced diet? I obviously want my baby to get the nutrients he or she needs, but I have had an eating disorder in the past so feeling out of control of my body and not being able to eat normally is bringing up a lot of mental demons." 



TPG: Thanks for reaching out on this, and congrats on your pregnancy!!! It sounds like you took a very sensible approach to the marathon, assuming you still ran, and that's great.

Ok.... (warning: a novel is about to ensue....)

Diet

Honestly, don't worry about the increased carb cravings. This exact thing happened to me in the first trimester (and is still happening at 30 weeks) and I just rolled with it, giving my body what it wants even if that's not my typical pre-pregnancy type of meal or snack. Your body is telling you something with these cravings and you have to listen; I say this with the best intentions: Don't let your brain get in the way ;) Trust your body -- and I know that can be hard with your background, but you're going to be a mama and I know you can do it!!!

When I asked my midwives & ND about my increased carb intake, they reassured me that a baby requires A LOT of glycogen to develop and properly grow, so it's up to us moms to supply baby with that, along with healthy fats and proteins -- all the macros are important here!! Protein needs are 80-100 grams a day. Fat is crucial in so many ways, including building a healthy brain. And obviously you're still making mostly all smart quality carb choices (with a some indulgences too, and I think that's ok; did I mention I've had several donuts while pregnant and usually have a GF dessert on hand at any given time?! LOL).

With my increased carbs (and even sugar), I definitely wondered if I was risking GD, but I just had my test two weeks ago and my results were phenomenal, which impressed me that even with essentially a much higher carb diet, my blood sugar regulation is still awesome, and I'm sure you'll be the same way from what it seems. So I say eat your carbs freely and without worry.... you clearly still know how to make smart food choices overall and aren't on a junk diet.

If it's hard to get in veggies and meats, look to smoothies, protein powders/collagen peptides and green juices to help you out. I drank a ton of green juices in the beginning to get in the greens/veggies I wasn't consuming otherwise. And now big-ass smoothies with greens, veggies, fruits and protein powders, (real) milk and sometimes even peanut butter are a staple for me to get in dense nutrients without wanting to gag when everything else sounds nasty ;) Plus, the aversions usually subside in the 2nd trimester too, and you'll enjoy meat and veggies again (I did). But there are still those days, and I'm sure there will be for you, where all you want are carb-based foods and no meats or veggies. In those cases, I just try to keep an overall smart balance and not worry about one meal -- it's the overall big picture that matters. 

I've actually been very liberal with my food intake during pregnancy, eating a huge variety of foods (more so than pre-pregnancy) and not stressing the small stuff (like if we eat out I know I can't control all the ingredients), meanwhile just making sure that overall there's a good foundation of healthy eating. For example, I also have struggled with eating fish (something I usually can't get enough of), but I know how healthy those fats are, so thankfully I found out that if I bake wild salmon in teriyaki sauce then it's delicious, and even though there's sugar and soy in the teriyaki, it's better than no fish or "gross plain fish" in my opinion! And for nearly 30 weeks now, I've pretty much hated salad, something I used to eat daily, so I'm just finding replacements and not worrying about it.

Get in a good prenatal that has FOLATE not folic acid; I use Thorne's prenatal. And fish oil (Nordic Naturals is my choice). Probably a good probiotic (I've been using Sound and Prescript Assist), and any other supplement you and your doc/midwife deem necessary. 

Exercise

As for the running, it's my personal philosophy that pregnancy is a time to let go of your training and athleticism, and just put all your energy into building a healthy baby. That doesn't mean being inactive, but it means modifying your routine if you're an athlete. Right now you're training for something completely different.

I know everyone is different, but personally I think 40 mpw running is too much. That's just my opinion. Gwen Jorgenson was still running 70 mpw at some point in her pregnancy, but we don't all need to strive to be a Gwen. That was ok for her, she seems smart and I'm sure was working with her doctors on that, but just because she ran that much doesn't mean it raises the bar for the rest of us preggo ladies -- or that we're inadequate if we have to cut back and can't run all the miles. There's no shame in doing less.

I haven't run more than ~10-15 mpw since becoming pregnant, I had a 8-week break sandwiched in while letting the SCH heal, and after my 27th week I quit running because it was getting too uncomfortable and not feeling worth it. I'm walking a lot more instead these days (~10-15 miles a week walking, or about 2 miles a day at least), and usually 2x a week of relatively light strength training. That's it. It's not training mode whatsoever, but it is doing healthy activity that'll be best for my baby's health and mine.

Please don't feel like you need to "do it all," maintain some level fitness and keep a lean physique -- you need to gain healthy weight and let your body grow how it needs to support the baby!!! At 30 weeks, I weigh 165 lbs +/- right now.... that's 30+ more lbs than my wedding last year, and quite frankly I love my body more than ever right now and embrace the changes daily. Allow for the weight gain to start now in the first trimester even if all the articles say otherwise. Many articles/books will say that you shouldn't or don't need to gain weight in the first trimester, but that's general advice for the general population and you're not general, you're you :) I gained 8-10 lbs in my first trimester lol.

Pregnancy, from what I'm learning, is also so much about relaxation and not just for the 40ish weeks, but for the birth day and after. If you want to have a successful vaginal birth, it seems pretty clear from what I've been reading and learning in my class that being relaxed is the No. 1 way to achieve that. So practicing your relaxation -- mind and body -- starts now. You don't have to be perfect (god knows I haven't thus far) but just recognizing it and practicing is key!

That said, just being honest here, there will probably be a lot of little things that worry you along the way because this is all so new... but work through each of them, find peace and the ability to relax, and let it go, assuming everything is ok. Talk to your doctor/midwife, communicate with your partner/friends/family, and don't bottle it up. By even simply writing me this question, that's a big successful step in what I'm talking about! So I know you can do it.

It sounds like you successfully beat an ED, big congrats on that as well, and this chapter of your life should only serve to make you more confident in your own skin. When the mental demons arise, understand that you have the power to counteract them with positivity, smart logic and the same powers that got you through an ED, and if you still struggle, make sure you have a great team on your side who can help you through those moments.

So overall, I think you should both eat more and workout less, and find comfort that this is in your baby's best interest even it if feels weird to you personally.

Lastly, guess what: Pregnancy is just the beginning... after this we will have babies that need our full attention and love to thrive (and still eating good, dense calories if you plan to breastfeed). We'll worry, but we can't live in a state of worry. Whether you have a girl or a boy, you want to be a strong confident mom who's giving her baby the best vibes ever so he/she can grow up being strong and confident as well :)
Hope this helps. 

BEST OF LUCK TO YOU XOXOOXOOXOXOXOOOO

Friday, October 13, 2017

Rest In Peace, Grandma

It was a really shitty week. My grandma passed away. Her health has been declining for most this year and we knew it was coming, but it didn't make it any easier. I was basically a wreck. She and I were very close, and had been my entire life. There was no one like her. The hardest part is that she was beyond excited to meet her first great grand baby early next year, and I know she tried so hard to hold on.

For the most part, I was really good at staying strong as I watched her go through hell this year in effort to keep a low-stress environment for the baby's sake. But early this week when my mom called to say it was happening and that she was passing, I lost it. I'm lucky that our new house is only 1 1/2 miles from where she was being cared for. I literally dropped everything, my headphones went flying, and John and I jumped into the car to rush to her. She was gone by the time I got there. I had been with her the night before (and every day before that) so I had ample opportunity to talk to her, say goodbye, give her kisses, let her know how much I love her and just be there... even when she wasn't able to respond anymore.

My mom and John did their best to calm me down, and I was trying my hardest to stay relaxed as well because I didn't want my baby suffering from this, but it wasn't easy. Her death hit me harder than I ever expected, and I'm sure my hormonal state didn't help. The only thing that made it better was knowing that she wasn't suffering anymore.

For most this week, I've been breaking down in tears multiple times a day and just having a tough time. I've been exhausted. Today was the first day I felt a little better. I even got out for a little run/workout this morning and was smiling (not to mention, laughing at myself for choosing to wear a shirt that is way too small for 25 weeks pregnant).

The day she passed, words came flooding out of me. Often, writing is the best way for me to let it out, remember the good times, deal with the heartache, and find some peace...



At the finish line with grandma in 2012 after 50 miles of mountain bike racing. She went out of her way to support my racing and career. She ALWAYS called me before/after all my races, or in some cases showed up.


Rest In Peace my darling Grandma Arleo. 
I hope you knew how much you meant to me. I know you wanted to be here for the birth of your first great grand baby, but don’t feel bad. You’re at peace now after a tough several months. And don’t worry, our baby will know all about you.

You made the biggest impact in my life and taught me so much. When I was a little girl, you made life magical. We’d make up stories, play the piano, take the dogs on adventurous long walks through the lush greenbelt, and so much more. If my mom had to go shopping you’d come along to save me from boredom, bringing colored pens and paper, and we’d sit there and draw houses, flowers and animals. When my parents would go out of town, you were the only human I wanted to stay with and you always made sleepovers so special - each morning you’d surprise me with a different kid’s placemat to make meals more fun, you’d have stashes of those cookies I loved, and your bed was full of the cuddliest pillows and stuffed animals. 

Summer days at your pool were my favorite growing up, from before I could swim to all the way through high school when I could drive over there myself. The sound of airplanes leaving John Wayne Airport still remind me of those days in Corona Del Mar. 

When I got into triathlon you made sure to call me before and/or after every single race I did, and if I didn’t catch your call you’d leave the most epically cute messages with your signature phrases, which I’d save on my phone forever. A few times you were able to show up to the finish line (like pictured above). You also called me a million times to tell me how proud you were, and you’d want my advice on nutrition and fitness. You cared so much, and I loved that.

You endured heartbreak in your life, but that didn’t stop you from being an incredibly loving and caring mom and grandma to everyone - even extended family and friends. Your love was contagious, and your hugs unforgettable. You were so happy for me when I found true love with John, and even though you didn’t drink beer you loved his. 

In your final weeks we wanted nothing more than to be by your side and give you the same comfort and love that you gave to us for a lifetime. 

You were a fighter, and refused to go easily. Even in years past you kicked cancer to the curb twice. This year it wasn’t cancer, but it was a lot to fight. You beat the odds and hung in for months. You looked so peaceful when it was finally your time.

It’s so weird to have to say goodbye to you while being pregnant with new life. I wish it were different circumstances. I’m having to dig deep to stay strong (doing my best for baby). But at least we know we have a special angel taking care of us now. 


I’ll love you forever, Grandma. 


She adored her granddaughters, we adored her, and she was so excited to become a great grandma in January. Her memory will live on in my baby girl; we have something special planned.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

5 1/2 Month Update

Pregnant life as of 24 weeks is thankfully smooth sailing, and I think my belly button is going to pop soon :) I've gained 16-18 lbs since May depending on which scale you ask, and it's getting harder to put on socks and shoes.


Gender

In my last blog I said that next time I'd share the gender, so.... drum roll....

It's a girl!

We're so stoked. I thought John really wanted a boy (I assume all guys want a boy), but I think he was just as or more excited than me when we found out we're having a baby girl. Personally, I'm beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to raise a strong, confident, kickass little girl. She's going to be rad, and already she's an active little thang in my belly -- kicking around like crazy! We have a name too, but I'm not sharing that yet ;)

We didn't do a big gender reveal hoopla... in fact, we were sitting in a brewery in Denver (John was drinking not me!) when we got the call with the news. Typical lol.


Vacation

We went to Kauai for a week and it was, as usual, paradise perfection. We needed that trip after a rather stressful moving process (stressful because of how fast it all happened). We stayed solely on the south side this time (Poipu), and it was much more relaxed and slow-paced than we're used to, but it was nice to just lounge around and not feel like we needed to pack in a ton of hardcore action in the week. Many of our friends were there since it was for a wedding, and that made it extra fun.

I definitely felt FOMO about going to Kona for Ironman this year (we're not going), but it's ok. We have a lot going on right now and other priorities this season. We'll be back to the Big Island next year for sure. While we were in Kauai, I was just getting back to running and, ooof, that Hawaiian humidity was extra harsh on me this year but it was good for me to move & sweat. Although, I can live without the massive thigh rub and thigh chaffing I endured ;)

21 weeks on a beach in Kauai! More Kauai pics on my IG @tawneegibson.

Wedding time! Practicing with our friends' cute kid :)

I "cheated" and had a poke bowl with ahi and salmon while in Kauai... 100% worth it!



Prenatal Exercise

Speaking of, I'm exercising consistently again. Nothing crazy. Besides walking, I usually don't exercise for more than 30 minutes at a time yet. Taking an 8-week break in the middle of pregnancy while coincidingly having my uterus take over my insides and gaining weight doesn't necessarily make it easy to get back to running. It was HARD!!! But a good hard, and I'm just taking it slow and easy. At first it was nothing faster than 11:00 miles, and nothing more than 2 miles. Now I'll run 2 to 3 1/2 miles at a comfortable pace (usually 10:00-10:30 avg, with some sub-10), and I'll do that a few times a week. Just this weekend I had my "longest" run since my break, 40 minutes and just shy of 4 miles, and felt great. Get it in now, before I'm giant in my third trimester!!!

I also reintroduced some light strength training. The first session I did was 10 weeks after my last strength training session, and despite it being just a gentle 12-minute workout I literally started having DOMs immediately (not such a delayed onset lol). Thankfully the second session I did a week later fared better and I was way less sore. For any preggo mamas who are curious, a triathlete friend of mine told me about Melissa Bender's YouTube channel with prenatal strength workouts, and I like some of her circuits and the pace (i.e. not overly strenuous!).

So overall, I'm doing:
  • ~3 runs a week, 20-40 minute duration, low-intensity
  • Several walks a week of 20-60 minutes with the dog and John
  • 1-2x strength a week, 10-20 minutes
  • Prenatal "movement snacks" to prepare my body for birth, more below....


Birthing Classes

We started birthing classes this past week, and we love it so far. We're doing the Bradley Method. I don't know much about this stuff, but this method appealed to me mostly because the husband is the birth coach and, thus, is very involved. John and I are a great team, and I want nothing more than him to be my No. 1 person on the birth day. Plus, Bradley is geared toward more of a natural-style of birthing that encourages movement during labor, relaxation and low intervention.

I love Bradley's recommended prenatal exercises (aka movement snacks) to work the pelvis and hips in ways that will prepare mama for birth. There are little things I'll do daily; dozens of kegels included ;) Here's a video of some of the exercises.

At our first Bradley class I couldn't help but laugh a little because many of the concepts she covered are things that I deal with in my line of work and teach my clients, e.g., relaxation methods, deep breathing, the harms of sitting too much (instead, sit on the floor; move around!), mastering deep squats, nutritional needs, and so on.

I'll also read the book on Hypnobirthing, another popular method that, as you might imagine, includes mindfulness techniques to work through the contractions and pain.


Nutrition

Protein is a big topic in pregnancy. It's come up a lot, and everyone's like "make sure you get enough protein!" The low amount being 75 grams a day, with 80-100 grams a day being optimal recommended range. (Although, some say too much protein yields bigger babies, but I don't know if there's actual science on that. On the other hand, too little protein can yield a premature or low-birth-weight baby.)

I was advised to do a food log to check my intake, and I didn't get around to it for a while because I knew I was doing fine on my macros. But then the Bradley teacher mentioned it again, and I got more curious so I logged on my fitness pal. Sure enough, I'm in the sweet spot of 80-100 grams of protein a day, closer to the 100 gram mark most days. Hopefully the rumors of high protein leading to bigger babies aren't true -- I know in John's family and mine, there's already a history of having big babies. And I plan on doing this totally unmedicated. Mmm hmmm.

Other than that, I'm loving my carbs and sweets. One of the things they say, and it's probably a myth, is that moms who are pregnant with a girl crave more sweets. It feels like I'm eating so much of that stuff, but logging on MFP showed me it's still in reasonable ranges, which was reassuring. Plus, even though sugar is sugar, I still eat things made with super quality ingredients and have not resorted to crappy junk food.

Chicken and apple sandwich on GF bread with Primal Kitchen mayo & arugula. Not a donut ;)


Baby Gear

Our "baby list" of things to buy is done. That was a daunting yet very fun project. John helped me narrow things down to what we need, what we can omit, and we talked a lot about what will fit our lifestyle and philosophy on kids. I also asked advice from my mama friends.

Not surprisingly, I did a lot of research and made sure to choose mostly all non-toxic, chemical-free, safer items, especially the "big" stuff where baby will be spending lots of time -- crib, crib sheet, car seat, stroller, etc. You can really go down a rabbit hole in trying to create a non-toxic world for baby, and it can get super expensive and nit-picky, so I just tried to keep a smart balance and realize not everything needs to be absolutely perfect; it never will be.

A book that really helped me learn more about what I need (and don't need) and "clean" choices is The Mama Natural Week-By-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth -- it's a great pregnancy book in general with tons of info! I also did lots of google searches to read what others had to say and investigative reviews on on products with third-party testing results, when available. Lastly, this blog post by Dr. Rhonda Patrick's husband inspired a few new, innovative items that we'll definitely be getting.

If anyone's curious about the items I chose, just ask and I can send you a link to a google doc I made with everything we plan to get and my references; yup, I saved some of my favorite links on choosing non-toxic, safer options. (NERD!!!) Or, you can see our registries on Amazon and BabyList; those registries don't have everything we're getting on there, but they're public so check 'em out.

We already bought some stuff and are in the process of building out baby girl's room. Crib, decor, nursing chair.... Nesting mode in full swing! Love it.


Sleep

I'm learning to sleep on my sides (especially left side), as that's better for the baby than sleeping on your back -- right now she's only ~1.5 lbs, but the more she weighs, the more pressure that puts on the arteries and organs if you're laying on your back, and that isn't really that good to for long durations like sleeping through the night. It can even restrict blood flow to baby. I got a pregnancy pillow a while back, C-shaped, and that helps a ton to get comfy every night! It's all about pillows!
~~~

That's it! I can't believe my due date is in less than four months.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Best News Ever — For Two Of Us

Two parts to this post:

Part 1

I got the "best news ever" on Sunday morning from a client that I have to share. I had an initial consult with a lovely lady on Tuesday, and it was another case of female athlete hypothalamic amenorrhea. She'd been following me and the things I preach for a while but was still stuck. This gal has achieved a lot athletically -- the Ironman World Championships, Boston Marathon, and tons of other races in a relatively short time frame; you name it, she can do it. But her body suffered. Now here's the thing, ever since Kona last year she's been working on recovering and has done a lot of the right things, like adding much-needed body fat to her frame and beginning to relax on intense SBR training.

When I got her intake questionnaire, it seemed to me like THE MIND was still a big issue with her because physically her numbers looked generally good and BMI/body fat percentage excellent, but I still saw red flags with food issues, stress and exercise addiction (that her mind wouldn't let go of). So for an hour straight on our consult I laid out everything she needed to hear, and also gave her the confidence that she was on the right track already, just a few more tweaks needed. For example, she was eating vegetarian, and I strongly urged her to add back in animal protein, among many other ideas for her situation.

So on Sunday, I woke up to an email from her titled "Best News Ever" with a big thank you and that she got some strong takeaways from the call and started applying my recommendations right away (good on her for going outside her comfort zone to do this!). She's almost a day ahead of me (living in Europe) and at the end of the email she said, and I paraphrase:

"On Sunday I did a hike, strength trained (with lots of rest instead of crossfit), ate a turkey burger AND I GOT MY PERIOD!!!"

Ahhh! Now that's what I'm talking about! She was so close, I knew it, and she just needed that final push. Considering her body was ready, I didn't expect think it'd take long before her period came back if she followed my recommendations. I had something similar happen to me once -- I had a setback in 2015 with 3 months without a period mostly due to heavy run volume (ultra training) and stress. But then I got the flu, rested for a week, ate a ton of white rice, coconut water, and bananas, and got my period back right away. I learned my lesson and it never left after that, until I got pregnant of course.

I'm so proud for her and so excited, also because I know she and her husband want to start a family (soon) and this is the best step in the right direction to making that happen!

~ ~ ~

Part 2

So speaking of starting families... a pregnancy/life update.

18-week bump! As I said on my Insta post: God bless Lululemon!

19-week bump, sporting my favorite Inside Tracker
lulu tank, and in a new house (we moved; see below)!

I also got some "best news ever" last week that confirmed what I thought to be true:

My subchorionic hemorrhage is GONE! Baby continues to look perfectly healthy and safe and everything's ok...

I hadn't had any bleeding for 4 weeks when I got an ultrasound this past Thursday, and I had a strong gut feeling that everything was ok and healed even before it was confirmed in the scan. I had recently been adding in a couple extra (short) walks to my daily routine, at most walking a mile at a time at a snail's pace, as well as taking on a few more physical tasks like holding Finley, aka Mr. Buff Guy, on walks again, as well as using a bit more strength in daily household chores, such as carrying stuff up and down the stairs, carrying heavier grocery bags, picking things up, and just moving around more at home. Still, my routine was as mellow and easy as it's ever had been in my life and I didn't mind it one bit.

So the u/s was the 20-week anatomy scan (I got it a bit early at 19 weeks) and all was great! Baby is looking good and they indeed confirmed the hemorrhage is gone.

I'm still waiting to get the green light from my midwife that I can exercise again, so it'll likely end up being 8 weeks of zero exercise and pelvic rest. Maybe TMI, but, I've honestly missed sex more than running during this time (if you've been pregnant you probably understand what I mean lol).

Meanwhile, I've felt great. Second trimester is dreamy. The only very noticeable pregnancy thing lately (besides the growing bump-boobs-body) is that I'm very emotional and cry A LOT. It doesn't matter if it's something funny, sad, happy, crappy, or emotionally neutral, I will burst into tears over anything and often it ends up in some laughing through the tears because of how silly it is. My appetite is also growing, even with low activity level, and I'm not holding back, but I'm eating well (with a few extra treats) and gaining weight at a very normal rate.

Oh yea, and I am feeling the baby kick! So dang cool.

Also last week, we moved! It all happened so fast, it's a long story, and I was very stressed for a few days there and didn't like that feeling one bit. The crying episodes certainly ramped up a bit too. I felt so bad that I wasn't able to help much physically and John did the bulk of the move in the biggest heat wave of the year. I contributed by doing massive organizing in the new place :) It's a rather big change for us -- we're no longer in Laguna -- and while it's a exciting and welcomed change, it's still change and it took some adjusting. My old friend insomnia even came back to visit, that's how stressed I was! I haven't missed that level of stress, but it happens, and already I'm back to my zen-mama self again.

We didn't buy the new house. We choose to still rent cuz we're just not ready to buy something and "settle down." We have other ideas and plans before we pull the trigger on a forever(ish) home. I also have no idea where I'd want to buy something, and John feels the same. Moving is a bitch, but mixing it up by living in new places over the years is fun.

Plus, overall we absolutely love love love the new place and we're so glad we were able to move well before baby arrives. It's been a ton of work to get settled, and most of all I'm already feeling my nesting instincts setting in BIG TIME. All I want to do is get this new house ready for baby's arrival haha.




Ohhhh, and we also know the baby's sex, in fact I've known for over a month now, but I'll save that news for next time.

Finishing it off today by sharing a pregnancy craving I gave into. As I said, I'm eating very healthy, as usual, but I'm also being more flexible than ever and listening to my body. This morning it was something I haven't eaten in 15-20+ years, and I had two.... they were so enjoyable and no fretting about what this food usually symbolizes (not to mention they had delicious, fresh, gluten-free ingredients).


If you're in the Costa Mesa area, I highly recommend
taking a stop by this place. They always have a GF option.

As usual, John couldn't wait for my picture before taking
a bite.

Donut #1 of 2.... with eggs. An example of balance perhaps?

The older I get the more I realize that the key to life really is about finding the right balance, not extremes.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Guest Post: How Amélie Got Her Health Back

I get "thank you" emails from female athletes all the time on all things health, hormones, nutrition, exercise, self-love and so on. It's usually: "Tawnee, I can't believe how similar our stories are. What you went through is describing me." They've heard me talk on Endurance Planet, as a guest on others' podcasts, or they read this blog. Some emails are heartfelt thank you's for the voice I give to women's health, and for also being open with my journey and providing inspiration to make positive changes when needed. Others are inquiries from women who want to work with me to help with their needs, training and/or recovery. Either way, it's always such a pleasure to know that I'm positively affecting lives, even if it's simply getting women to think about how they could treat themselves better and with more love and kindness, or that their missing period isn't a non-issue.

Recently, I had an email from a lovely lady that I thought was so cool. I didn't know her at all, but she's been devouring my blog and podcasts, and using my resources to guide the changes she needed to make in her own life. With my example, she realized this recovery process is not as scary as some make it out to be. She's had immense success, in a relatively short time, and I thought it was so rad that she's not even a client of mine yet the resources I've put out there were enough for her to reach her goals in health, hormones and happiness. I was so inspired by her email that I asked her to write a guest post about her journey and how my work has helped her...

~~~

Taking the Balanced Approach To Healing
By Amelie C.


“Stop running, eat more, and gain weight”. Easier said than done, right? That’s pretty much the advice that I received from 2 different doctors at the beginning of 2017, when I finally decided to talk about the fact that I hadn’t bought a single box of tampons in 3 years. It also summarizes the advice that I was finding most of the time when I started desperately googling “how to recover from amenorrhea."
Now that I think about it, when I look back at my life of those past 3 years, I realize that I had put together the best cocktail for amenorrhea:
  • Moved to the US at the end of 2014. That was quite a change for me, moving away from my family and all my lifelong friends and literally starting a whole new life in another country. That certainly brought some stress in my life…

  • New job, very stressful and demanding. I was working 70-80 hours/week in my first year in the US.

  • While working like crazy, I trained for and raced in many half marathons, 4 full marathons, and also some triathlons including 2 half-Ironmans. I had been an avid runner for almost 10 years and recently discovered triathlon and I was doing pretty well. I love it so much! But when I moved to the US, I found myself very lonely at first so I trained much more than ever before. And Southern California weather makes it so enjoyable to train outdoors all year long!

  • On top of all that, yes, I was under-eating. Not that I was restricting or dieting, but sports and stress seem to suppress my already small appetite so I wasn’t even feeling like I didn’t eat enough. I was also (and am still) dealing with gut issues, so I had banished a lot of foods that did not make my tummy happy.


And then my blood test confirmed it: My estrogen levels were completely down. I sure was concerned with the consequences of too many years of amenorrhea on my bone density and on my ability to have a baby when time comes, but the “stop exercise” and “gain weight” part scared the heck out of me and held me back from taking concrete actions to recover. I was very confused, frustrated, and lost. Why does it have to be black or white, all or nothing?
The past few years up until 2017 were amazing triathlon and running years for me. I was often placing top-3 of my age group. I hit so many PRs in all running distances and qualified for the 2017 Boston Marathon on my first attempt at the LA Marathon in February of 2016. I had also dropped quite a bit of weight in the process and I must admit that I kinda liked it, even if I had never been overweight. But how can I go from Boston qualifier to couch potato to fix my hormones? No way. I was very stubborn.
At that point I had already started to realize that maybe excessive exercise, combined with under-fueling and stress, were the main factors that lead me to amenorrhea. So after the Boston Marathon, I decided to not sign up for any other long distance race and I made a commitment to myself that I would take some concrete actions to recover. But my only condition was that I would do it my own way. My point is, between the 70 miles/week I was running and…0 miles, there is a wide range. I thought I could certainly find a point somewhere between that, a point that would still make me feel good with myself AND allow my body to stop freaking out and resume my menstrual cycles.
In the meantime, I consulted with a sports nutritionist, to help me determine what my daily needs are, and see how far I was from there with my current daily food intake. I was concerned because I had often read advice on some websites that let me perplexed, like, "Eat more and eat all the foods." I understand the concept of eating enough calories when trying to recover from amenorrhea, but to me, junk food is still junk food. I have always eaten very clean (I love my veggies!) and I don’t think that eating cheeseburger, fries and ice cream is the absolute key to success here. Luckily, I had a great nutritionist, who helped me navigate through all of this.
But all my worries were still not addressed. I was always afraid to come to a point where I would have to stop all exercise completely if my plan didn't work. I thought I would lose my identity as an athlete and become fat. I was still not sure whether I was doing the right thing or not.
It was only at the beginning of June this year that I came across Tawnee's blog and started reading all the posts since 2013. One specific post about amenorrhea (“Is Amenorrhea That Big of a Problem?Helping Those Silently Suffering”) spoke so much to me! I couldn't have found better words to express my own frustration with traditional medicine's approach to my health condition. And I finally had a good example that, yes, it is possible to recover from amenorrhea and be cool with the process, with a gradual approach, without having to quit completely doing what you love, and while still eating pretty clean. I learned about REDS, a concept that was totally new to me, no doctor had ever talked to me about that. I also started listening to Endurance Planet podcasts and was learning a ton of other useful information. This is all it took for me to let go all my fears, continue to do my own thing, trust the process and not stress about it. It made me realize that it's not about giving up something you love, but it's about finding good balance, changing your mindset and training/fueling smarter. Gosh, I wish I had found this blog and these podcasts earlier!
It’s interesting how sometimes, when you let your fears go, everything seems so much easier. First week of August, I read Tawnee's post "My Full InsiderTracker Interview on Amenorrhea," where she talks about her experience with overcoming amenorrhea. And this happened to be the exact same day that I got my period back!! My first period in 3 years, while still keeping an active and healthy lifestyle (more on that below). 
Yes, there were some moments where I was afraid of losing my fitness because I wasn’t pushing myself that hard anymore. I was missing those Sunday morning long runs (because that was actually my favorite part of marathon training!) but hey, it's not like I can't go back to it. I also knew I had gained a few pounds compared to my weight before the Boston Marathon, even if that change was nothing that others could notice. If I compared my weight now with my underfed and constantly dehydrated marathoner's body weight, the change on the scale was inevitable. I had been obsessing over my weight for so many years, even dealing with some eating disorder issues back in high school. I knew this weight gain, even if it was small, would be a very hard pill for me to swallow. But those pounds are what I needed to start having menstrual cycles again, like a real woman. 
What helped me cope with that was to break down the weight gain in different gains: 
I had gained muscle (from lifting more often), and muscle = strength. 
I had gained wisdom. 
I had gained knowledge of my body and how it needs to be fueled.  
So really, this weight gain was not about me getting fat. These pounds were not undesired pounds from letting myself go. And as a bonus: My fiancé actually liked the fact that I did not have a pancake butt anymore, haha.

Tips for Recovery
Here are the gradual changes that I made and some tips that I think helped me recover so fast without quitting running. Turns out I probably did a couple things right after all!
  • Fuel: I never eat junk food because it doesn’t make me feel good. But I became much more conscious of my eating habits and my food intake. I increased a lot my consumption of healthy fats (avocado, nuts, PB, oils). When I had amenorrhea, I used to always train/run first thing in the morning, fasting. Even when I went for hard tempo runs, sometimes up to 8-9 miles, I wouldn’t eat anything before. I was too scared to have GI issues during my run. I now make sure to get a little something before ANY workout and I feel like I can get higher quality workouts. I prefer to deal with an occasional burp ;)

  • Running/training: I kept my runs short, and only ran about 3-4 times a week (it may seem like still a lot, but compared to my old training regimen, it was a huge change for me!). The other days I would usually swim (I found that when I swim, I never push as hard as when I run so that was a moderate to low intensity exercise). Or I would lift weights. I discovered a new passion for weight lifting when I realized how you can get very creative in the gym and make workouts fun!

  • Racing: I still did some races, just much less, and shorter distances, with no goal time and no pressure to perform. I ditched the Garmin, ran by feel only! I also chose races that I could run with my fiancé, who is a not an avid runner like me and therefore runs slower paces. We got to cross the finish line together which was fun! Something we had never done together before.

  • Stress: I learned how to chill to f… out. In life in general (got a new job, better work life balance), but I also stressed less with my training. I used to take it so seriously; all my time was planned around running/training. I mean, running is a hobby, it’s not like my paychecks depended on my performances (I once placed 1st woman in a small local race and won a Frisbee, that’s the only earning in my running “career” I can brag about lol), so why stress so much about it? I did not have a training plan anymore and no target paces. I just did whatever I felt like doing. If I woke up and felt like doing squats and planks in the gym, I went for squats and planks. Or if I decided I wanted to swim a couple laps in my pool, that’s what I went for. Get the idea? No plan, no stress, just appreciate keeping my body moving. At least for now.


Bottom line, I am not saying that it’s wrong to stop exercising. It is not wrong if it’s what the person needs. Some women may be suffering from injuries or extreme fatigue from overtraining who knows…and they may need that break. That being said, I have a lot of respect for women who chose to go all in. But in other cases, like it was for me, to stop all exercise would just bring more anxiety and negativity; I don't think it was the right solution for me. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding the right balance for you, and unfortunately that’s not how it was presented to me when I was diagnosed with amenorrhea.
I am still learning from this process. I will get back to long-distance running and racing when I am ready because this is what I love the most and I am still competitive, but I will do it with a different approach this time.
I really want to thank Tawnee for sharing so much on her own experience and the lessons she has learned. Without even knowing it, Tawnee, you really made a difference for me!


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Friday, August 4, 2017

My Full Inside Tracker Interview on Amenorrhea

Recently, Inside Tracker published an article on hypothalamic amenorrhea in female athletes, bringing more awareness to this subject, its prevalence and how to take action to heal. In the article they profiled Tina Muir and myself, sharing our stories from what led to our missing periods to how we recovered. Like any good journalist, writer Julia Reedy did a great job hacking away at my wordy responses and keeping the final article concise, to the point and very effective. But I do realize that many ladies out there often want to hear the full story. So in this blog I share the full interview transcript. Obviously I've shared my full story over and over, but why not share this too. Plus it includes links to relevant studies on the matter... Who knows, maybe someone new will stumble on this blog post and find it helpful. xo

PS - If you need/want more thorough blood testing, you can (and should!) get an Inside Tracker package here.

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JR: Hi Tawnee – Thanks so much for taking the time to share your piece on this subject. We hope this blog post will give readers the answers to some incredibly important questions.
Do you remember how you felt when you first stopped getting your period? Did you feel different physically/mentally/emotionally? (This question is meant for the person who is wondering if they’re truly suffering from amenorrhea)

TPG: My story is a bit more complicated because my amenorrhea started due to an eating disorder (anorexia) while I was a freshman in college, which was a few years before I started racing triathlons. I was still exercising a lot during my ED but for calorie-burning purposes, not training. So that said, during my ED, yes, I was noticeably stressed, emotional, and my brain always felt like it was in chaos mode due to being starved for fuel--especially considering that I greatly feared fat at the time. I went from being a carefree, healthy, athletic, and intelligent teenager to a disengaged, forlorn, secretive and incredibly frail shadow of my former self. I played it cool on the outside to friends--I still partied, got excellent grades and was out and about daily--but I was not in a good place mentally, emotionally or physically, and I was very chronically stressed over my issues with food and weight. Truthfully, losing my period was an afterthought next to all the other problems I was facing at the time.

That said, when I got into triathlon I was in a much better place, but I was still not getting a period, and that started to weigh on me more heavily. I didn’t like that my body wasn’t operating as a woman’s body should. My relationship with food and my body had improved immensely -- triathlon taught me that food is fuel, and athletes need fuel -- but I still hadn’t learned how to truly listen to me needs and I was simply still not taking in enough calories for the demands of half-ironman training. I was still very lean and always hungry, clearly in need of more. I was eating probably 1,800 to 2,500 calories a day and I figured that should be enough, it was certainly more than I ate years prior! A couple years into racing, I started doing longer distances, in particular half-Ironmans, and I remember feeling like I was fit but borderline frail and always on the verge of injury, especially injuries related to weak hips and core. My engine was great but my frame was not sturdy, and my nutrient intake was sub-par. Years later, I connected the dots that my fueling and too lean frame held me back from getting closer to my potential.

Endurance athletes think that being lean is synonymous with better performance, but there is a fine line where being too lean (and underfueling to maintain this) is not going to be conducive for performance or health. You may still be performing well when you’re super lean and experiencing amenorrhea, and you may have no problem executing your workouts or races, but if you peel some layers you will see red flags that things aren’t all right and eventually the body will suffer from this imbalance. For me some other red flags were feeling like I was chronically “high” on cortisol that manifested in a revved up sympathetic state 24/7 -- even negatively affecting my sleep -- and an inability to relax into a parasympathetic state. Second, even though I was eating more as a triathlete it wasn’t enough and I was always hungry because I was constantly in an energy deficit (at the time I was still relatively low fat, which just made the “hanger” worse). Third, I still had a mental obsession with my incessant need to train; I wouldn’t let anything get in my way of training and I despised rest days and also purposely ate less on rest days (in other words, I let my workout load determine how much I could eat). Fourth, I was getting injured a lot and didn’t have the nutrient support to recover properly. Lastly, I was an aspiring coach and sports podcast host, so I felt embarrassed and ashamed that my body was not operating as it should and felt inner turmoil over my lack of menstruation. I only talked to my doctors who suggested that I quit exercising so much and eat more, and at the time that was not something I wanted to do, mostly it was the “exercise less” part that freaked me out since I was so in love (and obsessed) with sport and my training. I let my need to train trump everything else, and this is something I now see all the time in female athletes who are going through the same struggles. Thankfully, there are often other options!

As for the re-occurring injuries I faced, one study showed that “a lower daily fat intake and lower percentage of total energy from fat were associated with increased injury risk among competitive female runners.” (http://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-5-1) And thankfully I never experienced a stress fracture, but I know plenty of athletes who have and this injury is associated with low energy balance and amenorrhea. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16089273?dopt=Abstract)

JR: What health implications worried you most during your struggle with amenorrhea?

TPG: Most of all I was worried about infertility and whether I’d be able to have children in the future. This became more of a concern when I began dating my now-husband and said to myself, “This is a guy with whom I could have kids.” Before him, I had thought about having kids but not seriously. While infertility is certainly an issue that comes with amenorrhea, it’s one from which we can recover. At the time, no one was there to tell me that there is nearly a 100% chance you can recover from hypothalamic amenorrhea and that starting a family would be completely possible given that I take the right steps to recover my hormones. So I was spooked for a long time about our future, and alternatives like adoption even crossed my mind, that is, until I sought help from alternative health doctors, did more research and was able to get better answers from the proper professionals.

Second to that were concerns over my bone health, and this became a more prominent thought after I had a bike crash in 2013 in which I broke my wrist; a distal radius fracture. I was able to get in for DEXA scans, which showed my bone density in the spine and hips was normal, a huge relief and the broken wrist was just one of those freak things. I stacked up my good bone health to all the strength training and load-bearing exercise I had been doing for years. I really think the strength training saved my body and bones from getting too fragile during these formative years. Sadly, I do know athletes, even male athletes, who have suffered from osteoporosis in their 20s and 30s due to hormonal imbalances in the body related to being too lean and overtraining. I got lucky, but bone health is a very real concern and not easy to recover from, if it all.

Other long-term health complications honestly didn’t even cross my mind at the time (I didn’t even know there were additional risks), but after studying the research and learning more I discovered that there are important potential long-term health complications to be aware of that I now point out to women with amenorrhea. They include a higher predisposition to heart disease and cognitive diseases in later years of life.

JR: You mention that your PCP, like many doctors, recommended that you go on birth control, exercise less and eat more in order to regain your period. Now that you have so much knowledge on the subject, especially in the context of endurance athletes, what do you think would have been better advice?

TPG: Amenorrhea recovery is absolutely all about the psychology of what a woman is going through, and to tell a female athlete to exercise less and eat more is, in most cases, terrifying to hear and not something they’d be willing to do when it’s blatantly put like that--unless they're at their wit’s end. Amenorrhea is more complicated, mentally speaking, and it’s not so black and white. We have to be able to understand the female athlete’s unique psyche and work with her needs and use compassion and patience. As for taking birth control, most girls will realize this is only a band-aid and not a solution, and that’s why I personally chose to stay off the pill after a while and keep it natural.

It’s not that the advice of “eat more exercise less” is wrong, it’s the delivery in most cases. Female athletes may feel like their doctor does not understand that they are an ATHLETE and that their training and competitions are everything to them, as is adhering to a  healthy or “strict” diet. So in my experience, I’m not a doctor, but I’ve had immense success helping female athletes getting their periods and hormones back by simply relating to them, talking through their fears, answers questions that are unique to athletes, and providing emotional support during the process. The rest as far as actual recovery goes is pretty simple--find the appropriate energy balance and weight that allows you to menstruate, and this requires managing stress, exercise intensity/volume and food intake. Once an athlete is ready to tweak these things it’s not hard to get back on track. Only a couple times have I had more complicated cases that involved further health issues that required medical attention.

The success I’ve had started with coaching myself through the recovery process. I got my period back within 10-12 weeks of making the decision to heal. However, I also took a more gradual approach and didn’t quit training and racing to retire to the couch; thus, it took my body a while to achieve full hormone recovery and get back to regular monthly cycles. During my “transition phase” I got periods again, but they were not normal or monthly until about a year after my initial decision to recover. Every woman I’ve worked with has been slightly different in their recovery process, but usually with more food intake alone all will have signs of ovulation, a spike in hormones and a bleed. Research shows that women can usually maintain some level of training and get their period back if they just eat more (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25090245) and are ok with adding a bit more body fat to their frame. Often tweaking exercise habits (not necessarily quitting) are needed too, since I work with “extremist” endurance athletes. For women to make these voluntary changes, it’s all about mindset and they cannot fear the process or that in itself will hold them back. Likewise, I can’t force someone to take action, nor can their doctor--these women have to want to pursue recovery and teaching them that it’s not so scary adds to the success rate. We have to get them to want to love and respect their bodies and be comfortable in their own skin regardless of how fast they run or how much body fat they have.

We are working with sensitive, living, breathing human individuals, not just numbers or test results. And while doing the health tests are invaluable--all my clients are required to get bloodwork and often additional testing*--those data points are only a piece of the puzzle. Don’t get me wrong, a doctor is important and all my clients are working with a doctor or functional medicine practitioner, but what female athletes also need is a mentor, a friend, and someone to whom they can relate. Someone they can ask scary questions like, “What is it like to cut back on or stop training they way you know it?” “What if I don’t want to stop training completely, what can I expect?” “How long will it take” “You want me to eat what? But I eat ‘x, y, z’ for my training!” “Will I get fat if I eat more?” Also, I assure women that I’m not trying to steal their training away forever nor ask them to get fat and lazy, which is what it feels like you’re being told to do sometimes and that’s just wrong for this group of women. It’s about finding a better balance and exercise can be included in a recovery plan as well as a healthy diet--we just have to prevent these variables from continuing at unhealthy extremes.

*Blood tests for female should include the following markers: LH, FSH, Estradiol, progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, prolactin, TSH, T4 and free T3. I aso run a urine hormone and adrenal panel on my clients in addition to blood work, as this takes a closer look at the relationship between adrenal function, cortisol levels and sex hormones. TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone, T4 and T3 are important to test because often we mess up our thyroid in the process of developing amenorrhea and it should not go ignored.

JR: It’s common for OBGYNs (including my own!) to claim that menstruation is not biologically necessary, and that not having your period is not detrimental to your health. From what you have learned, what’s your position on this claim?

TPG: Technically, it’s not a death sentence to not menstruate. Infertility and low bone density are some of the biggest side effects, and quite frankly there are probably women who don’t care about that if they’re more concerned with race performance. But I argue that menstruation is a normal part of the female existence, and why mess with Mother Nature by shutting down this process? Also, I mentioned the potential negative health consequences earlier; why take a risk on hurting your well being long-term? I understand that in the moment, we may not care what our life will be like when we're 70, but maybe we should. I didn’t care at the time, I only cared about performance and my body size, and I actually don’t regret that because I can at least educate women on why I was wrong and how to do it better. Now if you’re an athlete and you happen to skip a period once or twice a year while stress and training loads are high, and you know you’re not pregnant, I would not freak out over this, but I would take it as a warning sign and indication as to how much is too much for your body and proceed with caution (and try to eat more).

Also, a missing period is a symptom of more intricate problems related to the hypothalamus, pituitary and gonadal function. I work with a lot of athletes not just on hypothalamic amenorrhea but also hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction, thyroid issues, and other health complications from extreme training and low energy intake, and these problems often do not lead to sustainable careers in sport and also make day-to-day living much tougher when you’re chronically stressed, fatigued, worn down and feeling like junk because your body is not operating optimally and is in crisis mode. So amenorrhea is a symptom of potentially worse issues going on inside, and I do not advocate that any athlete continue on this path long term. Women are actually lucky that they have a clear indicator they are pushing too hard (i.e. if period is absent); men do not have this luxury and often it’s gone too far before they realize they’re in a deep hole that they have to dig themselves out of. The longer your wait to change, the harder it may be to fully heal if there are other issues at play like HPA axis dysfunction, adrenal fatigue, varying degrees of hypothyroidism, gut dysbiosis and other complications that often are present in women with amenorrhea.

JR: Your recent pregnancy announcement (congrats!) almost feels like a flag stuck in the summit of Mt. Amenorrhea. What did your road to recovery look like and what advice do you have for women who are struggling with amenorrhea/attempting to heal?

TPG: Thank you. Becoming pregnant is not only exciting for my husband and I, it is also a victory for all women who’ve been through or are going through amenorrhea--there is hope. I was in a bad place for many years, my progesterone and estrogen were that of a postmenopausal woman, and I am proof that you can get your body back to functioning normally and start a family if you so wish. I hope my message gives hope to those who need it right now (I could have used it back then).

As for my recovery, I took a more gradual approach. When I first started making changes to regain health and hormones I had zero desire to get pregnant at the time; rather, I just knew it was time to repair my damaged body and be in a place where one day I could get pregnant when we were ready. I didn’t want to wait until we were ready to get pregnant and have to “cram” my recovery process; that sounded stressful. So, I didn’t go “all in,” and I still trained and raced for another couple seasons. However, I drastically changed my approach, mindset and the “environment” in my body. I took a bunch of pressure off myself, worked on stress management, fed myself better, raced a ton less (like 2-3 races a year instead of 10-12) and incorporated more parasympathetic mindful activity like yoga, walking, meditation, HRV measurements, and so on (those things were not easy at first since I was used to pushing hard all the time and striving for better performances each time I raced). I also stopped training so intensely and relentlessly as well, and started focusing more on recovery as well as an intuitive approach to training (before I would train no matter how I felt--it had to get done!). I started eating what my body craved in a healthy sense of cravings, rather than denying urges to eat certain foods and stick to a strict diet and caloric intake. Over the years, I had gradually switched from a low-fat diet to more of a low-carb high-fat diet, but when I began recovery I just focused on clean healthy eating and not so much on macros or calories, still including tons of healthy fats and moderate carbs. Sometimes the approach for amenorrhea recovery is to eat “all the food” (including sweets and junk) but I still wanted to keep it clean with an 80-20 approach.

Ultimately I quit doing any fasted training and really addressed my chronically high cortisol levels to get in a more balanced state--it was hard not to get at it early each morning as I was used to doing for years, but it was the best thing for me.

By this point I had “ditched” conventional medicine because I felt like I was going nowhere with them. I sought out functional health practitioners to help me and guide my health plans. They ran tests and recommended any supplements I needed (which expanded beyond hormonal issues and included gut repair, thyroid regulation, detox, HPA axis, and general health support). For hormones, I briefly used bioidentical progesterone when initially regaining my period. Then before getting pregnant, I went on vitex for a while to regulate my ovulation and cycle length. I would not suggest starting any supplements unless directed by a healthcare professional.

I continually ordered new health tests to monitor progress over the years; this included blood tests, urine hormone tests, saliva tests and gut tests (stool). It was actually very fun and exciting to see my hormones get back to normal levels for a woman of my age, and I’m glad I have that data. I would suggest quarterly or bi-annual blood tests and/or urine hormone tests for women in the recovery phase. I also tracked my menstrual cycles and ovulation and kept detailed notes on my personal recovery. I share this info with my clients.

Believe it or not, my actual weight didn’t change that much from 2013 when I started my recovery to 2016 before we started trying to conceive. I’d guess it was less than 10 pounds gained, which shows that for me it was more about balancing other issues in my life not that I was still too lean. (For the record, I had gained back 20+ pounds already by 2013 from my ED days.)

My periods were normal for about two years when we finally started trying, and I felt ready. Although, I was still at a low-normal BMI so I thought it’d help to gain a few extra pounds and I did, increasing my BMI to 22-23, which is known as the “fertile zone” according to Nicola Rinaldi, PhD. What I didn’t realize when we started trying was that I put a ton of pressure on myself to get pregnant right away since I was so “normal” again. It took a few months to relax, let go and take off all the pressure, and that’s when I got pregnant. Putting pressure on myself and creating stress within has never worked out well ;)

JR: How do you believe InsideTracker can help women ward off/recover from amenorrhea?

TPG: Absolutely, IT is a critical component to a female’s recovery. As I’ve mentioned numerous times already, having the data from blood testing is invaluable to set the baseline for where a woman is starting at and most importantly monitor progress and see if the changes she is making are working on the inside! As mentioned, I’d suggest quarterly or bi-annual blood testing during the recovery and even when the period returns, get blood work to measure hormones and set a new (healthy!) baseline. The feedback from bloodwork is invaluable.

JR: Anything else you’d like to say about the subject?

TPG: I was at a sports nutrition conference recently (and actually speaking on this very topic) and one of the presenters mentioned her study showing that elite female swimmers who were not menstruating ended and in an energy deficit had poorer performances relative to their menstruating teammates. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23846160) We know through the research that underfueling doesn’t work out well for female athletes, and I know athletes want to perform so EAT!

Also, this issue can not be narrowed down into just the female athlete triad, which is most traditionally cited in research and textbooks. The issues a female faces are on a spectrum and wide-ranging. They can vary in severity. For this reason, I like to look to and reference RED-S when discussing this topic. RED-S includes a broader range of symptoms and doesn’t narrow it down to just three issues as the triad does; it also ties in males as well.

Plus from a social standpoint, i can see why this is continuing to be such a big problem. It’s tough to be an athlete this day in age. With social media, we’re constantly inundated with images of the perfect body and perfect performances, and we feel more pressure than ever before to be perfect and achieve PRs every time we race. We compare ourselves to others and often go to unhealthy extremes to achieve the “impossible.” I’m hear to blast the message that moderation is ok; moderation is SEXY--you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to be the fastest, you don’t have to live by the “no pain no gain” mantra, and you can be your best self with an approach of moderation. What I want for women (and men) is to just be happy and comfortable in their own skin.

Also, it’s getting better, but amenorrhea has for so long been a taboo issue and not something that women want to discuss, so they hide it and let it prolong (I get it, I was there). I want to change that notion--it’s ok for us to talk about our periods, or lack thereof, and you can hear me doing just that on my podcast enduranceplanet.com along with female counterparts who share wisdom and experience on my show.

Lastly, if someone is ready to get started but doesn’t know where to look next: 

I have a ton of resources on this subject for women on my holistic inner-circle website lifepostcollective.com and also on my free podcast enduranceplanet.com. If there are women out there who are still a bit afraid to make changes but just want a reliable source to turn to for information, I’d encourage them to check out lifepostcollective.com; you can get your first month free with code lpc4me. 

Or you can take the next step and work one-on-one with me; I offer consultations and coaching for female athletes on all things health, hormones and nutrition, and I've helped many women recover from HA. 

Last but not least, buy the book No Period Now What. This is another invaluable resource from my friend Dr. Nicola Rinaldi and this book alone may very well change your life. I read it long after my recovery but still learned a ton, and I continually use it as a resource. 

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute!