Why Do You Need To “Overshoot”?
Women who have missing periods often wonder why their cycles aren’t returning when they get to a weight at which they formerly cycled. One reason can be that our bodies grow and change through our lifetime. The size where your body is performing well as a teenager is likely not the size it will be when you are older and more mature.
(Quick reminder that what you weigh has nothing to do with your value as a human being!!!!! And generally as a society we place WAAAAAY more importance on that number than it warrants.
If you’re struggling with body image, please check out some of the books available on my resources page (I love Sonya Renee Taylor and Virgie Tovar). They can help you understand and deconstruct some of the reasons why body size feels so important. Also, clean out anything from your social media feed that makes you compare and feel less worthy.
Another reason that your body might need/want to be at a higher weight than it has in the past could be that it takes more of an energy surplus to get the hypothalamus to turn back on than it does to keep going once it has restarted. (In concert with exercise decrease, as we describe in No Period. Now What?)
Hypothalamus = chemistry???
It reminds me a lot of the activation energy required to start a chemical reaction.
The amount of energy required to get the reaction to run is greater than the difference in the energy of the reactants (starting material) and products (ending material). This is because the chemicals involved need to meet in the correct orientation and with enough energy for the reaction to take place.
Extra support for your hypothalamus
Similarly, it takes extra fuel, maybe some more weight gain than where you cycled at previously, to restart your hypothalamus than it does to keep it running once started. It takes cutting high intensity exercise to a lower level than your exercise when previously cycling. It takes being more relaxed. Being “all in” (which we talk a lot about in NPNW).
This is, in a sense, for the same reason as the activation energy for a chemical reaction. New neurons (nerve cells) need to be created. There are changes in the receptors that are expressed. There are changes in the hormones that are output by the hypothalamus.
It is harder for the hypothalamus to start a new hormonal pattern than to maintain a pattern. So it often takes eating MORE than you think. Getting to a weight higher than you might want to. Cutting your exercise to a lower level. Then your body can break out of the old pattern and start a new one.
After your periods restart (really important!!)…
Once cycles have commenced, I recommend waiting until you’ve had three periods before making changes to exercise or eating habits. This is to allow the new patterns to establish. I never suggest going back to old ways of restricting food intake (limiting yourself to a set amount each day and/or avoiding certain food groups) and overexercise.
But once your hypothalamus is chugging along you can slowly add back some high intensity exercise. MAKE SURE to monitor your ovulation as described in Chapter 18 in NPNW. You can also start to follow hunger cues more (Intuitive Eating!). As long as doing so does not cause significant, fast weight loss. (Because then you’re likely to lose your cycles again.)
Hopefully knowing this will help you to make the changes you need to and stay consistent, so that you get your cycles back for good. And our book or working with Nico can help!