It’s taken me a while to even start writing this post, mainly because I don’t even know where or how to start. My head is spinning a million miles an hour. Although, that could be the significant intake of caffeine I have had today.
As I have briefly touched on before in an Instagram post, I haven’t had a full menstrual cycle for about 18 months. Prior to this with the exception of 6 months, I hadn’t had it for another 2 years. Basically, since the age of 18 I have struggled on and off with maintaining a weight and energy balance that my body deems as ‘healthy’ for me to reproduce and function optimally. That’s five-six years of accumulating problems mentally and physically.
At the start of this year I decided to really investigate what I have done to my body and embark on the quest to potentially reverse any damage I may have caused thus far. So, for the past six months I have been seeing an endocrinologist, getting blood tests, bone scans, MRIs, blood tests, Prolactin Series test, ultra sound, blood tests, 24 hour urine test, glucose infusion, oh, and did I mention blood tests?
Throughout the time seeing the specialist and working in conjunction with my nutritionist I have increased my calories, body fat and weight in hopes of restoring some of my hormonal functioning and I really thought that I was making big strides. I have been, and still am the highest in all three measurements that I have ever been my entire life, even when I was functioning properly a few years back and prior do all of these problems.
My training has somewhat remained the same; at least 5 weights a week with 1-4 cardio sessions because for me, this is normal. This is a massive part my life. I love the gym, being active and pushing my body to the extreme. Except, maybe it is too extreme?
Yesterday I went back to the specialist for the third time to see if I had made any progress and learn results of the multitude of tests I had so compliantly taken.
The news wasn’t good.
Even after all this effort my igf-1 is still through the roof. My estrogen looks like I’m a menopausal woman. My bone density is 2 standard deviations below the mean – which is within the clinical cut-off range for Osteopenia. These health risks are comprehensible in a 50 year old, not a 23 year old. Despite the myriad of tests I have had the reason for my igf-1 (reflective of growth hormone in the liver) is still a mystery.
My specialist and I have a great relationship. She’s extremely understanding of the passion I (and most of her patients) have for their sport so she would never MAKE someone stop doing something. We made a pact at the beginning of all of this that we would try my way and I can continue to train but I agreed to eat more and cut back a little bit & if further down the track there were no changes and no improvement, we would try her way.
Well, we have reached the point where it is time to try her way..
The feedback was this:
I was strongly (strongly) advised to stop training, take up yoga, and eat more ‘freely’. Her words were something along these lines
I want you to stop training, take up yoga, & eat more freely. I want you to have an egg on toast, have some butter, full milk coffee and maybe even enjoy a scone every now and then. Stop worrying about getting carbs, fat protein in every single meal, stop worrying about calories and try to enjoy food for what it is.”
Despite my argument that I eat a healthy, well-balanced diet full of healthy carbs, lean meat and vegetables – I was advised to stop dieting, eat like a normal person and enjoy my life not constrained to these food groups that I have become so accustomed to love.
For me this is normal, for normal, this is too obsessive.
I like obsessive. I like knowing that I have been perfect on my diet every day. I like knowing that I’m doing everything in my power to be above average. I fuel my body fuel for function with the purest form of petrol, not diesel.
But I was also told that I am running out of time to reverse some of the damage that I have unknowingly caused my bones and reproductive organs. SOME is the key word here because, it’s not completely reversible (thank f*ck).
But how does one do that? How do you stop living this life that millions of people strive for because it’s apparently doing internal damage to my body’s structures? People all around the world fail at living a healthy life, eating the food I eat and exercise the discipline I attest day in and day out. I’m proud of the life I live.
I like my lifestyle. Hell, I love my lifestyle. I love the food I eat and I love the way I feel because of the actions I take day in and day out.
But I also know that my perception of healthy and normal has been completely warped and flipped on it’s head since entering the gym scene.
Perhaps the amount of exercise and the intensity at which I perform it is just too stressful on my body.
I feel like I’m at a loss. I’m really stuck between a rock and a hard place. Continue to live this life that I enjoy, or make drastic changes to preserve my physical well-being for many years to come.
Here’s the other piece of advice I was so tentatively given:
Have you though about seeing a psychologist to deal with your issues around food and your body image?
I wanted to laugh and cry – mainly cry. Yes, I had considered it. And no, I didn’t want to do so. I have my Masters in Health Psychology so over the years I’ve learned a lot of the techniques they use in therapy. Truth be told, I’ve used self-therapy. I’ve tried to help the way I see myself. And honestly there was a time in my life where I genuinely thought I had things down-packed. I had my life sorted, I loved my body and was free with my diet.
Cue; bodybuilding. As screwed up as this sounds (and I know it does) I have this voice in my head that doesn’t want to sort myself out. I don’t like average. I don’t want to look or be average. And I guess a part of me is afraid that if I do sort all of this out I will slide back into the category of everyone else.
And that to me, exemplifies the need for help.
The ironic thing about this whole ordeal is that recently, I have been considering eating more freely, working on my mind and emotions with food, beginning yoga and starting to heal my body from the inside, out.
But hearing it come from a health professional solidified the struggles that I face on a daily basis.
I recently posted that I feel like change is coming. I have known for a long time I need to take action and hearing all of the repercussions that I may face if I don’t change something soon has sent me into a catalyst of worry.
The good news is that I still have SOME time. SOME damage is still reversible and I can work my way back up to health.
I have seen my mum battle osteopenia who has been on crutches for the most of this year & it’s not a path I want to go down.
I am so thankful for the people whom I have surrounded myself with. I have a support network that I know I can fall back on. I have resources people would only dream of having.
And I have the motivation, knowledge and responsibility of actually changing my life around for the better.
Health isn’t about looks. Health is holistic and at the moment, I am lacking in so many areas of health that I want to work on.
So the next venture starts. I don’t know how it will go, where I will end up and what I will do but I know that I’m going to try.