Hormone Health is the new Gut Health
For so many of us, going on birth control feels like a rite of passage, like a coming of age. Like many girls getting ready to head off to college I asked my doctor for the pill. Because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I felt cool taking it. I felt like I was newly inducted to a premier club.
Whoever is doing publicity for birth control, nailed it!
For a college-aged girl, birth control is glamorized. It felt like setting a reoccurring alarm to take the birth control pill, pop it out of its shell, and joke about it with my friends was a something I was entitled to- dare I say, entitled to enjoy.
After two years on the pill, I decided to get the shot instead. I started to get annoyed having to take the pill every day and realized there were other alternatives. When I got the shot, my boobs went from a size B to a double DD. It. Was. Wild.
Then, a year and a half later, when I was prepping to spend a semester studying abroad in Australia, I decided I wanted to get an IUD. I came to this conclusion because I didn’t want to get my period while I was in a bathing suit the whole day. My doctor had no issue giving me an IUD. When I discussed this with friends, no one batted an eye. I am starting to learn how ignorant I was.
So many of us look at getting our period like an inconvenience.
A hassle. Don’t get me wrong- it can get annoying and the lurking fear of “perioding” yourself is bothersome. However, women were designed to get their period. It is a basic function every woman’s body must go through. Setting aside the conversation of periods and fertility, getting your period is a basic marker of female health.
While I was studying abroad, without a period, and in routinely in a bathing, I decided to severely calorie restrict and increase my workouts. My weight has always been a focal point for me and living in this beach environment added to my insecurities. I figured food restricting was the only way to go, based on mainstream “science.”
Three years after getting my IUD, and 7 years after going on birth control, I decided to take a break - so I got my IUD removed. While the removal process wasn’t as bad as the implanting process, the side effects have been eye-opening.
Life after birth control...
A few days after the removal, I woke up with new weight on me. My lifestyle habits had not change; I still worked out daily, ate a plant-based diet, and all that goodness. To say I was uncomfortable with myself is an understatement. I could feel the weight on me, my clothes felt differently, and worst of all, I felt like I lost myself.
This has led me on an investigative path. I’m learning that due to my food restrictive habits while I was abroad, its likely my body would not have been able to have a period on its own. I’m learning that calorie restriction and intermittent fasting/time restricting was as huge stressor to my body and my hormones. Likely impacting my adrenals and my thyroid. I’m learning about the birth control industry, but that is a topic for another day. And I’m learning about hormones.
Turns out hormones aren’t just these annoying things that make us sad or “moody” during our period...
They aren’t just these things that go crazy during puberty, and they aren’t things that just effect women. Hormones are so much more. They regulate our body weight, body hair, mood, sleep, metabolic function, and I’m learning that hormones are the basis of a happily functioning body.
Seven months after my IUD removal, and I’ve only gotten my period three times. These periods are very irregular and incredibly heavy- like bleeding through a tampon in less than hour heavy. And the worst part of it all for me is that I still have this hormonal weight on me. While I am working on body love, my body weight severely affects me, personally.
While I sit here still very uncomfortable in my “larger” body, I am learning what it means to take care of myself. I’m learning that we need to change the conversation from “healthy” = “skinny,” that we need to put an end to “eat less, exercise more,” and we need to make talking about our hormones and periods a ritual.
When your body's been put through the hormonal ringer.
This weight appeared on me and is sticking around as my body’s protective response. My body has been put through the hormonal ringer. In addition to my prolonged period of calorie restriction, I now work seven days a week- half the week running around as a waitress and the other half at a desk job, clocking in at 15,000 steps a day, working towards my Master’s degree, feeling in power of myself when I feel hungry, and finding it hard to sit still and “relax.” I’m learning that this has all been detrimental to my adrenals and thyroid.
My body has equated this constant state of being “on” as chronic stress. As a result, my adrenals are telling my body to conserve energy (calories from food), rather than spend it- resulting in excess weight. Additionally, this results in my thyroid slowing down. Essentially, my body is holding on to these calories for dear life and stores them in preparation for the next time they are deficient. As a result, I am currently carrying around excess weight on me no matter my healthy lifestyle habits.
Your body is not the enemy <3
My research has inspired me to up my food intake and take time to sit still; though I still find myself Intermittent Fasting and hearing voices in my head that I need to deserve my food. Even though I am dealing with my own issues, I am grateful for this experience. To say it’s been a learning moment is an understatement.
While I sit here actively avoiding the pool, every opportunity to be in a bathing suit, getting a full-length mirror for my room, or wearing tight clothes, I appreciate the complex functionality of a woman’s body and the need to respect how our bodies are biologically wired to work.