Although the initial thought regarding losing your period might be one of excitement; no more PMS! The truth is that the loss of a female’s menstrual cycle is a sign that your body is not functioning optimally, and that’s no reason to celebrate.
I’ve spent years battling PCOS and amenorrhea, and I have learned that there are certain lifestyle factors that play a role in your cycle. One major player is weight loss. This last fall, I lost weight and along with it, lost my period.
In this article, I want to share with you how to get your period back after weight loss. I’m sharing what worked for me as well as many other women who I have coached. We’ll talk about what I ate to get my period back, how my exercise routine changed, and how I learned to control other environmental factors to successfully regain my cycle, and subsequently, my health.
If you’ve lost your period after losing weight, the goal of this article is to give you some practical tips and advice on how to get your period back. Keep in mind that I am NOT a doctor nor do I specialize in female hormones. The information shared here is based on my personal experiences and what has worked for me and my clients. If you are struggling with regaining your period, consult your doctor.
The Importance of Your Period
A regular menstrual cycle is an indicator that your reproductive and hormonal balance of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are in good standing. It’s a great sign that your body is functioning optimally and running smoothly.
Of course, regular periods are a strong indicator of fertility, but aside from reproduction, your menstrual cycles reflect a healthy balance of all kinds of other systems and functions in your body. Let’s break them down:
A regular menstrual cycle tells you that your body is in homeostasis, meaning it’s making the appropriate levels of sex hormones for reproduction. With balanced reproductive hormones, you feel great, have energy, sleep well, and have a healthy sex drive. However, when your body is under constant stress, your hormones can get out of whack, and a missed or irregular period might be your first sign that your body is needing a change.
With hormonal balance comes healthy bone turnover. Your bones are endocrine (hormone-generating) organs. If your hormonal balance is disrupted, your bone build-up and breakdown can become irregular, potentially causing bone-related problems.
Your thyroid gland controls the rate of function for every cell and gland in your body, including your growth, repair, and metabolism. With an imbalance and underactive thyroid, you can see fatigue, weight gain, depression, high cholesterol, irregular periods, and more. With a healthy thyroid and balanced hormones, your periods are much more likely to be regular.
Excess fat, especially around the waist, acts as an endocrine organ, creating estrogen and leptin, two hormones that, when out of balance, can lead to weight gain. On the flip side, being underweight as the result of fad diets, overtraining, or other forms of extreme physical or mental stress can cause menstrual cycle irregularities.
When your body is under stress (which can be physical, mental, or emotional), there is increased activity between the brain and the adrenal glands. This activity leads to increased production of hormones like cortisol, which is meant to help us respond to the stressor or perceived threat. As a result of excess cortisol production, the balance between our sex hormones also gets impaired, resulting in irregular or missed periods. Try an adrenal support supplement to help manage adrenal glands.
Why Weight Loss Causes Missed Periods
If you’ve embarked on an intentional weight loss journey, my assumption is that you did so to look and feel better, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you lose the weight but also lose your menstrual cycle, it can feel incredibly frustrating; you were trying to do the right thing, after all!
I’ve been here. And the situation can feel like a huge bummer because, on one hand, you’re excited to have reached your weight loss goal, but on the other hand you know that your lack of a menstrual cycle is a sign of poor health.
So why does weight loss trigger missed periods for some women? Because weight loss is a stress on the body. Weight loss occurs when you consume fewer calories than your body needs. When this happens for prolonged periods, your body responds by shutting down your non-essential functions like your reproductive system to conserve energy because it’s worried it won’t have enough.
In short: a calorie deficit is a stress on the body, and that stress, especially when combined with other stressors like poor sleep and life stress, can cause your body to stop your cycle in order to “survive.”
So What Can You Do About It? (How to Get Your Period Back)
First and foremost, you have to recognize that missing your period is most certainly a problem, even if you aren’t in the time or space to be thinking about having children. A missed or irregular cycle is your body’s way of telling you that it’s not in a good position hormonally, which can have repercussions on so many other body functions.
To combat this, you first need to accept that the current state of your body is not a healthy one and that you will need to make some changes in order for your body to feel safe enough to start cycling again. Here are three key factors that will help you to get your period back after losing weight:
1. Healthy, Macro-Balanced Diet
Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes eating at your maintenance calories or macros. This is where macro tracking can come in handy as it helps you to pay attention to the three macronutrients, all of which are critical to the health and functionality of your body.
For females, in particular, consuming adequate amounts of fat is crucial for hormonal health. Too many women are not eating enough fat in their diets, which can impair their menstrual health. With a healthy set of macro targets, you can pay close attention to your nutrition and optimize it for your specific needs.
2. Healthy Exercise Regime
Choose your exercise habits carefully. High-intensity exercise is a major stress on the body. If your current workout routine includes days of HIIT training or excessive cardio, you will likely need to cut way back on these forms of exercise as they are not conducive to a healthy menstrual cycle in many women. Instead, choose an exercise modality that is gentler and less impactful.
Many women make the transition to more strength-based hypertrophy training while trying to regain their cycles and see a ton of success. Additionally, incorporating yoga, pilates, and walking can help you to still move your body without feeling like you need to give up exercise altogether.
3. Stress Management
Minimize life stress by analyzing your current life situation and behaviors and implementing stress management strategies to reduce the impact of stress on your life. We live in a fast-paced, busy world where the hustle is glamorized, but it can be detrimental to our health. For many women, starting the practice of becoming aware of the stress in their lives is the first step.
Once aware, we can implement strategies to minimize stress and alleviate some of the burdens it's placing on our bodies. For example, a busy stay-at-home mom might be feeling the weight of never having any time for herself. With a little strategy and willingness to ask for help, she can find some time to take for herself to focus on the things that bring her joy. Stress relief will look different for every woman, but common tactics include:
- Taking a walk
- Listening to music or a podcast
- Reading a book
- Taking a bath
- Practicing meditation
- Deep breathing
- Spending time doing things you enjoy
In general, the recipe for recovering your period after weight loss is to pull back on the things in your life that are causing you stress on the body. When we consider stress, we usually think of the classic stressors like our jobs, kids, and traffic, however, we also have to consider things like workouts and dieting are also perceived as stress on the body.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to regaining your period, but there are some common questions that crop up around the topic, so let’s address some of those below:
Do I Need to Gain Weight To Get My Period Back?
You might! I know that’s not likely the answer that you want to hear, but sometimes the female body needs a bit more body fat in order to have a regular menstrual cycle. So, if you lost too much body fat, you might need to regain a little to bring your cycle back. That said, some women can recover their periods by making small lifestyle changes that do not result in any weight gain.
How long does it take to get your period back after weight loss?
Again, this will be different for every woman as our bodies and situations are all highly unique. For some women, implementing the lifestyle changes listed above will result in a quick recovery of their menstrual cycles, taking anywhere from 1-3 months. However, for most women, the recovery period is anywhere from 6-12 months.
Do I have to stop exercising to get my period back?
No, in most cases you don’t have to stop completely, but you might have to scale things back considerably. For those who were working out frequently and aggressively, scaling things back and avoiding high-intensity exercise is best for getting your cycle back. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still exercise, plenty of women see period recovery simply by scaling back the number of days they workout per week, the time spent on each session, and the intensity of their sessions.
How many calories do you need to eat to get your period back?
This will depend on your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). In order for your body to feel safe enough to function optimally and to menstruate, you must be feeding it enough food (energy). This means that you will need to be eating at least your maintenance calories (energy balance), this will be different for each unique body. You should not be eating in a caloric deficit when trying to regain your period.
What should I eat to get my period back?
Eating for period recovery should include plenty of whole foods with a special emphasis on healthy fats. Examples of healthy fats include nuts, nut butters, avocados, salmon, and olive oil.
Final Thoughts on Recovering Your Period After Weight Loss
Losing your period can be a frustrating experience, especially if you worked hard to lose weight. However, it’s important to understand that when you lose your period, it’s a sign that your body is not happy at that place and you might need to accept that you will need to increase your body weight a little in order to get back to homeostasis.
With a healthy, macro-balanced nutrition plan, smart and effective workouts that are low-impact, and stress management tactics in place, you should be able to get your body back to a place where your hormones are balanced and menstruation can occur again.
Of course, this isn’t the case for every woman and there are special circumstances that call for the intervention of a medical professional. If you are dealing with amenorrhea related to weight loss, be sure to consult with your medical professional for advice that’s specific to you and your body.