I often see women discussing how a loss of their period is "normal" when increasing training. We need to have a talk about the fact that while this may be common, it should NOT be accepted as normal.
As runners, especially runners active on social media, you cannot avoid the discussions, thoughts, and images connecting weight to performance.
What we need to remember though, is each one of our unique bodies has unique needs, and our bodies are going to perform their best when we fuel them properly. Instead of focusing on weighing less, we need to focus on eating enough.
Low energy availability (EA) is the clinical term for not eating enough. It often looks like not eating enough carbohydrate, protein, fat, or vitamins and minerals. The consequences of low EA are:
- Mild menstrual changes (light bleeding, spotting, less frequent periods) to more extreme changes oligomenorrhea (>35 days between cycles), amenorhea (no periods for >90 days)).
- Bone loss resulting in increased stress fracture risk to the development of
- More frequent injuries, infections, and illnesses.
- Chronic fatigue, irregular moods, hormonal disruptions, impaired growth.
- Unfavorable blood cholesterol (e.g. LDL) and increased cardiovascular risk.
These changes and consequences can happen to any woman, at any weight. Even someone in a bigger body than what we may stereo-typically think of at risk. And recently this happened to me.
A couple months ago my period came 10 days late, and it caught me off guard. I am not extremely thin. My body fat percentage is adequate. I've been eating a lot. I've even been able to run a much higher mileage than in the past. But this is what got me. At that point I weighed myself and noticed I was down a few pounds. I immediately increased my food intake, gained those few pounds back, and my period came back normal.
A number on the scale is not worth my mental or physical health. That lower weight, while being more idealized, was not for me. And perhaps weighing less or eating less may not be for you either. You deserve to be properly fueled, and you are worthy of health no matter what.