Follow me on Facebook!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bikini Competitor Confessions - Amenorrhea in Athletic Women

So I was extremely hesitant about posting this... but, this subject has been weighing very heavily on my heart for quite some time.  To be honest, I have had many sleepless nights and I can't even count the amount of times I have cried over what I'm about to talk about.

If you're reading this, you're most likely a family member, a dear friend, or an amazing #fitfam friend from around the world.  Let me begin by thanking each and every one of your for joining me on my health & fitness journey.  THANK YOU!!!

As you may already know, it all began about two years ago when I started training for my first NPC Bikini Competition.  During the process of preparing for my show, I fell in love with working out and eating clean, whole foods.  I enjoyed learning new exercises and educating myself on nutrition and how cohesively; they affect your body in ways I hadn't even imagined.  I loved watching my body change and became hungry for results.  I wanted to be better, do better, look better, and at some point, nothing else mattered other than "self improvement".

Well, the problem was I had lost sight of my overall health.  Most people look at fitness models with wide eyes and admire them for their amazing physiques.  The fact is, most people also do not realize the huge amount of hard work and effort that is put forth day in and day out in order to achieve a show or photoshoot ready physique.

I began training for my first show the beginning of 2012.  I ended up loosing my menstrual cycle about a month or two into prep.  The absence of menstruation is also known as Amenorrhea (un-men-oREE-uh).  (Sorry to any fellas reading this, but I really think this issue needs to be addressed!) lol.  At first I was actually excited about not receiving my "monthly gift".  I mean really ladies, who wouldn't be?!  But, after ending prep and taking some time off in between shows, Aunt Flow didn't come back to visit...

I gave it some more time though, and then eventually decided to compete again in 2013 with no sign of my menstrual cycle.  I kind of just brushed the whole situation to the side because I had my sights set on my goals I had established and nothing was going to get in my way of achieving them.

Finally though, something clicked.  Probably from the continuous love, support, and advice from my family that I needed to RELAX.  I didn't want to stop, but I knew I needed to.  It's funny because so many people admire competitors; desiring a shredded six pack or overall lean body.  But, the fact is, stepping on stage at less than 10% body fat is when a bodybuilder is at his/her weakest.  You really think someone can push their maximum weight in the gym when they are in a caloric deficit?  Most likely not!

Anyways,  I decided to give myself and my body a break.  Sometimes, the right thing and the hardest thing are the same.  I cut back my gym sessions, and I slowly began to increase my calories.  I was so afraid that I was just going to blow up and gain massive amounts of fat everywhere.  The process has (and is STILL) hard for me some days.

After a couple of months off (my last show was in April of 2013) I still wasn't getting my period.  So, I finally decided to go to the doctors.  In fact, I went to numerous doctors, tried a variety of treatments, and still, nothing seemed to be working.  I actually almost gave up, thinking I would never be "normal" again and even considered prepping for another show.  But something my amazing OB/GYN said to me stuck.  She said, "Candy, I know this is something you are passionate about, but it's not healthy for you.  Think about it, do you want a few more years to pass by, maybe you'll be in a relationship, married, and wanting to start a family and you won't be able to.  What do you really want?  Do you want to have a bunch of plastic trophies or do you want to be able to have children?"

That hit me hard.  Like a ton of bricks actually.  But, it really helped me put things into perspective.  I want to be healthy.  I do want a family (one day, down the line, far far away) lol.  I think what most women fail to realize (myself included) is that if you let these types of hormonal issues go for too long... the side effects can become irreversible.  Now obviously I am not a doctor, but I have been to quite a few, and I have done A LOT of research and have educated myself fairly well on this topic.  And yes, there are many women who are capable of competing and maintaining a low body fat percentage and never loose their menstrual cycle.  But I believe there are far more women who have had problems than those who haven't.  I know numerous ladies who have shared with me their stories about dealing with this same problem.  So please know, that if you do as well YOU ARE NOT ALONE :)

At first I thought it would be kind of embarrassing talking about something so personal.  But, I think today (Mother's Day) made me realize that I needed to share my story.  I'm still in the process of trying to regulate my hormone levels, so I'm not 100% there but I am on my way.  I want to promote a healthy, active, and fit lifestyle.  But health starts from the inside.  I am not trying to discourage anyone from competing because I am so happy and proud of myself for doing so, and maybe I will step on stage again one day.  As for now though, there are so many other things I have my sights set on.  School, work, family, friends, etc. BALANCE is key.

So yes, push yourself, work hard, and remain dedicated, but please don't become so engrossed in creating a "better you" that you compromise your health!  Train smart and eat a healthy, nutritious, balanced diet.  Know that your self worth should not be associated with numbers; whether it be on a scale, body fat, macros, or even your personal bests.  You should love yourself every single day regardless of what stage you're at in your journey.

Life is TOO SHORT and TOO PRECIOUS to not appreciate what God has blessed you with.  

Thank you for taking the time to read my post, which was pretty difficult for me to write.  I hope that if you're a woman struggling with the same or similar issues, you seek help like I did.  I have provided a few links below if you'd like to educate yourself a little more about the topic.  I also hope that you take a step back and reevaluate your priorities.

No one's life is perfect.  You may think it is from what people choose to edit and post and share on social media.  But no matter who you are, everyone has their own issues, and I really believe that we are all in this together <3  Don't be so hard on yourself or others!

So stay positive, don't stop smiling, never give up, be happy and share that happiness, live well, and God bless!  

xo Candy

Helpful links: