I have always been quite health conscious. Okay maaaybe when I was younger I would stuff my face with a few dozen ultra-processed, sugar-filled cookies while sitting in front of the TV after school, and also went through my drink and party phase when I was 17, but I’ve still always done regular exercise and made the effort to eat healthy. Having super fit, healthy parents made daily gym sessions seem like one of those things you’re supposed to check off everyday as a human, like brushing your teeth or showering. I started going to the gym about once or twice a week when I was 12 (the YMCA actually doesn’t allow you to get a membership before then). My twice a week routine switched to three when I was 14 and then finally to six times a week when I was 16.
I’d say one of my major flaws is that I can be a little all or nothing.
Either I’m completely in my fitness grind, gym everyday, perfectly balanced healthful meals, or I’m just none of those things. When I was 18 I moved from Singapore to Switzerland for uni. During my first semester there I’d say I was pretty miserable. It’s funny because I actually didn’t know it at the time. I would party in the evenings in attempts to integrate myself in my new environment full of new people, and during the day would sit around with the group of lazy boys I had befriended. What made this all even worse was living in residence, where for 6 months, no kitchens were available and we had to eat in the canteen. The combination of having no control over my diet and adopting the exercise habits of a sloth, was too much for me. At this point I was probably in the worst shape I had ever been. It wasn’t until I completely broke down on the phone one day with one of my best friends that she told me “Vic, do what makes you happy”.
It was at this point that I realized what actually made me happy.
I went back to the gym (after 6 months of doing basically nothing), stopped eating crap completely (the small closet in my res room became storage for all my fresh produce) and I got back into my health, get-shit-done mindset.
It was a few months after this that I started the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide (check out my full review here). I was living alone in Barcelona doing an Internship at a 5-star hotel and therefore saw it as the perfect opportunity to do me. To take time for myself, schedule daily workouts, eat what I wanted etc. I went back to my daily gym sessions, and decided to cut out all processed foods. I started feeling better, healthier, I had more energy, which snowballed into making me want to workout even more, eat even better and on and on. After a while I even realized that I had been eating fully vegan for months without even noticing. I decided to keep this up, and have now been 100% vegan for almost a year and a half.. already?!?! Daaamn.
It was during this time where I started my Instagram, started my blog, and realized that this was not just a hobby or an interest, nor did it need to be. If I wanted, if I worked hard for it, I could actually make a living in this field.
Fast forward a year and a half, at the end of my 2nd year of uni, I did BBG 1.0 twice and BBG 2.0 once. I completed my first half-marathon with Stef, my first full marathon with her as well, and have kept up a constant daily workout schedule along-side a healthy plant-based whole foods, processed-food free diet. I was feeling amazing, so incredibly full of energy, so focused, fit and most importantly healthy.
There was only one problem. This may have been something I overlooked a little, and thought nothing of when I should have. I didn’t have my period for a year; from the time I got back from Barcelona (last Feb), and still to this day. I assumed it was because of the pill; I had taken it for a year then stopped. Part of me was like sweeeeet deal, ain’t gotta worry bout any of that ish no more, like who even wants their period anyway? Lol not me. But on the other hand, isn’t your period is a reflection of your health? And isn’t my health what I work for each and every day?
When I was visiting my parents in Singapore this Christmas I thought okay, let’s suck it up, go to the gyno and figure out what the hell’s wrong with my insides. The morning of my appointment, I had gone to the gym and got my body composition test done. The results were one of those things where I really didn’t know how I was supposed to react. My body fat was at 13% compared to 23% just one year before. In one year I almost halved my body fat percentage like what the F. How the hell did that happen. My initial reaction was like DAMN GIRL look atchuuuu killin it. And then I saw that my overall “health score” had actually dropped 2 points, and that in all aspects, I was “under”. Fat: under, weight: under, BMI: under. Under, under, under, under. F*ck. It was a bit of a slap in the face. I felt like I looked no different, maybe a little leaner but definitely not HALF of what I was before. Most of all I was confused, had I become one of those girls who didn’t actually see the true reflection in the mirror?? I had gotten so frustrated at myself for months before, thinking that I was working so damn hard, and making no progress. But there it was. Dunno if you can really call it progress, but it was definitely a change. And a big one. So after shock #1 of the day, it was time to head off to the gyno.
Okay #realtalk, today was a bit of a realization day. I had been frustrated lately, feeling like I havn't been making any progress, but when comparing the body composition test I had done last Feb with the one from today, the results showed differently. With only a 2kg decrease in weight, I went from 23% to 13% body fat. I guess to me the change seemed so gradual I didn't even notice it, but in less than a year that's a pretty effing insane decrease. It also a bit of a wake up call. There is such a thing as doing too much. I strive for health, and 13% is very low for a woman. It's a bit unsettling to realize that maybe too much of a good thing isnt really all that good in the end🙈
I think the seriousness of it all sort of hit me when I told the gyno that I hadn’t gotten my period in a year and her reaction was “….and you’re only coming to see me now?”. What made me most uncomfortable was how the doctor seemed to instantly “read” me. With one glance she said “and you exercise a lot?”. It was hardly even a question but more of a statement, especially when she followed with “how many hours a day.” She even skipped the middle “how often” question, assuming that it was a daily thing. Part of me was like YOU DON’T KNOW ME but obviously she was right, so all I really had the right to do was sit there and shut up. After doing a full scan she told me everything was normal, except for the fact that there was zero activity in my uterus. You know, just a minor detail. All’s good but you have the reproductive organs of an infant. Awesome.
What followed was shock #2 of the day. My doctor sat me down and began with “when your body enters starvation mode…” woah woah woah hooooold up. This is where I got defensive. I started going on a rant about how I eat a shit ton, and my meal plan has so and so calories and damn you should see my post-workout protein shake, it’s thick and dense AF, until she cut me off and explained that “starvation mode” could be caused by two things. Either eating too little (clearly this was not my case) or over-exercising. I kind of cringe at the use of the term “over-exercising” to describe what I do, cuz isn’t it recommended to get an hour of exercise a day?! On average I get about 1hr and a half, so that extra half an hour is the line between “recommended” and OMG EXCESSIVE YOU CANNOT BEAR CHILDREN!? Literally do not understand.
In the end, she told me exactly what I didn’t want to hear.
“Victoria, you need to seriously stop exercising as much”. It was crazy. I felt like I was on the show Intervention and had just been told my compulsive shopping is getting too serious my friends & family are going to have to step in. I even suggested that maybe I could just eat twice as much, that would be totally okay with me, but that wasn’t the problem. The doctor said it was literally the release of stress-hormones during exercise that are messing with my estrogen levels. How do you tell that to someone who’s life is not only pretty much based around their current gym plan, new fitness goals and workout gear, but who also actually hopes to work in the field? If finding out my body fat was a slap in the face, this was some sort of whack, right in the stomach, with a stick. And the stick is made of knives or something.
I left there annoyed, confused, sad, mad, basically all the negative emotions in the book. Like blaaahh what the hell was I supposed to do? Just sort of stop it all? No, no, no, not an option. I didn’t mention it before but I’m not really all that happy at my Uni. I mean the school itself is great, what I’m studying will lead me to where I want to be, and I’m not exactly unhappy, but it’s just not the place for me. The endorphins released from exercising may be messing with my hormones, but they’re also my all natural “happy pill”. My fitness goals are what keep me going, what keep me motivated and always looking forward to something. Stopping it all was just not an option.
So what do I plan on doing? I’m starting off by giving myself 1 rest day a week. I’ve seen online how athletes have managed to reverse their amenorrhea by simply decreasing the amount they exercise by 5-10%, so I’m gonna start with that. I will also start a new gym plan with the new semester end of February, and base it more on heavy weight lifting. I’ll try to even make a 5 day a week plan so that I get two days off. It’s always hard with these things, as on one hand you have to try out lots of different variations to see what works, but you obviously also have to keep them going for a while to give your body time to react. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to reverse my amenorrhea, but I’m going to take it one step at a time. I’ve made tons of sacrifices in the past (early morning runs, pushing myself when I didn’t feel like it, cutting out processed foods) all in the name of health. This time it’s a little different, as what I’ll be doing is actually the opposite; forcing myself to exercise less, take time off, eat more etc. But in the end, the goal is the same. There is a limit to “healthy”, it can go too far, and too much “healthy” can backfire. In the end, even a good thing has it’s boundaries.