August 14, 2013 By Leanne Vogel November 16, 2018
This is a highly personal topic that I wasn’t too sure I wanted to share. But I know that there are so many women out there struggling with the consequences of past eating disorders so I have decided to bare it all and share my journey. If you, or someone you know, has, is or did battle with disordered eating, I hope my experience (in some way or another) helps encourage the women in our community to seek help, embrace the healing process and move on with their beautiful lives.
I remember, when I was about 11 years old, I’d look in the mirror and know, with 100% confidence, that I was beautiful. I’d play with my hair, wiggle my nose, and feel proud of the girl I was becoming.
But somewhere along the way? I lost myself. I started caring more about what others thought of me, than what I knew to be true. I let the pressure of popularity and being noticed by boys get in the way of who I truly was — deep down inside. I became insecure about my place in the world and, even worse, began questioning if I even deserved to be here at all.
One obsession led to another and, at age 13, I stared in that mirror and hated every last bit that looked back at me.
This was the beginning of a very torturous 10 years that nearly cost me my life.
Drugs, alcohol and starving myself became the center of my world.
I hit rock bottom at 21 years old – massively underweight, unhappy and completely lost. I starred in the mirror and nothing stared back at me. I was empty. This was my breaking point, the moment that I realized that the life I had created for myself just wasn’t serving me.
Over the next 6 years, I worked so incredibly, feverishly hard to redefine and discover the woman I knew I was meant to be. I enrolled in the holistic nutrition program at CSNN to help me understand my body and the importance of proper nutrition, I attended vegetarian cooking classes that helped me embrace the beauty of food, I worked one on one with a counselor, joined a support group and started hypnotherapy. Every step brought me closer to myself.
One thing that I haven’t been able to heal, is my missing periods (also known as amenorrhea). When I had hit my lowest weight, and right around the time I went off birth control, my periods stopped and just… never came back.
No amount of natural supplements or dietary changes helped my situation. I continued to seek out new doctors, all who suggested that I just go back on birth control as a way to “kick-start” my rhythm. I tried it once and it “worked” for 6 months. But as soon as I went off birth control, the periods stopped and I was catapulted to square one all over again. Having your period stop is just one of many side effects of birth control. Recently, women have actually had to file for a yaz law suit over complications such as blood clots, and pulmonary embolism.
Thankfully, after a 5 year search, I found a doctor that was willing to refer me to a endocrinologist. Four weeks later, I met with the endocrinologist who, after about 30 minutes of asking me an insane amount of questions and reviewing all of my tests, determined that I was in a low estrogen state that was 100% linked to my eating disordered past.
Basically, as I understand it, there’s a “thing” in your brain that triggers the production of estrogen. That “thing” was damaged when I forced my body past it’s natural weight and, because of the years of torture I put my body through, it is very likely that my body will not produce estrogen on it’s own anymore. This impacts my ability to build healthy bones, to maintain a healthy hormone balance, and to have a natural pregnancy.
The doctors main concern was the health of my bones. Estrogen is the key ingredient for healthy bone formation and, living without it for such a long period of time, has drastically affected my bone density. He was quick to come up with a hormone replacement program that I was comfortable with and explained that this would now be my life — natural hormone patches, injections and pills until I choose to experience menopause.
While it’s not ideal, it’s the best that we can do with what I’ve created. I wish I could say, “if someone would have told me that this would be my reality, maybe I would have stopped what I was doing to myself” but I know that no amount of advice I could have been given in the darkest of my days would have changed the course for me.
I am so grateful that I experienced what I did, realized that I had a life worth loving and came out on top.
While my body has taken a beating, I am committed to making the best of what I have to work with and sharing my experiences so that maybe you, or someone you know, doesn’t have to experience the same.
One of my lesson in all of this? If you’ve had amenorrhea for longer than 6 months, seek help, ask questions, don’t settle for something you’re not comfortable with. If a treatment doesn’t feel right for you, find another doctor that’s willing to help you.
Over the next little while, I’ll be investigating ways to pump up my bone density and support natural estrogen production. If you’re up for it, I’d be more than happy to keep you up to date with what I figure out!
To OUR healthy, loving, beautiful lives.
Hi! I’m Leanne
a Keto Nutritionist, host of The Keto Diet Podcast, and best-selling author of The Keto Diet & Keto for Women. I want to live in a world where every woman has access to knowledge to better her health.