I have a piece at Daily Life today, about getting my period back after several years of eating way too little and exercising way too much:
A few months after my twenty-third birthday, my period disappeared. It wasn’t a surprise to me that it had stopped showing up: that’s what happens when you don’t eat nearly enough and you exercise way too much. For two-and-a-half years, it kept not showing up. I wasn’t particularly worried about it; like a lot of eating disordered people, I took it as a sign that I was doing something right.
Of course, it was a sign of completely the opposite. If a female’s biological, evolutionary purpose is to conceive and bear children (I’m talking biology here, not culture; if you tell me that my purpose on earth as a woman is to conceive and bear children, I will smack you upside the head), then I was failing miserably at fulfilling that purpose. My period disappeared because I wasn’t healthy enough to sustain a pregnancy, and my body knew it.
Our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for. Often, they’re smarter than we are. When it comes to weight, they know what shape, and what size, they’re meant to be. We can fight them on that, we can try to thwart genetic destiny, but our bodies usually win in the end. You can starve yourself thin, but your body will adapt: it will take every morsel of food, every ounce of nutrient, and convert it into the fat it knows you need to survive. And it will hold on to that fat for fear that it might one day starve again. We might live in a world of diets and cleanses, but our bodies are relics of another time, when food was scarce and fat was valuable. During those years, my body thought I was living through a famine, when in fact, food was abundant. I just wasn’t eating it.
And then, a few months ago, I stopped starving myself. I stopped punishing myself on the treadmill. I started taking care of myself. And a few months after that, my period returned.
You can read the whole thing here.