Today's post discusses female health and hormones with a dash of TMI (if you know me, you'll know I'm an oversharer). If this isn't your thing, feel free to skip today's post and visit tomorrow to talk about planning for the holidays!
Hormones are definitely one of those things that I haven't really thought about much and they ended up being one of those things that you don't realize how great it is to have them work properly until they don't. Kind of like how it's easy to take your health for granted and you don't realize how good it feels to feel good -- until you're sick.
Due to a heck of a lot of stress (family, stressful job, and training for a fitness competition), my hormones got all out of whack beginning in May of 2014. At first I noticed some annoying symptoms -- hot flashes, acne all over my back and chest, and weight gain in my abdomen. The weight gain was weird for me because I've never really gained weight in my stomach before -- this was my first clue that it was hormonal.
I visited my primary care doctor and after some blood work, she said my hormones were a little off but nothing to be really concerned about since I was going through a stressful season of life.
Long story short, the symptoms continued to get work as the stress increased. Along came insomnia, horrible water retention, and my hands, feet, and underarms were constantly slick with sweat. I was also experiencing irritability, constantly feeling frazzled / overwhelmed, and having irregular periods. I didn't sleep through the night for weeks at a time -- waking up at 3am almost every night and never falling back asleep. In addition, I felt so self-conscious because my hands were always bright red and burning hot / sweaty, as shown in the photo above.
Then, during a really hard month (August 2016), things hit their peak -- I was experiencing extreme fatigue, even more stress at work, and the worst part was that I had put on 17 pounds by Thanksgiving that year. I'm only 5' 3.25", so even just 5 pounds on my petite frame is very noticeable. I felt frumpy, fat, and gross. Oh, and constantly hot thanks to the hot flashes. I felt like i had nothing to wear and wasn't putting a ton of effort into my appearance because I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. None of my clothes fit -- even my underwear were too small which was an awful feeling! I cried at the drop of a hat (and I'm not a crier!) and felt overwhelmed at the smallest things such as going grocery shopping.
I found a new primary care doctor and during our first appointment, it was through tears that I told her I didn't feel like myself anymore. She diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue and said I had also become estrogen dominant. We tried a conservative approach at first -- since my diet was already clean she had me focus on more rest, meditation, and this crazy regime where I'd sit in the sauna for 10 min, followed by a freezing cold shower for 3 minutes -- repeat 3 times a few times per week. There was zero improvement and by Christmas, I was so over it.
In mid-January, I went back to her office and told her I couldn't do this anymore. I wanted my body, energy, and happiness back and was willing to do whatever it took. She wrote me a prescription for bio-identical progesterone cream and instructed me to really watch my stress levels. I started using the cream daily, while taking the week of my period off. After two weeks, I noticed that I felt like my head was more clear -- I didn't feel so frazzled like I had in the months prior.
A month later, I noticed that my clothes started fitting a little better. I went and bought a couple pairs of jeans before our spring break trip and had gone down a whole size. The acne cleared up and the hot flashes and sweating began to taper off.
Not too long after that, I quit my job that was making me so unhappy. In the months that followed, the weight continued to drop off without me making any diet or fitness changes.
This fall, the rest of the weight has come off putting me back at my happy weight -- the weight I was before all of the hormonal changes. The photos above were taken 9 months apart from one another -- hormones a mess on the left, and back to myself on the right! There is a 17 pound difference between these two photos, (which you can really see in my face), but the most important thing is that I feel like myself again! My confidence and energy / enthusiasm are back and it feels SO GOOD to feel like myself again!
Here are the things that didn't work for balancing my hormones:
- Working out like a madwoman
- Constantly stressing over my body
Here's what did work:
- Implementing bio-identical progesterone cream
- Managing my stress
- Focusing on relaxation: meditation, essential oils, going for walks, etc.
Going through the past 3 years of having unbalanced hormones was so challenging and something that I wouldn't wish on anyone. If you're struggling with hormonal imbalances or have any questions, feel free to contact me!
What's your favorite way to relax?
Ever overcome hormone issues before?