Flashback to the end of 2017 and I was in the best shape of my life. I had put in many consistent months of intense training and had seen many PRs in my overall performance. I felt better than I had ever felt. I remember completing a workout that had 50 strict handstand push-ups in it! *For me that's awesome* During this time I trained Olympic lifts + CF Metcons + squatting/deadlifting/benching +endless gymnastic skill work. Training would often have to be split up in my free time…. One session early, one session late. Most often, I would take 1 rest day per week… because usually Sundays were some sort of light conditioning. In addition, I often ran 1x a week. All of that to say, I was firing on all cylinders as an athlete. I was definitely enjoying it but I also noticed how hard it was to stay on top of my workload because of how much energy the training was taking from me. I often worked until 10pm most nights to get everything I needed to done but I was getting it done. I would never “leave it for the next day.” At the time I was loosely counting my Macros. I was leaner than I have ever been weighing around 150# at 5'10", I got even down to 145# at one point. I was stronger than I had ever been. I felt the best I’ve ever felt. The peak of this performance lasted until mid 2018. For reference: On a good day I was eating around 2100 calories. (Averaging around 145g P/ 55g F/ 200g C.)*keep reading because this was not enough.*
I still was training and eating the exact same way for over a year. And in June of 2018 things began to shift. First, my motivation decreased… the hard workouts didn’t seem so fun anymore. Next, I started getting a little pain in my left shoulder every time I did anything overhead or pull-ups/toes to bar. I remember specifically one day when I was training probably towards the end of July the workout called to build up to 80% of the clean (my favorite lift) I was in the middle of the session and I got to around 70% and I knew physically and mentality my body was done. It was a new feeling. I knew it was my last lift of the day but because I’m stubborn, I was like, “come on Amanda… suck it up, just do it.” I tried the lift again and failed. And failed. And failed. And failed. I was done.
This was just the beginning.
After this really frustrating weightlifting session, I decided to take a week off and give my body rest. I knew I needed rest. Well after a week, I went right back where I left off in my training and felt exactly the same. My motivation tanked. My stress of work increased. I quickly became emotionally, physically, mentally wrecked. I was wondering what could be wrong with me. (July 18’-August 18’)
I soon remembered that I hadn’t had a period in like 4-5 months (which has happened before). *Side note: there is no way I was pregnant.* The previous year when it had happened, I remember asking my doctor about it and she said it was completely normal with how much I workout. (LIES, all LIES) I remember asking her if my period disappeared because I don’t eat a lot of fat… she said not to worry about it, overall it was okay to not have one. (BIG LIES) Mind you, at this point I had been on Hormonal Birth Control for about 12 YEARS. I got on it young to manage heavier periods, headaches, etc. So this time because it happened again, I knew it wasn’t normal … So I did some reading and research.
I found out what HBC actually does to my body and it was frightening. It really suppresses ALL of my HORMONES. My body was never firing on all cylinders (like I thought it had been) because most of the buttons were turned off/muted/suppressed so-to-speak. So no wonder my symptoms got better when I was on it, my hormones were basically non-existent. HBC had been depleting my body of nutrients and normal function for over 12 years. I got frustrated and upset because no one ever told me this is what HBC does to my body.
So... without doctors permission (who I didn’t trust anymore), I just quit taking my HBC.
Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
This did not make for a good end of the summer.
I was well aware at this point that I really wanted to learn more. I HAD TO LEARN MORE. I felt completely blindsided by this new information. I looked up many different nutrition courses over a series of 1-2 months and found NCI (Nutritional Coaching Institute). At the cert, I learned so much about me as a coach and an athlete.
Immediately following that trip. I knew I needed to increase my calories. Why? Because I realized that the multiplier system I had been using for my macros was a bit flawed. I learned how to properly apply the Harrison Benedict equation to find my daily TDEE. *total daily energy expenditure. For the past 2+ years I had not been eating enough food. I averaged around 2100 calories...and only 50-60g of Fat. A little FYI, Fat is a precursor to hormone production and because I wanted my hormones to work again I HAD to increase my fat. I should have been eating 2300-2400 daily. Averaging around 164gP/ 80g F/ 233g C.
Important side note: within a matter of 40 days from quitting HBC I gained around 15 pounds. :(
Stubborn Phase: Nov 2018-Jan 2019
I was very stubborn to start eating more even though I knew I needed to, to become healthy again. Just like everyone I coach, it takes a STRONG mindset to eat more, train less, and take it easy. Why was it so hard to change?… Well, I had already gained weight, I didn’t feel good (my shoulder was still hurt, I had no energy, or motivation) and I knew that eating low fat kept me lean. Honestly it comes down to, I was afraid of eating more fat. Ugh, there I got it off my chest. It took my awesome nutrition mentor at the time stubbornly telling me to eat at or above 2300 calories. So when my clients struggle with this I completely understand. THIS IS WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO HAVE A COACH. A coach can be stronger than the voice inside your head. Your coach can tell you clearly why you need to do something. I am so thankful for that moment and her doing that for me.
So in January 2018 I finally started eating 2300+ calories, lowered my training volume to 3 days a week… I did absolutely no high intensity work. I was still stressed physically, emotionally, and mentality. When I did the Open this year, I felt worse than I had in years. The workouts made me puffy, swollen, and exhausted. This was coming off 2+ months of no high intensity metcons … During the Open, I found it extremely difficult to not compare my abilities from the previous year.
I felt pretty down. I struggled with my identity big time.
So from about October of 2018- end of April 2019 was the worst I’ve felt in years.
To make things even worse, during the time of low intensity training and eating at or above maintenance calories I was beginning to get food intolerances. Such as dairy, corn, and even gluten free products. Soon I began getting acne like a teenager. :(
From valley to deeper valley, I went. I dug a deep hole.
Reading and Supplementing Phase:
I read about seed cycling and its possible benefits. So I began testing it to see if it had an effect on me. At the time, I think helped with anxiety and helped me reach my fat goal for the day (80g.) My coach recommended for me to try Digestive Enyzmes to help with the bloat that I was feeling from the intolerances to food. So I took 1-2 capsules before every single meal. I started using the app Headspace. (meditation/stress relieving app). I started taking a Probiotic. And Beef Liver capsules too. In addition, I started to force myself to drink 90oz of water daily. ******big rewards from this.
Climbing up the Mountain phase:
My period took about 5+ months off HBC to regulate and get back to normal. So around the end of January… things started to get back to the way it was 12+ years ago all the acne included.
Following the Open until late April, I was doing a little bit of my gym’s programming but still stayed away from high intensity conditioning. Basically it was a lot of weightlifting.
By May, I was becoming really anxious to feel better and lose a bit of puffiness (aka inflammation). Keep in mind, I still had not lost a single pound since I gained the 15# back in October of last year. In May, I started a new training program that included weightlifting, functional strength, and body-building. It was lower intensity but very effective at making me feel capable and strong.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel phase:
By July 2019 I could feel a little shift in my energy and motivation. I started to become more energized. The things that I implemented were starting to benefit me. The digestive enzymes, the increased water consumption, increased calories 2300, more rest, less intense workouts, and more focus on managing stress and sleep.
I was encouraged.
But, I was ready to come off the digestive enzymes. I was nervous. I wanted to try a lovely but terrible high intensity workout. I wanted to see my face again in the mirror (not the inflamed, acne one I saw for several months). I was ready to really feel good.
Soon I realized I didn’t want to eat like I used to before all of this happened… I used to eat gluten free bread every morning, corn tortillas all the time, and not a huge amount of veggies. Currently, I really have enjoyed adding in more roots and fruits (potatoes, squash, carrots, etc) especially at breakfast. I decided to slowly ween myself off the digestive enzymes. It worked without any problems. My diet consisted of roots and fruits and a lot of protein and frequent meals. I stayed away from alcohol, gluten, dairy, gluten free stuff, corn, etc. It was very restrictive but I actually didn’t mind because everything was improving. Slowly everything is still improving.
1. Stress is real. If you don’t recognize what/who triggers your emotional/mental state, your physical state will eventually suffer.
2. Eating under maintenance calories (meaning restricting your calories/ dieting/cutting /hangry eating) for a long period of time *years* is detrimental to your metabolism and health There is no set time for your body to heal. It is something you cannot force. You simply have to decide to change your state and do it consistently until you start to feel awesome again.
3. Everyone needs a coach for the tough points in life. You have to surround yourself with people smarter than you, and people that will direct you when you get off, and help you find your way again.
4. Training 6 days a week is for no-one really… it’s too much. Often times, more is not better. REST allows your body to actually heal and recover and it is a must!
5. Drinking water is essential. It is not a choice. You must drink water to survive, thrive, and reach your goals.
6. It’s not the foods fault for making you feel a certain way it is the state of your physiology. Your body is rejecting what it is receiving. We basically are what we absorb and what we digest. If our system isn’t working well, our state is altered dramatically and we can get food intolerances.
Currently it’s been a year. An ENTIRE YEAR OF HEALING. If you would have told me back in August that under recovering (over-training), stress, quitting HBC would take over a year to heal from… I would have been very discouraged and I might not have put in all the hard work. I don’t say all of this to boast because some days I really didn’t want to put in the work and some days I didn’t believe that I was ever going to get better. I say this to really thank God for how it happened. He strengthened my faith. He shifted my identity consistently away from my abilities as an athlete/coach and helped me focus on my real identity in Him. That was a gift.
Today I am still healing. I still need God to remind me daily that my identity is NOT in who I am as a coach, athlete, or leader. I still haven’t lost the full 15 pounds I gained. I’ve lost some. I am still eating 2300 calories. I still take 2-3 rest days. I still only Metcon 1-2x a week. I’m still not a size 4 again.
And that’s okay because… I believe that God has given me the privilege to become strong. He has changed what strong looks like for me. Strong is not the (leanest Amanda), strong is the healthiest Amanda. The one who knows who her identity is in, the one who knows that faith is tested in the valleys, the one who knows that discipline and obedience go hand and hand. Strong is not small. Strong is BIG, big in Faith.
What a year of lessons…