(For the females) — The fitness industry and our society in general are both filled with extremes. Everywhere you look, there is an advertisement for the latest diet, weight loss pill, “skinny wrap”, “skinny tea” (lol)… Pictures of stage lean physiques are thrown at us in each fitness magazine. Scrolling through instagram or Facebook, every single person you notice (remember… We have selective views of what we see) seems to be in prep, stepping on stage, on a diet.

Losing weight is celebrated. The majority of our society is overweight. So, weight loss and leanness can indicate health, vitality. Unless it goes too far.

For almost of all 2014 and 2015, I fell into this category. As balanced as my prep may have been by following flexible dieting the whole time, doing hardly any cardio, and trying to keep my health as a primary focus — there was still a huge part of the whole process that was messed up. What was it? The celebration of a lost period (sorry men if you are still reading)… The satisfaction I felt when I did not have a normal female cycle for over a year. HOW MESSED UP in hindsight.

Female health is so delicate. When I ran cross country and track in middle school, I was extremely dedicated to my endeavors. Less than a year after starting my serious track focus (I was 13 years old), I lost my period. I struggled with anorexia and binge eating for three years after that. For all of those three years, I did not have a cycle at all. I thought it was cool. — I thought: No need to worry about any of this. Losing my period meant that I as lean. And that was awesome. — Not really.

This is a subject that is not talked about much and it needs to be. If you are losing your period, having hormonal swings, night sweats (mmmm yes, have been there) – this is not good and should not be the goal. The absence of a normal cycle is called amenorrhoea and is often a result of disordered eating, high levels of activity, and low levels of body fat.

When I got my period back in high school, there were some interesting results. I actually grew an inch at 17 years old, finally had some curves, and felt a lot happier with more energy. Your body is not meant to be in starvation mode for long periods of time. Getting your period back and FEELING good should be the goal after a prep if it becomes irregular for some time. I would encourage all women to have a hormonal panel done and see a doctor at various increments throughout your prep and after. Do not become so obsessed with being lean that you forget to put your health first.

I am not an expert or a doctor – however, I can say that I do not want to sacrifice my reproductive health, hormones, and long term health for being in a state of leanness. If you work with a coach, this is something that should be discussed. Are your methods causing you severe hormonal fluctuations? Are you having a warped sense of what is “healthy”? I did at one point too. Health, longevity, LIFE. Do not focus on one moment on stage so much that you forget the rest.