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Juniper Journal

This is how weight loss can affect your period

Periods have the power to seriously impact our efforts to shed excess weight.

This is how weight loss can affect your period
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From decreased energy levels to food cravings, periods have the power to seriously impact our efforts to shed excess weight.

Changes to your menstrual cycle can happen for so many reasons. But if you're experiencing changes to your period as a result of diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, it might be time to find out more about the relationship between body weight composition and menstrual cycles.

The truth is that both underweight women and overweight or obese women can experience changes to their cycle that may indicate the need to gain weight or lose weight accordingly.

Luckily, we've put together the ultimate guide to how weight gain, weight loss, and body composition can affect your period, as well as some handy tips on getting your period back if you've lost it during your weight loss journey.

What are some of the effects of losing weight?

When trying to lose excess body weight, shedding those extra few kilos and lowering your body mass index (BMI) can change our lives in so many ways, from boosted self-esteem and confidence to better sleep and increased physical well-being.

When you're in a normal BMI range, losing extra body fat and maintaining a healthy weight can help you feel more energetic, improve your blood pressure levels, and reduce your risk of high cholesterol, cardiovascular events, and even cancer.

But did you know that weight loss can also impact menstrual cycles?

Losing weight and weight gain can cause irregular periods. Plus, both the extremes of weight loss and weight gain can affect the flow of your period, either making it lighter or heavier. These changes can even have an impact on your fertility levels, too.

While fluctuations in your cycle can be normal, if changes to your menstrual cycle have got you wondering, "Can weight loss affect your period?" it might be time to find out how our body's fat composition and menstrual cycle work together.

How does the menstrual cycle affect weight loss?

Body weight and composition are largely influenced by hormones. And because our hormones fluctuate throughout our menstrual cycle, so does our energy.

On top of that, if you're a regular bleeder then you're probably familiar with the pre-bleed slump often coupled with changes to appetite and food choices. These fluctuating energy levels and food cravings can often feel like they're working against us when trying to lose weight.

The good news? Studies suggest that taking some time to understand how your cycle impacts energy and dietary choices can help us to tailor a more strategic weight loss plan [1].

The premenstrual phase often leaves us vulnerable to overconsumption [2]. Thanks to the hormonal imbalance during this phase, resulting in lower serotonin, we often feel even worse about this overeating if it does happen, too.

This can be a tricky thing to navigate, but joining a community of women also on their own weight loss journey can be a great place to find support. Coupling this with proper medical advice, holistic treatment and support from GPs and lifestyle coaches can also be really beneficial.

Can losing weight make your period lighter?

Amenorrhea, or the absence of a menstrual cycle, can be caused by increased stress levels, excessive weight loss, and excessive or strenuous exercise [3]. Even when this doesn't cause bleeding to stop altogether, weight loss can make your period lighter [4].

While weight loss has been shown to improve irregular periods [5], particularly for those who may be carrying a little excess weight, it's important to remember that the most effective weight loss program is one that reduces your weight slowly and in a sustainable way.

Losing too much weight in a short period of time can change your period in an unhealthy way. If you're on a weight loss journey and find that your cycle has changed drastically, it might be time to seek a medical opinion from your healthcare provider.

How do I get my period back after losing weight?

If you've lost your period after dieting, you may be wondering how to get your period back after weight loss.

Because a lost period can be caused by so many things, the first step is to find out why it's happening.

If you're not pregnant, breastfeeding, or navigating menopause, here's a list of some of the most common causes of a lost period:

  • Your BMI is under 15
  • Your BMI is over 25
  • You're navigating an eating disorder
  • You're restricting calories, meaning undernutrition has impacted your insulin levels (which affect menstrual cycles)
  • You're exercising too much
  • You're on a medication that can impact your periods, such as antidepressants and blood pressure medication
  • Your body is still readjusting after changing or stopping birth control

Now that we know some of the reasons behind a lost period, let's look at ways to get your menstrual cycle back on track.

Eating healthy foods that are nutrient-dense is a great first step. Whether you're trying to lose weight or gain lean body mass to get your period back, your diet is the first place to start making changes.

With increasing research supporting the idea that diet quality can impact your metabolism as much as calorie count [6], it's important to choose foods that contain B vitamins, omega-3, and calcium-rich whole foods. These ingredients can help regulate metabolism and improve period regularity.

Stress might also be behind a skipped, irregular, or lost period. Stress that causes us to go into a 'fight or flight' mode can wreak havoc on our hormones, leading to an altered menstrual cycle.

But did you know that overdoing it at the gym can also cause this type of stress response?

Maintaining healthy food choices, and keeping a regular exercise regime that's coupled with plenty of rest can be the most effective way to both keep a healthy weight, keep your cycles regular, and help restore your lost period.

How can weight gain impact your period?

We've talked about how weight loss and excessive exercise habits can stop your periods altogether. But did you know that associated hormonal imbalances can also cause your flow to get heavier too?

How much body fat you have can be connected to how you experience your menstrual cycle. This is because storing fat in the abdominal region can affect your body's oestrogen production. Oestrogen excess can lead to a thickening of the uterine lining, making periods longer and heavier.

Women who are obese or are gaining weight rapidly often experience changes to their menstrual cycle, with studies showing that overweight women and those experiencing rapid weight gain might expect to see heavier periods [7].

Studies also show that there's a connection between weight gain and PCOS.

While it may not always be the case, studies show a similarity between the hyperandrogenism, higher testosterone and fasting insulin levels, as well as lower hormone-binding levels, of patients in the obese range and those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) [8].

Maintaining a normal weight and healthy body mass index (BMI) can help mitigate the root cause behind long, heavy, and painful periods.

Whether it's excessive weight gain, weight loss, or overdoing it at the gym, our weight loss efforts can impact our menstrual cycles and cause hormonal imbalances that can leave you feeling less like yourself. That's why it's important to find a holistic way to lose weight and maintain a healthy BMI.

Juniper's Weight Reset Program can help you say goodbye to those extra kilos, and provide access to professionals that can guide your weight loss journey in the healthiest way possible.

From providing access to breakthrough medication to connecting you with a community of like-minded women, Juniper's holistic approach will leave you feeling empowered, motivated, and ready to take the reigns of your health in a sustainable way.

Image credit: Getty Images

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