Pressing pause on IVF and getting pregnant naturally

Mar 3, 2024 | Recovery Stories

Pressing pause on IVF and getting pregnant naturally 3 months later

Jean wrestled with an eating disorder and Hypothalamic Amenorrhea from her late teens until her 30s. She started working with Lindsey at age 30 with the hopes of becoming pregnant. After over a decade of period loss, excessive exercise, and a complicated relationship with food, she was not able to regain her cycle, but she is now pregnant with a healthy, happy, amazing baby girl! Jean lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and two dogs, and plans to get back into her work as a Pilates instructor at some point postpartum. 

In this episode:

  • Overcoming denial about disordered eating 
  • Hitting your breaking point in “quasi-recovery” 
  • When measuring food turns into a crutch that perpetuates under-eating 
  • Understanding what foods help you to feel your best through recovery 
  • Getting pregnant naturally on your first ovulation
  • The benefits of having a food freedom during pregnancy
  • How to avoid disordered eating relapse during pregnancy 
  • Why you need to break up with your scale ASAP 
  • Exposing the lie “I won’t care about weight gain once I’m pregnant”

Links:

Episode 18 from IVF to Natural Pregnancy 

Episode 15 How your Partner can Support You during Recovery

Have a question you want me to answer on the Podcast? Add in here

Connect with Lindsey Lusson: 

Instagram: @‌food.freedom.fertility
Website: www.foodfreedomandfertility.com/
Twitter: @LindseyLusson
Tiktok: @food.freedom.fertility

Transcript:

Jean  00:00

I fell in love with sweet potato fries during period recovery. And I never felt bad after that because I stopped feeling guilty. So once I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t feel sick. So it was mostly a mind game.

Lindsey Lusson  00:12

I think so many times the idea of eating more for period recovery and including things like french fries, cake, and milkshakes, as part of the recovery process gets misconstrued. We’re saying, do what you need to with that food because we do want to remove the guilt aspects and we do want to take those foods off a pedestal so that you can naturally learn moderation, whatever that looks like for you. But it’s really hard to establish that foods make you feel good or bad when you’re stuck in restriction, disordered eating, and guilt with associating with those foods as bad. Because we talk about the brain-gut connection.

Lindsey Lusson  00:55

Welcome to the Period Recovery and Fertility Podcast. Here we discuss the challenging, rewarding, and life-changing process of recovering your period and finding freedom with food and exercise. Whether you’re hoping to regain your cycle to get your health back on track or you’re ready to become a momma, this podcast is for you. While the recovery process isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, it’s my hope to bring you both information and inspiration during your own recovery journey. I’m your host, registered dietitian, and fellow HA woman, Lindsey Lusson. 

Lindsey Lusson  01:26

Hey friends welcome back to the Period Recovery and Fertility Podcast. I have my past client Jean on today. Jean wrestled with an eating disorder and hypovolemic amenorrhea from her late teens until her 30s. At age 30, she started working with Lindsey with hopes of becoming pregnant. After over a decade of period loss excessive exercise and a complicated relationship with food, Jean was not only able to regain her cycle, but she is now 32 weeks pregnant with a healthy happy, amazing baby girl. Jean lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and two dogs and plans to get back to work as aPilates instructor at some point postpartum after she has her baby. Welcome, Jean!

Jean  02:02

Hi! Thank you so much for having me on today.

Lindsey Lusson  02:05

I am so excited to catch up with you. It’s been a little bit since we got to chat and I assume you guys got some kind of memorable weather, winter weather this past week in Dallas. Is that right?

Jean  02:16

Yeah, yeah, it apparently hit record lows, but in the summer it hit record highs. So it’s been up and down.

Lindsey Lusson  02:25

Right and not being a Texas native. What did you think of our Texas snow days this year? 

Jean  02:31

I love it. Because I am originally from Tennessee so we didn’t have a ton of snow. But we lived in Colorado for over two years. So I was like, Oh, this is winter. This is what winter is like. So for me, it felt normal. So I love it. I like the cold. I’m way more annoyed with the heat. 

Lindsey Lusson  02:51

It’s tough to trade-off. I mean, I was missing a colleague of mine who lives in New Jersey yesterday. And we were kind of commiserating over the cold because Texas gets cold in the winter. But then I was like, and it’s 65 today. So I love some Texas winters because we don’t stay too cold too long. 

Jean  02:51

Yeah, it’s been a very mild winter compared to other ones I’ve experienced. So I have enjoyed it quite.

Lindsey Lusson  03:11

Yeah, amazing. Well, let’s get into a little bit more of your story, Jean. So you came to me over the summer, and you were ready to get pregnant and the fertility doctor or clinic that you have been working with basically said it’s time for IVF and you’re not ready to do it. Tell us a little bit more about last summer, where you were at mentally, and then we can maybe even go back in time and start talking about how this all happened. 

Jean  03:45

Sure, yeah, last summer. I’m 31 now so when I was I think 28/29 I got the baby bug. But I was in what I now know is like quasi-recovery. So functional, but I didn’t have a period. I was on birth control. So I was told by a different OB, “Oh, it’s fine if you don’t have a period that just happens if you’re on birth control for a long time. It thins your lining, don’t worry about it.” And I kind of knew I was on the fence like maybe she’s great, but there might be something else going on. So I did go off birth control and I never got my cycle back. 

Jean  04:21

And then I went to another clinic and we have moved around a lot so I’ve seen a lot of different doctors. But they said, “Okay, let’s give it three months.” Another one said, “well let’s give it six months”. Then we moved again and it was kind of like let’s try a fertility treatment. So I did go through I believe four rounds. I went through three rounds of Clomid, I know and then they started trying me on Menopur. 

Lindsey Lusson  04:55

They wanted to get your estrogen up because that was something that we worked on cycling you also when we started working.

Jean  05:01

Yes, it was Menopur. Thank you. So I think I did one or two cycles of that with a doctor here in Texas. That actually did nothing. I didn’t even grow a follicle with Menopur. And I was injecting myself every night at the same time. So that wasn’t working. With Clomid, I did ovulate, but the pregnancy part was not successful. 

Jean  05:01

So eventually, they said, the next thing we want to try is we could do a ton of Menopur, way more than I was taking. And they’re like, “We don’t know whether or not that’s going to work. Or we can do IVF.” I remember the doctor drawing this chart, and she was like, “Or we can do IVF, and I’m pretty sure that will be successful.” So I had all this information. I drove home. It was a really dark time for me, mentally.

Jean  05:53

It was not fun at all. And I think one of the worst parts for me was trying to explain it to my husband. Because I think when you have HIV, you deep down know that it’s kind of you, but maybe you’re not fully ready to admit it to yourself, or you don’t really know. I was kind of in the phase; I was 80% ready to admit it was me, and it was something I was doing. And also just more on the side of I don’t even know where to begin on how to fix it because I had tried. I had gained five pounds on my own. 

Jean  06:11

I mean, I could do that. So it was like there were definitely questions about it. And they asked me about nutrition not about nutrition, not about so much what I was eating, more so on exercise and a little bit about maybe you should eat more protein. I don’t think they knew the extent of what I was doing. And I also don’t think they would have known the extent of what it would take to recover.

Jean  06:35

So I had tried it sort of and I had sort of backed off of exercise. I started doing the low-impact rides on the peloton, so I was sort of trying but not really getting there at all. I was kind of thinking, well, maybe this will work because I am “backing off”, right? But those low-impact rides, they still keep your heart rate elevated for quite a while and I’m pushing it way past what they want you to do on low impact anyways. Regardless, it’s not like super successful, and me getting my cycle back on my own. 

Jean  06:35

So I basically told the fertility doctors, we had a Skype with them and my husband, and I know, he was pretty upset about it, but he didn’t quite know where to go either. Because for him we’ve been married for so long, I’ve always been this way.  I don’t expect someone to know all about women’s health and periods and all that kind of stuff. So he’s just kind of going with what the doctor is saying. So that was really hard for me because it was you kind of know, it’s you. And so I was living in that tension. And so I just decided we’re just going to take a break from the fertility doctors. 

Jean  07:42

Because it was also,  IVF is  30, 40 50,000. I mean, it’s really expensive.  That is just a side note of a big hit of whoa, if you’re gonna go down this path, you’re really committing to not trying to work out recovery. And that’s really expensive and could potentially be unsuccessful. It was a lot, it was a pretty dark time, mentally. I wanted to just take a break. And I remember that was in, I don’t know, somewhere in  February or March of last year. So I was kind of cobbling along for a couple of months. And then I remember I just started searching because at one point, the fertility doctors did say maybe you should see a nutritionist who could help. 

Lindsey Lusson  08:00

I’m curious if there were questions about your nutrition and your lifestyle during your time pursuing fertility treatment. 

Jean  08:00

Yeah, there was the one in Texas and then another one asked. There were questions about your exercise. And so I would say, 45 minutes a day or whatever, and, oh, that’s fine. That’s totally fine. So they’re usually looking at exercise as a very positive thing for someone who’s trying to get pregnant. Also, I have to take responsibility for not being 100% like it’s a two-way street with a doctor. 

Jean  08:00

You have to be, I think, If I had told them everything, and some of the stuff I probably didn’t even know myself until I went through recovery. If I had told them everything he would have maybe dug deeper but I didn’t have an abnormally low BMI. I mean, they’re wearing you with tennis shoes and clothes on you just look super thin. But they would say you’re pretty thin. One told me, “Try gaining five pounds.”

Lindsey Lusson  10:03

Honestly, it’s outside of their scope. I think there’s a huge need for fertility clinics to have a referral system with registered dieticians because nutrition and fertility are so intricately linked. And knowing that there is a decent chunk, anywhere from about 15 to 20% of people who have actively pursuing fertility treatment at one point in time, who actually do fit the criteria for an eating disorder. 

Lindsey Lusson  10:30

So I’m pretty passionate about trying to bridge that gap. It is without their scope. There should never be a doctor or a nurse who starts going over caloric intake, macronutrient breakdown, or nutrient timing with you. However, there’s a real linkage, obviously, with this condition. So it sounds like there was a little gentle nudge that maybe there was something here. However, it sounds like more of it was dismissive. But I’m curious, Jean, in retrospect, you said I wasn’t being totally honest with them. What do you think led you to withhold information? 

Jean  11:09

Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think it goes back to not being able to admit it to myself, not being maybe ready to dive in and get over it. There’s so much mental stuff going on. I’ve had it since my early teens, and I was 30 when I started doing this. So this is  11 years, 12, 13 years of a way of thinking. 

Jean  11:09

I think it was the fear of changing that way of thinking. I mean not having that eating disorder mindset basically would change my entire life, my entire perspective, like it would be a really big jump for my brain. And I just couldn’t really handle it. So it felt like it was almost easier to pursue fertility treatments than to tackle all of the mental stuff. So it was, yeah, that’s I think that’s definitely what held me back for sure. 

Lindsey Lusson  12:09

And I know listeners can relate to that. In fact, I had a past client of mine, Whitney, if anyone wants to refer back to this episode, where she actually shares, she’s a mom of two now, but her first pregnancy was IVF. And she told me in retrospect that she chose IVF  because it was the easy way out of not having to really deal with her food and body image issues. And then for baby number two, she just really felt called to. 

Lindsey Lusson  12:34

I mean, first of all, she only got one embryo. We’re starting over scratch is gonna be another $30,000 for baby number two, but also too I think she probably like herself, and we’ll get into this here in a sec, is just kind of felt this call to, this isn’t what my body should be able to do this. This isn’t natural. This isn’t normal. I don’t need this medication. I can choose to go that route. But in my heart of hearts, I kind of know that I don’t need it. 

Lindsey Lusson  13:02

What do you think led you to the breaking point of saying, “I am scared? I don’t want to change my lifestyle. I don’t want to get into all the nitty-gritty details of my eating disorder that might still be lingering. But I’m going to do it?” What led you to go from this place of being scared and stuck to ready to take action still scared?

Jean  13:26

Yeah. IVF discussion was a big, I wouldn’t even say a wake-up call. I already knew there was a lot of stuff going on. And I had been internally struggling for a long time. So this just felt like a big fork in the road for me. I think I could have gone the IVF route, but choosing to go through recovery instead.

Jean  13:51

I mean, there’s a lot of factors that kind of went into it. But sometimes when I’m making really big decisions in life, sometimes the one that is making you more uncomfortable, deep down is the one you kind of know you need to do. It was tough, I knew I had to do it. Part of it was I knew my body doesn’t need IVF and I know it. 

Jean  14:17

So no matter how sure you are on that spectrum, I feel like if you have HA, you’re usually pretty sure that you can do it and I knew part of it was I don’t want to go through, how much time is it gonna take to go through recovery and then I will be pregnant forever.

Jean  14:33

But that was another battling voice but choosing to go through recovery, I also had a maybe. I’m not a doctor. So I don’t know how valid this fear is. But I was afraid that if I went through IVF and it was successful, that if I still didn’t know how to properly nourish my body, I would harm my baby. That was very scary to me. I know a little bit more now. to where the most likely scenario would have been like, I would have just been in an even worse spot postpartum.

Jean  15:08

But still, I felt I was a little bit afraid that I wouldn’t eat properly for my baby because you never really got over your eating disorder before getting pregnant. So that was a really big concern. And I think the ultimate decision was just, that I felt I was really ready to be a mom, I needed to make the brave decision for my child and my future children. I needed to grow up. 

Jean  15:38

And I know that’s a little bit harsh, but that was, that was a mental thing, it’s time to step up, and grow up and be a mom and make the right decision for your body and your babies. You can’t have this constant haunting of an eating disorder, let’s say you have IVF, and then you have a baby, and then you’re still obsessively counting calories in front of your child, that doesn’t work. That’s not real life. That’s not healthy. And I don’t want them to observe that. I just couldn’t really do it anyway. You get exhausted.

Lindsey Lusson  16:12

It is so exhausting. And I was thinking about this, either this morning or yesterday. But I think that everybody has a breaking point. Those who recover have a pretty pivotal breaking point, whether it’s a massive sports injury, stress fracture, or a bone scan that shows that you basically have osteoporosis at age 29. Relationships falling apart, because the rigidity of your eating disorder can really be damaging their, or fertility or a lot of things. 

Lindsey Lusson  16:54

But I do think that everybody has a breaking point where you realize that what I’m doing is unhealthy. What I’m doing is pushing me away from my goal of being a star athlete, becoming a mom being the person that I want to be in relationships that I’m in. And I think that that breaking point is really hard. But I think that that’s what it takes to get somebody to go to move out of the quasi-recovery. Because people live in quasi-recovery for years.

Jean  17:25

Yeah, definitely. And I was there for a long time. And I will say the relationship part was a big part of it, too, because it felt like it wasn’t just me anymore. This isn’t just my thing. This is now affecting not only my goal of becoming a mother but my husband’s goal of becoming a father. He really wanted and wants, and it’s something I really want. So it’s a little bit different when you’re just holding yourself back from your goals. 

Jean  17:52

But when you have to watch the one person in your life that you love more than anything, also be held back because of something you’re struggling to get over. It’s a huge pain point and a big motivator to be like something has to break here, something has to change. And there’s a lot of fear and anxiety and uncertainty on the path of recovery. But if I don’t do this now, I might not ever get pregnant. I might never ever be able to be a mom because I’m not getting over this. And I’m not the only one who’s suffering from that kind of decision. 

Jean  18:30

It becomes not worth it anymore. Looking a certain way becomes not worth it anymore. So there are a lot of reasons that I chose to go through recovery eventually that pushed me over the edge. But I would say the main one was just I wanted my baby so badly, I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted a family so badly. I think I wanted a healthy family and I wanted to be healthy for that family. So it was very much that was the push for me over the edge.

Jean  19:02

 If I had kids in the future, I’d want them to be brave too. I want to start being the person that I would want them to be, I want them to make the hard decision, I want you to make the hard choice that’s better for you and the people you love in the future. That honestly made me start my pregnancy journey. And a lot better mindset because I felt like okay, when push came to shove I made the hard decision I did the harder thing to be the best person I could be for my kids. 

Jean  19:33

So I already felt like a great mom. I know I can do to the best of my ability, the right thing at the right moment for my family. I think that was a main motivator to just knowing, hey, if you get pregnant naturally like this, you’re going to feel stronger and better probably for making that decision instead of taking maybe what was at the time what you consider an easier way out.

Jean  20:01

And that’s nothing against if you go through IVF like everyone has their own journey. So I definitely want to say  I was very close to going through IVF. Too very, very close. But it did make it did help me start off a pregnancy journey a little more confident in myself as a decision maker for me and my baby and my family that I felt I could make a little bit braver decisions, honestly.

Lindsey Lusson  20:26

It sounded like it was in alignment with the person that you wanted it to be, not the person that your eating disorder was forcing you to be. 

Jean  20:33

Yes, exactly. It was like you feel chained down, and I just couldn’t be.  That just wasn’t working anymore. For me at least it stopped working when it really started to affect the people that I loved and my deep, deep goals. There’s only so long you can live in quasi-recovery where you can achieve a lot of stuff. Like you said, it’s like a breaking point. 

Lindsey Lusson  20:59

Yeah, well, let’s talk about actual recovery. It sounds like in all of this decision to pause on IVF to really get support with addressing the underlying issue, It sounds like there was a recognizing that what you were doing wasn’t healthy. And when we first started working together, your diet was very vegetable-heavy, very lacking in carbs. 

Lindsey Lusson  21:28

There was a lot of food coming in. But it wasn’t really what your body needed to be able to get your period back. How was that transition in recognizing that? Because it sounds like we kind of had it in the back of our head and yet, we were still doing a lot of the things that felt safe and comfortable. 

Lindsey Lusson  21:46

Tell us a little bit about just the transition of, was there a light bulb moment when you were, “Oh, I couldn’t should be eating carbs. I might have an unhealthy relationship with food still”. What were any light bulb moments? Or was it a slow transition? And tell us a little bit of just how you mentally process through that. 

Jean  22:05

Yeah, I think a huge lightbulb moment for me was just the amount of food, amount of fats, amount of carbs, and how much your body is really can and meant to process in terms of eating. So I think I was always afraid of being too full. I didn’t like that feeling or feeling like I had over-eaten at all. So those kinds of mental blocks were harder to work through.

Jean  22:35

I think I could look at the stuff my friends were eating and I could tell they were just eating more than I was eating, more than two tablespoons of pistachios exactly on your salad for your “healthy fats”. So it’s like, just a lot of learning about amounts. And this is where I go back to the fertility doctors because I don’t think they would understand this either. The amount of food you really have to eat. For me, once I started, it was kind of a chugging train, like it started a little bit slow. 

Jean  23:07

And I was a little bit hesitant. But once it got going, my body took over. It was very much easier once my body kind of went on its own track. Basically, once my mind kind of got out of the way I could just eat and start incorporating fear foods. And then after doing it once, I was usually okay. If I could just do it. And that was my big thing.  If I could just not measure up my cereal one morning, I could do it the next morning. 

Jean  23:35

If I could just do it. And so taking those little steps, pouring stuff into bowls, pouring milk into bowls, throwing nuts on a salad, ordering a takeout that you don’t know that the restaurant doesn’t give you those little calorie count things on the DoorDash or whatever this ordering something that looks good. If I just took those little steps, if I did it once I could usually do it again. 

Jean  23:59

And then it would become more habitual and I would have less and less and less of a hang up about it. It helps when you eat a fear food meal, but your body doesn’t immediately explode into obesity and you’re fine. Your body processes stuff. And it’s totally fine. So I think it was just having a little bit extra support to say it’s okay to eat this kind of stuff. Realizing that I don’t actually feel bad after I eat it. I think it was just a mental thing of guilt. My body actually feels totally fine. 

Lindsey Lusson  24:40

Let’s camp out there for a second. So to recap, exposure therapy was really helpful for you. Having someone push you to say, “Hey Jean, you can eat more than two tablespoons of pistachios, and hey, by the way, measuring that out every single time that’s disordered that’s not healthy”. 

Lindsey Lusson  24:57

So somebody comes to you outside of it. And then you actually doing the hard thing and realizing that the biggest irrational fear doesn’t happen was evidence and proof that this can be okay. Yeah, let’s camp out for a second on the idea of, I can’t eat X, Y, and Z because those foods don’t agree with my body, those foods cause bloating, those foods make me feel bad.

Lindsey Lusson  25:20

What were those foods? And what were the lies that you were entertaining in your head that were preventing you from eating those foods and therefore eating enough to support your fertility journey? 

Jean  25:33

Yeah, probably sugar was a bigger one for me. And I will say even to this day, if I eat a large amount of sugar, it doesn’t feel great. So if I had a big piece of cake or whatever, sometimes my body still to this day, doesn’t love a giant influx of sugar. 

Jean  25:58

Back then if I ate sugar because my body was so probably desperate for anything other than a vegetable that it was just kind of like, it probably did freak it out a little bit. So I probably didn’t feel great, but it was more so that guilt because of way back and my eating disorder I have a lot more issues with food guilt. And I think the guilt truly does make your stomach hurt. It does make you feel awful. It does encompass you to where you kind of associate that with… 

Jean  26:40

So that was interesting to differentiate from so it would be like that or something more greasy. I eat a lot of sweet potato fries. I fell in love with sweet potato fries during period recovery. 

Lindsey Lusson  26:52

That’s something that you wouldn’t have previously, correct? 

Jean  26:55

Correct! No universe would I have a sweet potato fry at lunch. There’s just no world and I really did fell in love with them. There’s a great takeout place in Texas that has a really good sweet potato fry. So I fell in love with them there. And I never felt bad after those. Because I stopped feeling guilty. So once I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t feel sick. So it was really mostly a mind game. I think if I had it like, Oh, if I had a burger and fries and the milkshake right now, I don’t know how it feels. I might not feel great, but I think I would be fine. 

Lindsey Lusson  27:34

I want to speak a little bit into this right now. Because you brought in the idea of “I still don’t feel great if I eat sugar or eat a certain amount of sugar.” I think that that makes sense, right?  I think so many times the idea of eating more for period recovery, and including things like french fries, cake and milkshakes, as part of the recovery process gets misconstrued. Because people take it as Oh, you’re saying eat cupcakes all day long. I am absolutely not saying that. If you want to, that’s fine. 

Lindsey Lusson  28:11

But I think in time, and this is kind of the whole crux of intuitive eating. And where it gets really twisted and misunderstood in the social media world is we’re saying do what you need to with that food because we do want to remove the guilt aspects. And we do want to take those foods off a pedestal so that you can naturally learn moderation, whatever that looks like for you. 

Lindsey Lusson  28:33

But it’s really hard to establish that foods make you feel good or bad when you’re stuck in restriction, disordered eating, and guilt with associating with those foods as bad because we talk about the brain-gut connection. If you are going into an eating situation thinking rice is so horrible for me, they’re clogging my arteries, I’m going to have a horrible gut reaction because I eat this food, you probably will because you have overstimulated your nervous system. And when you’re doing that, when you’re moving into a fight or flight state, you are not going to digest food as well. Your body is getting ready to run from the bear. It’s not here to chill out and digest food properly. 

Lindsey Lusson  29:21

So I think that it’s really important in the recovery process to have someone to help you process through the guilt. Remove the guilt so that you can get to a place where you are, Jean, of figuring out what foods do help me to feel my best. 

Jean  29:38

Yeah, correct. And I think a nuanced thing you get a little bit later during recovery eating is don’t want the food versus afraid of the food. So that is a big hurdle to come through. “Do I not want this or not so secretly afraid of this food?” So I think it would be really, it’s really important during your recovery journey to try and hit at least once all of your fear foods if you can. Just to try and get at least one of them in during that three to five-month period. Just so at some point start to make the distinction between, I don’t want a cupcake right now. And I’m afraid of eating cupcakes. So that’s what’s going to be extremely important in the rest of your life. And also really important in pregnancy as well.

Lindsey Lusson  30:35

For sure, and we can even go there for a second because your food likes, and preferences will change during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester when 80% of women do experience some degree of nausea. And what actually suits a very nauseous stomach is carbohydrates. So if you’re afraid of these foods, or you “don’t like these foods”, but there’s that underlying guilt or fear. That might be hard for you when you are entering into pregnancy. Do you want to share any of your personal experiences with kind of that whole idea, Jean? 

Jean  31:11

Yeah, so I mean, I miraculously got pregnant on my first ovulatory cycle. So I still haven’t had a period.

Lindsey Lusson  31:23

Which is kind of funny, but also wonderful that it was the first time and I think that this is so many people’s dream recovery story. I don’t even have to worry about getting a period because I just get pregnant, like, Oh, amazing. Would that be? 

Jean  31:37

Yeah, I mean, there are pros and cons to both sides, for sure. We can talk about that in a little bit if you want to. But in terms of the eating in the first trimester, so I say I just gave the I got pregnant on the first cycle to help put listeners in the mindset of like, I had just gone through three months of recovery eating and immediately went into thoughts of pregnancy nutrition. So it was a very big, it was kind of a mind-twisting moment in time, because I also was not… 

Jean  32:09

I had heard everyone says oh, the nausea, but I had never experienced it on my own before. So I was like, yeah, not sure I get it, okay. And it was Whoa, hit me way harder than I really fully comprehended until it happened to me personally. So it was hard in the sense of when I was going through recovering eating and disordered eating through a quote, unquote, aversion to food, and now I’m experiencing a real aversion to food. So I had to quickly differentiate. Make sure I was truly aversed rather than just my eating disorder creeping in. So that was a lot of mental figuring it out.  Some of them I was averse to were things I knew I would have eaten if broccoli was disgusting to me.

Lindsey Lusson  33:01

Right. Roasted red petals normally would roast me out. And my first pregnancy and it took a long time to get over that aversion. So pregnancy eating is really, really different. And what did you find? I mean just to bring things full circle here during your recovery from HA, we worked on expanding your diet, and we worked on challenging those fear foods. We talked about the importance of including those foods. And so once you were pregnant, how did it feel relying on, what were your safe foods that helped combat the nausea or help or foods that you can keep down? What were those foods for you? 

Jean  33:41

Yeah, foods that I could keep down. It really kind of changed day by day. I really did crave a lot of fruit for real. I really liked fruit in the first trimester. And then I don’t know why but I ate cottage cheese by the bucket. And then by the second trimester, I didn’t like it anymore. I don’t like it. I don’t want to eat it. So I don’t know where that came from. I will say like it was it was day by day. 

Jean  34:14

And it was very experimental with the eating in the first trimester because you sometimes wouldn’t be sure. That’s where recovery eating actually really supported me in the first trimester. Because before there was no way I could take a bite of something and then put it down and say, Oh, I don’t want that because I wouldn’t know how many calories I just consumed, and that would have freaked me out and destroyed my entire day. There’s no way I could have just taken a bite and then been like no or I guess. 

Jean  34:45

So being able to just have the freedom to decide what sounded good and what felt good no matter what it was was what really helped me in the first trimester because I was used to deciding on a whim what I wanted to eat now, or kind of going with my gut or go,  moving more towards that intuitive eating model and not worrying about calories. You start to worry a little bit about nutrition, once you’re pregnant. I at least got kind of like, Oh, got it, but the baby is fine. It was fine 

Lindsey Lusson  35:24

Right. I’d love to talk a little bit more about that. And then we’ll go ahead and rewind and talk more about the three months up until the positive pregnancy test, because I feel like listeners are really going to want to know how did you got here. What was it like? Did you experience discomfort with weight gain or all the things that people are probably struggling with during recovery?

Lindsey Lusson  35:45

But I also feel this piece is really important because once you were pregnant, we were still working together. And our conversations quickly shifted from I’m going to give myself full and total permission to eat and my body’s changing, but I’m gonna love and take care of her. And this is all for the baby and this is wonderful to how many milligrams of vitamin C I need to eat to make sure that my baby is healthy. How do I eat the perfect pregnancy diet? Talk to us a little bit about that shift and how you were able to move through that without relapsing back into to disordered eating. 

Jean  36:20

Sure. Yeah. So it’s weird. I don’t know if this happens to all women. But if it was just me, but when you find out you’re pregnant, and then suddenly you just get very concerned with pregnancy, nutrition, and oh, my god, am I eating enough choline for my baby? I laugh about it now. But it felt very real. Your hormones just erupt into a very emotional state.

Jean  36:48

And if you have a predilection for anxiety, as I do, and most people with HA do, that is something that your brain, anxiety can get higher and worse in pregnancy because of all those emotions. So your brain is like going to glom on to something. I just went through three months of recovery eating and what I noticed was, okay, I’ve had , 13 years or whatever, of this coping mechanism, and I don’t have my coping mechanism anymore. I can’t count my calories, all that stuff is done. 

Jean  37:23

So now my brain is what can I freak out about? Now let’s go into pregnancy nutrition, that sounds like something I can cling to, to try and control. You want your baby to be healthy. So you have all of that like, kind of going on at the same time in your brain. I don’t know when I let go It’s kind of it did. I was like that a lot more in the first trimester. And I think part of it was just living through it, and not eating perfectly at all, but still seeing that my baby was fine. So I think honestly,  I kind of went on the flip side in the first trimester looking back. 

Jean  38:09

I honestly wish I hadn’t made myself eat as much as I did. Because I was so afraid of not eating enough for my baby, that I really pushed through a lot of body signals of we don’t want this and that’s okay. So coming straight off of recovery eating into pregnancy was very, that part was difficult. Looking back. I wish that sometimes I would have just drank a Sprite for dinner and been done. Knowing what I know, now the baby would have been fine.

Lindsey Lusson  38:41

Must hit 900 milligrams of choline.

Jean  38:43

Yeah, yeah.  And  I just really felt like I had to eat. So I think you can definitely go on the flip side with it. If I’m ever pregnant again, I will definitely lean more into the it’s is okay, if you don’t want any food right now, or you just want half a bagel or just. That’s fine. It’s really, really okay. Your baby is going to take the nutrients stored so that you have. You don’t have to force yourself to eat something you actually don’t want to eat. So that’s where knowing the difference between don’t want and fear really comes in handy. 

Jean  39:26

That’s where learning intuitive eating really comes in handy because it goes both ways. But also feeling comfortable intuiting I actually don’t want this right now and I can let myself just watch an episode of Friends and not eat for a little bit because I don’t feel good and that’s okay, your body just wants to rest. It’s fine. So just like letting the scales tip in both directions. Because being afraid to eat is not fun but being afraid of not eating enough is also not fun and still a little bit disordered.

Jean  40:00

So just letting yourself live in your equilibrium during that time is very helpful. I know that I learned a very good lesson in this pregnancy and I’ll know it for the next one, I’ll feel a lot more comfortable because you live through it, and then eventually you get your ultrasounds and they, they weigh you and they weigh your baby, and you start to feel moving and they’re fine. You know, so you get a lot of good feedback, where you’re okay, everything, it’s okay, you just kind of have to live through it helps you let go. 

Lindsey Lusson  40:33

Yeah, I feel like we have so far painted a relatively very rosy picture of you going from no period to [inaudible] three months. Let’s move our minds back into the timeframe from June 1st to August 1st. What do you think was the hardest part of that time for you? 

Jean  41:00

I’ve told people this was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. You kind of go through a honeymoon phase, and the first few weeks, you’re like, oh, this was great. I know. Because it’s before you start putting on weight. So you’re just getting whatever you want with you basically. And then the weight starts to creep up. I had a great moment with just a private moment with myself where I drove my scale to a nearby dumpster and threw it in at the very beginning of period recovery. And I’m sorry, I know, that probably wasn’t the proper way to dispose of the scale, environmentally. But I need that for me. 

Lindsey Lusson  41:40

I think psychologically, it’s a very healthy way to pay tribute to the damage that this life has caused in your life for almost 3 decades. 

Jean  41:56

Yeah.  I’m not going to “hide it from myself”. Not going to put it in a cabinet, I’m throwing it. I didn’t even put it in my own trashcan. I drove to a specific place and threw it in a dumpster. So that was an important, a little bit of a great step. And I felt very empowered by that. I remember feeling really empowered by it.

Jean  42:24

And it helped a lot, I would highly recommend ditching the scale if you’re just starting recovery. I know how strong you think you are, and how much you think in your brain that you’re okay. But it’s just easier to throw it away. It’s going to make it easier. So just a side note, I recommend doing that. And it helps me a lot. 

Jean  42:46

I think the hardest part back to your question about going through recovery was that I met my husband when I was 18. We met in college freshman year. I was pretty deep into an eating disorder at that point. But the thing that people don’t quite understand about eating disorders is you can have one but still have joy in your life. Like good things can happen. You’re living a life. I went through it, I fell in love, we got married. So I was like I looked at it kind of basically a certain way throughout our whole marriage. 

Jean  43:23

I had a lot of hang-ups about  I’ve looked the same way to my husband ever since he’s met me, he doesn’t know me and the body that I know I actually have. That was a big scary thing for me. Like oh, what’s my husband gonna think? What are all the people in my life who know me as the super healthy person gonna think; who am I without this label; who am I without an eating disorder? Who am I without exercise? Those hurdles were very difficult to get over. It was a lot of conversations with my husband about that kind of stuff. It just puts you in a very vulnerable place. You know, it’s scary. 

Lindsey Lusson  44:10

We already kind of touched on this at the very beginning. But just the idea that your male partner is probably never going to understand all of this stuff that you’re going through. In fact, we have a whole episode on how your partner can better support you through recovery that will link in the show notes. I interviewed my husband and I think that there are some things that you and your partner can work on to make sure you’re supporting each other. 

Lindsey Lusson  44:36

Obviously, your husband was amazingly supportive. But I think that it’s also really important to be connecting with other people who are struggling with this so that you’re feeling not you’re crazy and Jean started just to bring listeners up to speed. We started with private one one-on-one coaching. Then as you got pregnant, we moved you into one of my phase two group programs where you actually able to connect with other people who had similar struggles. What was that transition like for you going from I’m the only one, this is my singular issue to recognizing, hey, there’s a whole group of women that also struggle with a lot of the same things?

Jean  45:12

Yeah, that was very freeing for me as well, because I did feel really alone. I think at the beginning of recovery, I just wasn’t ready to be in a group. I talked about it as I was in a really dark space in my head, and I wasn’t ready to talk to other people about it, too. That’s why I opted for the private coaching. I just couldn’t handle a group thing at that moment. But after I got through some stuff, once I saw the other women. I remember there’s one woman, she was in Europe or something like all across the world, I was like, Oh, this isn’t just me. There are people everywhere like New York and India. And I was like, Oh, these people exist. I’m not just this crazy person on an island alone. 

Jean  45:59

Because I didn’t know that there were, I mean, I know it’s still a very a subset of the population. But it was way bigger than I realized. And it was, in its own way comforting to know that I was not the only person who had probably struggled in their marriage with their husband because they were trying to get pregnant and seeing other women who were trying to get pregnant. And I was like, I understand those conversations you’ve had to have with your spouse, that kind of thing. That was very nice to just know that you’re not alone. It was good for me to feel that.

Lindsey Lusson  46:38

I think it’s a really important part of the recovery process. Because a lot of this can feel isolating. I think it’s also easier when you’re doing this solo to compartmentalize recovery, thinking, this is just three months, this is just three months of my life. And then once I am pregnant, I can shut that door. And we don’t ever have to talk about this, again. When the reality is getting recovered, getting fully recovered, moving out of quasi-recovery from an eating disorder is a lengthy process. And it’s an ongoing process. I think that having a community is a very, very, very vital piece of fully getting recovered and staying recovered. Which is why I eventually want everyone in some kind of group and community. 

Jean  47:24

Yeah, definitely because you get recovered. But my personal recovery right now is still ongoing so it’s nice to have, even when I was I was pregnant while in the group. So just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you’re fully recovered. You still have stuff that you have hang-ups on. And I remember listening to a podcast that you did with another woman, I think her name was Lauren. And I did that at the very beginning of my recovery journey. She said, like, oh, I still have hang-ups. And I was like, wow, she’s pregnant. She’s not perfect. You’re not perfect.

Lindsey Lusson  48:00

But I think that that’s also a lie that a lot of people in recovery cling to when I get pregnant, I’m not going to struggle with food, I’m going to be totally okay with gaining weight, I’m not going to have any body image hang-ups, because weight gain is going to feel purposeful, because I’m pregnant. Was that your experience initially? Tell us a little bit about what you would say to somebody who believes in my experience myth about pregnancy. 

Jean  48:28

Yes, I would definitely relate to this. More so back when I was at my fork in the road of deciding whether or not to do IVF or going the natural route. Because in my mind, at that point in time, I thought, Oh, if I do IVF and I get pregnant, I’m not going to have any of this anymore. It’ll just magically go away, like, I’ll be pregnant. So I’ll be okay, eating whatever I want and I’ll be okay, gaining weight, and it’ll be totally fine. 

Jean  48:58

I’m not going to have these issues. But now going through recovery, having gone through the phase of gaining weight, I would have definitely had a lot of issues with it. It would have been really hard. I think it would have been way harder if I was already pregnant. So going through pre-pregnancy was definitely better. But now that I am pregnant, the weight gain is still, it’s still really hard. Like I still don’t weigh myself. I still don’t have a scale at home, but the midwives weigh me and I just tell them not to tell me what it is. 

Lindsey Lusson  49:30

And I think that that’s great. Having been through three pregnancies a friend of mine and I on the podcast recently kind of commiserated over this.  It’s okay to kind of feel kind of blocked during pregnancy, right? Like, I think that people can have a tendency to glamorize pregnancy as this time where you feel like a goddess and everything’s really beautiful and you have a bumblebee pregnancy and if you don’t, then you’re wrong or you’re bad. Or you’re not doing it right. And so I think that people with body image issues, speaking candidly here, can really struggle during pregnancy. It’s not about not struggling, but it’s about making sure that you have the tools, the resources, and the level of support that you need to not let that be a spot for you to relapse. Because I do see that quite often. 

Jean  50:25

Yeah, and I would say, it has definitely been the body image issues have definitely still cropped up a lot in pregnancy. I put on weight easily in the first trimester, and that was hard. You just kind of steadily gained weight. And that’s what your body is supposed to do during pregnancy, but it’s still hard to do it. It’s still definitely hard, even if it’s natural, and it’s okay. I think I had in my mind too the Goddess mindset of Oh, yes, the beautiful pregnant woman. There are good days and bad days, and I found, outfits that I like to wear the best. Even people without a history of an eating disorder can struggle with their body image during pregnancy. So just knowing that too, is normal. It’s okay, you’re gonna have good days and bad days. 

Lindsey Lusson  51:24

And it’s a vulnerable time. Your hormones are hitting levels they’ve never hit before in your life. There are physical discomforts that come with pregnancies, there are a lot of things out of your control. And so in the past, your control coping mechanisms have been food and exercise and your body. Just know that pregnancy can also be a really sensitive time, for those of us that have struggled to latch on to those things. But you’re so resilient, and you’re amazing. You are radiating. You are a pregnant goddess over here, even if you don’t feel like it. At times too, we’re our own worst critics and a lot of people struggle with dysmorphia that struggle with period loss, and Ha, so there’s all of that too. 

Lindsey Lusson  52:06

Jean to kind of wrap us up and send us off, anything that you would say to yourself a year ago, let’s pretend it’s January  19th of 2023. And you’re where you were, then. What would you have said to yourself now being Jean in the future? January 19, 2024. 

Jean  52:27

Yeah, it’s so interesting, because every year my husband’s work has a trip that they do in January. And I didn’t go this year. But we went together last year. And everybody you know, gets it’s a gala thing. Everyone gets really dressed up and everything. And last year at this time, I was there at this gala thing. I had just gone through a cycle of Clomid. 

Jean  52:53

And I was supposed to take a pregnancy test at a certain point. But I started my period even before I took a pregnancy test because I didn’t have enough progesterone. I mean, my body obviously just wasn’t ready to be pregnant. So I had started my period the day before we went on this trip, and usually, they’re really fun. But, I was very, I was pretty much borderline. I was a little bit depressed. You know, we were on this trip. And I remember getting ready for the night with the gala thing. 

Jean  53:24

Our other friends were there and she was pregnant. And I was getting ready with her. And, I mean, super happy for her with her second child like that was it was still fun to hang out. We still had a good time and everything. But I internally, I was kind of wrecked. I had started my period early again on this fertility treatment. And I didn’t know I was lost. I didn’t know where to go. I just really wanted to start my family. So it was pretty, like last year at this exact moment was a very one of the darkest times.

Jean  53:59

I remember because the trip is happening again this year, right now. And so it was, if I could talk to her, I would probably try and give her a hug, tell her that it’s really going to be okay. I would probably tell her, in a few months, you’re gonna have to make one of the hardest decisions of your life and I would recommend that you make the decision that feels harder, but makes you feel braver and see where that takes you. 

Jean  54:31

I wouldn’t tell her that she’s going to get pregnant really quick. Because that’ll ruin the surprise. You know, make the leap. Go for it.  Everyone is not going to get pregnant that quickly. But you will get pregnant or get your cycle back. The time goes by faster than you think it will and it is more than 1,000% worth it with what you receive on the on the other side.

Lindsey Lusson  55:03

So, ah, so good. I think we’re going to end with that, Jean. Thanks for sharing your super inspiring story. Thank you for your vulnerability and talking about how hard it was. And walking us through your motivators, your highs and lows, and your takeaways. I mean, it’s been amazing to get to visit with you.

Lindsey Lusson  55:25

Jean and I are both Texas girls so I look forward to getting to meet you in real life. But thanks again for coming on today.

Jean  55:35

Absolutely. It was great to talk to you.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

MEET THE HOST
Jacqui portrait

I’m a fertility nutritionist and registered dietitian who specializes in hypothalamic amenorrhea. My passion is helping women trying to conceive find freedom with food and exercise, so they can recover their period, and get pregnant naturally.

learn More

my story

lindsey eating a cupcake
EPISODE 1: MY RECOVERY STORY

Jan 19, 2022

VIEW CATEGORIES
SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST
Jacqui portrait

Subscribe to the Podcast

Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the Period Recovery and Fertility Podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Subscribe

recent episodes

My labs are normal. Why is my period missing?

My labs are normal. Why is my period missing?

If you've recently come off the pill only to realize your period is MIA, you're not alone. Post pill amenorrhea can happen from prolonged birth control use, especially if you tend to skip avoid the placebo pills leading to thinning of the uterine lining. It may take...

AMH with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

AMH with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Many of you have been there before. After months (or years!) of struggling with infertility, you stumble your way into the diagnosis of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA). You find yourself sifting through a whole set of new acronyms - HA, TTC, OPK, etc. Your infertility...

Why you don’t need IVF to get pregnant with a missing period

Why you don’t need IVF to get pregnant with a missing period

TTC, IUI, timed intercourse, trigger shots, gonadotropins, egg retrievals, IVF… If you’ve been there - you know. Many women assume that starting a family will be a pretty straightforward process when the time is right. I've worked with several women. To their...

Can I get my period back without gaining weight?

Can I get my period back without gaining weight?

If you’ve done any research on period recovery, you’ve most likely heard of “going all in,” or that gaining weight is a key part of healing your hormones.  Many people hope that they are the exception - that they can regain their cycle without gaining weight -...

Why Breakfast Matters for Fertility

Why Breakfast Matters for Fertility

Do you often find yourself skipping breakfast, with the desire to "save up" for later in the day? This habit might be more impactful on your fertility than you realize- especially if you're on a journey to heal from hypothalamic amenorrhea. As a registered dietitian...

When, where and how should we start screening for HA?

When, where and how should we start screening for HA?

When, where and how should we start screening for HA? Emily Everton, PT, DPT is a holistic Women’s Health Doctor of Physical Therapy and the founder of Embody Physical Therapy & Wellness, LLC in Hopkinton, MA. She specializes in Orthopedic and Pelvic Floor...

Addiction, Denial, & Fixing Irregular Periods to Get Pregnant

Addiction, Denial, & Fixing Irregular Periods to Get Pregnant

Shannon is a retired division one soccer player who struggled with her identity outside of being an athlete. After college, she turned to weightlifting and became a certified personal trainer which made it easy to mask her health and exercise obsession. Shannon got...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This