Stephanie Was So Focused on Losing Weight, but Ended Up With This Serious Health Issue

Stephanie Hancock has been on and off diets since she was 14 years old, but it wasn't until she recently lost 22 pounds and had a pretty serious health issue that she began her body-positive journey and chose to regain the weight back.

Stephanie told POPSUGAR, "Growing up, I was always the 'chubby kid.' Because of social media and being teased in school, I felt the pressure to be thin. I've done everything from the Atkins diet, vegan, raw vegan, cabbage soup diet, Whole30, Paleo . . . and more. And they would work . . . for a bit. I would lose maybe 10, 15 pounds, but as soon as I stopped dieting, the weight would come back, oftentimes more than before I even started the diet."

After constantly yo-yo dieting, in the beginning of 2017, Stephanie participated in a weight-loss competition through her work and says, "I got second place! I lost 22 pounds in 12 weeks. I did this by exercising a lot and counting (and WEIGHING) all my food. At the end of the competition, I felt good, but still wanted to be a bit smaller (because dieting is a slippery slope, I never felt small enough)."

"My husband and I own a CrossFit gym, so I always felt the pressure to be super fit."

Her workout routine was very forced. She and her husband own a Crossfit gym, so she always felt the pressure to be super fit. "I would CrossFit four to five times a week and also run in the Summer on top of that. I also aimed for 10K to 20K steps per day."

One very serious issue made her stop her weight-loss journey cold turkey and rethink her diet and exercise routine. Stephanie was suffering from amenorrhea (lack of menstrual cycle for at least six months).

She thought it was from being on and off the pill since she was 16 years old (first recommended by her doctor to help with PMS symptoms). But now, at 28 years old, Stephanie shares, "About four years ago, I went off the pill for good. About a year went by and I didn't get my period," so that wasn't the issue.

In the past three years, Stephanie's weight has fluctuated, and she says, "I only had a few periods and every time I got it, it was when I was my heaviest weight . . . actually considered overweight by the BMI chart." She says, "As soon as I went back on a diet and restricted my calories, I lost my period."

After the weight-loss competition where she lost 22 pounds along with not having a period in a year, Stephanie did a little research and learned that eating more and not exercising could be the key to getting her menstrual cycle back on track. She spent the last five months gaining 20 pounds back and, thankfully, her period returned! She finally realized that being around 150 pounds is where her body needs to be to be healthy.

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Stephanie says, "This process is what led me to body positivity. I came to the realization that I have some serious health issues I'm dealing with. I want to have kids in the future, so not getting my period is very worrisome."

Her exercise routine now is anything BUT a routine! "If I feel like going to CrossFit, I go. If I feel like staying in bed, I do that." She works out one or two times a week and eats way more food, over 2,500 calories a day. "FINALLY . . . I eat whatever I want!! When I grocery shop, I buy a lot of fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, and meat replacements (I'm mostly vegetarian) . . . So I eat pretty healthy for the most part, as I believe you should eat a lot of nutrient-dense foods for health. But I also eat treats whenever I want!"

"I've come to realize that your body is smart, and your body loves you. When you learn to listen to your body instead of forcing it to do things it doesn't want to, you'll feel so much more happy and at peace with yourself."

If you're looking to be more body-positive, Stephanie says, "It's all about your mindset. Being happy with your body comes internally." She suggests you "unfollow the fitness accounts that are promoting disordered eating and are making you feel bad about yourself" and find body-positive Instagram accounts to follow. "I also recommend if you are in the car or out for a walk, listen to body-positive podcasts. My favorite one is Food Psych."

Another big one, which can be very hard, is to "stop comparing yourself to other women. Some people are naturally small and that's OK!!" Stephanie notes, "Please remember that NO ONE cares what you look like or how skinny you are except for you. And if you do have people in your life that do care about that, you need to rethink those relationships."

"I'm a firm believer that the stress that dieting puts on your body and your mind is FAR more damaging than your body carrying some extra pounds. Your beauty and your worth is not determined by your size. Your mental health is so important." Keep in mind that becoming body-positive takes time, so be patient and kind to yourself. Focus on what makes you happy and healthy.