Missed Periods Due to Restricted Calorie Intake

By December 14, 2012

I am 19 years old and I have been struggling with disordered eating for almost one year. It started after going on a diet after gaining the freshmen 15. I now weigh a considerable amount less that I used to, and about 10 lbs. less than the healthy weight I weighed at the end of high school. I have now not had a period for four months. I know that it is because of my eating habits and my restricted calorie intake and I am in the process of getting help but I was just wondering how serious this issue is and what I can do to get my period back. Should I focus on just eating a regular diet or should I try to eat more than that to get my period back? I am scared of gaining weight so I do not know how to approach this. Please help. – anonymous

Dear anonymous,

Your period often will not start until your weight is near normal and your body fat is greater than 18%.  After you have reached this, it can take 6 months for the menstrual cycle to start again. 

The danger is that is your bone mass will be decreasing the longer you go without having your period.  At age 19, you should be gaining bone mass, not losing it.  Eating weight maintenance calories is a start, but you need to get back to your healthy weight.  A dietitian can help determine what is a healthy weight for you.

For more on this issue, please type in “osteopenia,” “osteoporosis,” and “amenorrhea” in the search box on this site. Healthy, regular periods are very important for women, and there are several videos you might find helpful on this subject.

Kindest regards,

Brenda K. Woods, MD, FAAFP