For the majority of my life, I struggled with eating disorders. I had bouts with both bulimia and anorexia since I was 11 years old. Training for my competitions really helped me develop a healthy relationship with food and more importantly myself.
When I first started training, I was on a very strict diet. At 12 weeks out, my only protein sources were white- chicken, turkey, and egg whites. My body responded quickly. I lost 7 pounds during my first week. But, the initial loss came at a cost- I started spotting. This was unusual for me because I had been on the Depo shot for more than 3 years and stopped menstruating. After 2 weeks and 15 pounds lost, I decided to see a doctor. The doctor attributed my recent weight loss to the spotting. Another 2 weeks went by and the spotting persisted. At this point, I decided that I needed to listen to my body.
I knew from my nutrition courses that iron is found in 2 forms- heme (animal) and non-heme (plant). Heme is short for hemoglobin meaning blood. Heme iron is absorbed easier than non-heme iron because the absorption of non-heme iron sources depends on the other foods you are consuming with it. Organs are rich sources of heme iron but I cannot stomach (Pun intended!) eating liver! Red fleshed, lean meats are the best sources of heme iron. Once I started eating red meat, my spotting stopped.
For me, the consequences of being iron deprived outweighed being leaner on stage. Nothing in life is truly one-size-fits-all. Everyone has a different body and reacts to things differently. In order to see the healthy results you want to see, you need to listen to your body. If something does not feel right, question it.