Stories from our readers

We often receive amazingly honest, heart-breaking and/or inspirational emails from our readers. We recognize that reading others stories can be really valuable for other women out there who are going thru similar (and different) things. Sometimes it can be really helpful to know you are not alone. So, over the next few months we will be posting stories from our readers who have expressed an interest in sharing their stories with you. We are very grateful to these amazing, brave women. Here is the first in the series:

Liz’s story

On returning to NZ from living overseas, I began a healthier approach to life and started at the gym with a personal trainer and meet with a nutritionist. With newfound knowledge, I naturally adapted to the new lifestyle. I followed a paleo lifestyle, exercised every day, ate vegetables galore with green smoothies every morning and loved how I felt when and after I exercised. My body weight also started to drop which encouraged me to do more. I’d made gym buddies who did similar amounts of exercise so didn’t think anything of it. 

However, the more I researched the more restrictive my diet became. The nutritionist suggested I cut out carbohydrate (including fruit) to lose weight. I was 75kg then and wanted to get to 72kg but he told me I should be 69kg with my height and physique. When I then started crossfit, I was encouraged to add carbohydrate back to my diet given the amount of exercise I was doing but I just figured I’d lose more weight if I left them out. 

I later decided to come off the pill as I’d been on it for quite a while. My period didn’t come back though so alarm bells started ringing! I couldn’t understand what was wrong with my body as I thought I was the healthiest I’d ever been. Family, friends, work colleagues, naturopaths and doctors told me to take it easy on the exercise but to me this was like the opposite of someone trying to take up exercise for the first time.  I would vow to do 5 gym sessions only for the week but I was always able to justify (to myself) why I should do that extra hour of exercise. Clearly, I had lost the balance between a healthy and unhealthy lifestyle.

Eventually, after 18 months, I saw an endocrinologist and also happened to pull a hamstring in the same week so also sought the advice of a physiotherapist. They both made me write down every piece of exercise I was doing and what I was eating.  It turned out to be close to 2-2.5hrs a day 5-6 days a week and I wasn’t fuelling my body for the amount of exercise I was doing.  It seems so plain and simple looking back now and I think deep down I knew that then too but I chose not to listen to my body because I thought I was leading the perfect lifestyle. I couldn’t believe that I felt the best I ever had about my body but that this could possibly be harming my body. I liked how I looked and felt when I exercised and didn’t want to put on weight. 

Due to my hamstring injury I had 4 weeks off exercise which was the hardest but probably best thing for me.  My first morning off the gym I was grumpy and lethargic all day, I felt mildly hungover even!  I was lost for a few days then I started going to the gym a couple of mornings a week to do my physio exercises and started to fill my other mornings with meeting friends for breakfast or staying in bed for a bit longer, which i’m still not particularly good at!

It took 5 weeks of no exercise and gaining 3kg (to 72kg) from this point to get my period back. I loved it when I was 69kgs and would love to always be that weight but now acknowledge it is unrealistic. I am now back at the gym 5 days a week only but the difference is I keep it to 1-1.5hours and I fuel my exercise. It can be as simple as adding a couple of pieces of fruit or some kumera to my salads at lunchtime.  I’ve even had a charm added to my bracelet which is a set of scales to remind me of the balance I now have in my life just in case I forget.

Liz Photo For FA

Beyond the Female Athlete Triad? Leading researchers suggest caution over recent IOC statement

A few months ago we added a new post with ‘breaking news’ that the International Olympic Committee expert working group had introduced a broader, supposedly more comprehensive term for the condition previously known as ‘Female Athlete Triad’.

The term ‘Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport’ (RED-S), is said to point to the complexity involved and the fact that male athletes are also affected. We offered the following links to the latest information on this topic here and in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Since the release of this IOC statement and publication, however, leading Female Athlete Triad researcher, Professor Mary Jane De Souza and 26 of her colleagues from across the United States and Canada, have responded with an article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine titled ‘Misunderstanding the Female Athlete Triad: Refuting the IOC Consensus Statement on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (RED-S)’. In this paper, the authors argue that ‘new terminology (RED-S) is insufficiently supported by scientific research to warrant adoption at this time’ (p. 1). Moreover, they argue:

“While we appreciate the need for improved thinking in medical science, we strongly believe it is unwise and misleading to propose a new approach based on faulty science. We strongly believe that it is unwise to distract and mislead the medical community from the well-known term ‘the Female Athlete Triad’. The IOC paper lacks scientific integrity in two ways. First, the scientific evidence of RED-S as it applies to men, non- Caucasians and disabled individuals is in its infancy and is not sufficiently developed to warrant a new theoretical construct. … Second, the IOC paper is fraught with errors and misinterpretations of the scientific literature per se” (p. 1).

Professor De Souza and colleagues also published the ‘2014 Female Athlete Triad Coalition Consensus Statement on Treatment and Return to Play of the Female Athlete Triad’ in the British Journal of Sports Medicine to offer a set of recommendations developed following the 1st (San Francisco, California, USA) and 2nd (Indianapolis, Indiana, USA) International Symposia on the Female Athlete Triad. According to the authors, “It is intended to provide clinical guidelines for physicians, athletic trainers and other healthcare providers for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of the Female Athlete Triad and to provide clear recommendations for return to play” (p. 1).

So, while one group of researchers is working to inform the IOC consensus statement regarding the use of RED-S instead of the Female Athlete Triad, another group are strongly arguing against this decision based on lack of scientific evidence, and are warning athletes, coaches, and others in the sport and exercise industry to take caution regarding this change in terminology and action.

One of our key aims here at Fuel Aotearoa is to make the latest research accessible to our readers. While we were initially excited to see the IOC acknowledging the complexities of these health issues for athletes and investing in research and action with the aim to protect the health and wellbeing of both female and male athletes, we recognize the need for such progress to be sufficiently informed by the most appropriate research. Thus, we will continue to refer to the ‘Female Athlete Triad’ rather than RED-S on our site. However, we are explicitly aware of ongoing debates surrounding terminology and action, and we promise to keep our readers updated as to the latest progress and advancements on this very important topic.

Seminars at Kings College and St Cuthberts

On May 14 and May 29 we gave seminars to female students at St Cuthberts and Kings College, respectively. Both seminars were well attended by both students and staff, and seemed to be very well received. We welcome opportunities to give seminars to high school students (we recognize this as a very important time in young women’s lives when they are establishing relationships with food, exercise and their bodies that can stay with them for many years), as well as fitness professionals, athletes or other interested groups. If your school or organization is interested in organizing a seminar by Dr Holly Thorpe and Maria Bentley (co-founders of Fuel Aotearoa), please contact us at

Maria and Holly giving a seminar to 100 female students at Kings College (Auckland)
Maria and Holly giving a seminar to 100 female students at Kings College (Auckland)

Brochures Hot Off the Press

Our brochures have been printed and they look great! Thanks to Beef & Lamb and the University of Waikato for supporting the printing and design costs.

If your school or organization is interested in receiving some brochures for students, clients or patients, please email us at with your postal address and we will pop a pack in the mail asap.

Also, you will note under the main text on the home page a new link to the PDF of this brochure, so teachers or fitness instructors can print for their students and clients, if they wish. It’s all about spreading the word and more empowering athletic girls and women through accessible research-based information!

New brochures... hot off the press and ready to send to your school or organization
New brochures… hot off the press and ready to send to your school or organization

Nutrition for exercise: Advice from Claire Turnbull

Claire Turnbull, Managing Director of Mission Nutrition and nutritionist for the Healthy Food Guide Magazine and the Millennium Institute of Sport shares Fuel Aotearoa’s passion to increase understanding and help female athletes and exercising women fuel correctly for exercise and optimal health. Check out these nutrition links!


1. Fuelling before, during and after exercise

2. Exercising before or after eating?

3. Hydration for exercise

4. Fortnightly Blogs from Mission Nutrition

Fuel Aotearoa live on Newstalk ZB

Holly and Maria spoke with nutritionist Claire Turnbull on Newstalk ZB yesterday about how Fuel Aotearoa aims to help women have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. Click here to listen to the podcast.