Ladies, listen up. Guys uncomfortable with the topic of menstruation, read this anyways. An issue I find is far too often downplayed in the athletic and fitness world is hypothalamic amenorrhea – or, in plain English, the absence of a woman’s period. It can be caused by an abnormally low body fat percentage, a trademark of the sometimes-distorted aspirations of fitness enthusiasts.

Some of you might be thinking this could be a convenient solution to an inconvenient part of being female, but the consequences by far outweigh the convenience. It can hinder estrogen production, which in turn increases the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Personally, I’d rather be a little less lean than risk breaking my hip in a chess-related mishap.

The unhealthy aspects of the competitions in particular have always made me wonder but it seems to be downplayed, ignored or just accepted as a necessary side effect of fitness excellence – none of which are acceptable options. Female competitors often strive for single-digit body fat percentages – a far cry from the healthy range of roughly 15 to 30 percent. Recently one of the biggest names in the fitness industry, writer and fitness model, Jamie Eason, spoke out against this and talked about her own unhealthy experiences at 8% body fat.

“There is a difference between eating to be healthy and eating to be lean and if super lean means being unhealthy,” says Eason. “That negates my whole intent of getting into fitness to begin with.”

It was so refreshing to hear someone in Jamie’s position (and with her physique) condemn taking fitness levels too far. Muscles and a tight body is one thing, but gambling with your hormones and bone density is another. An exceptionally ripped body is not worth jeopardizing your femininity for.

Therefore, get ripped, ladies… within reason.