I don’t talk much about my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. To be honest, I didn’t really think about it while on medication the past ten years. Other than the fear of possible infertility, the symptoms were out of sight and out of mind for most of my twenties.
As I get closer to 30, I knew I needed to make some changes in my life. With the recent move and transitioning of my career, I decided to throw another crazy wrench into everything and take control of my PCOS as much as I could on my own.
There is no cure for this, but you can do a lot to manage the symptoms. I want to start off by saying that I am NOT a doctor. I am not an expert. However, I have worked for months to get to where I am and I am writing this to hopefully inspire other women who suffer through this to know it doesn’t have to control your life.
Here are The 5 Ways I Took Control of My PCOS.
What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome:
First, let’s start with a quick background of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. It is most commonly known as an infertility disorder that affects how the ovaries function and the hormones that relate to ovulation. That is the simplest explanation. If you do your research (and you should), then you would know that infertility is only the tip of the iceberg.
PCOS impacts your entire endocrine system. This is what affects your insulin and glucose levels and a lot of other hormonal imbalances that occur in the body.
Many women suffer from ovarian cysts, irregular menstruation, insulin resistance, weight gain, severe acne, high blood pressure, thyroid issues and hair loss, facial hair growth, sleep apnea, diabetes, increase in the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and so on. Every woman I have met has had a different version of these symptoms. The way my body experiences PCOS is drastically different than one of my friends for instance.
I personally experience some insulin resistance, hair loss and thyroid issues (in the last year I have lost over 1/3 of the hair on my head and it is now finally growing back), and abnormal estrogen/progesterone levels. I also have to work very hard at maintaining my weight and even harder to lose weight. But it is possible. So here is how I did it.
1. I Wanted Control:
Sounds simple right? Hell to the NO! Let me take you back to my life in June of 2017. I just finished working one of the most stressful (and insanely rewarding) teaching jobs of my life. We were about to move to Georgia and uproot our lives and I thought of the bright idea of going off all my medications so that I could begin working on managing my symptoms.
The truth is, I wanted to be in control of my body and my fertility. I wanted to know and prove to myself that I could do it. It was hard. It still is really hard. I had to fight like crazy to get to where I am now.
I stumbled, I failed for several months, and finally I was so fed up and depressed (and balding) that I went for it. I stopped making excuses because I knew that I wasn’t going to live my life in that place where PCOS was something that constantly dictated my thoughts and time.
My goal was to have a healthy body and a healthy mindset about my body.
2. I Educated Myself:
So, I am a teacher after all. I believe in facts and research. I believe in going to the doctor and getting information about my body.
There are so many resources on the internet and since no two women are the same, then not one single “fix” will work for everyone. I read from a lot of different sources about this condition.
I knew I needed to also know my body better and to assess where I was at. I started tracking everything from my cycle to how many hours I slept (sleep plays an enormous role in hormone imbalance).
I personally benefited from drastic diet changes (I ate a low carb/ whole 30 diet with the exception of the occasional cocktail and movie theater popcorn…I am human OK) and a lot of working out. It took a lot of trial and error to figure this out. So, do your research, get the facts, and talk to your doctor!
3. I Changed The Relationship I had With Food:
Let’s face it. I love food. Probably more than the average person (considering I am a food blogger and a culinary arts teacher). Whether it’s what I want to make for dinner, what new recipes I am cooking up in my head, or what I am teaching in class, I think it’s safe to say that I think about food all day long.
The problem with insulin resistance is that my cravings for sugar are off the charts. I also process calories differently because every carbohydrate I eat, my body reacts the same way as if I just ate donuts all day long.
I tried a higher fat, keto diet for a while but it didn’t really change the way I thought about food. I was still eating recreations of pancakes and pizza. This was holding me back. I stopped and really critically looked at my diet and realized that even though I can cook and create these crazy recreations, I need to just eat real food and simple, clean meals.
That is what I did. I modeled my current “lifestyle” off of the Whole 30 diet but tweaked it to be a long term change. My diet is mostly fish and lean proteins like chicken and eggs. I have cut out almost all dairy (I occasionally eat goat cheese, ricotta, and mascarpone).
People sometimes ask me about “cheat meals”. Frankly, I hate that word. I don’t cheat, I make a decision to eat something that I normally wouldn’t and when I do I am ok with it. I don’t punish myself, or make myself feel bad. That was something I had to learn and be ok with doing too.
The takeaway? I am not on a diet. I am living my life and managing my PCOS with whole, clean, unprocessed foods 90% (because I am human and realistic) of the time. I have lost over 20 lbs (and put on a ton of muscle) in this time. I firmly believe most of that is because I changed my relationship with food.
I stopped looking at it as a way to make me feel good and as a way to really heal my body. The best part? I don’t feel like food runs my life or my thoughts despite it being my full time job. I learned to really love and enjoy how food played a roll in my life as opposed to having it cause me anxiety.
4. I Stopped Fearing My Workouts:
I was active throughout my teenage years. Then college happened and learning how to adult happened. Unfortunately, like most young adults I didn’t do as much activity as I thought I was doing.
Fast forward to a busy teaching career and coaching for 12-14 hours a day, I barely had time to pee (sorry TMI?) let alone work out. I think it is safe to say that most days in the last 7 years I was coming home from work, eating leftovers, and passing out. This had to change.
Not only is exercise known to help reduce stress and anxiety but it is a crucial component to managing PCOS. I work out 5 days a week on average. Half the time I don’t want to and I force myself to do it anyways.
I forced myself to start running because all I knew how to do was cardio. I did it, and I hated it. The last 9 months however, I have drastically changed my outlook and found that I really enjoy weight lifting and crossfit.
Do I still like getting up at 4:30 am to work out (especially when it’s like 5 F outside)? Hell NO! But, I do love it once I am there. I love pushing myself. I love having goals. I love seeing the growth and transformation my body (and mindset) was having.
I felt in control and healthy for the first time in a long time. I can also happily say that if I wanted to join the Army (#armywifegoals) tomorrow, I could pass their physical fitness test with flying colors.
5. I Give Myself Some Slack
I still have really bad days. I am human. There are days where I cannot control how depressed I feel (damn you hormones) and don’t want to get off my couch or get out of bed. So, On those days I let myself feel the way I am feeling.
The truth is that no matter how well I eat or workout, I still have PCOS. I can manage the symptoms, but this is still something I am going to have to deal with.
I haven’t gotten to the stage in my life yet where I am having children. I know when that time comes it will probably be very painful and very difficult. So I focus on the here and now. I focus on the positive changes I can make in my life and hopefully in your life by sharing this story with you.
I love cooking more than anything and feel blessed that I can create meals that help me stay focused on a clean and healthy way of living. That is another reason why I love what I do here on Bon Appeteach. I hope that this can inspire you to do the same. I never thought I could do what I have done. But is is POSSIBLE!
Thanks for reading.