Today, over 15% of the female population world wide suffers from Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. We all have different experiences and are seeking understanding and help, and most of all we want to know we’re not alone. Here is my journey for how I found 5 different ways to take control of my PCOS.
DISCLAIMER- I am NOT a doctor or dietician. I am writing from MY OWN EXPERIENCES and simply share this as a way to help others relate and find hope in managing their own bodies. I advocate that you talk to a doctor or other licensed health professional whenever you make any changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Hello my dear, sweet, Cysters. I see you and I FEEL you.
If you follow me on Instagram , found me on Pinterest, or maybe just stumbled across this website via Google, I want to first say that I am so thankful that you are here. I started this website back at the end of 2017, around the time that I was also drastically making some intense changes in my life (relationships, dietary, career, etc.)
As I reflect over the last four years and some of the highs and lows that life has taken me on, I felt it was important to update this post to reflect my own PCOS journey and my experiences with finding a balance and harmony both physically and mentally with managing this disorder.
I made this post to first let you know, you are not alone. But, to also let you know that I DO NOT always have it all together. Like most people, 2020 was a difficult year and as I have had to make huge changes in my personal life, manage some major life events and stressors, I have in turn had to make more changes with managing my health.
Here is what has worked best for me, some resources, and ultimately some delicious recipes I’d love to guide you to so that you can reference this no matter WHERE you are at in life. I hope this helps, thanks for reading!
What Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome:
First, let’s start with a quick background of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. It is most commonly seen as an infertility disorder (typically when most women discover they have it or are diagnosed) 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 and thus your metabolic system as well. 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:
- Difficulty with maintaining weight/ moderate weight gain when things are really imbalanced
- Some degree of insulin resistance
- Hair loss and thyroid issues (at one point I lost roughly 1/4 of the hair on my head but it has since reversed itself)
- Lovely facial hair growth (super cute)
- Estrogen dominance
- Anxiety and adrenal fatigue
I think besides the initial severe hair loss, the hardest part is having to work very hard at maintaining my weight and even harder to lose weight. But it is possible.
Please note- If you are just starting your research and understanding of this disorder please do your own research and take a look at a variety of reputable sources and consult with a doctor or other licensed medical professional. Here are some resources about PCOS-
- Find more information at The Center For Disease Control
- PCOS Awareness Association
- Endocrinology Case Studies/ Journal articles
- PCOS Diva (she’s a wealth of knowledge)
So what have I done/ am currently doing to help take back some control? Let’s dive into the 5 ways I have worked to manage my own symptoms and find a better way to thrive!
1. Changing the relationship I have with myself
If you’re reading this article today, maybe it’s because you feel a few of the same things I have felt since I was 12.
- Exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically with having a poor or unhealthy relationship with food and body image
- Managing your fertility/ irregular menstrual cycle
- Feeling fed up with the symptoms and thoughts about these symptoms that are continuously taking up space in your head, and preventing your from loving yourself and feeling good in YOUR own body.
Can you relate to any of these feelings?
If you’re anything like me, then I am sure you can relate. I think when we all finally hit that point of mental exhaustion, feeling hopeless, and desperately NEEDING to do something different to change the narrative, then we can find a way to truly make some changes.
If you’re not ready to deep dive right in, I also understand. There are a LOT of factors to figuring out our bodies and since no two women are the same, it’s hard to know what works for us. I want you to know that you are strong and you can do hard things, including finding a way to tell yourself that the body you are in (even if it is not where you want it to be) is still worthy.
It all starts there. Because even after four years of managing my PCOS, my body has once again changed. While weight gain can happen throughout our lives for many reasons, we need to find a way to tell ourselves a different story. One thing that has helped me is to write down things I know to be true about myself; words of affirmation and self love.
What are 5 things you love about yourself? What are 5 things you are proud of yourself for overcoming? Don’t get caught up in the negative self talk and know if you do have those days, it’s normal too. Remember who you are and stay grounded.
2. Get educated and advocate for myself
When people first look at me, I am sure they would never guess that I have struggled with weight management and metabolic and endocrine system issues, and infertility. To the naked eye, “I look fine” and in fact, many people just think I cook keto and low carb because I care about being “skinny” (I’ve literally been told this more than once).
I have had countless women make rude or careless comments to me on social media, treating me as if I was vain because I choose to eat and live my life a certain way. I’d also like to note that I have never criticized anyone for the way they choose to eat or live, so it’s not a good feeling when others do it to me. We don’t know people well enough from the 30 seconds we see them talk about a small part of their life on an Instagram story, to genuinely make these broad assumptions.
Additionally, my own family and friends may not really understand me, my body, and the challenges that I face. When they make black and white statements like, “just work out more and eat less” it is genuinely disheartening. Sometimes, I literally want to just scream, cry, or cuss them out for thinking it’s that easy. I’ve realized it’s my job to help them understand if I choose to share and involve them in my journey.
To do this, you need to understand your body and know what’s going on. Find and talk with a good doctor who is supportive of the changes you want to make and get them on board (easier said than done in my experience but they do exist). Once you know more about what’s happening to you, you can choose to have conversations with people you love and let them know why this is hard and maybe some ways they can support you through it.
3. Long-term lifestyle based dietary changes
While changes start when we first feel motivated, it’s having the discipline when that emotion fades to keep us going. If you’re honestly looking to start finding a way to manage your symptoms, you have to start with the root cause. I think the most difficult part in all of this, is managing your diet (which is why I literally make recipes to help others like me).
Because PCOS impacts metabolism and the hormones tied to our endocrine system, dietary changes are going to be a large key to finding and creating consistent success long term.
Things I stopped doing:
Yo-yo dieting- Have you ever found yourself in a downward spiral, decide you need to drop those 20+ pounds as fast as possible so you do a crash diet? Only to find yourself starving when you come off of it, drained mentally from restraining yourself from the foods you’re craving and love, to then binge eat? Yeah…. I’ve been there. Way to many times have I been there in fact. STOP doing this to yourself and stop telling your body that it’s starving and eat food!
Eating TOO FEW calories- Yes! You heard me! Too few calories can stress your system out, make it thinks it’s starving, and will hold onto everything. I don’t like to track, but I did for a while to know what it looked like to eat ENOUGH calories in day and to eat the right calories. My fitness pal is a great phone tracker for this and helps when you’re just starting to get to know what works for you. Talk with your doctor or dietician to see where your calorie intake and nutritional needs are.
Not eating until mid-day and calling it intermittent fasting- I cannot tell you how guilty I am of this one. Drinking my coffee at 6 am and not eating until mid or late day is not a healthy way to intermittent fast. If you choose this as a method, then be sure you’re working with a health professional and doing it correctly. Otherwise, you’re just not eating…
Stopped eating gluten and go dairy free- If you want to manage your insulin, reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and give your body a fighting chance, you need to remove these foods from your diet. There are countless resources out there about these two food groups impacting PCOS and it’s the best way to start.
The majority of my recipes here are gluten free, and while a decent number have dairy we luckily have so many options for substituting ingredients these days that you can make it work!
Avoiding processed foods/ sugars- I am sure we already know this one is a given and is tied to spiking insulin. If I have higher sugar fruits etc., then I make sure to pair it with higher protein foods to help balance out my insulin. This also was a HUGE key to managing my intense food cravings… because that part just makes you crazy. Avoid the excess sugars when possible for long term success.
Find joy in food and social situations- I love food. Clearly, this is obvious considering I have made it my life’s work. I love to cook it, share it, eat it, and savor it. The key to finding joy in food as opposed to the unhealthy relationship many of us have with it is to create sustainable lifestyle changes.
I sometimes eat Chicago deep dish pizza from Lou’s with friends or family on special occasions, but I also know I have the option to make this keto Chicago deep dish pizza recipe as an alternative. Life is balance and it takes time to master that too.
4. Finding the right workouts
We know we need to move our bodies, that’s nothing new. Moving our bodies in a way in which we find joy in doing so is probably my best advice. If you’re dreading your workouts, forcing yourself to go, and getting more stressed out as a result, you need to try something different.
There are also several studies out there that show that too much high intensity and high impact workouts can impact cortisol and stress levels in women with PCOS. Thus in turn, exacerbating your symptoms and making you more miserable in the end.
I personally love to weight lift and discovered it within the year of making major lifestyle changes to first manage PCOS. While I do think my own body can manage some high intensity interval training style workouts, I didn’t start there.
My advice? Find what you enjoy doing and do it. If it makes your feel good, do it. If it gives you endorphins, do it. If you feel confident and excited afterwards, then just do it! Whether its a slow walk for 30 minutes listening to a podcast, some low key yoga stretches, a light jog or some weight lifting, then go for it.
5. Being kind to yourself
I have said some pretty horrible things to myself over the last 32 years. I still have these moments, because I am human (as are you), though they are a lot fewer and far between than they once were.
I once heard someone say, “What would you say to a friend if you heard them saying those things about themselves”? I know I would be so sad to hear someone I love (or any woman) saying terrible things about their body and looks and feeling low in their self worth.
We are always going to be are worst critics and hold ourselves to the highest (sometimes unattainable) standards. I knew for myself that I was beautiful, strong, successful, and smart regardless of my PCOS and I refuse to (most days) let anyone tell me otherwise. I tell myself these things even on the days I really don’t feel it, but they’re still true.
My suggestion would be to take some time to reflect on what is really going to make you feel better in your skin, what you know to be true about yourself, and to find ways to clear out the noise. Noise meaning- avoiding scenarios that cause negative self talk (unfollow anything in your life that causes you to play the comparison game).
I know this article was long as hell, but I didn’t even write everything I wanted to say, think, or feel about all of this. If you made it this far I just want you to know that I get it, and I get the pain associated with walking around feeling out of control and helpless because of it.
I hope that this helped you in some way. I want to help empower other women to feel like their bodies are not against them and to give you tools to find joy and love in good food at the same time.
Thanks for reading and being here.
Looking for some helpful recipes? Start here with some of my favorite Meal Prep recipes I think you’ll love!