What is PCOS
PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome. It is said that 1 in 10 women have this condition and there is no known cure. This condition has side effects like increased appetite, high food cravings, hormonal imbalance, increased risk for depression, high levels of pain during menstruation, increased risk for high blood pressure, and is commonly found in women who are obese. All of this information is new to me. But the other symptoms I was previously aware of are
- Ovarian cyst
- Irregular periods
- Something about needing to eat healthier?
You would think I’d know the exact day and year I was told about my PCOS, but all I really remember is that an ovarian cyst burst on my ovaries and I was bleeding for two weeks. TMI? I know I know, imagine how I felt. Although I’ve known about my condition for nearly 4 years, I’ve taken my condition seriously for about 3 weeks.
Why couldn’t I tell?
I have lived with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. I have always had cravings for the best junk food. I’ve had acne since I was about 10. And whenever my monthly cycle decided to show her head (like, every 3-5 months) I was in the worst pain imaginable. This became my normal so I had no idea there was an underlying reason for these “symptoms.”
I put up no fight and really had no questions about my bodily functions until the day that I found out I had PCOS and was declared pre-diabetic. So I cut out snacks and told myself I would work out more… ‘Told myself’ is key! While this didn’t change my behavior completely, it put me in a constant battle with the truth of the matter. I could no longer believe “oh I’m young and skinny, I’ll grow out of all of this.”
How did the news of having PCOS change me?
Let’s be real though, there is no such thing as growing out of an unhealthy eating habit. When I am exercising my body naturally wants food that is lighter, healthier, and has far less grease! So eating healthier was sort of a non negotiable change once I became more physical active. While in college, it was far easier to stop at the gym that was directly in between the education building and my parking spot.
So I wore workout friendly attire and slipped in a workout before heading home. My goal was to beat all my friends step counts with my fitbit. Because who doesn’t like to put in a challenge for the benefit of their health? However, now that I’ve graduated and I am now working full time, living at home with a busy bustling family, being a good sister, a fun aunt, a helpful daughter, a social friend, starting a blog, and living 15-20 minutes away from my preferred gym? Okay, who has the time to workout with such a life as this?
Actually, there is time, but that means I have to be strategic and more disciplined about living a healthy life. Those of us with PCOS do not have to put in 1.5 hour sessions of HIIT 7 days a week to stay healthy. In fact, studies have encouraged exercise, but there are no particular exercises that improve PCOS symptoms. TO me that means I can workout to my heart’s content. My favorite exercises are squats with weights, biking, and free weights with dumbells. The key to improving our health is to just get moving! 30 minute sessions for 5 days a week is manageable for my lifestyle if I put in the work to plan it out properly.
So did it get any better?
Now to the part that has been the worst for me, eating habits! You can call it a diet if you want but it helps for me to avoid that word. No matter how much I learn about how PCOS affects my body, the worst part of this journey is that I have to give up all my favorite unhealthy habits. Okay, this is not the worst part, but it is the part that I have not completely committed to.
However! I have made grand steps to change this way of thinking! Well, maybe more like baby steps in reality but they’re certainly large ones in my perspective. I now eat at least one clean meal per day. The easiest way to navigate this is by including vegetarian alternatives for my favorite meals. My family is utterly surprised at this commitment, and honestly so am I.
I have successfully made it 7 weeks with this change, having at least a clean breakfast – oats, fruit, or chicken with eggs and vegetables. When I go out my favorite meal to have is a big juicy burger with french fries. I judge every restaurant off of the flavor of their fries and the juiciness of their burger. So to keep in step with clean eating and managing my PCOS I have began to substitute the meat on my juicy burger adventures. I tried the bean burger but that wasn’t really my favorite thing ever. But I can say that I’m a fan of the veggie, impossible, and beyond meat patties. I’ve not yet ventured into substituting my french fries for sweet potato fries, but I’ll get there. Remember, small steps first.
The ugly truth
I suppose it’s time for a little bit of truth that isn’t so pleasant. The closer it has gotten to me releasing my blog the worst it has gotten on my cravings. I ate 6 Reese’s Cups in one sitting and I can’t explain why. It may be my nerves. Blogging is a really huge step. But I am also on a specific type of birth control pill that allows me to go three months without a cycle, with one week of placebo pills to allow me to menstruate. I was on the last week of my 2nd month of pills, which is technically the week I should have been on my cycle. So PMS cravings could also be a reason. Whatever the case is, after learning so much about PCOS and knowing that I need to cut out artificial sugars, I feel really guilty about those Reese’s cups.
The last time I was consistently in the gym was November of 2018. So beginning of December my sister and I I really routinely work out together. The accountability has been great and the exercises are a bit more fun. I really wanted to start because I gained about 10 lbs on these pills within the first month of taking them. During that first month I could not tell how hungry or full I was. So me, all of 124 lbs 5 ‘ 2”, would eat two full meals for lunch, a snack (or two), and finish off a full serving of water. I am surprised it was only 10 lbs that I put on.
Granted, this weight looks good on me and my only goal is to tone my body. Losing weight is not the goal.
Even though I enjoy the weight gain, this change in my eating habits was sending me spinning! Under normal circumstances I tend to not eat or only eat a little bit. So to see how much I was eating and gaining in such a short amount of time really concerned me. Especially since I knew obesity is a side effect of living with PCOS. But after that first month on the pill everything shifted, I was no longer overeating. So I haven’t gained any more weight since then but I also haven’t lost any either. This is all a part of the balancing act of taking medications to balance out my hormones and decrease the chances of cyst building and bursting on my ovaries.
The ultimate goal
When it’s all said and done, my top goal is to take better care of my body. I don’t want to be super thin or super bulk. I don’t want to be a health freak or an unhealthy eater. My aspiration in life is it to be healthy and vibrant. I am writing this post to share a piece of my PCOS story.
If you or a loved one have a story to share comment below, I would love to hear. As I share my PCOS story it is my goal to continue on my journey of healthy living so that when I return to this post in one year I can confidently say that I have been consistent! What are your health goals for the upcoming year?