I was diagnosed with PCOS in my twenties. I had plenty of signs of it in my teens but I don’t think they really had a name for it back then (that makes me sound so old). Once I was diagnosed, just like anyone that gets diagnosed with any kind of health condition, I started doing my research. Which was hard because there wasn’t a lot of research out there. I went through all the emotions, denial, depression, anger, frustration and then finally acceptance. I couldn’t change my diagnosis but I sure as heck could start fighting for my right to be healthy. I just wanted to feel normal in my own skin. I started moving more and trying ALL kinds of eating lifestyles. I tried paleo, I tried vegetarian, I tried allowing whole wheat in my diet and I tried low fat. I never quite understood the significance of how food really effected my condition till recently to be honest. I thought of all those diets as exactly that, a diet, a way to lose weight.
I have an odd relationship with food. For a long time I used it to squish down the emotions I couldn’t deal with on a daily basis. See, I was raised in a loud family, with a lot of BIG personalities and having a voice wasn’t necessarily easy in that kind of environment. I always felt in the middle of every argument, walked on and often times out-talked by the people around me. Not a big deal EXCEPT for when it came to sticking up for myself. Since I didn’t know how to speak louder than the voices around me, I ate instead and that created an odd relationship with food. As an adult, I didn’t start overcoming my emotional eating till I learned to have a voice. At first I was terrible at sticking up for myself. Then I started getting comfortable and learning who I was, learning when it was appropriate to fight, when it was appropriate to apologize and when it was appropriate to stay quiet till I felt ready to talk again. In that moment my relationship with food changed. Suddenly I didn’t want to emotional eat anymore because I felt in control of my own emotions. Suddenly, I saw food for what it was, a way to help fight PCOS effectively.
I recently had a light bulb moment.
I realized that I was treating my PCOS with weight loss and even though that is great, what I really needed to do was treat PCOS with how I was eating and the weight loss would follow. Especially since I had that pesky insulin resistance issue.
“Insulin resistance (IR) is a condition in which the cells of the body become resistant to the effects of insulin, that is, the normal response to a given amount of insulin is reduced. As a result, higher levels of insulin are needed in order for insulin to have its effects. The resistance is seen with both the body’s own insulin (endogenous) and if insulin is given through injection (exogenous).” (Source)
How is that linked to PCOS:
“In women with PCOS, high insulin levels can cause the ovaries to make more androgen hormones such as testosterone. This can cause increased body hair, acne, and irregular or few periods. Having insulin resistance can increase your risk of developing diabetes.” (Source)
Not to mention so much more. When your hormones are off, everything is off. Your body is a well tuned machine. It is all linked. Which was a fact that surprised me and took me far too long to understand.
I have been conducting my own experiment of sorts with my own body. November through December I was sort of free eating. I was eating whatever I wanted. I noticed that even though I was walking almost daily in November
, I wasn’t losing any weight. I was also struggling with acne, high anxiety and stomach issues. I was also getting these massive crashes in the afternoon that were extreme fatigue. Not to mention I would get crazy cranky by the time the afternoon rolled around. I wouldn’t even know why I was cranky, I was just really cranky and felt stressed. I also would get really sad for no reason. Basically my emotions were all over the place. I had brain fogginess. I was starting to struggle to remember things. I struggled to sleep all through the night. I had a terribly irregular cycle. The list goes on.
In January I cleaned everything up. I started eating low carbohydrates. In other words, I stopped eating the processed crap. I stopped drinking sodas, I switched to sugar free creamer and above all I changed everything I ate. For snacks I started eating apples, black olives, salami and hard boiled eggs. I started experimenting with vegetarian low carb dinners
, with a few lean meat dinners and only one night of red meat a week. For breakfast on the weekends I started having omelettes filled with spinach and other yummy vegetables. I cut out dairy except for cheese. I started upping my intake of water. I drank non sweetened hot tea every night to replace the desert I had grown accustomed to. I worked on making good healthy choices each day.
Less acne. Less anxiety. No afternoon crashes. More energy. No stomach issues. Weight loss. I sleep better. I am in a better mood more often. My moods have stabilized in general. The brain fog has lifted. I am more alert. I gained a normal period. In other words, things have just stabilized in my body and now I am back to losing weight steadily again.
If I didn’t realize how important eating the right food was to my health condition, I get it now. Even now, when I have a cheat meal, I can feel it. Last night I ate Greek food as a cheat meal. I was out running errands, it got late and I needed a quick dinner. I ordered some garlic fries with my gyro plate and Greek salad. I felt it instantly after eating it, all last night my stomach felt bloated and nasty. I had this over full feeling like I had eaten FAR too much. This morning I woke up with a stomach ache and feeling sluggish. I am a little more anxious than normal. Just one day of allowing myself to cheat was enough to slap me hard across this face. This isn’t a diet. I don’t need cheat days. This is my LIFESTYLE. I have to make it my lifestyle in order to live comfortably with PCOS. People that have food allergies or celiac disease don’t have cheat days, they eat a certain way because they get sick otherwise. That is what has been sinking into my brain over the last few weeks. This is how I have to eat or else I will get sick otherwise. Does it make me sad? NO actually. I don’t miss feeling crappy at all.
Am I busy? Yes and eating healthy doesn’t always fit into my schedule. I can still eat out. I just have to skip over the carbohydrates and stick with meat plus veggies. Easy actually. I could have ordered a Greek salad and just the gyro meat last night. It would have been just as good and I would feel a lot better this morning. I make the choice to feel better or not. Just by simply choosing everyday how I am going to eat. That is the biggest lesson I am learning these days.
So what changed your relationship with food?