Before I dive in to my experience living with PCOS and my weight loss story, I want to mention that the information in the post are my personal experiences, and not intended to be viewed as medical advice or diagnoses. I’m not a medical professional (I only play one on TV), but chose to share the experiences I’ve gone through and the lessons I learned in hopes it can help women make informed decisions about their bodies and wellbeing when dealing with PCOS.
The Day it All Changed
I remember standing on that scale in my bathroom at my parent’s house, having to do a double take on the numbers that popped up. It was about mid afternoon, and I recall the sun was barely peaking through the window, almost as if it was highlighting the numbers so I could see them more clear. There I was, reaching the brink of my mid-twenties, when I also reached the brink of my struggle with my weight.
I recall staring down again as the bright red 199 flashed before my eyes. At this point, I was exhausted. I could barely make it up stairs without huffing and puffing. It broke my heart to see how much weight I had put on before I hit 25, but up to that point I felt like it had completely been out of my control. The hormonal issues, the stress eating, the anxiety, the depression. I felt like life was running the show and I was just an extra.
I don’t know what it was or what clicked, but that day in the bathroom at my house changed everything. That day that I looked down on the scale and saw that I was on the brink of hitting 200 pounds, something clicked in my brain that something needed to change.
Where it Started
Shortly after I graduated from high school I began having severe panic attacks. The type of crippling panic attacks that can cause you to grab at your chest, and also cause shakiness and disorientation. They would come on suddenly, and either cause me to flee the situation or search for comfort.
Most of the time my comfort included food. Oh and the amount of food… oh boy.
I would eat enough for a family of four. For example, my favorite local Mexican restaurant up the street from my house was always a given in our household. We ate there way more than we should have. My typical order? A bean rice and cheese burrito double-wrapped (that’s two tortillas, no wonder I have an issue with gluten), a quesadilla, a shredded chicken taco, chips and salsa, oh and a large Dr. Pepper for good measure.
So why on earth did I eat like this? According to an article published on Mind Body Green written by Marvin Singh M.D., the rush was what I trained my body to need to feel better. Instead of using stress-reducing coping skills to manage the stress-control systems set in place naturally within the body, I was using foods I was super addicted to cope.
It also impacted my blood sugar levels. Little did I know at the time, I was also dealing with PCOS and insulin resistance.
According to this article on Very Well Health, under normal circumstances, when you consume carbohydrates, insulin works to take in the glucose to your cells for energy. With insulin resistance, the insulin doesn’t respond as efficiently as it would under normal circumstances. So not only was I feeding the stress, I was also overloading the insulin in my bloodstream as well. At the time I was dealing with extremely painful periods, extremely inflamed acne with redness, depression and mood swings. This type of eating can also throw off the microbiome in your gut. Which can lead to more stress and anxiety. In which I would eat more. Thus beginning the never-ending cycle.
That day when I almost hit 200 pounds, I knew something had to change. But where on earth would I start?
The first thing I did was to cut down on my portion sizes. Instead of getting enough food to feed and entire family, I started to order kids meals. This was the first huge step in adopting a new relationship with food. Instead of looking to eat to cope with stress, I only ate because of hunger.
Adapting any new habit takes time and perseverance. It took me a really long time to be able to be okay with eating smaller portions. The biggest motivator that kept me going? My why. Why I chose to do this in the first place. I didn’t like how I felt.
Didn’t hit the gym immediately either.
I went for walks daily. At first it was just to the end of the street. Then eventually it was a mile. I finally got to the point where I was going on 3 mile walks daily. Again, the weight wasn’t just dripping off me at this time. I’d say 6 months past before I was able to see any dramatic changes. But still I pushed on.
I purchased a gym membership maybe a year or so after I started my weight loss journey. It started out as just a casual visit here and there. I couldn’t last more than 5 minutes on the elliptical machine before I felt like I was going to pass out. My goal became to make it to twenty minutes.
In the beginning, I wouldn’t be in the gym more than 30 minutes at a time. Little bit of cardio, little bit of ab work, and I was out.
I didn’t weigh myself much after I decided to lose weight. I think it was more of a mental thing for me. My success was measured more in how I felt, and less in the numbers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the numbers every now and then.
I remember one day, about 6 months in going to the doctor and they called me back into the room for the weigh in. That was always the most anxiety-inducing part for me. You know – not the waiting to get seen for hours, it was the weigh in.
The nurse called me back and had me remove my shoes and step on the scale.
I remember not wanting to look. What’s funny about those doctor office scales is I can never tell what they say anyways if they are not digital.
She looked at the little lines on the scale and proclaimed 183.
You would have thought I just won the Super Bowl or something. I just remember being so happy, I don’t even remember why I was at the doctor.
It’s small victories like those, even when you feel like giving up, that remind you of your why. Why you started this in the first place. Why you keep pushing forward even when it feels too tough. For those small victories.
Weight Loss Nirvana
It took a little over two years, but I ended up losing 60 pounds total. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and PCOS that’s crazy to me. At that point in 2007 when I first decided that I wanted to do this, I never thought I would be able to, but the difference was that I wanted to. I think that made all the difference in helping me to push through the plateaus and the disappointments.
Today I don’t count calories, I don’t count carbs – heck I don’t even measure what I eat. I prioritize real, whole foods. I avoid packaged foods as much as I can, and I stay away from refined sugar.
While I do indulge in the occasional paleo cookie or Pressed Juicery freeze, I try to limit the impact on my insulin response as much as I can. If I eat something that I know will impact my insulin, I make sure to also eat something high fat or high protein to slow down the impact it has on my body. Ever get that tired feeling a few hours after eating a high carb meal? That’s the insulin crash that happens when your blood sugar spikes, then falls too quickly. Avocados are now my best friend.
Tips and Tricks for Weight and PCOS
- Prioritize grass-fed or pasture-raised meats – I know they can be pricey, but I believe if you consume meat they are well worth it. If you are consuming an animal that was pumped full of who knows what, or was treated inhumanely stressed, that will be passed on to you. I also feel more at peace knowing the animal I am consuming was treated with dignity and respect.
- Try to limit the plastic use and toxic skincare – Plastic contains a lot of common hormone disruptors that can also impact your weight. They can impact your hormones without you even knowing it. I love my Healthy Human stainless steel water bottle. Same thing for what you put on your skin. Try to find skincare brands that prioritize natural ingredients. I love Cocokind for skincare because not only are their ingredients amazing, but they are also super affordable. I also love all of Mrs. Meyer’s soaps, detergents, etc.
- Prioritize real, whole foods – While there are a bazillion diets out there in the world, I HIGHLY suggest starting out with eating real, whole foods. If you find that a certain diet works for you, awesome! But every body is different, everyone responds to different foods differently so what works for one person may not work for another. If your brain is about to explode with all the information out there, start out by limiting processed foods like pastas, cakes cereals.
- Don’t be afraid of carbs – There’s a difference between the carbs in a sweet potato and a doughnut. The main source of carbohydrates I eat are sweet potatoes and plantains. Again, listen to your body and do what works best for you. If you eat something and feel tired or lethargic a few hours after eating it, you may need to adjust.
Special Note on Stress
- STRESS MANAGEMENT – I had to put that in the annoying all caps because I can’t emphasize enough how important stress management is not only for weight but for your overall health. The constant release of cortisol (the stress hormone) can not only impact your blood sugar, it can impact your waist size as well. Download the Calm app for a daily meditation practice, talk to a trusted friend or therapist, release negative emotions, enlist all tactics you can to manage stress.
Please remember that this is my story, and it may not work for everyone else, because we are all different. What I do hope though, is that you find the inspiration to start your journey if you’ve been on the fence. I’d say the first thing to do is find your why, why do you want to do this. Write it on a sticky note and place it all over the house. Remind yourself when the going gets tough.
Weight loss will also take some patience and perseverance. It took me a very long time to even see a slight difference. Don’t be hard on yourself if things aren’t happening as quickly as you would like. I like to look at it as how far you’ve come, not how far you have left to go.
I hope that this helps you on your weight loss/PCOS journey. If you have any tips that have worked for you in losing weight with PCOS make sure to leave it in the comments!