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About a month ago, I decided to take charge of my health.
I had shown symptoms since puberty, but it took years and many doctors to finally be heard. When I complained of amenorrhea as a teenager, it was dismissed as stress. When I addressed symptoms as I got older including the amenorrhea, male pattern facial and body hair, weight gain, and acne it was still brushed aside. I knew something was wrong, and I was pretty sure it was PCOS. I read an article in some girly magazine in high school that addressed PCOS and remember thinking, “Wow. That’s me. Exactly.”
I was fit as a teenager. I worked out at the local Y after class since I didn’t want to go home because it sucked. I’m the product of an alcoholic and an addict alcoholic who got married, fought, had kids, fought, and 16 years later went through a horribly nasty divorce and custody battle. Not fun stuff. I avoided wherever home was as much as possible.
I learned about cleaner eating from one of my dad’s wacky girlfriends, well really one of her books(by the way, this woman was more than 10 years his senior, like approaching major grandma territory. Yes, she was rich, but eww.) My mom had already taught me a bit about the effects of “white carbs” on blood sugar and the waistline, but I read that old lady’s book and everything made even more sense.
As a teenager, I was thin. I had a waist. I could wear a bikini without feeling as though I was punishing people around me. I had periods occasionally, but they’ve never been regular. My skin was pretty clear unless it was PMS related. All in all a pretty good deal. I fully believe it is because of the way I was living my life at that point in time. Lots of exercise and weights, as well as a diet very low in refined carbs.
However, as soon as my lifestyle changed and I was not eating as healthfully as I should, I gained a LOT of weight. Especially around my middle. I felt sluggish. My skin looked progressively worse. My periods became less and less frequent.
I visited several doctors. They all said not to worry. They slapped me on birth control pills and said we’d come back to this when I was ready to conceive a child. That didn’t satisfy me.
I finally found a doctor who was willing to listen to my PCOS theory. She ran some blood work and discovered I was insulin resistant– a major player in PCOS. She ordered a transvaginal ultrasound to look at my ovaries. Voila! There it was, my ovaries (very weird to SEE) were covered in “cysts” (if you read up on PCOS, although these things look like cysts, they’re not true cysts- they’re all these follicles that have been released but never matured into an egg). Basically my ovaries looked like the opposite of a wiffle ball. Yes, this whole process is as awkward as it sounds.
All of this, nearly 10 years of effort, led to the diagnosis of PCOS. Mind you, this was YEARS that my health was left to deteriorate. YEARS that I was left to become pre-diabetic. That’s a hard, jagged pill to swallow.
I started the conventional treatment of metformin and birth control upon diagnosis and promptly felt…worse. Much worse. I started having low blood sugar shakes at random. I was throwing up every night. I had diarrhea all the time. I lost some weight from that but not enough to make it worthwhile in the long run. This is when I realized that my “great” doctor wasn’t so great. She had just written prescriptions, but she had not educated me fully about my disease or my options.
I went off of metformin after several months of being so sick. I quit taking birth control in May 2011. And then I did nothing for a while. No positive action to help my PCOS symptoms or my health. My weight in high school was around 125 pounds. I wore a size 2-6. When my lifestyle changed, and PCOS really started rearing its head, I reached almost 180 pounds at my heaviest. My waist measured around 43 inches.
Over the months of seeming inaction, I started thinking. I realized how much my health was being affected. I didn’t want to develop diabetes. I wanted to be able to conceive a healthy child (or four) one day. And I wanted to do it in a way that suited me. A way that did not make me feel horrible.
So, a little after the new year, I bucked up. I started walking some again. I started eating less refined carb ridden food. I started educating myself about herbs and supplements that could help me out. I started losing weight. I started feeling better. I did this all by educating myself about this disease and what I could do to help myself. I haven’t been perfect. I’ve slipped up quite a bit. I definitely have not been exercising enough. I forget most of my supplements when I’m rushing through the day. I haven’t been organized. However, despite all these shortcomings, I HAVE made progress.
When I started changing my lifestyle, my weight was hovering around 169 pounds- which is considered an “Overweight” BMI for my height (5’6″) My waist was about 42 inches around- it is important that a woman’s waist does not exceed 35 inches (and a man’s should not exceed 40 inches).
Only about a month into this thing and I am down to 160 pounds and my waist is down to the recommended 35 inches as of today. YAY!
I hope to use this blog as a motivational and organizational tool as well a way to help other women out there who are like me. If you’re having any PCOS symptoms, be persistent, get checked out, get educated. Anyone with this disease needs to take charge of her health in order achieve her healthiest life possible. That’s what I want for myself, that’s what I want for you. PCOS that is ignored is a scary beast that can lead to all kinds of life-threatening health problems. Start eating right and exercising today! You WILL be glad you did!