PCOS: Another Reason to Get Healthy

A couple of days ago, I posted my goals for 2012. Not resolutions, but rather general health, fitness, lifestyle, and career goals that I would like to work on during 2012.

Several of these goals revolve around regulating the eating habits and settling into a regular fitness routine. Of course, we all know that healthy eating and frequent exercise are the cornerstones of any healthy lifestyle. However, losing the extra weight and maintaining a healthy weight is even more important for me, because I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). While I am by no means an expert on PCOS, I have done a little research in an attempt to understand what is happening in my body.

(Note: Although it may seem like it, this post is not, in fact, sponsored by WebMD. I just find their site incredibly informative and reader friendly. :))

PCOS is a problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance. According to WebMD:

  • The sex hormones get out of balance. Normally, the ovaries make a tiny amount of male sex hormones (androgens). In PCOS, they start making slightly more androgens. This may cause you to stop ovulating, get acne, and grow extra facial and body hair.
  • The body may have a problem using insulin called insulin resistance. When the body doesn’t use insulin well, blood sugar levels go up. Over time, this increases your chance of getting diabetes.

PCOS is actually fairly common, affecting as many as 1 in every 15 women. However, since extra body hair and irregular period issues are not something that usually come up in everyday conversation, I don’t really know of many other  women who have it.

The reason that I bring it up is because PCOS often causes weight gain or makes it more difficult to lose weight. Like me, you might wonder why. Here’s what WebMD says:

“With PCOS, the body has more difficulty using the hormone insulin, which normally helps convert sugars and starches from foods into energy. This condition — called insulin resistance — can cause insulin and sugar — glucose — to build up in the bloodstream.

High insulin levels increase the production of male hormones called androgens. High androgen levels lead to symptoms such as body hair growth, acne, irregular periods — and weight gain. Because the weight gain is triggered by male hormones, it is typically in the abdomen. That is where men tend to carry weight. So instead of having a pear shape, women with PCOS have more of an apple shape.

Abdominal fat is the most dangerous kind of fat. That’s because it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other health conditions.”

While I don’t intend to use PCOS as an excuse (because I am done making excuses and ready to take action), I do want to remain informed about what is going on in my body and avoid getting discouraged when changes don’t happen overnight.

As WebMD explains, adding healthy habits to your lifestyle can help women with PCOS keep their weight under control. Here are their recommendations:

  • Eat a high-fiber, low-sugar diet. Load up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoid processed and fatty foods to keep your blood sugar levels in check. If you’re having trouble eating healthy on your own, talk to your doctor or a dietitian.
  • Eat four to six small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals. This will help control your blood sugar levels.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day on most, if not all, days of the week.
  • Work with your doctor to track your cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
  • If you smoke, get involved in a program that can help you quit.

In addition to working on stabilizing my healthy eating habits (check out my goal about the 80-20 approach to eating), I would like to try eating 4-6 small meals per day, instead of the three major meals. I often find that I am starving between meals, but usually try to wait until the next meal time to avoid eating too much. Then, I end up binging because I am so hungry. I think that smaller, healthy snack-meals throughout the day would help tremendously with this issue.

Finally, I recently e-mailed Ashley of Fashionably-Fit about the topic of PCOS, because she addresses how it affected her weight loss on her blog. In her weight loss story, Ashley explains how she has the strain of PCOS that causes insulin resistance. In her e-mail to me, she described how she had reached a terrible plateau where she was hungry all the time. Reading her story, I finally felt as if maybe I’m not imagining my often excessive hunger and perhaps it is related to this disorder?

Like I said, I am not looking for an excuse, but rather extra motivation to turn my life around and get healthy once and for all. I want to be happy with my body and feel great all the time, but also to keep my PCOS in check and make sure that I am as healthy as can be, given the symptoms that come with it.

Does anyone else care to share their experiences with PCOS? Or anything?

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2012!

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5 Responses to PCOS: Another Reason to Get Healthy

  1. Kate says:

    Ive found that with my PCOS, taking a birth control pill does keep many of my symptoms like acne and darker hair under control. As far as weight loss, the best thing for me has been to cut carbs almost completely out of my diet. I do eat about a tablespoon and a half of oat bran to help keep me regular, but other than that, I dont do carbs at all. It was very tough at first, but its made a world of difference in the past 7 weeks. I am down 16 pounds and have about 34 left to go to reach my goal weight.

  2. katieforlife says:

    Katie, I have been on birth control since the day that I found out I had PCOS when I was 16 years old. I don’t really have a problem with acne, so I’m thinking that it helps with that. That is really interesting about the carbs … I might have to try that, although it sounds like a challenge!

  3. Kate says:

    It definitely was! But Ive found substitutes that work for me. Like cauliflower pizza crust and spaghetti squash. Of course, I let myself enjoy a little something here or there for my birthday and Christmas, but other than that, I don’t miss them all that much!

  4. I just saw on your workout log where you span and danced yesterday! How was that virtual spin class?? I’ve never really heard anyone talk about PCOS but thanks for the information. I would imagine that eating habits could be a lot different with it than without it. Truly had no idea that it affected 1 in 15 women. That is rather alarming. As for food choices, I always eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I also always snack between meals. Eating every two-three hours really helps a lot with the hunger!

    • katieforlife says:

      The virtual spin class was pretty cool. I downloaded it from Rachel Wilkerson’s blog … it’s called Face Down Ass Up. It was really nice, because I love to spin and can’t always make the classes, so this way I could do it on my own.

      I had never heard of PCOS before I was diagnosed with it, so I know where you are coming from.

      And yeah, I am going to think about adjusting my eating habits, because I think I would definitely benefit from eating less, but more often!

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