I have never been what some may call “naturally slim” and I spent many of my teenage years convinced I had “big bones” and concentrating on the fact I carried my excess weight well – or so I thought!
The truth was that I was overweight and, in hindsight, winging my way towards obesity pretty quickly too.
So when I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome at sixteen, I was relived that I finally had a reason, or some may say an excuse, for being overweight.
My doctor told me straight away that losing weight with PCOS, while difficult, was absolutely necessary if I wanted to be able to manage my symptoms – which included my weight.
While my weight had always been an issue, it wasn’t that which had prompted my visit to the doctors.
I had suffered from an annoyingly irregular menstrual cycle since starting my periods in my early teens and during the previous couple of years, I had begun to notice the appearance of hair in places I didn’t expect it – namely on my chin and stomach.
To have a reason for these symptoms too was also something of a relief.
The issues surrounding fertility were, due to my fairly young years, not a problem although looking back as a PCOS mum now, I can see why some women who are diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome are convinced they will never be able to have children.
My Experience Achieving PCOS Weight Loss
Although I wasn’t diagnosed with PCOS a century ago, it was close to fifteen years ago, meaning losing weight wasn’t quite so involved as it is now.
What I mean by that is, a diet consisted of reducing calories eaten and increasing calories burned. A very basic approach with no mention of carbohydrates, saturated fats, manufactured sweeteners that you hear so much about today.
Although I wasn’t convinced I would be able to achieve weight loss with PCOS quickly, I knew that for the first time I had a real motivation to lose the extra weight.
I wanted to be a PCOS success story and show other woman with PCOS that achieving weight loss was possible, despite a seemingly uphill struggle.
This was, without question, when my relationship with my bathroom scales and obsession with weight control began, as the next fifteen years would prove to have tremendous highs and depressive lows.
I was referred to a dietician but in the meantime my doctor made the following points about how to lose my PCOS weight:
Change my Attitude towards Food – No more Comfort Food
Up until my PCOS diagnosis and my subsequent dietary changes, I had always seen eating as something of a comfort.
I loved everything that was on the “naughty” list, such as stodgy foods and other foods that were high in fat.
The doctor put this down to my overall mood and the fact I had trained my brain, and my belly, to be seriously impressed with this type of food.
It was also down to the fact my body contained larger amounts of insulin than the average woman – which affected blood sugar encouraging mood swings and binge eating.
Change my Attitude towards Exercise – It’s Doesn’t Have to Be that Big a Thing
My doctor was adamant about getting across the fact that exercise was a serious element of successfully losing weight with PCOS.
He told me that exercise could be a walk to work instead of getting on the bus, or using the bottom two steps on my staircase to do step-ups.
It wasn’t, as I seemed to view it, having to join a gym and commit myself to a harsh and brutal exercise routine. Those were just my own inner excuses and not true at all.
I have found, since I became a PCOS mum that I have more opportunity for exercise than I ever have before and that my kids do help me keep on top of regular exercise.
Introduce Healthy Habits into my Every Day Life
Other areas of my life were also less than healthy, which in turn was affecting my weight and possibly exacerbating my PCOS symptoms.
Sleep had always been a huge issue for me, I was very much a night owl – however, as I had committed myself to further education, I found I was having late nights and getting up early – surviving on four to five hours of sleep a night.
According to my doctor, sleep had a huge impact on mood – a point supported by the American Sleep Association who recommend the average adult has at least eight hours of sleep a night (reference http://www.sleepassociation.org/).
I also needed to address binge drinking, something of a fad that was circulating through the younger generation when I was diagnosed, if I wanted to be able to achieve healthy weight loss with PCOS.
My Weight Loss Journey with PCOS
I know referring to my own weight loss experience as a journey is pretty cliché but it is the only real way I can explain it.
Like most journeys, my weight loss experience has had various false starts, bumps in the road and even the odd complete breakdown but overall it has been a fairly rewarding experience and one I have chosen to learn from and continue to do so as my life changed from moody teenager to PCOS mum.
My initial reaction to my doctor’s advice regarding necessary PCOS weight loss was to join Weight Watchers, a group offering weight-loss support.
As well as being advised on appropriate meal plans and exercise routines, there was a supervised weigh in. I thought this would give me more motivation to lose weight, as my weight was being noted every week by a trained specialist.
I did lose weight on the plan, around six kilos in as many weeks and while I was over the moon, I still had a long way to go.
It was around this point that my best intentions began to come unravelled. I initially put it down to my busy lifestyle, but eventually concluded that given my condition, I would need extra support if losing weight with PCOS was going to be successful for me.
These are the avenues available for every woman with PCOS who needs further support with her weight loss journey.
Most doctors or OBGYN specialists will refer women with PCOS and weight issues to a dietician.
A dietician is an expert in nutrition and food and not only can they develop a diet appropriate for the woman’s needs, they can also help you introduce healthy eating habits into your everyday routine.
Diabetes Doctor or Specialist
Tracking the insulin and blood sugar of a woman with PCOS is extremely important.
According to my own doctor, as well as information supplied by the Cedars-Sinai Hospital it is common for women with PCOS to have some form of insulin resistance.
Because sufferers of PCOS do not respond normally to high levels of insulin, the risks of developing diabetes type 2 are significantly increased.
Unfortunately, excess weight can also interfere negatively with the body’s treatment of insulin – making it something of a vicious circle.
Consistent monitoring, usually once every six months for the average woman with PCOS can help doctors manage, and where necessary treat, abnormal insulin levels.
Counselling – Professional or Like-Minded Support Is Essential
Polycystic ovary syndrome can be an embarrassing condition, especially as many of the side effects are cosmetic and therefore affect a woman’s appearance as well as her health.
Learning to live with and manage symptoms such as excess facial and body hair, oily skin and thinning of head hair, can be something of a challenge.
This is without dealing with the issues such as weight gain, obesity and irregular periods.
Losing weight with PCOS can be made easier with the help of a counsellor – either on a one-to-one basis via a doctor or as part of a PCOS support group.
I have experienced both and cannot recommend either one highly enough. Just being able to talk to someone who knows the condition, who understands your weight gain and other symptoms are part and parcel of your condition is a huge motivator.
My weight went up and down in the years following my diagnosis, mainly due to ignoring dietary changes and the fact I also fell pregnant with my two older children.
Yes! Not only have I managed to survive losing weight with PCOS, a battle I still continue to wage I must add, I am also fortunate enough to be a PCOS mum – something I never thought would be possible when I was first diagnosed with the condition.
PCOS Weight Loss Can Improve Fertility
Because polycystic ovary syndrome often causes irregular or absent periods, PCOS and fertility problems tend to go hand-in-hand.
There are two important things to remember, however, if you are diagnosed with PCOS and are worried this will affect your chances of having children:
PCOS Does NOT Make Women Infertile
Polycystic ovarian disease can cause fertility issues, because an irregular or absent menstrual cycle usually means the woman isn’t ovulating properly and when she does, it is hard to chart with no regular cycle to follow.
PCOS Women Do not HAVE to Have Fertility Problems
According to Medicine Net, it takes the average couple around 12 months to conceive. However, there are always exceptions and many people find it takes longer to fall pregnant.
Therefore, women with PCOS should not assume because of their diagnosis they will automatically struggle to get pregnant. If after a sensible length of time you have concerns, your doctor can refer you for further tests.
I was fortunate, I conceived with my first child within six months of trying. It is important women, whether they have PCOS or not, remain positive regarding their fertility while trying to conceive as stress can also cause problems.
Because losing weight with PCOS can reduce the symptoms of the condition, a woman’s chances of achieving a normal conception are greatly increased if she loses her excess weight. However, this is true with ALL overweight women.
Obesity or excess weight does not automatically mean a woman has polycystic ovary syndrome.
When I was diagnosed and during subsequent PCOS-focused appointments, I was introduced to a fertility specialist – despite the fact I had never experienced or reported any fertility issues.
Therefore, if you are referred to a specialist after your own diagnosis ask questions and air your concerns – the referral does not mean you are infertile or that you will even suffer from fertility issues.
My specialist was an extremely supportive part of my PCOS management plan and an important part of my overall education on the condition.
My PCOS Weight Today
My weight has yo-yo’d since my diagnosis, while I didn’t lose a lot of weight initially, I lost just short of 20 kilos in the three years following.
Not long after I fell pregnant with my son, I gradually put all the weight back on.
The following years saw my weight go up and down in between three more pregnancies.
Today, being a PCOS mum has made it a little easier when it comes to losing weight with PCOS.
Partly due to being on my feet running around after the children and keeping a mostly-keen eye on what I eat, I am within a couple of kilos of the recommended weight for my height.
It hasn’t always been the case though, at my heaviest following the birth of my second son and my subsequent divorce my weight increased dramatically to the point where I was over 30-kilos above my ideal weight.
The key to my eventual PCOS weight loss was when I was advised, by a dietician, to follow a low-carb diet.
Today, I try to make sure I:
- Take 180 grams of carbohydrates per day – My daily diet consists of around 1800 calories per day.
I do my best to ensure that 180 grams of those calories is purely carbohydrate … no more and rarely less.
- Avoid starch – As a previous lover of stodge, such as bread, chips, pasta, a change in my actual food was an absolute must for me to start losing weight with PCOS.
I now eat wholemeal bread, pasta and rice. I also opt for skimmed or soy milk, which is a much better alternative to my previous passions.
I have found a low-carb diet relatively easy to follow as I could keep much of what I liked to eat, just swapped out for a healthier version.
- An hour’s daily exercise – Being a mother of four, I rarely have to dedicate time for exercise as I am always on the go. I do try and walk everywhere possible, weather permitting and I also like taking time out on my exercise bike – it’s a great stress reliever!
Making permanent changes to your diet in order to lose weight is never easy, no matter what your circumstances.
However, losing weight with PCOS is not impossible, but it will take time.
If you accept that change will not happen over night, you are much more likely to be, like me, a PCOS success story.
Living with polycystic ovary syndrome and its embarrassing side effects can be difficult but there is a lot of support out there.
My advice, as a PCOS mum, is for women to educate themselves as much as possible about their condition, how it affects them and what kind of treatment program will be must appropriate for them.
Listen to your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask questions or admit if you need help or further support.
Once you are comfortable with your condition, your PCOS weight loss will be much easier to manage.
What Would You Like to Read Now?
PCOS Diet and Guideline: Natural Treatment for Insulin Resistance Symptoms
Achieving PCOS Weight Loss
with a Healthy Low Carb PCOS Diet
Most Frequent PCOS Symptoms: Treating PCOS Naturally via a Low GI Diet
Polycystic Ovarian Disease In-Depth and Understanding PCOS Symptoms
Treatment for PCOS: A PCOS Diagnosis Does not Mean Infertility
What is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome): Research-based Information on Symptoms on Treatments
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