Anxiety · Change · Diet · Experience · Lifestyle · Motivation · PCOS

PCOS Symptom Struggles

This past week has been a difficult one. A lot of the symptoms I used to suffer with as a result of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome have returned, but others I have been struggling with for a while seem to have improved.

I’m going through a bit of a rough patch in my life right now, something I’ll talk about in another post when I’m ready, but I think stress is accountable for a lot of these recent changes. Although I’m suffering from a great deal of anxiety, it’s not consuming me to the core. I find my mind constantly wading through the field of emotions that I have been dumped with, but it’s not to the point of self destruction. 
Now, I said some symptoms seem to have improved of late & the first one I am really pleased with. It’s not a major improvement, but I’ve noticed the spots on my face, especially around my chin (which I’ve read is signs of a hormonal imbalance), have calmed down… a lot. Usually around the time of (what I hope is) ovulation & then my period it flares up & can be very painful, not to mention awful to look at. This month has been brilliant, not as painful & easy to cover up with my normal foundation. The second symptom I struggle with is loose stools… ooh what a lovely subject! I’m not going to go into much detail here, no one needs to hear that, but let’s just say it’s improved tremendously! 
So, on to new symptoms. I have been experiencing very strong pains “down there”… I’m talking sitting on a knife type of pain. It’s horrendous & has woken me up in the night several times. You’d think that all of this was for something, but I’ve had a really light period which went away for a couple of days but then returned unexpectedly & pretty heavy… but just for an hour or so, then nothing. Just before you ask, yes I am trying for a baby & I did test, but it came back negative… & that’s ok as right now I’m not sure I could cope with a pregnancy if I’m going to be honest. Other things I’m experiencing is heartburn, fatigue & night sweats. I’m talking proper-pyjama-drenching-sweats! Nice! 
For me, I feel stress is the major player here. I’ve made no dramatic changes to my diet or fitness regime so that’s why I’ve come to this conclusion. Let’s hope next month is a better one & with a lot less stress! 
Stay happy, healthy & focused… 
xx Gem xx 

Change · Diet · Lifestyle · Motivation · PCOS

Choosing A Diet That’s Right For You

First off I want to explain what I mean by the word ‘diet’. I used to hear the word ‘diet’ and wince. For me it meant cutting out foods I enjoyed, writing down everything I ate and worst of all, being hungry! That, to me, is a ‘fad diet’. Something that is short term, sometimes effective, but can be strayed from… and let’s face it, down right boring! Nowadays the word ‘diet’ to me comprises of all the food I eat and I try my best to maintain a well balanced one.

So, when I talk about choosing a diet that’s right for you I am talking in terms of the correct foods to eat according to your health needs… not just cutting back to lose weight. For example, I am deficient in Iron so I had to adjust my diet to include lots of leafy greens and other sources of Iron (Guinness included!). I would suggest going to your doctor and requesting a blood test to see if you are deficient in any areas. This would be a good start to help mould your diet to provide the maximum benefit. Also, have a good think about any foods that you eat and if they have a negative effect on your body. For example, sometimes (and I say sometimes because it’s not every time) when I eat a large portion of cheese I find the following day I can quite often become rather acquainted with my toilet. Just beautiful isn’t it?! I have become quite wary of dairy in general and try my best to avoid consuming large full fat amounts of it (cream is just the worst!). There are alternatives, so find one that you like and trial it for a couple of weeks. Before I got married my doctor diagnosed me with stress induced Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and anything I came to eat would have me crippled in pain, especially at night, so I had to make a lot of changes to suit that phase, but now that has passed and I can eat a lot of those foods again without any problems.

Next, have a look at foods you currently eat where you can make healthier choices. For example, if you love pasta then make the switch from white to wholegrain. White pasta is processed and a lot of the nutrients get lost because of this. What’s the point in eating food if you’re not going to get the full benefit from it? Make the switch, and I’ll tell you, wholegrain pasta is MUCH tastier than white. That goes for rice too. Brown rice has a much nuttier flavour, and again, doesn’t suffer the consequences of processing like white rice. Basically, any grains you eat look out for the wholegrain version and already you have made one easy step to making your diet better for your health.

Be very wary of low fat options as they’re not always the healthier choice to make. A lot of them I find contain more salt to provide a better flavour and a lot more unnatural substances too. Always read your labels and compare to get the best choice. This also goes for drinks… coke being a big contender in the diet option category. Although diet coke contains less calories, the artificial sweetener that is added has many downsides and in some people it can trigger insulin and send your body into fat storage mode (which is already a BIG problem for us girls with PCOS, so don’t make it worse for yourself). Personally I don’t tend to drink fizzy drinks (apart from the odd local cider! Yes, I’m a West Country girl!) as it makes me bloated and I feel dehydrated quickly. The best form of liquid you can drink is water… water water and more water! What I have done also is widen my variety of hot drinks that I drink. I used to be a coffee and tea kind of girl, but to keep balance in my diet I introduced different types of tea and try my best to only drink one cup of each kind of hot drink a day.

Now, fruits and veggies. It’s really not that hard to make sure you eat your 5 a day… there are so many options, many of which are very versatile, so you shouldn’t get bored easily. HOT TIP: When making anything with onions, thinly slice some celery and add them in. They really pack out a good meal and have great nutritional benefits. I’m currently looking into getting on the smoothie bandwagon. In order to keep my Iron levels up (with an Iron packed smoothie) and to ensure I eat little but often (due to Insulin Resistance) I think that smoothies would be a great thing to introduce into my diet.

I wouldn’t recommend going ‘cold turkey’ with anything, unless your health needs require it, as in my experience this will only cause you to crave it. Look at this as a lifestyle change and your aim is to have a balanced diet. I believe it’s good for the mind to treat yourself every now and then, but if I deny myself something completely then I’m more likely to get to the point where I crack and binge on it. Using pizza as example… not the healthiest form of food, but instead of ordering in a big expensive pizza I now use my bread maker to whip up a wholewheat dough, then I can control what I put on top of it (especially the amount of cheese) and enjoy a freshly cooked slice of heaven rather than a semi-warm scrap of crap that has arrived on the back of a moped!

Ah ha! I know what you’re going to say… “but I don’t have time to make a pizza”. Now, I’m not very good at being critical, but YES you do. MAKE time for it. I plan… I plan my meals and I plan my day. It’s really not that hard to do. If I need to make a soup for dinner but I’m on a long shift for work, I’ll wake up 10 mins early to prepare the veggies in the morning. That way, when I get home I can just turn the hob on, blitz and serve. If I want to make a pizza then I’ll pop all the ingredients in the bread maker and set the timer so it’s done when I get home from work. A good investment is a slow cooker if you haven’t got one already… I love mine and Hubs makes some delicious healthy meals for us.

So, recapping then, the main points for choosing a diet that’s right for you (in my opinion) is to:

  • Check if there are any areas you are deficient in and need a boost
  • Test to see if there are any foods that react negatively to your body and remove
  • Make healthier choices with the foods you currently eat, but be wary of low fat options
  • Don’t go cold turkey, introduce changes slowly and treat yourself in moderation
  • Plan ahead

Try to remain focused on your diet and don’t worry if you have a bad day… just pick yourself up and get back on it. DON’T wait until Monday, or the beginning of a new month, otherwise you’re falling into the trap of a fad diet and this is not what we need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You can do this! You are in control of what goes into your body… take time to build a healthy relationship with food and you’ll soon reap the benefits! It isn’t easy making a change, it took me a little while to adjust, but now I do it without thinking and it’s become natural part of my life to eat healthily.

Best of luck with the changes you’re making, and if you need to, call on friends and family for support.

Stay healthy, happy and focused…

xx Gem xx

Change · Experience · Lifestyle · Motivation · PCOS

Making A Change

Walking out of the doctor’s office, my head was buzzing. It was a lot of new information to have about myself in such a short space of time and I needed time to process it all. The big question that was swirling around in my mind was “what does having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) mean for me?”

I went home, put the kettle on and started to read through the information I was given. I learnt a lot in a short space of time and felt completely deflated by the end of my cup of tea. The overwhelming feeling of possibly having trouble conceiving was weighing me down like a lead balloon and I couldn’t shake it from my thoughts. I have a wonderful relationship with my husband and we talk everything through, so the poor thing had to come home to many nights of his wife being a complete mess about something he couldn’t fix. This is when we really started to talk about children. Now, there is WAY more on this subject… as a woman nearing 30 years of age and recently married, you can imagine the nesting I am doing right now, but this is not the point of this post. I am here today to talk about deciding to make a change and to (hopefully) give you some hints and tips based on my experience.

So, this brings me to my first point. You have to WANT to make a change. Of course, many of us can relate to wanting weight loss (for example) when its beach season or that cute dress you used to wear five years ago has no hope of zipping up, but wanting that can easily be swayed by that chocolate éclair in the coffee shop… oh and not to mention that caramel latte! YUM! You need to have a ‘want’ that is strong enough to keep you going, to give you that motivation and to kick some serious butt at making a change. My ‘want’ is children. Yes, of course I want to be pain free and live a life where I don’t have to worry about the symptoms of PCOS, but in all honesty my biggest reason for change is children… and I would do ANYTHING to have them.

Once I decided on my reason for making a decision to change, the motivation came bursting into my life like an excited puppy. This was great and I am extremely grateful to myself for allowing this to happen, but the biggest challenge was making this motivation stick. Day 5 into my new exercise regime I was starving and exhausted, but every time I even thought about giving up I looked at myself in the mirror, pointed my finger, got that frown out and said “You want kids? Then you have to work for it!” This might sound a bit cheesy, or stupid, but it worked. It worked for me. I’m not saying it’ll work for you, but you need to find something that does.

My biggest challenge was when I hit around the 6 week mark. Shortly after Hubs and I got engaged in 2012, I joined a gym and found myself wrapped up in a lifestyle of early morning workouts and healthy meals. The reason was there (“Shredding for the Wedding”), the motivation was strong (“Doing it for the Dress”), but a couple of months into it the scales weren’t budging. Oh if only I knew back then the implications of Insulin Resistance! (More on that in another post) That deflating feeling hit me harder each week and eventually it seemed easier to cry about it than work at it. Fortunately for me, my stress levels hit the roof in the run up to the Wedding and I miraculously lost the weight I needed for my dress… but OBVIOUSLY I’m not going to recommend this as a weight loss regime! So, returning to the biggest challenge for me; extending that motivation to blissfully prance alongside me for life.

It was at this point that I signed up to an online Nutritional Therapist course. I am much better at sticking to something if I’m actively involved, so this was a great option for me. As I started to eat foods that were better for me, I found myself with more energy and amazingly my clothes started to feel a little loose. The scales may not have moved, but the inches were! For the first time in my life I found myself toning up. Also, the pain I was experiencing with PCOS wasn’t as frequent and my period was getting healthier by each passing month! I was flourishing and it was all down to my own efforts I had put in. Hubs told me how proud he was of me, that I was actively doing something to help our future, so I took a moment to record my results for future reference when I’m finding it tough… because it will happen, it’s not all plain sailing.

There have been a couple of times I’ve “fallen off the bandwagon”, but this is a phrase I no longer like to use. In the past I have let myself fall and I have merely crawled back to the sofa and switched on the telly, but now I have found the strength to pick myself back up and continue on my way. This strength hasn’t come easily and it’s quite often the inspiration of others that has driven me to be as focused as I am today. As you know, I love my Instagram account and I have found much inspiration from one lovely lady in particular named Emma ( @sw_elouise0590x ). Emma is on a Slimming World journey to lose weight and over the past few weeks she has come to realise that this is not just a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle change for her. I’d just like to quote from one of her posts…

“After thinking, my ultimate goal isn’t to be a specific size or weight, it’s to be changed for life. So in my mind the longer it takes to get to goal, the longer time you are practising your new lifestyle and therefore it’s giving me more tools to be able to stick to this lifestyle when I’m at goal.”

Emma has discovered that she wants a long, happy and healthy future and the only way to do this is to adopt a new lifestyle… and I’ll tell you, it’s sure working out well for her! She is totally motivated, super happy and seeing great results each week because of this change… and not to mention motivating others on her way! So, if you have a bad day or something that sets you back, don’t let your bruised ego persuade you to give up. Remember this is a lifestyle change you CAN stick to; wipe the slate clean and start fresh right away… and with this frame of mind you may find it easier to hold on to your decision to make a change. I’m currently 5 months into my journey I am more focused than ever!

Thanks for listening folks, until next time…

Stay healthy, happy and focused!

xx Gem xx