PCOS Sucks! How To Fight Like A Girl, And Survive Like A Woman Chapter 3: Weight Gain
I’ve heard multiple myths regarding PCOS. The one that bothers me the most is that PCOS only affects overweight women. It’s simply not true. Many women who have PCOS are overweight. However, PCOS doesn’t discriminate and can affect women of all sizes. The relationship between the two is insulin. Our bodies don’t use it properly, which can cause weight gain.
Weight loss and gain are something I’ve struggled with my entire life. And like most women, I’ve had past doctors tell me that it would help with symptoms if I lost weight. The problem is, it is harder for women with PCOS to lose weight. Again, we can thank insulin for that (sarcasm, of course!)
When the first doctor told me to lose weight, I brushed her off. I was twenty-one and “knew it all.” One of my co-workers had PCOS, was the same size as me, and became pregnant. Little did I know she used fertility meds to conceive. My mind was made up that the doctor had no idea what she was talking about. It was one reason I switched to a new doctor. I’m glad I did it (my doctor is amazing), but I should have listened. I should have at least tried to lose weight.
To understand why my feelings have changed at thirty-three, I will give you a little back story. My weight has fluctuated my entire life. I was always the chunky girl until middle school. I guess I lost all my “baby fat” late. The summer before ninth grade, I lost around forty pounds. I kept off the weight for two years and then got a steady boyfriend my junior year of high school. The number on the scale rose. We were happy, and I got comfortable. We broke up a year later and determined to lose the weight before college. I went on Weight Watchers, lost fifty pounds, and felt wonderful!
Through the next years, my weight wavered a few pounds, but nothing significant. I graduated from college, got married, and got comfortable. AGAIN. I gained back all the weight I’d lost and then some.
I’d have days where the weight gain bothered me, but I did nothing about it. I knew I should eat more vegetables and cut back on my bud light consumption. But my husband and I were enjoying life. I was happy and healthy, so I figured it didn’t matter. If I had known then what I know now, I would have made a lifestyle change.
Let me reiterate here I’m not a doctor nor a certified expert on PCOS. I’m not trying to preach that you MUST lose weight to reverse PCOS. That’s not even possible to do. However, with my specific situation, I wonder if I’d listened and lost the weight, could my PCOS symptoms been lessened years ago?
The past two years of my life have been crazy. I got sick with gastrointestinal issues and had to alter what I ate to manage symptoms. My diet no longer comprises fried foods and bud light, and I’ve lost ninety pounds. I don’t want to feel sick, so I try not to introduce any items into my body that may affect me. There are days I can tolerate eating a chicken wing or four. I don’t wish my illness on anyone, but good has come out of it. Because of my weightlessness, some of my PCOS symptoms have lessened or non-existent.
With my weight loss, I have periods every month and ovulate on my own. The hair growth on my chin and neck has lessened, and I no longer deal with acne. All these PCOS symptoms I dealt with since I was a teenager. Until now, every period or positive ovulation test was induced with medication. Trying to conceive again, I beat myself up that if I had made a lifestyle change sooner, I could already have a baby. My next chapter will go more into detail on infertility and PCOS.
I try to stay active as much as possible. It’s challenging with a desk job, but I try to stay moving when I get home. Whether it’s cleaning my house, organizing my closets, or walking around a store for an hour. Any activity is better than none. I’ve never enjoyed the traditional working out at the gym. I prefer a dance class or an at-home Zumba video.
Through the years, I’ve tried most diets out there. I’ve bought PCOS diet plans and PCOS cookbooks. These diets and books work for some, but everyone is different. The cookbooks and diet plans were okay if you have a lot of spare time and don’t live a busy lifestyle. My job keeps me busy, and sometimes I travel. I don’t have time to cook meals every evening or the means to pack and store my lunch every day. When my job wasn’t so hectic, Weight Watchers worked for me. With my current job and illness, I believe fasting started my initial weight loss.
Weight Watchers is great if you’re disciplined and can dedicate time to it. The cookbook has yummy recipes. I would take an already prepared lean cuisine for lunch and cook dinner at night. When going out to dinner, Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone has point values for hundreds of food items at restaurants. The diet was doable for me. Like I said above, I lost fifty pounds in just four months. I will point out that lean cuisines contain a lot of sodium, so always read the labels. Weight Watchers have in-person meetings or online subscriptions. I enjoyed in-person meetings to hear about other people’s successes.
When I got sick with my gastrointestinal issues, I realized quickly that eating after four o’clock P. M was not good. My food wouldn’t settle in time before bed, and it made me feel awful. Some nights I was hungry around eight o’clock, but I chose hunger pain over indigestion and nausea. I calculated I fasted for seventeen hours a day. I did this for months, and the weight fell off. For the seven hours I ate, I ate what I wanted. My diet is restrictive, but at times I would have a chicken sandwich and french fries if my stomach felt okay. Other days, I would have soup for lunch and a protein shake for dinner. I did what my stomach allowed me to.
I’ve learned to manage my gastrointestinal symptoms and can eat more. I still fast for at least thirteen hours a day. When you eat, I don’t suggest overindulging and eat every donut in sight. At my desired weight and continuing to fast, I can enjoy a donut or a piece of cheesecake without feeling bad. My stomach has shrunk significantly, which makes it manageable to eat less than I was and not get hungry. I call it the light at the end of my dark tunnel.
Fasting isn’t for everyone, and it’s difficult. I have more discipline than I knew. But my doctor suggests this for most of her patients trying to lose weight. I wish I had tried sooner and realized what weight loss could do for me and my PCOS symptoms in my twenties. The good news is it’s possible in your thirties and on up! Not only am I managing my PCOS symptoms better, but I’m healthier and have more confidence.
I’ve heard once you do something for two weeks, it becomes a habit. Start in small increments and gradually work your way to more fasting hours. Join the Weight Watchers community. Why not? From the words of Taylor Swift, “It’s never too late to be brand new!”
Photo by Deanna Jackson via Canva