Today starts like any other day. I am 33 years young, I am 5’6”, and weigh 238 lbs. I am down one pound since last week. I walk my dogs but beyond this am not terribly active. My lifestyle causes sedentary behaviors; I work-from-home, blog, run two internet businesses, and perform advocacy work online as well. I am an internet-based excuser! Today this changes! Spring has sprung, and so shall I! I have taken up yoga, and have started working out with a pedometer on as well!
I live with PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which can be one of the hardest and most intimidating diseases to cope with. To give you a little briefing of the disorder, PCOS is basically an imbalance of hormones in the female body that leads to a host of issues. Though the cause is unknown, PCOS is thought to be tied to being caused by poor blood sugar, or a family history of fertility and diabetes issues, though that isn’t always the case.
PCOS basically means that the hormones produced in the ovaries of a woman aren’t functioning as normal. Hormones are chemical messengers that trigger many different processes in the body, including growth and energy production. Often, the job of one hormone is to signal the release of another hormone, but in an individual with has PCOS, their hormones aren’t relaying messages correctly, which leads to the imbalance. What researchers do know is diet and moderate exercise, are two of the biggest ways to treat and possibly eliminate PCOS. PCOS affects women of all ages, races, weights and heights.
If left untreated, PCOS can lead to permanent infertility, Type 2 diabetes, depression, obesity and varying bodily changes such as irregular or painful periods, acne and facial hair.
With all of this said, for this weeks Battle of the Bulge: Budget Style, I wanted to share a few tried and tested ways I manage my PCOS:
1) Monitor your insulin levels: Researchers have found that the key to living with PCOS is all about managing insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone associated with your blood sugar. When too many carbohydrates are eaten, or poor quality carbohydrates, insulin spikes and then drops dramatically. This leads to a change in hormonal imbalance and greatly affects those living with PCOS.
Each day I limit carbohydrates such as sodas, candy and sweets, dried fruits, high sugar fruits, refined grains, starchy carbohydrates, refined and added sugar and any drinks containing sugar such as juices, coffeehouse drinks, etc. to between 10-12 grams per day; which means for me I have choices. I can either have a sugary soda, a small frappuccino, or a cup of pasta with a meal. I cannot have all three. This also goes for fruit, fruit juices, and power bars, too!
2) Make Fiber your BFF: Fiber is a girl’s BFF. Fiber balances blood sugar levels and also aids in removal of excess estrogen from the body. Excess estrogen can worsen PCOS, creating an imbalance of hormones. Daily, I eat 2-4 ounces of fiber-rich foods such as whole grain oats, brown rice, quinoa, flax seeds, chia seeds, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, celery, or celery. It’s also worth mentioning that fiber is also good for digestion, complexion, and helps stave off heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and over sixty forms of cancer isn’t half bad either!
3) 3:1 Ratios: We all remember the awesome old-school food pyramids in our elementary school cafeterias, which showed dancing, singing fruit characters, which encouraged kiddos, like myself, to consume our hearts desire in fruit each day. And,while fruits are healthy foods, veggies are the real all-stars, franchise players for those living with PCOS. Why? Fruits have more concentrated sugar, sucrose, which can affect those who are more sensitive to carbohydrates, such as individuals living with PCOS.
So for me, I make sure to remember my Veggie-To-Fruit ratios, which for me is 3:1, three veggie options, for each fruit option, or three cups of veggies per dinner, to one fruit, eaten at either breakfast, lunch, or in my case, my favorite summer treat, a one cup serving of frozen raspberries!
This strategy allows me to not only eat more veggies than fruits, especially non-starchy vegetables, keeping starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, peas, and winter squash to one small serving a day, I’m also more selective in what fruits I consume, such as berries, green apples and grapefruit; think of fruit as a candy, and remember…moderation first!
4) Organic Dairy Only: This one is by far the hardest for me, and that is the restricted dairy rule. You see, I’m a cheese gal! I live for melty, gooey cheese. Even after having studied and lived in France for two years, if one was to ask me my top five memories of the country, cheese would be in the top three, for sure! Now before anyone starts rolling their eyes, and saying, but cheese is good for you, consider this. Though dairy is rich in calcium, dairy is also rich in natural hormones derived from cows. Avoiding any extra hormones is critical to living with PCOS.
So for me, I limit dairy to only organic cheese, yogurt, and spreads, twice per week, and in 2-3 ounce servings.
5) Bust a move: Exercise has one of the most profound effects on managing your hormones and your insulin levels. for me included. Not only does exercise help the body remove excess insulin into the bloodstream, which levels out hormones, it also helps to decrease negative food cravings by the increase in serotonin levels. Exercising everyday for at least 30 minutes has helped me to lose sixty pounds, feel better, and look better, too! Also, for those suffering from s amenorrhea, or the absence of your period, recent studies have shown that increasing exercise to five days a week, and losing five percent body weight, generally less than twenty pounds, helps regulate cycled naturally!
6) Quit smoking: I won’t harp on this topic…much. I have never been a smoker, but many in my family have, and let me tell you there is nothing awesome about PCOS or Smoking. If you smoke and have PCOS, the only option you have to successfully treat PCOS is to quit. Nicotine, along with alcohol, have been proven to worsen PCOS, not to mention a host of other issues. And if this isn’t enough reason, stop smoking because there is someone, somewhere that loves you to pieces, and wants to alive and well. Stop smoking…please! Public service announcement, ended.
7) Always saturate colors, not fats: Researchers have found the best way to avoid hormonal imbalances is to avoid saturated fats, especially those found in animal products. Healthy plant fats, including coconut, seeds, and fish, are ideal for optimal heart health.
For me, I generally go with Meatless Mondays, which by cutting meat from your diet one night per week, can help you to:
- Limiting Your Cancer Risk. There are numerous medical journals and studies that suggest eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk; noting that both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.
- Potentially Reducing Heart Disease. A 2012 study from Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fats with foods rich in polyunsaturated fat, the lipids found in nuts and vegetable oils, reduces the risk of heart disease by twenty percent.
- Help Prevent Diabetes. Research suggests that higher consumption of red and processed meat increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Help curb Obesity. Cutting meats out of your diet, even for one day a week, can help lower body weights and body mass indices, according to a recent study from Imperial College London.
- You May Live Longer. Red and processed meat consumption is associated with increases in cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.
- You Can Improve Your Diet. Consuming beans, lentils, or peas one day a week can results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium. with lower intakes of saturated.
- You Can Reduce Your Carbon Footprint. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide; which is 3-times the amount omitted by cars.
- Water Conservation. Going meatless for one day a week, can help conserve vastly needed fresh water supplies, as an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef production; feeding the cow and the like. Soy, in comparison, uses only 220 gallons of water per pound consumed.
- You Can Help Lessen Fossil Fuel Dependence. Consider this, according to the FDA, 40 calories of fossil fuel energy are expended, for every one calorie of beef consumed in this country. Eating one day a week without beef, for example, is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.
- Cutting Your Food Budget. Cutting meat out of your weekly menu by one day, will save you nearly $20.00 a month, and $240.00 annually!
- Causing You To Think Outside The Box. Going meatless one meal a week will cause you to look for new ways to prepare dishes. Think globally. Try more ethnic dishes. Going meatless can help expand your culinary palette!
So, for me I like to think you can always go hog wild saturating the world with color, not fat.
8) Healthy Proteins: Getting enough protein is key to managing your insulin levels. Protein satiates the body’s craving of amino acids, which boost brain function, manage hormones, increase energy, and increase metabolism. Most women with PCOS suffer weight gain, and eating more protein than carbs is a great way to balance hormones and lose weight.
For me, I eat at at least 20-30 grams per meal for best results on insulin levels; good options include pumpkin seeds, hard boiled eggs, beans, legumes, and limited amounts of hummus.
I hope this list may help those who have PCOS, or those you know that living with the disease. So, readers…do you know anyone living with PCOS? Perhaps yourself? I’d love to hear your tips, advice, and bits of wisdom, too!
Here’s to better health,