PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a common endocrine disorder that affects how the ovaries work. Symptoms include hair loss, acne, inflammation, and weight gain.
I got diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome pretty quickly, which is actually very uncommon among people with PCOS. It was right after I had a ruptured ovarian cyst, which was so painful that I ended up in the hospital! After my hospital visit, I went to the gynecologist who formally diagnosed me. Women with PCOS are often diagnosed based on whether they have ovarian cysts, however, this isn’t the only diagnostic criterion.
You need 2 out of the 3 symptoms of PCOS to be diagnosed: 1. Ovarian cysts, 2. Irregular periods, 3. Hyperandrogenism.
My PCOS Story And Struggles
I had all these symptoms, although I don’t remember being asked during my appointment. The next thing my doctor did was offer me birth control, and when I went home, I felt I had no choice but to take it. I didn’t know what it was, what was happening, or that there might be any other option. She never explained any details.
I went home, hopped on google, and found some pretty overwhelming information! So with that, I figured I should probably take that birth control she gave me. In hindsight, I feel that I should have been monitored more closely. I didn’t even know the side effects of birth control like the potential mood swings, weight gain, etc. Everyone else was on it, so I thought it would be fine. Luckily nothing serious happened, but I still had questions…what was actually going on?
By the time I went to college, I knew I wanted to study health…but how could I do that if I didn’t understand my own health? Am I healthy? Why am I on birth control? That’s when I decided to get off of it and soon enough, all of my PCOS symptoms started to spiral out of control: mood swings, weight gain, cravings, an irregular menstrual cycle, cystic acne, excess hair growth…
I decided to visit some more ObGyns and to my disappointment, they still didn’t explain in detail what was going on hormonally.
Perhaps I wanted to know more about the “science,” while it seemed we only had time in these appointments for a band-aid “solution.” Too often, women with PCOS are encouraged to lose weight without any further nutritional guidance. Nevertheless, I kept investigating my health. (This is something I often say on Instagram, “Keep investigating your health” – it’s even a gif on Instagram Story when you type in the word “cysterhood”!)
It wasn’t until I started seeing naturopathic doctors that I finally started learning what was happening. First things first, they said to reduce inflammation as this can exacerbate insulin resistance. I started by cutting out gluten and dairy from my diet. In the past, I had cut out calories and carbs.
That was a miserable experience, it worsened my mood, made my cravings worse, and delayed my period even more! But cutting out gluten and dairy actually helped me feel better…my skin cleared, I was less bloated, less fatigued, and my water retention reduced significantly. I didn’t feel puffy and uncomfortable in my own skin, it was amazing progress! Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy at first, but when I saw the benefits…I was all in!
Of course, my PCOS journey doesn’t end there. There are multiple components to PCOS weight loss. Although my diet was less inflammatory, I was still working out like crazy. I used to go kickboxing almost every day, sometimes twice a day! My stress hormones were running wild and it was affecting my blood sugar and carb cravings.
One of my naturopathic doctors even told me I needed to “just relax!” and stop working out so much. Stop studying for hours instead of sleeping. Stop stressing and meditate more. It was the first time someone seriously sat me down and said something like that, and I listened. I swapped out kickboxing for yoga, set boundaries on when to study and when to relax, and started prioritizing my mental health. The next thing I knew, my grades were going up, my brain was less foggy, and I just felt happier.
“MY JOURNEY DOESN’T END THERE. IT WAS STILL THE BEGINNING!”
Once I finished college at Chapman University, I went to grad school to study nutrition. I was working as a nutritionist at a meal prep delivery company, where I would create menus and nutrition labels. It was truly the perfect job for me at the time, not only was I happy in my position but I was also getting free food! It was perfectly portioned out, which really helped me learn what a proper portion size looked like. You would be surprised what 3oz of steak looks like when it’s weighed and portioned out! It’s great to track your meals temporarily like this just to learn what portions look like.
So at this point, I’m doing yoga, eating proper portions of gluten and dairy-free foods…when suddenly I swiped right on Tinder and met Sirak, my husband, and personal trainer. Fast forward to one of our dates when we went to the gym and he taught me how to do slow workouts with weights while taking 60-second rests between each set. I was like…What?! I felt that burn and I saw definition in my body for the first time without feeling fatigued afterward and getting beat up by intense workouts.
I eventually had to move away for a few months to do my hospital rotations to get my Registered Dietitian license.
At this point, I got the workouts down, the gluten and dairy-free portion sizes, and the yoga. I was feeling good and was managing my symptoms. Later I realized that while I was working at the hospital, I was actually doing intermittent fasting too and I was walking 10,000 steps a day. Thanks to a combination of diet and exercise, I was really slimming down! I ate 3 meals a day, with one small snack, which helped with keeping my insulin levels low. I was also doing a 12-hour intermittent fast. I walked 10,000 steps a day by going from room to room at the hospital. The combination of walking, going gluten and dairy-free, and weighted workouts…was really working out for me!
It took me so much trial and error and so many years to really narrow down what’s working for me and what’s not working for me. It also took time to adapt to these lifestyle changes. I encourage you to keep an open mind as you try new lifestyle changes and investigate your health. Listen to your body and ask yourself, “what’s working for you?”
This is my story, and I’m happy to share it with you because these suggestions can be life-changing. The method that we share is based on years of my experience while studying to become a Registered Dietitian. We have taken my knowledge of metabolism and the naturopathic approach to reversing my PCOS and created The Cysterhood where everyone can access it. We’ve seen some incredible transformations. Don’t give up on reversing your PCOS!