Today’s guest post is written by my friend, Amy Medling, of PCOS Diva. Amy is a certified Health Coach whose mission is to help women with the endocrine disorder Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. In this article, Amy offers eight simple lifestyle changes that women who have been newly diagnosed can make to begin healing.
You are not alone. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders found in women, affecting approximately 10% of women worldwide, with less than 50% of them diagnosed. The syndrome is present throughout a woman’s life from puberty through post-menopause and affects women of all races and ethnic groups. Women with PCOS wrestle with an array of possible symptoms including infertility, acne, hair loss or excess hair, weight gain and depression. Far-reaching health implications such as increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes make these already stressful symptoms even more daunting.
If you are a woman struggling with PCOS, I have good news- there is hope! While you cannot cure PCOS, most women can alleviate symptoms by losing weight through mindful eating and moderate exercise. Lifestyle change is the key for women with PCOS whether they are overweight or not. We need to be thoughtful about the foods we use to fuel our bodies, the exercise we choose, the toxins we are exposed to and, just as importantly, the emotional and mental care we take with ourselves.
Where do you begin?
By understanding the causes, symptoms and possible treatments, you can begin to see the path to healing. Start by downloading PCOS Diva’s free PCOS 101 guide. It will help you understand the causes and latest treatments for PCOS along with information about how to be properly diagnosed and assemble your health care team. With that knowledge under your belt, you are ready to start healing.
Load Up on Whole Foods & Supplement Your Diet
Begin by eliminating as much processed food as possible. Food is medicine! Whole foods such as nuts, lean meats and organic fruits and vegetables will be the foundation for rebuilding your health. The sugars (natural and artificial) in processed foods throw your insulin out of balance and trigger nasty side effects. PCOS can be well controlled with diet and exercise, but supplements can make it easier.
Dump the Dairy & Get Free of Gluten
Women with PCOS have specific dietary needs. In order to get your hormones and insulin levels back on track, you must eat mindfully. Work to eliminate inflammatory foods such as dairy and gluten. For women with PCOS, these two categories of foods cause inflammation that triggers many of your symptoms from acne to insulin imbalance.
Make a Plan
This is one of my most important tips. Plan your meals, exercise and self-care ahead of time. You are bound to make destructive food choices when your hunger drives your food choices as you rush home from work and eat anything you can find or eat from the dreaded snack machine at work because you didn’t pack a snack. Exercise and self-care will be pushed aside if you don’t allocate time for them as you would a doctor’s appointment. Plan and thrive!
Move It Every Day
Find a way to move every day. This isn’t just for weight loss. Movement relieves stress and clears your mind. Whether it is a walk at lunchtime, yoga, swimming, gardening or a strength training class, any time spent moving is time well spent. Keep moving in little spurts throughout the day- take the stairs, park far from the store or stretch.
We all lead busy and stressful lives. The way we approach the stress can make all the difference. Healthy women have learned coping mechanisms to take on less stress as well as to effectively manage and have a positive perspective on the stress they do have. Stress triggers the production of cortisol in our bodies which wreaks havoc on our hormonal system and PCOS symptoms and gives you belly fat! Who needs that?!
Studies show that you are more likely to stick with a lifestyle change if you have a supportive community. First, educate your loved ones so that they can offer support as you make important changes. Next, find a community of like-minded women. My Jumpstart program is a 7-day lifestyle coaching program that helps you develop habits that heal as well as a supportive community of women to cheer you on in the months and years to follow. Also consider finding a walking or grocery shopping buddy with whom you can share your journey.
Make time for self-care
The need for self-care cannot be over emphasized. Taking care of your mind, body and spirit is not selfish. You are more able to give your friends, family and coworkers your whole self when you have taken the time to refresh. Self-care means eating well and exercising, but just as importantly, it means taking a few minutes to yourself every day to recenter and relax. You may choose to meditate, take an Epsom salt bath or write in a journal. Whatever you choose, give yourself over to the experience wholly and see the difference it makes in your life.
Above all, be kind to yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The diet and lifestyle changes I suggest will improve your quality of life more than you can imagine, but you have to be kind to yourself while you do it. Take baby steps and eliminate/change one thing at a time. If you make a mistake, remember that you are only one choice away from being back on track. Try to spend a little time each day doing something just for you- take a walk or a hot bath, meditate or read a book. You must be your own top priority.