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Battling PCOS

In January 2014, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I had suffered with irregular periods as a teenager, often nothing for 3-4 months and then 2 in a month. They were incredibly heavy and embarrassing. I was advised to go on the pill to regulate and lighten my periods. The pill did help, however I managed to gain 2 stones within a few months of being on this pill. I changed to the single hormone pill and life was bliss for 3 years. The weight went back down and I actually had no periods which is apparently a common side effect.

After a wonderful 3 years I suddenly began to get weekly periods. The GP advised to stop the pill and allow my cycle to try and balance itself out. Seeing as I was about to leave to go travelling, I thought I would let nature take its course.

Over the 6 months of travelling to Australia my weight gain was insane. I left the UK a size 8, but 6 months later I returned a large size 14. My skin had gone from being clear to having cystic acne.

I was given monthly prescriptions of antibiotics to try for my skin which then escalated into 3 years of antibiotics! My weight and size was a constant battle over these 3 years as no matter how much I exercised, the weight was so slow to shed.

Finally after 3 years, I had my skin clear and I was able to come off antibiotics. However, the years of antibiotics had left me with a lot of digestion problems, constant bloating, a regular upset stomach and cramps after eating. My dress size was back to a 10 which I was happy with at least. My periods were still hit and miss so the GP suggested trying a different contraceptive pill to regulate them. This definitely helped, however I found my moods were totally erratic and hard to manage. After a year, I stopped the pill mainly die to my uncontrollable moods and everything went backwards. My acne returned with a vengeance and my periods practically disappeared. My weight would fluctuate and the water retention was horrific.

Finally my GP sent me for scans and blood tests. Here I was diagnosed with PCOS. It was a shock seeing as I am always exercising and eat what I would consider a healthy diet. My GP gave me more antibiotics for my skin which were absolutely useless. Plus I had worked hard over the years to get my stomach healed and did not want to mess my stomach around again! Nausea was a large side effect of the antibiotics and was affecting my work. The GP advised I lost more weight despite being a size 10 and always exercising. And then to come back when I want children! I was horrified especially as the GP was a very big woman herself who said she has no time for exercise! Useless!

After a lot of researching I decided to look into a more homeopathic route. 1 in 5 women suffer with PCOS! There is no known exact cause of PCOS but there seems to be a trend in the following:

*May have had an eating disorder at some point in their lives. *Consuming soy products *Passed down genetically *High sugar diet/ being overweight *Stress *Environmental toxins *Birth control Pill *Over exercising from vast amounts of cardio! *Low body fat

I discovered that it is very difficult for women with PCOS to lose weight and to keep it off (this would explain so many things for me from over the years!). PCOS women with weight issues usually have higher Insulin levels and tend to have a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin removes the glucose (blood sugar) from our blood and stores it in our muscle tissue for energy. With PCOS, you need high levels of insulin to keep the blood sugars at a ”normal” range. The side effects of high insulin levels can cause thickening and darkening on the skin on the back of the neck, under the armpits and groin area. In young women with PCOS, high insulin levels can cause the ovaries to produce more androgen hormones such as testosterone. This can cause increased body hair, acne and irregular periods. Having insulin resistance leads us to retain fat weight and is related with obesity and developing diabetes.

My GP had advised that I lose weight but had not explained anything about my insulin levels. I had a healthy diet and exercised very regularly but was always battling with gaining weight very easily. The problem with PCOS is that we cannot lapse with our eating even for a few meals as everything we consume can pile on as fat weight. Being on a low carb diet, low calorie diet, atkins diet will not work with PCOS long term as it is usually not a sustainable diet for a long term weight loss. Plus the weight will come back with a vengeance as soon as we stop the ”diet.”

For the past 12 months I have completely changed my eating habits and reduced my overall body fat. My skin (touch wood) has cleared itself of any acne and my periods are now running on a 4-6 week cycle. They are also a lot less painful and the cramping has reduced drastically. I also found that despite the vast amount of cardio I was doing did not help with fat loss.

After researching PCOS, it is recommended that women with PCOS do more resistance (weight) training to help reduce their body fat. Resistance training decreases insulin levels and can aid in overcoming insulin resistance! With more muscle generally comes decreased insulin resistance which will reduce the risk of type 2 Diabetes and aid ovulatory infertility in women with PCOS.

Do not panic that lifting weights in the gym will make you ”bulky” it will instead help you build a lean, toned physique and help to boost your body’s metabolic rate so that you burn more calories and body fat quicker! Stressing out your body with high amounts of cardio will can cause weight and fat gain so do not exceed more than 45-60mins of cardio in a training session!

I have listed below a few tips to help other women like me that are suffering with PCOS: Keep well hydrated with plain water and electrolytes (caffeine free) Eat white meats and plenty of fish. Organic and free range is ideal Avoid refined foods, white flour, white sugar, alcohol, fizzy drinks Switch your carbohydrates to unprocessed forms (sweet potatoes, brown basmati rice, oats) Avoid high sugar fruits. Blueberries and gogi berries are a great low sugar fruit Increase your green veg. Choose to steam, bake or consume raw Use Himalayan rock salt, pepper, chilli, garlic etc to flavour your food Switch cow’s milk to either almond, hazelnut or coconut milk Avoid cheese Opt for coconut oil to cook your food Do not add artificial sweeteners and avoid supplements with caffeine Remove sweets, cakes, cookies etc from the house to avoid temptation! Maximise consistent and good quality sleep ( aim for 8 hours if possible) Eat small meals throughout the day Add strength training to your exercise routine (2-4 times per week), focusing on using big muscle groups for maximum fat loss such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, press ups etc.

Use low impact, less stressful cardio to get your fix. Yoga, swimming, outside walks are great Helpful supplements: Rhodiola, holy basil, 5HTP, magnesium, evening primrose, zinc, star flower oil, vitamin B12 & Vitamin D

Instagram: @ammieelou_pt Facebook: Amy Personal Trainer Mercado


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