PCOS, short for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a condition almost 40-50% of the female population suffers from. The sad truth behind this sudden increase in the number of women suffering from it is our lifestyle. Up until a few decades ago, we lived a healthier lifestyle where we moved more and ate clean, wholesome foods. Today, technology has made everything convenient for us, too convenient in fact. We don’t have to move or walk anymore or worry about cooking our meals.
PCOS is an increasingly growing concern among the women of the world and can be as lethal as obesity in the long run. But although medically there is no cure for the disorder, it can be cured by undoing the damage done by our not-so-wholesome lifestyles.
What exactly is PCOS?
Simply put, PCOS is a condition of the uterus where a woman acquires multiple small cysts in her ovaries which affect the normal functioning of her reproductive system.
The main cause of PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. A woman suffering from PCOS starts producing abnormal levels of the male hormone testosterone and her insulin levels go berserk. This causes them to suffer from symptoms like loss of menstrual period, increased hair growth on the body, weight gain and hair loss.
PCOS often doesn’t strike women alone. More often than not it comes in a package with diseases like hypothyroidism and Type-2 diabetes, which are also caused by hormonal imbalances in the body. This makes the entire situation a lot worse. The fact that there is no cure for the disease is only icing on the cake.
How bad is PCOS?
PCOS doesn’t seem like a severe condition, but you should ask the women battling it every day. I myself was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 18. Before that, I had no clue what was going on with my body.
I gained almost 8 kilos in the course of 4 months and I had lost my menstrual period almost completely. When my period did come back, it would go on till months at an end. I was always tired, and my head looked like someone has wrenched whole sections of my hair out. Life was bad, and I couldn’t seem to stop eating or stop feeling anxious. Every time I looked at myself in the mirror I would ask myself, “What is going wrong in my life?”
Any woman suffering from PCOS knows exactly how I was feeling. It sucks when your friends and family don’t know what you are going through and give you endless suggestions about how you should live your life. You have mood swings, you are always tired and you bloat up like a balloon even if your diet is scant.
My Personal Battle with PCOS
My PCOS diagnosis was more like a breath of fresh air, especially when the doctor told me that I was not the only one out there. I didn’t just have PCOS, I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism, borderline type 2 diabetes and anemia. In the course of a few months, I had become a walking disease carrier from a perfectly healthy and happy girl.
The diagnosis proved to be a turning point in my life. I was determined to defeat this incurable disease that had changed my life so drastically.
The first thing I did was examine my lifestyle changes that caused my condition. I had just joined college, and my earlier healthy lifestyle had taken a turn for the worse. All I would eat was junk food because the mess food was so tasteless, and the only exercise I got was walking to and fro from class. Every time I would get homesick, I would binge-eat to cope with it. I was surprised at how unhealthily I had started living and made it a mission to undo the damage.
Believe me, it was hard at first, making the changes in my life I needed to. I hated to exercise, but I did. I started practicing portion control and cut ties with all junk. The struggle of giving up my beloved chocolates was real, but I was determined. I started substituting my cravings with water and became more active physically. Even when I couldn’t handle it, I stomached the hostel mess food. And I am not exaggerating when I say, I could visibly see my body transforming every day.
I had no support. My family thought I was on some fad diet and they continuously worried about my reduced food intake. On the other hand, my friends didn’t even know if what I had was real, and kept trying to convince me to get back to my instant-noodle lifestyle. There were times when I would become so tempted it hurt, but I wanted to be healthy, and I wanted to look good.
Within 3 months, I lost almost 15 kgs of weight, had healthier hair and glowing skin, and had an improved stamina. I was happier and no longer felt the urge to eat all the time. No, I didn’t entirely give up my favorite foods, but I found that it was harder for me to binge on them now because I liked being healthy so much. The best part, my period came back! And till date, I have managed to sustain my weight and my periods are as regular as any normal woman’s out there.
How can you cure your PCOS?
To all the women struggling with PCOS out there, I know what you are going through. But believe me, when I say, you can end the struggle for good.
Don’t expect anyone to come to your rescue. The medications you take will only keep your disease at bay temporarily. If you want to get rid of it forever, you will have to struggle, and use all your willpower to not give up.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts that I would like to share so that you can get started with your journey from sufferer to survivor:
Be more active
Exercise is the best thing you can give to your body for its well-being. When you exercise, you don’t just get into shape, but you also release hormones essential for good health. Exercise is a great way to de-stress, and some studies even suggest that it reduces your appetite. Now, exercising doesn’t mean you have to run on the treadmill for hours at an end. There are so many things you can do! You can join a dance class, engage in any sport of your liking, or just take your dog out for a walk every day! Just keep moving around and give your couch a break.
Eat clean foods
The amount of sugar or fat you are consuming is not the problem, the problem is with how highly processed the foods in our diets are. Fat isn’t your enemy, it is a nutrient, and so is carbohydrate. But when one of these nutrients (in combination with a hundred chemicals) is consumed too often and in a big quantity, your body systems become helter-skelter. Try to limit processed foods as much as you can. The chemicals and preservatives in them are just toxins for your body and of no nutritional value. So stick to natural foods like fruits, vegetables, multi-grains, and fresh meat straight from the poultry farms.
Have someone in the know
If you see your loved ones trying to change your lifestyle, talk to them. Tell them about your mission, and how adamant you are. Discuss with them your goals, and ask them for help. If they love you, they will do everything to motivate you and help you. Have your mom make healthy food for you, and tell your friends to help you cut junk from your diet. What are loved ones for, if not for support?
Indulge once in a while
PCOS doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey on all the pleasures of life. It’s just that the moderation rule becomes a little more strict for you because of your hormonal imbalances. That doesn’t mean you have to entirely give them up. You can still indulge in your favorite foods every once in a while. I personally love chocolates, and throughout my journey from fat to fit, I never gave them up. If you have a secret indulgence like this, don’t give it up. Allow yourself to give in once in a while, just make sure to not overdo it or have these treats too often.
Contrary to popular belief, miracles do not happen overnight. Give your body time to adjust to the new changes in your lifestyle. Once it does, it will start adapting on its own and you will not just see, but feel the change in your body. Don’t give up in the middle just because you cannot see progress. Just make sure that you are consistent, and everything else will take care of itself.
Go on a fad diet
There are hundreds of fad diets on the internet, and each one will guaranty you instant weight loss results. Fad diets are unsustainable, and although you will lose weight fast, you will gain it all back again. Weight-loss is not the actual problem, the actual problem is your hormones. Fad diets won’t regulate your hormones, they will just depress you. So don’t, just don’t.
Compare yourself to your peers
Women suffering from PCOS need to be extra careful about their lifestyle, so don’t compare yourself to your “normal” peers. They can live an unhealthy lifestyle and still have normal hormone levels, but that doesn’t mean you can too. You should also consider the fact that their unhealthy lifestyle will affect their future health if it is not affecting them now.
You are being healthy for yourself, not for anyone else. So don’t think about others, think about what you want to be.
- Deprive yourself
This is as bad as going on a fad diet. No food in this world is good or bad. But too much of anything is where you go wrong. Junk food is bad for you because it doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value. However, that is no reason to give up all your favorite treats. As a general rule, sugar is a PCOS patient’s worst enemy, so you DO need to reduce your processed sugar intake a little. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot indulge in a piece of chocolate or a mini donut every now and then. Moderation, girls, moderation!
Do not give up. This is a battle you have started to achieve something you have always wished you had. Every time you feel like giving up, think of the end result of your struggle. What will you achieve from this new lifestyle? You will start looking better, feel more energetic, you will be happier overall and gain a lot of self-esteem. It is difficult to make changes, but changes are what make you grow as a person and make your life better.
Being a PCOS patient is tough, and sometimes really painful, especially when it comes to your self-esteem. But if you want to achieve something then only you can help yourself. And once you make up your mind to do so, you will see that it isn’t really as difficult as you thought it would be. So go girl!