Polycystic ovary syndrome
Have you been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)? Me too! It's estimated that 5-10% of people with uteruses have PCOS, an endocrine disorder that leads to hormone disruptions, long or absent menstrual cycles, and usually the development of tiny follicles surrounding the ovaries. PCOS may cause you to notice higher amounts of hair growth on your face or body than before, acne, hair thinning/loss on your head, fertility challenges, and insulin resistance. Not everyone with PCOS has all of these symptoms, and some are mild while others experience more pronounced symptoms.
Insulin resistance means your body has a more difficult time keeping its blood sugars within a normal range, and is the reason folx with PCOS are at higher risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes in the long term. The majority of those with PCOS experience weight gain, difficulty losing weight, and cravings for sugars/carbohydrates because of high insulin levels. Your doctor might have already recommended you lose weight, but ummm did you read the last sentence? Difficulty losing weight + cravings for sugar/carbohydrates are hallmark challenges for those with PCOS. Not to mention that long-term weight loss success is incredibly challenging even without all of this hormone imbalance stuff testing your willpower! Evidence also tells us that long-term (5+ year) weight loss has less than a 5% success rate, and that intentional weight loss through diet cycling can have damaging and lasting psychological affects. But what do we keep hearing from our healthcare providers? A blanket recommendation to "Lose 5-10% of your body weight." This is not okay. Especially since disordered eating and clinical eating disorders are extremely common with PCOS. Weight stigma impacts our health and wellbeing in a truly negative and harmful way. This is why it's time for a change in PCOS management. It's important to work on a whole-person health solution, look at health outside of body weight/BMI, and consider a sustainable and enjoyable plan for nutrition + activity as first-line therapy in your overall plan.
I've worked closely with dozens of individuals with PCOS, and was the Primary Investigator on a CFDR-funded research study looking into the effects of nutrition intervention and PCOS outcomes. I have been witness to the immense psychological burden of trying to follow a prescribed diet plan in a body that seems to do everything in its power to resist weight loss and have heard countless accounts of the intensity of your food cravings. Not only do I have professional experience in this area, but in the midst of conducting the PCOS nutrition study, I was personally diagnosed with PCOS. So, believe me, I get it! I get the challenges with fertility, sleep quality, carb cravings, and skin/hair issues because I've had 'em too. I've heard and read every so-called nutritional treatment/cure/diet plan and know that the information out there is leading so many folx with PCOS down an unsustainable nutrition path and often causing more harm than good (both physically and mentally). You're not failing at your diet: your diet is failing you.
It's time to shut down PCOS diet culture mentality. It's time to stop avoiding the foods you love, and start working on an individualized and flexible plan for sustainable eating habits. It's time to embrace yourself, and to work with your body instead of fighting against it. It's time to have meaningful discussions about how you can make sustainable, healthy choices to manage your PCOS symptoms and improve your fertility and health outcomes.
Get in touch with me if you've had enough with the disappointments of dieting or weight-stigmatizing healthcare, and are ready to work online with someone supportive one-on-one to help you navigate a sustainable long-term plan for eating well with PCOS. Or if you're even a little bit curious about exploring why weight loss isn't the cure-all for PCOS that it's made out to be, I'd love to hear from you. I offer one-time consultations, but highly recommend choosing from my package options (or creating a custom one to suit your needs!) to allow for follow-up questions and best address some of the longer-term challenges that might come your way in everyday life. Check out my Prices + Booking page for more information.