I’m constantly struggling with my weight. Constantly. And it’s not just because food is delicious. I have a hormonal condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which makes losing weight really difficult. And that’s just one of the really annoying effects of my hormones running wild, but I’m not going to go into that here. You can read more in the link above.
PCOS also means it’s very easy to gain weight. Just in case it wasn’t making things sucky enough. Easy to gain, difficult to lose. Not impossible, but difficult.
It’s not just a case of cutting out delicious food and doing a bit of exercise, either. But then no diet should be strictly focussed on cutting out everything awesome. Losing weight with PCOS is about trying to avoid specific types of food that hate you and working out exercise that will benefit you.
I’m not a doctor, so don’t take everything I say as a fact. This is just from my own experience, the things I’ve learnt and am learning. But I’ll provide some handy links at the bottom for anyone who needs them.
On with the lessons!
- IT’S REALLY DISHEARTENING
‘Trying’ is the key word in the title. Because it’s really hard. For every half a pound I lose I can easily put it on again in a heartbeat. And a lot of work usually equals only a little outcome. Even then, because the condition means you have more testosterone than necessary in your body, it isn’t really a case of losing weight, it’s turning fat into muscle. If the only way you can really recognise any weight loss achievements is by looking at the number on the scales (guilty!) then it can be really, really disappointing if you look at the scales and see you’ve only lost a pound in two weeks despite working really, really hard. The thing is, the testosterone is making more muscle, and muscle is heavier than fat.
What you actually need to be paying attention to is how you look and how you feel. That’s where you’ll see the results, but there are problems with this proof. For one (I don’t know if I’m speaking for myself) a lot of overweight people who are unhappy with their bodies are going to look in the mirror and see no change in their bodies because they aren’t thin. Sometimes it feels like it’s that black and white. I’m not thin, so I’m fat. I can’t appreciate any improvement because all I can see is that my thighs are too big and my belly is flabby. Relying on other people, or even unprovoked compliments can’t be trusted, because your friends and family are going to want to make you feel better.
I’d love to say the best way of monitoring your achievements is the way that your clothes fit. As your fat turns to muscle your clothes will get looser. Horrah! Oh, except there’s a problem with this, too, because if you’re on the larger side your clothes are probably quite loose anyway, so you’re not going to visibly notice the change in their fit.
You have to have the confidence to trust your eyes, your friends, your body and the way it feels. This is easier said than done. The scales aren’t telling you anything, in the mirror you’re still a fat girl, but you haven’t eaten a whole pizza to yourself in a month. What? It’s disheartening. It’s hard. You have to keep motivated even if you can’t see a change in the normal ways.
- YOU HAVE TO REALLY PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FOOD
Food is just the worst. Actually, it’s freaking delicious, but you know what I mean. Everyone who is on a diet should be watching what they eat anyway, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but again, with PCOS, any slight deviation from your diet can really set you back.
Here’s a PCOS food guide. Anything processed is a bit of a no-no. Anything white in colour is also a no-no. No white bread, pasta, or rice. No biscuits (except wholewheat!) no potatoes. Anything with complex carbohydrates because they affect your insulin levels, which in this case are being messed up by your hormones. Tada!
So it’s a strict diet of wholewheat and brown rice and no potatoes. Even in moderation, white foods can do a number on your insulin levels in ways they really wouldn’t if your hormones were doing their normal thing. Honestly, I’m terrible at adhering to those dietary rules, but when I do, when I’ve been strict with myself, I do notice the weight coming off a lot easier. I mean, it’s mainly because it restricts what you can stuff into your face, but wholegrain is genuinely better for you, and anything less processed, so it’s a sound move even if your hormones are a-okay!
On a similar note, since we’re talking about insulin levels, did you know that smoking really messes with them, too? If your body is able to suitably maintain it yourself then by all means, smoke away, but if you have PCOS then smoking is doing the opposite of what it does for everyone else. It won’t make you skinny by replacing a meal with a cigarette. Just the opposite. I’m not a big smoker so it wasn’t that hard for me to stop, but even when I do have one now I have extra bonus concerns.
- YOU CAN DRIVE YOURSELF CRAZY
It doesn’t take a lot for me to drive myself crazy at the best of times. I have a very self-destructive personality. But dealing with my weight is like opening up a whole new bag of crazy for me. I’ve had issues with my weight since I was a little girl, I’ve had eating problems, and that still rears it’s ugly head more frequently than I’d like to admit, even though I’m ‘better’ now. But that’s kind of another story. Back to this kind of crazy-
I run a mile or two nearly every day, and I’m very hard on myself. Despite this, weight loss is very slow. I know I run every day, I push myself through it, I don’t eat white bread or pasta or crisps, I don’t smoke, but progress is slow. So I run, I deny myself things because I worry that that calorie could be the calorie that pushes me down that extra pound, and that bag of crisps I’m thinking of having could really set me back, and if I haven’t lost any weight then I beat myself up and wonder what I need to do differently. I know, genuinely I know this isn’t all my fault, and I feel bad about writing up this list of things I’ve learnt when I barely ever heed the things I say myself. I beat myself up constantly. But that’s all the noise in my head.
To anyone else I’d say don’t let your weight control your life. It’s difficult, I know, but don’t. If you just exercise as much as you can and cut out bad foods you body will do the rest. There might be things your doctor can recommend, too, advice I’m not qualified to give. My own doctor only told me to lose weight. Thanks, bro.
The number on your scales might not go down much at all, but you’ll get fitter, you’ll feel better in your body. You might never be super skinny and that’s okay, it’s something I know I have to learn to accept, too. But you can be healthy. You don’t have to completely deprive yourself of delicious things as long as you remember to take it easy, as long as you remember your body is a little uncooperative. Once fighting with your weight becomes a case of misery and deprivation everything is going to get harder.
I suppose the key to not going crazy is to accept the limits of your body and not being angry with yourself if you aren’t seeing any rapid progress. It’s a one day at a time job. One day at a time.
- MIRACLE WEIGHT LOSS ISN’T A THING
Especially in this case. I’m not an advocate of anything that claims to be miraculous weight loss anyway. There is no healthy way to lose weight ‘miraculously’, and any of the items that are on the market are usually based on influencing your metabolism. If you have PCOS then your metabolism isn’t working normally anyway, so these things are, at best, a complete waste of money and at worse they’re going to do you harm.
I know that some women are instructed to go on the Pill, and that helps with regulating their hormones, and if you’re thinking of taking anything at all I’d advise that with the go ahead from your doctor.
Nothing is a miracle weight loss when it comes to this condition. Exercise will help, meal plans will help, but you still have to expect slower results and maybe not exactly the type you want. But I’m going to implore you to stick with the slow and steady mindset. Some miracle diets are kind of dangerous, and putting your faith in them when your weight isn’t solely down to your calorie intake is going to be awful. If you don’t see the results with a restrictive diet then there is the temptation to restrict yourself further to try and get those results, and that can start to get dangerous.
It’s a bastard, I know, but the best way to lose weight is to avoid the foods your body rages against and to keep yourself active. Even if you don’t lose weight as you want to you’ll feel better in yourself, and I promise you that looks way sexier than a thigh gap.
- IT’S NOT IMPOSSIBLE, BUT IT IS ONGOING
Losing weight is difficult but it isn’t impossible. I hit my highest weight a few years ago and I worked bloody hard to get it down again. I lost two stone. But now I’ve kind of plateaued, and it’s my own fault because potatoes. But I can honestly say if you take out the foods I mentioned earlier, if you’re careful with the decisions you make regarding your food, then you will see a change. It does happen. But it’s ongoing, it’s a change of lifestyle, because shifting weight with PCOS is tricky and putting it back on is easy. That said, once you find a balance you’re comfortable with (without constantly denying yourself, because that’s the easiest way to put it all back on) it isn’t difficult to maintain.
I’ll say again I’m no good at taking my own advice, but I have learnt things. I’ve learnt things I’d give credit to. And yeah, it’s hard work. I think if I’d been diagnosed earlier I could have been changing my diet for a long time, and maybe I wouldn’t have as much fat to try and turn into awesome muscle or whatever. But you know what? Your health is more important than the size of your clothes. If you feel fit, if you’re healthy, it doesn’t matter. Aim for healthy, not skinny, and if anyone gives you shit, exercise your middle finger a bit more.
Here are some websites that might help, and some additional information.