As a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age, PCOS symptom management often gets lumped in with general weight loss. Here are some helpful ways to take back your life through self-care that doesn’t involve the scale.
BY: KENDRA TOLBERT, MS, RDN, CDN, CLC
You may know it as Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or maybe Stein-Leventhal Syndrome. Some have even been called it the “the thief of womanhood”. No matter what you call it, I think we can all agree, it’s not something most of us would sign up for.
There are the irregular periods, fertility issues, hair loss, increased risk of other chronic diseases, and let’s not forget the hair growth in less than desirable places. That’s the bad news, but there’s good news, too.
You can manage it. You can feel better. You can take back your health.
With a few simple self-care practices, you can be well on your way to feeling good again. Often times, a recommendation to lose weight is the first bit (and sometimes the only bit) of lifestyle advice offered by health care providers to help treat PCOS.
However, the generic “Lose weight. Eat healthier,” advice that’s commonly given lacks clarity and direction. And frankly, it isn’t all that helpful. Weight loss is not the be-all and end-all of PCOS treatment. If it were, there would be no women in thin bodies with PCOS, and there are. Tons of them.
You deserve advice that gets to the root of your symptoms, not more pressure to fixate on the number on the scale.
While we can’t pinpoint the exact cause of PCOS, we do know insulin resistance and inflammation play a role. Balancing your blood sugar and dampening inflammation through self-care can help you feel your best with PCOS. Here are some simple changes that can help you do just that.
1. Add resistance training to your workout routine.
Whether you’re already active (I see you Cardio Queen) or are looking to start working out for the first time, make sure resistance and strength training is a part of your routine. Cardio is great, but so is resistance training. Resistance training can help improve hormone levels and metabolic profiles for women with PCOS.
Not into free weights or weight machines? That’s OK. Resistance training includes yoga, pilates, aerial arts, and barre: pretty much anything that causes your muscles to contract. Find what you enjoy and get moving.
2. Balance carbs with fiber, fat, and protein at meals and snacks.
When you eat carbs, it’s always a good idea to have some fat, protein, and fiber along with it. These three slow down how quickly the carbs make your blood sugar rise, and slow down how quickly it comes back down. Fill up with fiber-rich vegetables such as cruciferous veggies (like broccoli, cabbage, and kale), which can be especially beneficial since they support detoxification and combat excess androgens.
3. Spend time in nature
Forest bathing really doesn’t get enough attention here in The States, but I promise you it’s every bit as beneficial to your health as good old nutrition and exercise. No worries, you don’t have to strip down to your skivvies and take a soak in the forest as the name suggests. Just enjoy some leisure time in nature. It’s that simple.
Can’t get outside? Even listening to nature sounds and looking at videos or photos of nature scenes can have a positive impact on your health.
4. Snack on nuts
Nuts have protein, anti-inflammatory fats, and fiber, not to mention loads of vitamins and minerals. A handful of nuts (or a tablespoon of nut butter) paired with a portion of your favorite carb source, such as a piece of fruit or a slice of whole grain bread, can make for a satisfying snack with staying power.
5. Sip on unsweetened teas and coffee.
Green, white, and black teas, and coffee are full of antioxidants, which can help squelch inflammation. To avoid too much caffeine, you can also try rotating peppermint and spearmint teas into the mix. Not only are mint teas tasty, they’re also anti-androgenic and work against the excess male hormones that plague many women with PCOS.
6. Turn to fish and pulses as your protein sources of choice.
With anti-inflammatory properties, protein, vitamins, minerals, and, in the case of pulses slowly digesting carbohydrates, low mercury fish, beans, peas, and lentils are a great alternative to red meat. When possible, choose wild caught fish.
7. Get some shut eye
I’m convinced sleep is the bedrock of good health. You can’t exercise or eat away your body’s need for sleep. It’s the time when your body have a chance to repair and rejuvenate. Sometimes falling and staying asleep is easier said than done, I know. If you’re having a difficult time sleeping, don’t despair, there are ways to sleep better even when your hormones won’t let you so you can get the rest you need.
With lifestyle changes and medical care, you can start to take back the life PCOS tried to steal from you.
Adapted from the original article.
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Kendra Tolbert, MS, RDN, CDN, CLC is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified lactation counselor, and certified aromatherapist based in New York. Through her private practice, she helps women and couples prepare for pregnancy and enjoy healthier, happier pregnancies. Learn more about Kendra at Live Fertile.
Very helpful reading. My lovely daughter got diagnosed with PCOS today and I got worried but I think these directions are still reassuring
Will sleep effect pcod..I am working in night shift..working from 6:30 pm to 3:30 am..I sleep at 5 in the morning and. And I wake up at 10 to have a light breakfast fast and Get up by 12:30 – 1:00..will this increase my weight ..I have pcod .and I wanted to know if this will increase my weight