PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome, Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, the thief of womanhood. No matter what you call it, let's be honest, it's just not very pleasant. There are the irregular periods, muffin top around the midsection you didn't ask for, fertility issues, the hair loss, and let's not forget the hair growth in less than desirable places. None of which you signed up for. But, there's hope.
You can manage it. You can feel better. You can take back your health. Healthier eating habits and exercise can be a great place to start.
The directive to get to and maintain a healthy weight is usually the first bit (and sometimes the only bit) of lifestyle change advice doled out by healthcare providers to help treat PCOS. But what if you are already at a healthy weight? What if you don't want to lose weight? And if you do, how should you go about it?
If any of the questions above have ever floated through your mind, the blanket, "Lose weight. Eat healthier," advice didn't give you the direction you really needed. So here's something I hope helps:
- keep your blood sugar nice and steady,
- put a damper on inflammation, and
- chummy up to antiandrogenic foods and drinks.
The eight simple changes below can help you accomplish the three things above. Diet and exercise changes can go a long way in helping you feel and look your best.
Add resistance training to your workout routine.
Whether you are 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 builds lean muscle, and lean muscle boosts your metabolism. It also seems to improve hormone levels and blood sugar levels for women with PCOS. Check out the results here, here, and here.
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.
Combine fiber, fat, and protein with slowly digesting carbs at meals and snacks. A little cinnamon wouldn't hurt either...
I know, you have heard me harp on this one sooooo many times but bear with me again. When you eat carbs, it's always a good idea to have some healthy fat, protein, and fiber along with it. These three slow down how quickly the carbs make your blood sugar go up and slow down how quickly it comes back down.
Cinnamon is a great spice to add to meals and drinks for additional antioxidants, to battle inflammation, and possibly lower blood sugar and cholesterol all with lots of flavor.
Say, "bye bye" to soda, juice, and other sugary drinks.
Instead choose fruit infused water, seltzer water, herbal teas, and tried and true plain old water. Sodas, juices, and the like cause your blood sugar to spike, not the best thing for women with PCOS (or anyone else for that matter.)
Snack on nuts instead of chips, pretzels, and crackers.
Nuts have protein, healthy fats, and fiber (my favorite combo!) Not to mention vitamins and minerals. All of which makes for a healthy snack which can help optimize health and wellness.
A handful of nuts (or a tablespoon of nut butter) paired with a small portion of your favorite carb source (maybe fruit or a slice of whole grain bread) makes for a satisfying snack with staying power.
Sip on unsweetened teas and coffee in place of that double mocha caramel vanilla pumpkin frapamachilatte...
Green, white, and black teas, and coffee are full of antioxidants and can help squelch inflammation. Of course you don't want to over do it and load up on too much caffeine either.
Peppermint and spearmint teas are other great teas to give a go. Not only are they tasty, they are also antiandrogenic. Which means they can work against the excess male hormones that plague women with PCOS. Happy sipping, pinkies up!
Turn to low mercury fish and pulses as your protein sources of choice.
Anti-inflammatory properties, protein, vitamins, minerals, and in the case of pulses (beans and lentils) slowly digesting carbohydrates. What more can you ask for? Low mercury fish, beans, peas, and lentils are a great alternative to red meat. When possible, choose wild caught fish.
Make the switch from refined grains to whole grains.
Whole grains are full of fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and healthy fat so they are great for heart health and will keep your blood sugar more steady than refined grains. The best choices are intact whole grains like quinoa, steel cut oats, brown rice. Think whole mostly unprocessed grains, like steel cut oats, instead of more broken down types like products made from fine wheat flour, like crackers.
Flip those portions.
If you are anything like most people you might have the tendency to fill your plate with rice, pasta, and potatoes and only put a tiny smidgen of colorful veggies in the mix.
Definitely a good idea to switch those portions around. Even if you are choosing whole grains, stick to a portion no bigger than your fist. Then add a serving of a protein rich food and load that plate or bowl with fiber rich vegetables.
Any type of vegetable makes for a great choice, but the cruciferous type (like broccoli, cabbage, and kale) can be especially beneficial since they support detoxification and combat androgens.
Choose one or two things to change at a time or adopt all the tips. Your call. With lifestyle changes and medical care, you can start to take back what PCOS tried to steal from you.