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Thursday, 6 November 2014

PCOS: the acronym that changed my life

"Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common female endocrinopathy, affecting 5–10% of the female population. It involves overproduction of ovarian androgens leading to a heterogeneous range of symptoms including hirsutism, acne, anovulation and infertility. Hyperinsulinaemia, exacerbated by obesity, is often a key feature "

This has been a difficult post for me to write. I've started and stopped it more times than I can remember. Getting down how I feel, how it's affected me and the things I worry about in the future without sounding sorry for myself has been a challenge. PCOS has, slowly but surely, turned my life upside down but I'm here, and I'm not going to let it get the better of me.

At 19 I had a 19x9cm cyst removed from my left ovary. Up until then I had never been to a gynaecologist let alone given more than a fleeting thought to my ovaries: they were things you worry about when you're thinking about children, not whether you can afford to go out Friday and Saturday AND be able to eat. And yet in December 2011 I found myself faced with the beginning of a long, hard journey: Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Although it took me 2 years to get diagnosed as such, I knew from my first google search post-surgery that I was very much cystic. The very first sign? The extra 30 odd kilograms I was carrying. Then there was the non-acne acne. The reliance on contraception to keep my hormones in control. The moods. The fatigue. They all came from weight gain but weight gain was close to unavoidable because of them. Doctors were less than willing to admit to the diagnosis until I eventually said to a new gynae: "Do I have it or not?". Sure, anyone with PCOS knows that a diagnosis is not the be all and end all, there is nothing they can treat it with so why did it matter? Because I was tired of feeling like a failure.


I went on to lose a lot of weight. The doctor who removed the cyst took one look at me and said "Mmm. You're very fat. That's why this has happened" and very little else on the matter. Anyone who has ever had weight problems will know this is only like gasoline to a flame; the more people tell you you should lose weight, the more you want eat every piece of cake and bread and pastry and chocolate you can get your hands on. But I digress. That wasn't nearly enough for the switch to flick because no one sat me down and discussed the how/why/when/whats of the rugby ball sized cyst I had inside me. Only 4 months later, when I went for a check up with a new gyne who kindly sat me down and chatted about my options, about how it was my weight and future and how my actions now would affect that future, did it start to become clear how unavoidable it was anymore: I had to lose weight.

Image from http://thepcosfactor.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/what-does-pcos-mean.html


It's been almost 3 years since I had the cyst removed and 2 and a half since I changed my own life. I still battle with weight gain and loss every single day. I pick up weight around my mid-section and face quicker than you can say carbohydrates and I follow a very specific diet and exercise regime. I'm going to create another post on the specifics of PCOS and what it does to your body, but if you're reading this not knowing where to start, know that sugar is not your friend. And by sugar I mean all sugars, grains, starch, the lot. Get rid of them now and come to terms with the fact that you are never going to be friends again- this isn't a detox or a cleanse or a 1/3/6/12 day/week/month diet. This is a lifestyle. Got that? Good. That's your first step towards control. Check out PCOS Paleo Girl Siobhan for a more established blog on PCOS, some recipe ideas eta while I get my business together. I love her 

WARNING: If you're not comfortable talking about menstrual cycles, skip this next paragraph! Unless you have PCOS... best you get comfortable! ;) 
Doctors will, most of the time, prescribe a contraceptive to manage (/mask) the symptoms of PCOS. I know a lot of women don't agree with this but as long as you realise this is NOT a cure or going to make the issue go away but you are on the contraceptive for your own reasons, then you do you. I am on Qlaira, which is supposed to replicate your natural cycle as much as possible with minimal bleed days. I used to suffer from cramps, serious hair growth and depression on the previous Pill so my doctor put me on Qlaira to minimise those. I did. Wonderfully. It also stopped my bleeding completely. Needless to say this sent me into a major panic, but I have had it confirmed by 1 doctor, 1 gyne and 1 specialist that this is OK. It still scares the living daylights out of me that it might affect my fertility but there is only so much one girl can do. 

Which brings me to this. It is YOUR body, no one else's. What YOU decide to eat or not eat is up to YOU. People always ask how they can lose weight like me and there is no easy answer. It has to come from inside you; you have to know that place of no return before you really make the change. If you are happy being within the 'healthy' weight range for your body, then that's perfect- really, it is! There is nothing wrong with not looking like a fitness model, or not lifting the heaviest weights in the gym, or not caring about your squat PB. If you're healthy and happy, you're perfect. But if you do chose to go down the path of getting your body to its peak fitness (Note: ITS peak fitness not Jen Selter's or Dana Lynn Bailey or whoever), know that it's going to be a hard battle with PCOS. Our bodes yearn to put on weight and they'll do everything in their power to stop us from getting our body fat down. But know something else, one last thing... You're not alone. I'm here, I'm a great listener and I'm fighting your same battle every damn day. 


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Just For Today: The weight loss side affects they don't tell you about.

"I just wanted to go back to the same optimistic feeling that I had when I thought that thinness was the answer"





She says everything I have ever felt about weight loss in a far more eloquent, poignant way than I ever could. I first 'met' Andie about two years ago when I stumbled across her blog during the early days of my weight loss. For anyone who was there, is there and is on the way to being there watch this; listen to this. I've listened to it four times already and it hits home every time. For a long time, every time I gained weight again I felt like I'd failed myself, I felt like I was a fake having an instagram account about being fit. I felt like I was 109kg again. Out of control. Angry. Worthless. The day I realised that losing weight wasn't a beginning (fat and sad) and end (skinny and happy) process, that it would be a life-long struggle against my own body, was one of the darkest times of my life.

But you get better. You get better at not binging and wanting to purge. You learn that mistakes are as par for the course as triumphs. You learn that falling makes it easier to get up; it makes you stronger. You learn, most importantly, to take it day by day. If I were the wake-up-in-the-morning-and-say-a-matra-in-the-mirror type girl mine would undoubtedly be: "Your body does not define your worth as a human being. You do not lack value because you are not perfect. You are stronger, wiser and more driven than ever. You are fine."

Did this video touch anyone else? It's one of the things I wished 'they' had told me when I started losing weight for a long time but in hindsight I think it's the most important part of the journey: once it settles into your bones it's what will stop you from giving up every single time.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Let's Talk Orthorexia


 I’ve been a long-time believer of not advocating a one-size-fits-all diet or lifestyle for anyone for a couple of reasons. One, because it’s what the dietician I went to in the beginning did and that lead to an eating disorder and reckless weight loss that resulted in severe metabolic damage. Two, because I know firsthand that the single most important part of weight loss and healthy living is knowing exactly what your body does and doesn’t need. Had I known what I know now about PCOS and hypothyroidism I don’t think I would’ve gone down the path I did. Does that mean I would take it all back given the chance? No, probably not. It made me stronger, way better informed and more courageous than ever. I understand that this is not the case for everyone. Somewhere along the line we- women specifically- were led to believe that looking good means being healthy and vice versa.


Often times I feel judged when I tell friends and family that I don’t eat carbs, grains or sugar. People tend to naturally assume that you’re jumping on a bandwagon, becoming obsessed with weight loss, or just going through a phase. I came across this article the other day and it got me thinking. It goes into some detail about Orthorexia, a term used to describe an unhealthy obsession with being healthy. The author goes into some detail about those who religiously follow, talk/share on social media about their healthy lifestyles are fuelling a dangerous trend of obsession that is tantamount to an eating disorder. I have often thought about whether the way I conduct my lifestyle is unhealthy: if it is worth it or if I’ve just shifted my obsession with eating bad foods to one of restricting. But I have long-since come to the conclusion that this isn’t an obsession with being skinny, or restricting myself, or having a “sense of moral superiority over other people” as the psychologist in the article claims it is. Sure, sometime I wish I could eat a whole pizza and not care about it or that I didn’t have to inconvenience everyone with my picky eating. But at the end of the day this journey has become about so much more than vanity and superiority: I can’t eat a whole pizza because at a very baseline physical level my body can’t tolerate it without causing physical pain. I don’t post on instagram about my weight loss because I think it makes me better than anyone; I do it because I wish I’d had more people to sympathise with during my own struggles. Although articles like this have merit (I believe a lot of people use the recent revolution of healthy living as a mask for or to glorify eating disorders), they highlight something very wrong with the public opinion on Paleo, sugar free eating etc: for some of us it isn’t a choice or a phase or a fad. Come hell or high water it’s a necessity, and we shouldn’t be labeled otherwise.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

 



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Raw Chocolate Truffles




What better way to celebrate hump-day than with some healthy little raw chocolate truffles! I finally got this recipe just right and these little balls of bliss are the perfect fix for a sweet tooth moment AND the macros are pretty amazing too. You can add in other things like nuts, seeds or cacao nibs- experiment and let me know if you come up with any mind blowing flavour combos. Enjoy


Monday, 22 September 2014

Bread that's not poisonous! woohoo.


So let's talk about bread. 

When I first started losing weight I was all about the multigrain, low GI bread life. And all was well: I had boiled egg and toast for breakfast and toast with soup every night...complex carbohydrates were my best friend and the weight was falling off (as it should when toast is the heaviest calorie load of your day). But then my metabolism got smart with me and slowed down to a near halt, and the saying "I look at carbohydrates and gain weight" might as well have tattooed its self across my forehead.  The more I learned about my body, PCOS, Paleo and so on, the more I realised that grains and I were never ever getting back together. I went full blown cold turkey.

Friday, 19 September 2014