PCOS & Back to Basics

Good morning! I hope you had a nice weekend. I wanted to follow up on something I wrote in my post on Saturday about my current weight situation. I’ve taken some heat in the past from readers who wonder why I’m so concerned about my weight, especially in light of my history of disordered eating behaviors (binge eating as an adolescent, emotional eating that I still deal with). You should know that I’m in total agreement that managing one’s weight should be first and foremost about health. And, I also believe that everybody is different and what is the best weight for one person could be totally different for someone else.

But, something happened recently that has made me re-focus on my weight again. I haven’t talked about it yet because it’s quite personal, but I wanted to share my story in case there are others in a similar situation. <Note to male readers: I am about to talk female issues, so feel free to skip this post>. Without going into graphic detail, I had my annual lady physical three weeks ago and I mentioned my continuing, shall we say, hormonal imbalances and irregularities to my doctor. This is not something new, but I felt it was worth discussing with her since it had been a few years since we talked about it. Long story short, she did an ultrasound of my ovaries where she very clearly pointed out to me the numerous underdeveloped follicles on the surface. You might be aware of this condition, it’s called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS for short (you can click here for more information on the condition).

The funny thing is, I’ve suspected for years and years that I’ve had this condition, it started for as early as when I was 12. In some of the pictures from my adolescence, I look very masculine with a heavy brow and other not-so-great features. I won’t go into details about some of the other side effects of PCOS that I’ve had in the past. This recent doctor’s appointment was the first confirmation of my status though, and it through me for a loop. Of course, I spent hours on the internet after talking to my doctor and looked into how Dr. Fuhrman treats the condition. The good news is that since getting pregnant is not on my agenda, I don’t have to worry about the infertility risk attached to PCOS. The other good news is that everything I’m doing (healthy diet, exercise, stress management) is the best way for me to deal with it (note: you should talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you if you have this condition).

Still, if you’ve ever been diagnosed with something, then you know how scary and sad and uncomfortable it is. I felt so sorry for myself when my doctor was looking at my ovaries and describing them as “cottage cheese.” (In my mind, I was yelling at her, vegan cottage cheese!). I felt sorry for myself that I’ve suffered for so many years with not feeling normal and dealing with the side effects of PCOS. I felt sorry for myself when I read about the connections between PCOS and thyroid issues, anxiety, weight gain, depression, etc., many of which I deal with.

After a few days of having a pity party for myself, I’ve come to realize that PCOS is just another part of me and something that makes me who I am. I’m trying to look at it from a positive angle and realize that maybe I can inspire other women who have this condition. Maybe I can continue to use diet and exercise to manage it? Dr. Fuhrman says that he has seen lots of women manage their symptoms by following a nutritarian diet. That gives me so much hope.

So that’s it, that’s been the impetus for my focus on diet of late. I’m still near my lowest weight since starting Dr. Fuhrman’s program going on two years now, even with the gaining of a few extra pounds. I’m still full of energy and joy and hope for the future. Mainly, I am grateful that I can talk about this and that there are natural ways to treat PCOS that start with the food on my plate.

That being said, I took some time this weekend to go back to basics with my diet. I had some fresh vegetable juice:

Cucumber, carrot, zucchini, ginger, lime and spinach:

I made a simple cereal of buckwheat groats, berries, kiwi and golden berries with some almond milk on top. Dang, golden berries are tart, they remind me of eating Sour Patch Kids!

I had a lunch made entirely of foods I got at the farmers’ market. Salad for the main entree (romaine, sunflower sprouts, onions, avocado, chopped veggies):

Fresh corn as the side:

And peaches for dessert:

Dinner was equally simple with a baked sweet potato topped with water-sauteed celery, bell pepper beans and a dash of tamari. Dessert was fresh grapes:

Now if that wasn’t a healthy and delicious day of eating, then I don’t know what is! I certainly don’t eat this cleanly every day, but it’s one of my top priorities, mainly because I just feel good after doing so.

Thank you for listening to my story and feel free to ask me any questions about PCOS; I’ll do my best to answer them. Tomorrow morning I plan to do another chapter of my Medical Terminology course, so I’ll see you back here on Wednesday with a new post. I’ll be responding to comments in the meantime and I’ve also started posting a lot more on my Facebook page, so please “like” me there.

Lastly, have you voted in the annual Veg News Veggie Awards yet? I’m not nominated in the favorite blog category, but I would looooove for your write-in vote (note: you have to get to page 4 before you can vote for favorite blog and then you need to continue to the end to submit your votes). I’m sure I won’t win, but it would be very cool to get my name in front of the editors and possibly get a nomination next year? Every vote counts and it only takes a few minutes, the link is here. Thank you!!!

Note: I’ve submitted this post to WIAW.

Comments

  1. Laura S. says

    I’m sure this wasn’t easy for you to share, Carrie. Even though it’s hard to get this type of diagnosis at least you have some explanation for things that are going on in your body and hopefully that helps a bit. If it makes you feel any better I think many of us are affected by “woman issues” at some point and of course they can range in severity and treatment. From what I can tell PCOS looks to be manageable and you definitely have the right attitude about sharing your story to possibly help others. It’s awesome how you turned your thought process around. Hugs!!!!

    • Angela says

      I totally agree with Laura. I sincerely appreciate your honesty and openness with your readers. I admire your positive approach to this diagnosis and wish you all the best in the management of your condition. I’m sure you’re doing your body a great favor by focusing your diet on whole fruits and veggies. Sending positive thoughts and prayers your way…

      Take care,
      Angela

  2. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m sure sharing the story will make you stronger in the long run. And your positive attitude will help a lot, too. Nice to see how clean you eat. That’s how we live every day, hopefully to cope better with our problems, and perhaps even solve them.
    Lots of hugs,
    Oly

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing Carrie. I have been dealing with my own female health issues, and I’ve been too shy to blog about it. I think it’s very empowering to read about it – it’s nice to know you’re not alone. So thank you!!

  4. Lilly says

    Carrie, thank you for sharing your story. I have dealt with many similar symptoms related to those little ovaries, too. You are taking such good care of your body, mind and spirit – giving yourself the best. You have a great perspective, too. So happy for you!

  5. says

    Oh my gosh, Carrie! I know this is my first time commenting, but I’ve been a fan of yours for a while (I’m just not as good with the commenting thing). When I read your post today, I knew I needed to talk to you. I have PCOS. I was diagnosed with it about 9 years ago. I too have struggled with weight gain my entire life, and it seems that I have to work extra hard to keep it down. Since I am also not concerned with having kids, the infertility bit doesn’t bother me either, but there are other symptoms that can be quite bothersome. I totally feel what you’re going through, and if you ever need to talk, just let me know. I’m here for you. :-)

  6. says

    Carrie, you are so strong for sharing this with us! I’m sorry it’s something you are dealing with. At least now you have an answer as to what has been ailing you for so long and can work towards better health. Great to hear that you seem to having been doing all the best things for it already! Chin up dear, and good luck with everything :)

    P.S. your eats look delicious!

  7. Nadine says

    Aw *psychic hugs*! As I know firsthand from my own medical/mental health issues, it’s certainly tough to go through the whole bit, but it gets better and it gets easier and you are doing so well. Although we can never fully “cure” certain things, I’ve found eating the way I do (whole-food vegan) has totally transformed my condition from really bad to bad to okay and then finally mainly better!
    Thanks for your honesty! Please take care Carrie :)

  8. says

    Sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Sometimes it’s a relief to finally get a diagnosis after suspecting something for years. I think I’d feel the same way as you as it’s a real blow. I’m not surprised you are researching everything you can on it too. Is it the type of thing you can heal yourself of or only manage your symptoms?
    I’m glad you are managing your symptoms through diet and healthy living, and hopefully things will just continue to improve in the future.

  9. says

    Hey Carrie,

    I admit, I have worried about your posts about weight in the past (especially since I find Dr. Fuhrman’s suggested BMI guidelines to be too low), but I now appreciate that it’s entangled with your PCOS diagnosis, and hope that you start finding the answers and sustained well-being you’re hoping for soon.

    G :)

    • says

      Thanks, Gena, I very much appreciate your support and kind words. I have noticed that Dr. Fuhrman has become a lot less stringent when talking about weight guidelines in recent times. I think he is more aware of the range of healthy weights that exist, although he still promotes a lean body mass. It has been a good reminder for me that everyone is different and what works for one person doesn’t work for another. It helps me that IF I continue working toward being a health professional, I’ll need to see the situation as a whole and not so black and white. It seems like a fine line, but I’m starting with viewing myself this way and we’ll see how it goes. :)

      • says

        Carrie-I’m so sorry you are going through this difficult situation. I think when it comes down to it, every single human being is faced with unique and difficult challenges. This is one of yours, and you are clearly rising to the challenge.

        About Dr. Fuhrman, that’s an interesting observation about his weight recommendations. Did you hear/read that specifically or is that just a feeling you got? I wonder what he says about it in the newest edition of Eat to Live? Both of you are right, his initial recommendations would send most people to the looney bin.

        • says

          Hi Wendy, thanks for your sweet note. In regards to Dr. Fuhrman, I’ve seen more than a few posts on his member center where people ask him for a number on their weight, and he emphasizes the differences between people. I’m sure this issue will come up at his Getaway next week, so I’ll report back.

  10. Kristen says

    I know this comment is going to sound really “out there,” but I would highly recommending Dr. John Lee’s books “What your doctor may not tell you about premenopause” and “What your doctor may not tell you about menopause.” I know for sure PCOS is mentioned in the menopause book, but I can’t remember if it’s in the premenopause book. I’m nearly done reading both books, and even at the tender age of 39, I can’t believe how much I’ve learned! Given your strong commitment to health, I think you would find them interesting. And no, I’m not trying to sell anything, or the book, but I’ve been telling all of my friends and family about progesterone lately. :-) Good luck!

    • says

      Hi Kristen! Thanks so much for the book recommendations, I put them on my Amazon wish list and I’m going to see if they are available at my local library. Your suggestions are very much appreciated because I actually just started using a progesterone cream this week after reading about it on Dr. Fuhrman’s member center and doing some of my own research. I can’t wait to check out the books, there is so much to learn about our amazingly complicated bodies. :)

  11. says

    So sorry to hear of you diagnosis, although I might imagine it is a relief to finally know what the cause of your symptoms is! I also have hormonal imbalances, which no doctor has been able to find a reason for. I love to see pictures of you meals! They look so fresh!

  12. says

    Both my sister and I have PCOS. Her symptoms were more severe and noticable, but we’ve both overcome the majority of it through living healthy lives. I can relate to the ever obsessive need to track weight – I always joke that if I LOOK at a cupcake, I gain 5 lbs, but truth be told, we put weight on faster and it comes off slower than “normal” people. Metabolic diseases are no joke, and I’ve watched woman after woman in my family not take control of their health and move from a manageable PCOS to uncontrollable diabetes.
    I’m glad you know. That means it can’t rule your future health, and puts you in control.

    • says

      Thanks so much for your comment, Crissie. It means so much to me to hear from someone else with PCOS who is using a healthy lifestyle to manage symptoms. I agree, it’s very helpful to know what’s going on so I can plan for it and take control as opposed to the other way around. I did live for a very long time not knowing what was happening which was very scary. I feel so much better about it now and I’ve only scratched the surface as far as educating myself about it. Do you have any favorite resources like books or websites on PCOS?

  13. says

    I was diagnosed back in 2000 (and my sister much earlier than that), so there weren’t a lot of online resources, and PCOS being identified as an endocrine disorder was a fairly new concept. Since then, I have frequenty read PCOSfoundation.org.
    I have to wear my healthcare hat for a minute. I sincerely hope that you are being treated by an Endocrinologist, and not a PCP or OB/GYN….especially with it being a new diagnosis. Your PCP or GYN might mean well…but this is a metobolic disease, and only an Endocrinologist is truly credentialed to treat it. There are several Endocrinologists who specialize in treating PCOS, and I would say it’s well worth investigating.
    As for me, I was about 90 lbs overweight (60lbs of that coming on in one year after I left active duty military life – with very little change in dietary or physical habits). I was given a thyroid diagnosis for years before the right Dr and diagnosis came along. I was on oral Metformin for about a year, which was enough to “kick start” my system, and with re-learning to eat, I eventually lost 75 of those lbs. I’ll be honest…every single day is a struggle, but I know it would be selfish of me to ever be that girl again.

    • says

      Thank you so much for the info and guidance, Crissie. I’ll take your advice for sure on the doctor stuff. My hope is that I won’t need to be treated by any doctor, but that I can continue to use a whole food, plant-based diet to control my symptoms. I agree with you that every day is a struggle on the weight issue, but the more I control my emotional eating, the easier that becomes. I actually do crave healthy foods now and feel so much better when I stick to the plan. Take care and thank you so much for your insight and support.

  14. Donna says

    Hi Carrie – no experience with this, but wanted to express my support for you… So sorry you have this to deal with. But it’s Interesting that you suspected it for so long before getting the diagnosis. Goes to show, you are listening to your body. And that has to be a good thing! I hope it’s some comfort to you that you were right. There’s some excellent advice here, and know that we all support you!

  15. says

    I’m sorry to hear that your suspicions were confirmed, but what a refreshing positive outlook you have. I love how you say that PCOS is part of who you are. I’m sure that we could all find something in our health or our lives that would benefit from your positive perspective. Bravo to you for making healthy choices and doing what’s going to end up making you feel the best. You’re setting an awesome example.

    • says

      Thanks, Nikki! I didn’t realize that I had such a positive attitude until you mentioned it, but I suppose I do. I’ve lived with PCOS for so long that this recent diagnosis wasn’t a surprise at all. I’ve had such positive changes in my health due to my change in diet that I guess I have a lot of faith that I will continue to improve. Thanks for the comment. :)

  16. Carol says

    Hi Carrie,
    I’m new to your blog and love it! I found your link on Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live facebook page. I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I struggled for years with with symptoms before a final diagnosis was made. I just want you to know that you are on the right track with your diet. I’m certain that if you hadn’t been eating clean your symptoms would be worse. So, congrats on caring for and loving your body!

    My only advice is to have your blood sugar checked. One of the biggest issues with PCOS is insulin resistance, which can be made worse by juice, certain fruits, etc. I’d hate for that to push your body out of balance. I’ve planned on using Dr. Furhman’s guidelines for diabetics since I have pre-diabetes.

    I’m starting the 6 week kick-off tomorrow and I’m so excited about the possibility of getting my health back!

    Keep up the great work!

    • says

      Thanks for the advice and the support, Carol! I really appreciate it. Fortunately, my fasting glucose is well within normal limits so I am grateful for that. Good luck with the start of your 6-week program, that is so exciting and wonderful! Keep me updated on your progress.

  17. Kimmie says

    I just stumbled across the link for your blog on Dr. Fuhrman’s website and I’m glad that I did because I actually have PCOS as well. I went through the same type of situation and I know how uncomfortable the symptoms can be especially with regard to weight gain. It drove me crazy to the point where I am actually in recovery for an eating disorder, so I recently turned to the nutritarian lifestyle as a part of the healing process. What I’ve been told is that PCOS makes you insulin resistant, so carbohydrates are more difficult to process; therefore, causes more weight gain than the average person. That is what is making it quite difficult for me to even incorporate grains/nuts/seeds on Dr. Fuhrman’s plan, but I think I need to let my restrictive thinking go and just trust him. Being on this plan for two years, have you found the carbohydrates worrisome or any other food in general? I would love to hear your experiences.

    • says

      Thank you for the message, Kimmie, and for reaching out. I have only had positive effects from following the ETL plan, mainly because I’ve been able to lose weight and maintain it really easily. Dr. Fuhrman does not push a high grain intake, I actually don’t eat grains very often. I do eat lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, but those are all healthy carbs with low glycemic loads. Have you read Eat to Live yet? The book has a lot more information on why this way of eating is ideal for many health conditions, including PCOS. I’m so glad you found my blog so we can connect and share experiences. Please feel free to e-mail me at: carrieonvegan @ gmail .com (one word) if I can help in any way.

  18. Natalie says

    Hi, Carrie – Thank you so much for sharing this information. I have been following your blog for a few months now and I love it. I am a longtime vegan and have been following ETL for a few years now. My story is actually very similar to yours in many ways. I just received word today that I likely have PCOS. I was wondering if you have any updated resources you recommend for me to learn more – particularly anything that Dr. Fuhrman has said about it. I am a member of Dr. Fuhrman.com so if there is anything there you could point me to I would be grateful. I haven’t had a lot of success finding the right forums. Thank you so much for your consideration – I think it is so wonderful that you do all of this from your heart. You are an inspiration! Natalie

    • says

      Hi Natalie! Thanks for the note, I appreciate you getting in touch with me. I don’t necessarily have any new PCOS resources for you and I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I have heard Dr. Fuhrman say that he has had success with his patients and a nutritarian diet. From my understanding, there are a lot of connections between blood glucose levels and this disorder, so my personal approach is to try and stick with a low-glycemic, whole food, plant-based approach as much as possible. Dr. Fuhrman’s book on diabetes is a great source of information on this. Sending you strength and hugs! Xoxo.

  19. Natalie says

    Thank you so much, Carrie! I will definitely check out Dr. F’s diabetes book. I promise not to bombard you with any additional questions but if you have time to answer I am curious to know if you are at all concerned about the amount of dates in Fuhrman recipes. Dried fruits and dates are the only sweeteners I use, and in moderation, but I am confused by the fact that Dr. F says not to eat these if you are diabetic but then has them in a lot of the recipes. Do you ever worry about your intake of dried fruits and dates when it comes to the PCOS? And what about sweet potato, butternut squash and pumpkin? Do you avoid high-sugar fresh fruits like bananas? I definitely emphasize greens and beans but I do like to incorporate these other foods and it makes me sad to think about giving them up – especially bananas and dates since I am an avid runner and they are so good for providing me with natural energy. I am at a healthy weight and very active so I assume my diet does not have to quite as strict as an overweight diabetic on the six-week plan but if you are willing to share your thoughts I’d be grateful. Thanks again for your support and compassion. Hope your days ahead are happy and healthy <3 Natalie

    • says

      Hi Natalie! Great questions. I think you’re right that recipes that are heavy on the dried fruits are probably not appropriate for people who have blood sugar issues. I personally enjoy all of the foods you mentioned in moderation. I hope this helps. :)

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