Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Power Cysters

Hi everyone!

I'm Lindsay one of the Power Cysters. I was a little nervous about sharing my story and my journey, but I truely hope that with this there will be at least one woman out there that can relate to what I have/am going through.

Okay so a little bit about me! I was diagnosed with PCOS back at the age of about 14. I am very lucky to still have the same Dr who diagnosed me, as she was the only Dr in my area who had heard the little amount of information known of PCOS and its symptoms. Back then though the go to solution was Birth Control so that is what I was prescribed. We now know that is not always the best solution for everybody. Anyway, I am the sister of a World Cup athlete and well I was always the "fat kid". No one could understand why it was I was so different, I must have just been lazy, at least that is what I always heard about me. My brother and my Dad always included me in gym sessions, protein shakes and the like, yet I couldn't help but always think I had let everyone down when I just didn't have the energy and the drive to do anything. Birth Control helped, but it was really just like putting makeup on, it didn't solve the problem. I had dark facial hair, irregular and painful menstrual cycles that kept me home curled up in a ball, and I couldn't for the life of me lose any weight no matter how hard I tried!

My senior year of high school I joined the volleyball team and was in the best shape I had every been, yet I hit a plateau and just couldn't lose anymore. It was so frustrating! I just came to grips with the fact that I was never going to be any smaller. Still there was not a lot of information out there on PCOS.

I was lucky to have met my now husband back in 2008, he has made me feel beautiful no matter what size I am, but I still felt alone in this journey. We married in September of 2010 and I was about 5 lbs from my goal weight, yet even with the stress of the wedding I never could seem to lose it! We decided after the wedding that I was going to go off Birth Control so we could give my step-son a little brother or sister. So I went to my Dr for my physical and to discuss going off the pill and well I was hit with an Abnormal Pap Smear, this meant a biopsy and later the LEEP Procedure (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) to remove the bad tissue. Well that put us all the way into February and even in those months I never had a regular cycle. My Dr put me on a list of natural supplements and I also went to accupuncture, but the stress of everything was getting to me and I was very impatient, I wanted to be pregnant yesterday.

So my Dr sent me to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE), we started infertility treatments, Provera to induce a cycle, Clomid to stimulate follicles, and later HCG shots in attempts to release mature eggs. After all the run around of tests and uncomfortable ultrasounds, I received a call from my RE saying he only wanted to do IUI and IVF from now on as those were the only ways I was every going to get pregnant...Can you say CRUSHED! It truly hurt to hear, but after much thought (and days of crying wondering why I seemed to get hit with everything) I just had to say no, I am the one in control of my future, and my body! There has got to be another way and it is not going to be through tricking my body with hazardous medications. I had gained 50 lbs in less than a year, something had to give.

While detoxing my body of the fertility drugs, I started researching and picking my Dr's brain about how we can go about this as natural as possible to fix the underlying problem, my PCOS which was causing my infertility. Meanwhile, I found Power Up for PCOS and gained tons of support through these other women and was happy to find that I was not ALONE, that I was not just fat and lazy that there are other women that struggle with the same issues.

Anyway, within the past week I have started medication for a form of Hypothyroidism, the major cause of my lack of energy, anxiety, depression, memory loss, aches and pains, rapid weight gain and much more. Basically my body has been treating my Thyroid as a foreign object! Treating this should help me better gain control of my PCOS symptoms with the changes that I have already made like; low sugar and carb intake, switching to but limiting whole grains, eating more organic as well as grass fed beef and cage free chicken, limiting my dairy intake (Ice cream is my downfall) and trying to limit my stress. Not always easy to do as I currently am home with my step son 24/7 =) and am an Independent Scentsy Consultant for fun (also to try to pay for all the past expensive, useless infertility treatments).

So, I feel like I am leaving so much out, but I don't want to bore you all either. I will be happy to answer individual questions anyone may have as well. Please follow me and the rest of the Power Cysters in our journey to not only help ourselves be the best that we can be, but as we help others who may not know their potential either.

Power Cyster ~ Lindsay

Monday, January 30, 2012

Power Cysters - Working Out Together

Hello All,

So this weekend was our first workout session together.  It was so much fun.  We are going to try for most Saturday mornings.  We all have kids and we know that can get hectic but we will aim for it.  3 of the Power Cysters met at a local gym, Planet Fitness, and we did some warm up on the treadmill for 15 minutes then went and did the circuit  together and finally ended with some stretching.

Let me tell you, it was FUN.  So much FUN.  If I could talk the whole time I worked out, I would do it more.  I have been blessed with the gift of gab, to say the least.  As we worked out, we bonded.  We talked about home life, about how our nice 6 pack abs were really there but they were hiding.  We had a blast.  It made the time fly.  We worked out for about 45 minutes.  I can tell you, they pushed me to keep going when I wanted to quite.  I was pooped.

When we were done, we asked a staff member that we had been chatting with to take a picture of all 3 of us. She said she would love to.  She also asked about PCOS and what it was.  Turns out, she thinks she has a friend that might have it.  It turned into a wonderful opportunity to spread the word.  We handed her a card on the way out and now 1 more person knows we are out there providing education and support to women.  That's what it's all about.

Do you want what we have?  You can have it too!  Like your state page and get the women in your state getting together to workout.  Just have to ask.  You may get a few that have no interest but if are persistent, it will happen.  FYI: We are in New Hampshire so if you live nearby, come work out with us.  California is already hitting Yoga every weekend.  You can either sit back and just watch or you can take the opportunity to step up and be included.

If you don't have a state page and want one, let me know by sending an e-mail to Beth@powerupforpcos.com and I will get right on it.

Power Cyster Beth

Here are some pictures from this weekend!

Putting your needs on the LIST - week 2 - Sleep!

Over the last few years in my PCOS journey, I have had to learn how to find the puzzle pieces that would bring me to my goal of having better health with PCOS.  Although I have been asked to be your Fearless Leader of the FUNtastic Fitness segment of this blog/community, I have felt let to help you in your journey by sharing part of what has worked for me in gaining better Fitness as a whole person, rather than just focusing on the "exercise" puzzle piece in isolation.  

Holding the Fitness piece and putting it into place with nothing around it to support it will not bring your final picture into better focus.  You must know what needs to surround that piece to best fit it into place correctly.  Adequate and restorative sleep is one of the most important things to consider in your health with PCOS and in your treatment plan.  It is a huge part of the overall picture of health and wellness of any person, but especially with our special needs and concerns.

This  week, I'd like you to take a few moments to consider your sleep patterns and how it's helping or hindering your Fitness with PCOS.  Ask yourself some hard questions and learn if you are making getting rest an adequate priority.  If not, learn what you can do to improve things for yourself in this area. Although you don't think the two are related, you'd be surprised to learn just how much sleep will add to or take away from your progress in Power(ing) Up for PCOS.  

With PCOS, one of the main issues we deal with is our high insulin levels.  There are studies that show that lack of sleep or lack of deep, restorative sleep makes our bodies more insulin resistant, raising our chances of developing diabetes and exacerbated PCOS symptoms.  (Look here for more information on this issue.) 

The studies show that  "suppressing deep sleep for just three nights causes a 25 percent drop in insulin sensitivity. The researchers say that the decrease in insulin sensitivity after three nights of bad sleep is equivalent to gaining 20 to 30 pounds."   Talking from first-hand experience here, I know that one of the biggest keys in losing 80 pounds has been to make sure I get a good night's sleep.  There have been nights when I have had to stop in the middle of a project, ignore the dirty dishes in the sink, and go to bed.  It was hard, but definitely the right thing to do at the time.

The nights I stayed up late, used caffeine to push through the normal drop in energy signalling sleep was needed, and burned the candle at both ends caused me to actually CRAVE carbohydrates and more stimulants to get through the next day, signalling a HUGE insulin spike and a body that was more out of balance than before.  I would sometimes be exercising, working hard to eat right, but was still  gaining weight.  I was so frustrated and confused.

On the other hand, I found that going to sleep when I got tired at night (10 p.m.), making sure I have eliminated caffeine and other "stress" as much as possible, and ruling out other sleep disturbances that would keep me from deep, restorative sleep actually helped me LOSE weight and get healthier!  I know it to be true from experience and that's why I feel led to share this with you!  Getting a better night's sleep and lowering my insulin resistance has helped me with my PCOS symptoms and in losing weight, giving me the energy I wanted and needed to pursue fitness activities.  It can do the same for you!  

NOTE:  I do want to mention and have you understand that there is a HUGE connection between women with PCOS and the incidence of sleep issues like insomnia and apnea.  I underwent a sleep study to rule out these issues as a part of my PCOS treatment plan.  I suggest you do the same, if possible.  Also, sleeping all the time isn't OK or normal; when I suggest a good night's sleep, I am thinking of 7-9 hours at night, not taking into account naps during the day.  If you sleep more than 9 hours a night and are napping all day and are still tired, that is a HUGE cause for concern.  Please mention this to your doctor and follow-up with them about it.  You want to make sure that you address any other issues with this ASAP to ensure that you are healthy and under a doctor's care, if needed!

To read more:  look here and here

Your Challenge this week is to assess if you are in getting a good night's sleep, tune in to your needs in this area (remember the list we talked about last week?), and talk to your doctor if you have eliminated all stimulants, are sleeping enough hours a day, but are still tired!  Then, go to bed at night when you get sleepy and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep!

Doing this will make a difference in your health and PCOS treatment!

Let us know on our Facebook Page if this is helping you, any insights you have gained, or if you are following up with medical attention in this area!

We want to hear from you!


*Remember: I am not a medical or fitness professional and I am just sharing what I am doing in this Challenge as a fellow member of your community. Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise program or have medical concerns to ensure that you are healthy enough for physical activity/exercise. *

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Power Cysters

Meet the Power Cysters!



What are Power Cysters?
Power Cysters is a group of women that have decided to do something about their PCOS health.  We are the same as all the others out there and we struggle with some of the same issues but we have decided to do something about it.  We will be sharing our journeys with you to help inspire you to start or continue your journey.  We support each other, work-out together and measure progress by how we feel and not the number on the scale.  Look for the first post soon.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Putting your needs on the LIST!

How are you all doing?  It's been a busy, crazy month for me - and I wonder if you are all feeling it too?  It's been quiet around the Facebook page in sharing our Fitness Challenges, but I know how things are for us in working on getting all of our ducks in a row and keeping up with our obligations!  It's a hard balance ladies  - but you can do it!  Baby steps. . . . 

This week, I just want to encourage you to put your needs on the list too - you know, the list!  The BIG list of things you need to take care of each day.  You must start thinking about what you need and making a point to do at least one thing per day for yourself towards your healing and empowerment.  After all, who else can take care of you,  but YOU!?  Please share with us on the Facebook page one thing you are going to do for you to help you become more "fit" in mind, spirit, or body this week.  We can inspire each other and use our community to support one another in learning how to do this!

So much of learning to work with our bodies with  this thing called PCOS and meeting the unique challenges we face is being in a place of knowing how to nurture ourselves into a more balanced life.  Healthy foods, adequate rest, emotional  release, loving movement, and a sense of acceptance of ourselves in whatever stage of the journey we are on with our PCOS are all pieces of the puzzle that make up the whole picture of Power (ing) Up for PCOS.

As you all know, fitness is a part of the puzzle.  Choosing to take a cleansing walk or raise our spirits by dancing to some favorite tunes can become such a healing part of our journey through PCOS.  In starting out, we don't see the whole picture yet - but in being able to fit the pieces together as we go along , we will find that each day brings the vision of being empowered and healthy into a clearer focus.  Although I am the one needing to spur you on to greater fitness goals, this week I feel that pausing to fit in the piece of self-nurturing is a necessary and timely part of the Fitness Challenge!

What do you think?  Does nurturing yourself come easily for you?  Share with us your thoughts about this topic on the Facebook page and let's learn how self-nurturing and loving care is all part of FUNtastic PCOS Fitness!

See you around Facebook y'all!

*Remember: I am not a medical or fitness professional and I am just sharing what I am doing in this Challenge as a fellow member of your community. Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise program to ensure that you are healthy enough for physical activity/exercise. *

Monday, January 16, 2012

Are you still dancin' and groovin' with me?

Happy Monday!  I've been looking on the Internet for a new video to inspire us in our quest to get dancing and get healthier - and came across this channel on YouTube!

This Granny is an a new internet sensation - and you will soon see why!  At 90 years young and even with some challenges, this lady knows how to get up and get her groove on!

If that doesn't get you dancing and inspired, I don't know what will!

You can follow Dancing Grandma on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook!

So, get your dancing shoes on and get groovin!

Check in with us on the Power Up for PCOS Facebook page and let us know if you are joining in with our Dancing Challenge!

See ya round Facebook!


*Remember: I am not a medical or fitness professional and I am just sharing what I am doing in this Challenge as a fellow member of your community. Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise program to ensure that you are healthy enough for physical activity/exercise. *

Monday, January 9, 2012

Are you Groovin' Yet!?

I am considering this day one of our new FUNtastic Fitness Challenge  for January - Getting Your Groove ON!

Are you with me???  I don't know about you, but I am so excited to get up and get mooovin'!  I need to get my blood pumping and clear out the mental cobwebs today!

We are totally leaving the details to you - but the Challenge is all about adding Dance to your workout/daily routine!  Our goal is to get up and DANCE for 15+ minutes a day - and for as many days this next week as we can!

For example, today, I am thinking of just getting up and dancing to these "oldies" I found on this YouTube sampler: 

Yes, I am showing my "age" here choosing music from the 90's!  :-)

What music/workout video you choose is completely up to you, but to be eligible for the prizes for participating in our January FUNtastic Fitness Challenge, you MUST check in with us and post the details of your dancing FUN on our Power Up for PCOS Page!

Any time spent being active can really make a HUGE difference in your life!  You may as well have FUN doing it too - so put on your favorite tunes and get up and BOOGIE!  

See you around Facebook!


*Remember: I am not a medical or fitness professional and I am just sharing what I am doing in this Challenge as a fellow member of your community. Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise program to ensure that you are healthy enough for physical activity/exercise. *

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New year, New approach!

It's hard to believe that we are already into the new year.  This is the time of year when people think about and recommit to taking better care of themselves, hoping to seize each moment and make them all count in a positive way.

Over the past week, I have also taken some time to reflect on my PCOS health journey, seeing how far I have come and dreaming about where I want to go this year.  The sad fact is that I let some things slide the last few weeks due to the holidays, sick kids, extra commitments,etc. You know the drill too, I am sure.

It's hard to keep our needs on the list sometimes; life has a way of pushing the important things aside and before we know it, our dreams and goals, even our needs, haven't been thought about, worked on, or achieved.

Fitness is a crucial part of your strategy in treating your PCOS; it's part of the whole-body, holistic approach to treating the causes of PCOS and the symptoms.  Most of us would admit that we don't care much for exercise and some may actually admit hating it completely.  I know all about that since I have been there and done that.  But, we can change our attitude and therefore,change our reality by learning how to enjoy moving our bodies and seeing the transformation it can cause in ourselves.

I don't know about you, but I want to take an active role in becoming the best I can be and proactively work on treating and maintaining my PCOS symptoms..., and one of the best, proven ways to lower our insulin and therefore reduce our symptoms is moving our bodies!!!

This evening, I had eaten something that raised my post-eating blood sugar levels to 135 - not that high per se, but high for me.  I felt sick, sluggish, and SO sleepy.  I was sitting with my head down on the table - almost snoring.  I knew that I needed to MOVE my body, get my blood pumping, and that excess sugar in my blood INTO my muscles to work for me!  I needed to MOVE MY BODY!

So, I laced up my shoes, put in my DVD to Walk at Home, and I started walking.  Before I knew it, I was perking up and feeling better.  I walked a mile in 20 minutes and felt so much better about myself and I KNEW I had proactively done something to improve my health.  After checking my sugar again once I finished, it was 85!  Yes, my dear ones - exercise can do more than just make your body look good; it can sweep that extra blood sugar into those cells and keep your insulin levels down!  Lowered insulin means you are treating your PCOS - and that's one of our main goals this year, isn't it?  It is for me!

We are going to start a new Fitness Challenge for January - and it's all about busting a move and getting your groove on girl!  It's all about dancing - and you get to choose how, when, and where!  All we want to have you do is SHARE with us on the Facebook page what you are doing to get your Groove ON!  

We want to see your pictures, status updates, and hear all about your music selections on our Facebook page!  Let's shake it up baby and Power Up for PCOS in 2012 by getting our dance on!

See you around Facebook!


*Remember: I am not a medical or fitness professional and I am just sharing what I am doing in this Challenge as a fellow member of your community. Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise program to ensure that you are healthy enough for physical activity/exercise. *

Professional Spotlight - The Development and Evolution of a PCOS Mental Health Professional

In an earlier post for Power Up for PCOS, I wrote about my personal PCOS story.  It’s a saga that spans four decades, 22 surgeries, and an unbelievable number of tests, diagnoses, prescriptions, exercise plans, dietary approaches, supplements, and mental health practices.  If you missed it, you can read it here.

In addition to addressing all the medical issues, many of which were quite pressing, I had to do a lot of adapting, coping with stress, and changing of my mindset.  Back in the early days, I was stubborn and uneducated, not to mention inadequately supported.  Neither I nor my caregivers clearly understood the complexity of my condition, nor the tremendous sadness and grief associated with having a body that doesn’t look or perform like a normal female body, in spite of my concerted efforts.

There was a long, slow process of accepting the complete reality of the diagnosis, really learning about it, and applying what I know to help my body function better.  Although I’ve done a lot of this “processing” work, it’s an ever-changing state of mindfulness that I utilize to keep up with the complexities of my condition.  I’m hyper-sensitive to foods, changes in exercise, too much caffeine, alcohol or sugar, getting inadequate sleep, or missing my meditation time.  I know my body and my brain really well at this point, but it took a lot of misguided attempts to get me to the place I am today.

In the last few years, I’ve spent far too much time in doctor’s offices.  A lot of that time has resulted in fear, rage, frustration, and sadness.  I’ve had to accept that the western medical world has limited offerings, alternative health care is useful in some ways, but typically rather slow, and that almost no one gets why my condition frequently makes me so sad and angry.  Being a health psychologist, and a certified bereavement facilitator, with a deep and abiding fascination for our complex endocrine systems (I specialize in treating the psychological aspects of endocrine disorders such as PCOS, diabetes, thyroid cancer, and infertility), I realized that there are two things missing in the treatment of PCOS.

One is an attention to the mental health issues.  Women with PCOS commonly have depression, dysthymia (a milder form of depression), anxiety, and even bipolar disorder.  Doctors are usually so focused on the physical symptoms that this part of the woman gets overlooked.  The other thing I realized is that an inter-disciplinary approach is not just useful but absolutely necessary.  You need an endocrinologist and a gynecologist, as well as a dietician and a psychologist, at the very least.  Ideally, you’ll have an internist as well.  And possibly a dermatologist, a reproductive endocrinologist, and a yoga instructor or meditation teacher.  That’s a big team, and you, the woman with PCOS, are right in the middle of it, managing that team. 

But it’s stressful to be making decisions about who to see, and how often.  Juggling exercise schedules and special dietary needs, worrying about infertility or dealing with infertility, addressing acne, hair, and weight issues – all of that is hugely stressful psychological, financially, and time-wise.  Our work lives, friendships, family time, and love lives are subject to the disruptions and demands of PCOS.

When I found Monika Woolsey, RD, of inCYST, I immediately decided to take the inCYST training so that I could solidify my understanding of the nutritional, physiological, and emotional issues of PCOS.  The inCYST training confirmed that I was on the right track in thinking about this condition as one that requires a team approach.  For us, the standard answers don’t apply.  We CAN exercise too much.  We CAN eat too little.  We DO have a lower stress tolerance than average.  We DO become depressed or even suicidal for seemingly no reason at all.  I wanted to be able to speak authoritatively, and not just anecdotally, about the complexities of PCOS.  I also wanted to be able to offer some solutions, as well as explanations, for what goes on psychologically for the PCOS patient.   

Awareness is key.  Knowledge is power.  Yet motivation is still sometimes difficult to muster, especially when you have a lot of information, and you’re not sure what’s accurate or appropriate or relevant to your own situation.  When you work with me, I look at you as a whole person, not just a woman with a specific mental health issue.  We look at motivation, blocks to success, things that trigger unproductive behaviors, and also process the grief issues about our imperfect bodies.  We talk about the right ways to get informed, implement a program of healthy changes, and create a workable stress management program.  I offer suggestions for further education and referrals to other PCOS-sensitive practitioners.  I keep an eye out for symptoms and side effects that develop as a result of other treatments (mood shifts from birth control pills, for example). 

You can find out more about the psychological impacts of PCOS, and how to cope with them, by reading my “Mental Health Monday” blog on www.inCYST.com, listening to my radio interviews with Monika Woolsey of inCYST.com and Sasha Ottey of PCOSChallenge.com (both archived on blogtalkradio.com), purchasing my educational CD from PCOSChallenge, or by scheduling an in-person, phone, or Skype consultation with me.  I’m also available for public speaking and radio interviews that highlight issues of concern to women with PCOS.  And next year, you can look for my book on PCOS mental health issues, which explains a multi-pronged approach to successfully managing PCOS in much greater detail.

Gretchen Kubacky, Psy.D. is a Health Psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California.   She has completed the inCYST training.  She specializes in counseling women and couples who are coping with infertility, PCOS, diabetes, and related endocrine disorders and chronic illnesses.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Gretchen or her practice, or obtain referrals in the Los Angeles area, please visit her website at www.drkubacky.com, or e-mail her at AskDrGretchen@gmail.com.  You can also follow her on Twitter @askdrgretchen. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beautiful You with LeAnne

Beauty around the world! That's the "core" of this week's post. From Japan, to England, to Ethiopia, beauty is a vital part of a woman's existence. In America, we have access to the most amazing products. Whether it's organic creams, chemical fillers, or rare fruit-based skin treatments, we have as many choices as we do people! But step outside your country and you'll find the most intriguing and beneficial skin rituals! For women with PCOS, sometimes achieving our most magnificent beauty is a lot harder because we have so many things to address. But I'm here to tell you that, if you're willing, you can change your life with the new, amazing you! So, pack your suitcase, grab your passport and sunshades, and get on board with me as I "take" you around the world to discover some of the greatest beauty secrets you'll ever know!

Japan--Japanese women are known for having smooth, clear skin and silky, lustrous hair. For centuries, they created secret recipes to make themselves beautiful. There was a class of women in Japan, known as Geisha, and they were trained from early ages to become living works of art by exuding grace, beauty, and charm in literally every movement of their bodies! From the fabric of their robes to the skin on their faces, everything about Geisha and other Japanese women were smooth and flawless. One of the most common (and interesting) ingredients routinely used to achieve their beauty was nightingale droppings. (Yes, as in nightingale, the bird). The droppings are first sterilized by using a UV light, then is dried into a powder. Next, it is mixed with water and made into a paste. When this paste is left on the skin for a few minutes, then rinsed. it smooths and lightens the skin. It's a natural "bleaching" agent! Many Japanese actors and American celebrities have fallen in love with this product. Other natural wonders in Japanese beauty is Japanese Camellia Seed Oil and is used to make hair sleek and healthy. Rice bran and Japanese seaweed are also commonly used on skin and hair.

Nigeria--In this proud and culturally rich country, natural is better. In fact, it's everything. It's not commonly known that Nigeria has more natural resources than any other country. From oil to palm seeds, they make good used of everything the earth provides. Even their beauty! And it all starts with a good soap...Black Soap, that is. It's called Black Soap because it's color. Yes, it's color really is black! But it can be used on ALL races, and brings great benefits. Nigerian's make different variations of this soap, but the common ingredients are shea butter, palm kernel oil, olive oil, plantain skins, essential oil, and purified water. This soap is especially good for women with PCOS because it helps even out blotchiness and dark skin pigmentation. It's ingredients also create a smoothness in skin, not the taut or dry feeling that's left behind after cleansing with most soaps. Also, many Nigerian women find that gently "washing" their face with oil, then wiping with a moist cloth is the best way to clean skin while still preserving it's elasticity and natural glow and moisture!

England---Talk about the bold and the beautiful! British beauty secrets mostly resembles those of America, though some of them take a slightly more interesting approach. One ritual that emerged in my research, was steaming the face in herb water. This is done by simply filling a bowl with boiling water, throwing in the desired herbs, and leaning your face over it. This helps open the pores and remove impurities to reveal a more youthful, radiant glow. British women also believe that milk is possibly the best beauty product, but not applied topically. Just drinking a couple cups of good old-fashioned milk is what they do maintain their beauty because they believed it is one of the most complete "foods" out there as it contains a perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and essential fats. Milk does the body AND the skin a lot of good!

Remember that when you know better, you FEEL better! Know that being a woman is a gift and a beautiful thing. There's so much available to us, and not just around us, but around the world! Boosting your confidence and trying something new is what you want to focus on. PCOS doesn't have to rule you, and it doesn't have to be your primary focus. Reversing it, getting healthy, loving your life and loving your self is what deserves your precious attention. Part of loving yourself is learning what thrills you and amazes you. What amazes me is how, no matter where we are in the world, every woman has one thing in common; we're soft, feminine, treasured, nurturers, and have beauty in us that could bring the most savage world conqueror to his knees!
And remember, our passport to beauty hasn't expired yet! Next week, we "travel" to more exotic places to discover what makes them beautiful. Also, a few of my own tried-and-true recipes for skin masks, skin toners, hair strengtheners, and even dessert!

*Please note that I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or trained counselor. I am not qualified to give out any emotional advice. I am a woman with PCOS, who is sharing my personal experiences in this blog and I ask you to consult a professional.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My PCOS story - Dr. Gretchen

Dr. Gretchen’s Personal PCOS Story

Like most of us, my PCOS story really begins in pre-puberty, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time.  My mother put me on a liquid protein diet when I was 10 years old because I was a little chubby (i.e., 10 pounds overweight).  I was also growing rapidly, and quite active.  The liquid protein diet didn’t work for weight loss, but it did set in place decades of eating disordered thinking and behavior. 

I went through a period of rapid physical development, and looked like an adult by the time I got my period at age 13.  The weight battle that began at age 10 was acted out in all sorts of restrictive eating behaviors (stopping short of anorexia) and over-exercising.  I was obsessed with food to the point where I could tell you how many calories a tablespoon of baking soda contained.  I thought my problem was all about the food; I had no idea that I actually had an endocrine disorder.

I had irregular periods through my 20s, when a gynecologist told me I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and suggested that birth control pills would help regulate my body.  I took one look at the 32-page booklet of potential side effects and said “no thanks!”  I kind of enjoyed not having a period most of the time. 

In the meantime, weight was a constant battle for me.  I stress ate, didn’t exercise, ate whatever I wanted anyway (which was actually pretty healthy overall, except for my insatiable desire for baked goods), and attributed my random and excess facial hair to being German – my Oma had a moustache, so why wouldn’t I have one too?  This was pre-internet days, so it wasn’t easy to track down information.  No one told me that PCOS was a diagnosis that came with a host of other scary complications, like a propensity towards Type II diabetes and heart disease, not to mention infertility. 

I carried on like that, full of self-loathing for my inability to control my weight (I reached a high of 268 pounds) until about age 30, when I was diagnosed as hypothyroid.  I started on Synthroid and lost eight pounds without trying – and I got my memory back (memory loss is one symptom of hypothyroidism).  It occurred to me that I might have bigger problems than erratic periods.  Around this time, I had a series of Pap smears with atypical benign cells, hyperplasia (overgrowth of the uterine lining), and related symptoms that were not terrifying, but were adequate to land me in the stirrups having the first of what became almost annual D&Cs to remove these questionable-looking cells and the build-up of uterine lining.  That’s the downside of no periods.  I went on birth control pills for seven or eight years after that, and that seemed to improve things.  I had semi-regular periods.  I was still shaving my face regularly though. 

At age 32, I got slammed with a new diagnosis – early onset Type II diabetes.  I knew a lot of diabetics, and I knew this diagnosis was really terrifying.  I immediately embarked on a program of exercise and dietary modification and lost 70 pounds.  That was an improvement, but I still was dealing with all the other PCOS stuff, without really knowing what I was dealing with.  I’d had high blood pressure in my early 20s, but resolved it with acupuncture.  The high blood pressure returned in my late 30s/early 40s (another very common PCOS effect). 

I knew it was a long-shot anyway – after all, someone had mentioned that PCOS might impact my fertility – but, in my early 40s, I tried to get pregnant.  I tried for about three years, not going so far as to resort to assisted reproductive technology, but I had the full work-up.  Finally, one passive but well-meaning doctor referred me to OB/GYN of last resort – she didn’t want to give me the bad news herself.  After waiting for hours to see him, he grudgingly agreed to take me on as a patient, but with warnings about up to six months of bed rest (last trimester actually in a hospital), injectable insulin (possibly for life, because you never know if your body will go back to “normal” after pregnancy), a very high risk of fetal abnormality, probable blood pressure control issues, and a significant risk of maternal and/or fetal death.  THAT was enough to get my attention.  I decided that dying just to have a baby was not a good idea.  My boyfriend and I jointly agreed, “game over.”  If I could rewind the clock, and know everything I now know about PCOS, I do think it would have been possible to have a baby successfully.  But ultimately, because of continuing gynecological problems, I had a partial hysterectomy in 2009.  This flew in the face of all my feminist ideals, but it was the right medical decision for me, and eventually gave me some symptomatic relief.

In the last 17 years, in addition to the weight (I’m still an XL, but a super-active one), the facial hair (strategic laser work and electrolysis contained it), the hypothyroidism (managed very well with a smallish daily dose of Synthroid), and the diabetes (once contained via diet and exercise, now managed with metformin), I also had to deal with multiple cysts, half a dozen of which required surgical removal.  The most recent one landed me in the emergency room in the middle of the night in excruciating pain, because it had burst.  I still have one ovary, and it’s a PCOS ovary, clearly. 

In sum, I’ve had 22 surgeries, innumerable diagnoses, and a real trial-and-error approach to figure out what’s really wrong with my body.  And then the process of accepting it, really learning about it, and applying what I know to help my body function better has run in parallel with all of these medical procedures and issues.  I had a lot of truly awful medical experiences, pointless and insensitive treatments and assessments, and judgmental people insisting my problem was in my head, or could be resolved if I simply exercised greater self-control.  I get it; I really get it.

Right now, I’m “cured” of my infertility, managing my diabetes and thyroid conditions well, have my diet and exercise program in very good order, have an excellent stress management program, and have reached a pleasing level of acceptance about the ongoing and changing nature of this condition.   I had my last surgery a couple of months ago, for removal of what turned out to be a pair of ovarian cysts, one on each side.  I’m back to a place of relative metabolic stability.  Nonetheless, as PCOS is an evolving life-time condition, I wonder what menopause will bring, and then post-menopause.   

In Part Two of this post, I’ll talk about why I did the inCYST training, and more about why I became a professional in the field of PCOS.

Gretchen Kubacky, Psy.D. is a Health Psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California.   She has completed the inCYST training.  She specializes in counseling women and couples who are coping with infertility, PCOS, diabetes, and related endocrine disorders and chronic illnesses. 

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Kubacky or her practice, or obtain referrals in the Los Angeles area, please visit her website at www.drkubacky.com, or e-mail her at AskDrGretchen@gmail.com.  You can also follow her on Twitter @askdrgretchen.

My PCOS story - Leanne S.

Leanne S.
Day 2 Challenge- My PCOS Story

I was diagnosed with PCOS about 6 years ago at age 18. My Dad got the phone call from the Docs and rang me while I was on holiday. I had no access to the internet or library, I couldn't even talk to my Doctor and ask him questions until the new year. I spent my holiday wondering about what my life would now be like. I knew the basics - hair, weight, acne, periods, infertility - but didn't know to what extent it would affect my life. I was quite upset about it, but glad to have a diagnosis.. now I at least knew what was going on.

Early the next year I went to see a specialist to find out what I could do to manage the symptoms - I basically got told to eat better and exercise more, and was put on the contraceptive pill and something for acne.

My acne cleared up as I reached the end of my teenage years. I've never really had a problem with hair - touch wood - the odd one every now and again but nothing I cant deal with. The contraceptive pill takes care of my periods for me and I have nowhere near as much pain as I used to. I still worry about infertility but really hope that if I get my weight down I should be OK. 

My weight is an issue for me. It has been a constant battle for me since I was about 11. My mother spent a lot of time talking about her weight when I was younger and I think that I absorbed some of her frustrations and anxiety. I was a chubby kid but never overweight (although I thought I was!!), even during my teens where I thought that I was really overweight I wasn't - I would kill to be that size again. I think that just thinking that I was overweight, made me overweight. 

My weight fluctuations between 69 and 79 kgs. I have never let myself hit 80, I always do something about it. I work hard to get the weight off and feel and look good, but then it just creeps back on without me realising it. A lot of the time I sit here wishing I could go back and change what I ate or how much,just so I didn't have to fight to take it off again. But spending time wishing/hoping that things were different doesnt change anything. I need to put my energy into being stressfree, happy and healthy rather than wishing the time away.

I think about food all the time. It pretty much rules my life, and I don't want it to. 

When I have a short term goal like running the Taupo Relay or looking good for my Civil Union - I can do it, I can lose weight - but I want to be able to sustain it... I dont want to look good on a certain day or moment in time... I want to be a healthier, happier me ALL THE TIME.

I think now might just be the perfect time to change this :)