At times, I’m hard on myself when it comes to dealing with PCOS. I will berate myself for feeling exhausted and not having a more productive day. I silently accuse myself of being indulgent because I always make room in my schedule for exercise, self-care, and sleep. Sometimes I feel like I do not look fit enough to call myself a personal trainer. And I feel like I am being difficult when I ask my doctor to run extra tests or refer me to a specialist.
Can you relate to any of this?
More often than not, I can put these doubts in their place and stay true to myself. But at the root of all these inner thoughts is the idea that Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is not that serious.
The PCOS Symposium: A New Perspective
A few weeks ago, I went to the PCOS Awareness Symposium at Emory University. It was a day full of lectures from some of the leading experts on PCOS, Fertility, Nutrition and Women’s Health. I could go on for days about what I learned from the experts who presented at the symposium, but I want to talk about how this experience changed my perspective on PCOS.
It was the first time in my life that I have been in a room with more than one – let alone 100 – women who have PCOS. What I came to realize very clearly while I was there is this: PCOS is serious!
The trials, difficulties, complications, and health risks that are part of our lives as women living with PCOS are not trivial. You are not weak for feeling like it is a struggle to manage PCOS. You are not a hypochondriac when you go to that third or fourth doctor looking for answers.
PCOS will not kill you, and thank goodness for that. We could have it much worse. However, that does not change the fact that PCOS causes symptoms that disrupt our daily lives, compromise our fertility, and can lead to health complications like heart disease and diabetes.
The good news is that PCOS is not in charge – you are.
Every presentation at the symposium was incredibly empowering. Why? Because each and every expert shared ways that we as patients can improve our wellbeing.
One thing is very clear when it comes to PCOS management: lifestyle is at the heart of every solution. Eating right, exercising, sleeping, and managing stress will clear the way for your physician to make the most out of the medications, procedures, supplements and other treatments for PCOS.
That is exciting news! But taking control can be scary. Change is hard especially if you are not feeling your very best to start with.
If you are ready to start taking PCOS seriously, I’ve got your back. Here are strategies for taking your PCOS more seriously, along with a PDF of simple action plans for fighting PCOS symptoms like acne, belly fat and unwanted hair.
Ways to Take Action for Your Health
Educate yourself on the basics of PCOS and then start taking some simple steps to toward a PCOS-friendly lifestyle. You can spend hours upon hours reading up on PCOS, before you dive into those deep waters, put together a very basic action plan. For example, simply start walking every day and then start looking for more advanced workout programs.
Many PCOS women feel isolated, alone, and even embarrassed about their PCOS. I felt the same way until I started telling the people in my life about my struggles and then eventually blogging about them. You can’t make lifestyle changes in secret. Give your loved ones the opportunity to support you. Being honest and open about your PCOS does not make you a complainer. Your friends and family can’t help you if you’re hiding your burden away from the world.
One change at a time
Taking up a new habit or changing an existing habit is a major undertaking. Do not sabotage yourself by trying to change your entire daily routine all at once. Behavioral Science researchers have found that people are much more successful at making lasting changes when they focus on one small change at a time.
Pick simple solutions instead of complicated plans
It is tempting to pick up the latest diet book or head to the trendiest workout class in town, both of which might be great. But it is always best to start with the basics before attempting more complex methods. For example, if most of your meals are super-sized and come from a paper sack, you already know why you’re not losing weight. So you don’t really need a complex nutrition plan. Focus on portion control or giving up fast food first. There’s no need to weigh yourself down with a difficult to follow program before you have even mastered the basics.
Seek and offer support
Have you ever felt brushed aside and not taken seriously by the medical community? At the Symposium, Sasha Ottey (the founder of PCOS Challenge and the symposium organizer) asked the audience if they felt they were currently receiving adequate medical care for their PCOS. Only two women in the room said they were satisfied with their care!
If you are not part of a PCOS support group or advocacy group like PCOS Challenge, please consider joining one. We need every woman with PCOS to speak up so that we are heard, recognized, and respected. Contributing to the PCOS community will help you heal and learn. Plus, lending your voice will also ensure that future generations have more support from their healthcare providers and social circle.
Are you ready to take PCOS seriously? Get my PCOS action plans sent to your inbox. They includes suggestions from symposium experts, plus links to podcast interviews with symposium speakers Dr. Mark Perloe, Dr. Monica Best, and Angela Grassi, MS, RD, LDN.