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What To Do After Your PCOS Diagnosis!

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So you’ve seen some of the symptoms, whether that’s an irregular menstrual cycle, ovarian cysts or follicular growths, acne, weight gain, high testosterone levels, or hirstutism – to name a few. You’ve been annoyed by what your body is doing for so long, seen numerous doctors, done blood tests, scans, ultra sounds and probably a plethora of other tests too, and finally you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS. When I first found out I had it (see this video and my PCOS playlist here) I was quite upset, and I think that’s a natural part of the process when you find out your body isn’t actually ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’.

Almost exactly two years after being diagnosed (and three years after seeing symptoms) I am now at a point where I don’t see my symptoms anymore. I’ve put the work in to see improvements, and slowly, but surely, they happened. My cycle is now regular, I’ve lost the fat I gained and have now been able to build a more muscular figure, my hormones are back in range, and whilst I still get the occasional spot or two – I no longer have cystic acne covering the lower half of my face.

 

Screenshots from a 2016 upload (obviously talking)

Screenshots from 2018 uploads (talking again haha)

 

In this blog post I’m going to share with you the steps that I believe are essential when it comes to managing your PCOS, and getting on top of it from the start. Slow changes are the best and will result in a more sustainable lifestyle in the future, so don’t think that you need to drastically change your routines all in one go. Instead, work on changing little parts of your daily activities until you reach a point where the healthier habit is the new ‘normal’. Check out my steps below to see what to do after you’ve been diagnosed:

 

 

Find A Doctor

Perhaps this is the doctor who got you diagnosed, or someone else, but it’s important to find a good GP whose beliefs align with yours. Maybe you wish to take birth control or Metformin to deal with some of the symptoms, or maybe you wish to seek out a more natural and holistic approach, either is fine, it’s up to you.

 

Find A Naturopath

A Naturopath (in my opinion) is an important step to take after finding out you have PCOS. A good naturopath can guide you in more than just supplementation, but can also get you to question how some of your general behaviours can aid in your wellness. For example, my naturopath in Brisbane (here) convinced me to spend more time outside with my feet in the grass, getting sunshine, I laughed it off at first because it sounded a little too crunchy granola for my liking, but the more time I spent outside in the sunshine, the better I felt. Incase you weren’t aware; there’s a strong link between PCOS and Vitamin D deficiency, with a staggering amount of 67-85% of women who have PCOS also being deficient in Vitamin D (Indian Journal of Medical Research, 2015). There are small changes you can make throughout your daily routine that can have a positive impact on your PCOS.

 

Find Support

Whether it’s friends or family who also have PCOS, or an online group of like-minded women. Having at least 1 person around who understands what you are going through will be beneficial. When it comes to treatment what works for them may not work for you, but at least you have someone you can talk to when you need it.

 

Consider How You Eat

Diet will play the largest role in the management of your PCOS symptoms. If one of the symptoms you experienced is food intolerance (gluten, dairy, etc) you may notice a significant improvement from removing this food source from your diet (even if it is for a limited period of time, eg 6-12 months). Diet changes to aid in PCOS are (again, in my opinion) the most effective over the long term, but also the slowest for change to appear.

I personally went on a ketogenic diet for 11 months to help reduce symptoms I was experiencing from my PCOS. As I have studied nutrition I was able to write my own food plan, if you do decide to take this route I HIGHLY recommend you seek out a dietician or nutritionist to write up your plan for you to ensure you’re meeting all of your intake requirements. The ketogenic diet is not one to be taken lightly. If you’re interested to learn more about it I have a video here (Thinking Keto? Everything You Need To Know) and here (8 Things You Must Know Before Starting A Ketogenic Diet), and my keto shopping list here (Blog: Keto Food List).

A ketogenic diet is an extreme route to take, and perhaps one to only try if you have exhausted other options. Usually a diet high in fibre, free of refined sugar, and with a moderate amount of protein in healthy fats will be the most beneficial to a woman with PCOS. One of the aims of diet manipulation is to decrease fasting insulin levels (Fertility and Sterility, 2004). In women with PCOS, consistently high insulin levels can result in higher free testosterone levels (The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2010).


A low carbohydrate diet is usually sufficient for women with PCOS if it follows these basic guidelines:

  • No processed meats (fresh cuts only)
  • No refined sugars (no sodas, regular chocolate, biscuits, etc)
  • Low carbohydrate
  • Switching from white breads, wraps, etc, to whole meal (also called wholegrain)
  • Moderate amount of fats
  • (Optional) Dairy-free diets have been shown to help many women with PCOS

For more specific guidelines and meal ideas check out the ‘Endomorph’ recipes in the Get Lean Nutrition Guide.

 

Weight Loss? Or Not?

Obesity worsens the symptoms and persistence of PCOS. Women in the upper quartile of BMI are 13.7 times more likely to have metabolic issues and insulin resistance when compared to women in the lowest quartile of BMI. (Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 2006) So, the answer to whether to lose weight or not will depend on your weight (more specifically: body fat percentage) to begin with. For women who are overweight or obese, losing weight can improve PCOS symptoms.

Something to consider: even when I was losing weight on a ketogenic diet, it was only through macronutrient manipulation, not cutting calories, my daily intake was anywhere between 3000-4000 calories per day during this period.

In women who are at a healthy or low body weight who have PCOS, sticking to maintenance or even surplus calories will be the most beneficial when it comes to allowing your body to heal. Calorie deficits or trying to “diet down” just to look “shredded” when you really don’t need to be will actually increase cortisol levels in your body (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2010). This is where it’s important to have a goal that’s more than just how you look. Yes it’s nice to look ‘lean’, but unless you naturally sit at a very low body fat, this is not the healthiest thing. Consider your health before you consider your abs.

 

Get Your Gut Right

The more I learn about gut health, the more I am so impressed with how bacteria can control so many functions and reactions in our body. In 2016 a study on PCOS and gut microbiota used PCOS rats to compare what happened when the gut bacteria was changed (PLoS ONE, 2016). There was a control group, a group treated with lactobacillus, and a group treated with fecal microbiotia transplantation (FMT) from healthy rats. Hormonal cycles were improved in all rats in the FMT group, and in 6 out of 8 rats in the Lactobacillus groups. All of their testosterone levels were significantly decreased compared to the control rats that were not treated.

Similarly, improvements have been shown in women who are able to improve their gut microbiome, as women with PCOS tend to have less diversity in their gut bacteria (the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2018). You can improve your gut health through supplementation (see below), increasing the amount of good bacteria in your gut via consumption of fermented foods (see this post on Fermented Foods), eating unprocessed foods, and eliminating any food intolerances.

 

Reduce Stress

Stress, whether it’s emotional, metabolic, oxidative, or inflammatory all impact PCOS, metabolic and reproductive functioning. Long-term stress can lead to severe health implications (Medical Hypothesis, 2018). Women who have PCOS who fail to address chronic and long-term stress may see their results going backwards: weight gain, irregular menstrual cycle, and even worsening of other symptoms such as food intolerances. According to Barry and Hardiman 2018, not reducing these kinds of stress will “exacerbate further the reproductive, metabolic, and psychological derangements of the syndrome, leading to an endless cycle of chronic illness.”

 

Supplements

This is something to speak to your naturopath or healthcare professional about, but supplementation may aid in a reduction of PCOS symptoms. Some supplements you may wish to enquire about:

 

Get Moving

It’s a well-known fact that that exercise can improve an array of health-related conditions, improve mood, and prevent against illness in the long term. Training can also improve insulin sensitivity and help alleviate some of the symptoms we experience from PCOS. Aerobic exercise can improve body composition and aid in weight loss in women who have PCOS (and the general population, of course). For a guided plan check out my 8 Week Transformation program, which can be done from home and requires no equipment.

Weight training combined with aerobic training has been shown to be far more efficient in improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, whilst also reducing abdominal fat (Obesity Reviews, 2011). Check out my 6-month gym plan Get Lean to set up a long-term resistance training schedule.

 

I hope some of these tips will set you up on the path to success when it comes to dealing with your PCOS symptoms. They've been helpful for me, so I thought I would share. (Thanks to those who voted on my Instagram poll for this blog post, I will be uploading the Keto guide soon).

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3 Easy Tips To Get Back On Track After Easter

Image from mode.com

Image from mode.com

Written by Taneille Martin
Eat Run Lift's PCOS Training Specialist

Easter, four days of sugar. Whilst most people have a lovely time catching up with friends and family often we are left feeling ill, tired and cranky, after our four day sugar binge. The good news is you don’t have to stay that way for long.

It is important to remember that your body will be craving sugar, so you need to stay focused, with the three easy tips below you should be more then capable of kicking those cravings to the curb in no time.

The first step:
Remove any further temptation from your home.
Give it away or store it in the very back of your cupboard for a later date.
Once your fridge is free of those sugary treats, head to the local fruit and veg store to replace them with fresh local produce. This will to help restore and replenish your body. try to avoid those starchy items that tend to make us feel bloated and heavy.

Secondly:
Hydrate!
Your body may be craving sugar because it is dehydrated. Drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day to flush out toxins, and replace your usual caffeine fixes with peppermint tea. Also a sneaky tip might be to add lemon to your water for the first few days, the taste might help with the sugar cravings and lemon water helps hydrate the body faster.

Third Tip:
Exercise.
Get yourself back into a routine, if you are a regular gym goer do not waste any time! Get yourself back into that positive fitness environment and back into your program. Even take up one or two new HIIT sessions (Group classes are always a good idea).
If you are not associated to any fitness group, member at a gym or have a personal trainer now might be the best time to start.
Getting yourself a Personal trainer or a new gym buddy can help introduce you into the fitness world, it is also a great way to help keep you motivated, accountable and keep things enjoyable.

Exercise is not a punishment (even after your four day sugar binge) it’s a test of your mental strength and will power to say, "I no longer want to feel tired, unhealthy and irritable."


Related:

 
Simple 7 Day Detox
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Are you having problems losing those last few kilos? Just don't know how to get started with eating healthy? Need something to kick your sugar addiction?
Or maybe you're just holding some excess weight? Water retention? Frequent colds?
Then it sounds like you need the Simple 7 Day Detox. The Simple 7 Day Detox will help you shed a few kilos all while clearing out nasties from your digestive system, helping you cut out processed sugars and bad fats, and improving your quality of skin and sleep, and it only goes for 7 days!

There are no expensive supplements or juice gimmicks, just real, nutritious food written up into a complete meal plan for you. Designed to help you tackle your health and weight loss goals head on!


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Strength or Size? What Do I Train?

If you’re a beginner you might be thinking, “Hold on.. isn’t weight training just weight training?” Well, no, not really. The exercises you choose to do, combined with the amount of weight used and number of reps can alter how you’re training your body. Training for strength (example: powerlifter) is about increasing the amount of force your body can exert, to lift heavier. Training for size (or mass, example: bodybuilder) is more about ‘sculpting’ the muscles to look a particular way, and getting that pump when you train.

If you’re just starting out at the gym it’s a good idea to aim toward strength training to build yourself a basic foundation and have something to work with, it’s also a good idea to start off around 10 reps of each exercise (which is more than an advanced strength training routine) because on average it takes a combined 500 reps for your brain to recognise the movement patterns. However, once you reach a particular point you may want to decide to focus solely on strength training with heavy, compound exercises and low reps, or to increase your training volume and focus more on building size. Training volume is the number of reps and sets that are included in your workout; the more reps and sets you do, the greater the training volume.

Training for strength usually involves focusing on compound exercises, which are exercises that target many muscles at once. Prime examples of these are the deadlift, squat and bench press. The general rule that you see for strength training is to keep reps low, and the load high in any particular exercise (the number you will do in your rep range will depend on both your fitness level and your body type). This is to focus on the force that you’re able to exert.

Training for size needs a different approach, it usually will require you to work your muscles to complete fatigue through small, isolated exercises with a higher number of reps and a lighter weight. The amount of weight that you lift in a mass-building workout is not as critical as it is when you are training for strength, rather, the primary focus should be higher reps and fatiguing your muscles and getting a pump.

Depending on what your goals are, and if you’re not one of the aforementioned types of athletes, you may want to consider working in both training styles in a way that compliment each other (if you’re lost at how to combine them into an effective workout plan our Get Lean Guides cover that for you). It can also be easier to achieve a particular training style through the type of exercise you choose to do. We’ve created a chart for you to help you understand a little better (click to enlarge). Of course, there are many more exercises than this that we couldn’t possibly fit into such a compact chart, and some exercises (example: deadlifts) will work far more than just one muscle group. It’s also important to note that some exercises can be completed using different techniques to help focus on slightly different muscle groups. Think of this chart as a basic guide to strength versus size exercises.

Remember, just because you see someone at the gym doing a certain exercise a particular way doesn’t mean that you need to as well. Figure out what your goals are, and then find a training plan (or trainer) to help you achieve them!

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7 Day Plan To Get Back On Track

Get back on track and motivated in 7 days.

Whether it's coming back from a holiday, recovering from sickness or from being just plain lazy for far too long now, it's time to get you back into routine and fit again. I’m helping you with 7 easy steps that can get you motivated again and ready to kick butt!

Day 1: Write down your goals.
You may have set some goals before, but did you write them down? Did you just think of a time you need to be fit for and just hope it would happen? Write them down, stick them on your fridge, near your computer, somewhere.

What do you want? (Specifics E.G. Size 10 jeans, lose 5 kgs 3cms off your arms)
When do you want it?  (E.G. My birthday 21st of July 2016)
Where will it be? (Out with friends, getting dinner)
Why do you want it? (You need to feel confident in your new dress)

How are you going to achieve it?
How is it going to feel when you achieve it?
How is it going to feel if you don’t?


Answer these questions, keep them close.



Day 2: Throw out 'junk' food/processed food.
Try it for 1 week, not only will your body be able to burn fat more efficiently, but your skin will clear up, sickness will drop and you will feel healthier and you will notice a slight change in your waistline.
 


Day 3: Plan out a new routine.
Planning is key, working around a schedule to fit in work, study and play and keeping it balanced is the best way to not burn out and get tired. Sort your day into hourly blocks and work from there. Plan at least a few days in advanced if possible, and each morning sit down and write out your 'to do' list for that day.

 

Day 4: Create a work out playlist.
I’ve written about how music can motivate you and keep you energised throughout your session., release endorphins and get your blood pumping. Make sure you make something long enough that it can take you from the time you need to go to the gym and to the end of your warm down.



Day 5: Buy some workout gear or equipment.
I think investing a bit of money no matter how much or little it is can keep you more inclined to exercise when you have something to show for it. Equipment to use at home, a new training program, some new shoes, clothes even. 



Day 6: Do something different.
Go hiking, try a sport maybe even some new fitness yoga hybrid that your friend Michelle has been raving on about.  Doing exercise is obviously not the most enjoyable thing in the world for many people, but the results are, and if you can do something different that is a step closer to getting you fit, then just do it!

 

Day 7: Book in with a Personal Trainer.
This is the final step when it comes to committing to your results,  some PTs can be can be a luxury, but even just getting them to write you a program can be a great start. Although all of my clients get to experience my dad jokes, missed numbers whilst counting reps and massages. Check out the Eat Run Lift Trainers if you're from Brisbane.

It doesn’t have to stop there, you can do many more things to continue and narrow down your goals. If you need your hormones checked see a doctor, need a meal plan? See a nutritionist.

What have you done in the past to get yourself back on track?