Thursday progress: Staying steady

While Thursday morning weigh-ins are typically most joyful when I am down from the last week, I must say I am almost equally pleased that I did not gain any weight from last week’s weigh-in. Valentine’s weekend was filled with a crazy about of carbs and cocktails which ended up snowballing into over carb indulgence for a majority of the week. Last night was also a very late work night, so I ended up not having dinner until almost 9pm. In the past late dinners typically mean a heavier weigh-in.

All that being said, the more I read and hear from many of your stories about PCOS and IR it is clear to me that I need to be patient with myself. The cravings, exhaustion, and pain are all very real things that I believe I (and many of you) are very strong to battle. While I really just want to stay in bed all day with my dogs while cradling a baguette topped with pasta and french fries, I know that I am strong enough to get up each day and fight. Will all battles be won? No. But I am I fighting? Heck yeah.

SUCCESSES THIS WEEK:

  • While I gave into carbs more than I should this week, I also was really strong and turning down incredibly accessible carbs. I don’t know about you, but my office has free carbs. Like all the time. Yesterday I went to get more tea and what did I find? Catering size platters of chow mein. And rice. I mean… Also, while my husband enjoyed a turkey club with waffle fries last night, although I was exhausted and wanted the same, I indulged in grape leaves (a little rice) and had a curry chicken salad for dinner. I call that a win.
  • As a person who struggles with mornings and is typically late if anything is earlier than noon, I was proud of myself that I was EARLY for an 8:30am meeting this morning. I got up with enough time to get myself together and rock my presentation. If I can do it for my company, I should be able to do it for myself with morning workouts. While I truly hate waking up, it does make me feel more prepared for the day when I get an early start. This morning definitely motivated me to get up tomorrow morning (especially since it is a later start) and get my 20 minutes of exercise in.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEXT WEEK:

  • Carbs and I are not going to be involved next week. We just aren’t. I really want to commit to the next week between my food, medicine, and exercise to really see the great results I get when I do those things. If my weight stays the same, I am going to need a moderate restraining mechanism to keep me from all the carbs I missed and want to eat out of frustration of no progress…but we will cross that bridge when we get there.
  • Since my weeks for progress start on Fridays, I will plan to wake up tomorrow morning and get those 20 minutes of exercise in. I CAN DO IT.

How did you do this week?

Insulin Resistance: Best foods for IR

It seems to me that there are a whole lot of articles out there about what you should NOT eat if you have PCOS or IR. Here are some great things to think about from LiveStrong of what you CAN eat if you are like me with PCOS/IR.

Fruits and Vegetables

The Best Foods for Insulin Resistance

Fruits and vegetables are natural sources of vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants which help the body combat and prevent disease. They also contain fiber, which is recommended for healthy weight management and improved digestive health. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be a helpful means toward reducing one’s risk for insulin resistance. Choose a variety of colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular, ongoing basis for the best potential results. Frozen or dried fruits and vegetables are a valuable secondary option and can be kept on hand for long periods of time and contain few artificial ingredients or preservatives.

Monounsaturated Fats

The Best Foods for Insulin Resistance
Monounsaturated fats, or plant-based fats found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, avocados, peanut butter, many nuts and seeds, are healthy substitutes for saturated or trans fats–fats associated with increased risk for heart disease. According to research published in the journal of the American Diabetes Association in 2007, intake of monounsaturated fats is linked with decreased fat distribution in those who are insulin resistant. Replace saturated fats, such as butter, whole milk, cream and deep-fried foods with healthier fat alternatives. Olive and canola oil are positive alternatives to butter. Grilled, baked and steamed dishes are preferred over deep-fried foods for those with insulin resistance. Since fat is dense in calories, keep portions sizes modest for best benefits.

Whole Grains

The Best Foods for Insulin ResistanceWhole grains, such as spelt, oats, bulgur, whole wheat and barley, provide a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber. According to findings published in the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2007, consumption of whole grains is associated with reduced risk for insulin resistance. Replace enriched breads, cereals, pasta, rice and snack foods with whole grain equivalents. Whole grain breads, long-grain brown rice, oats and snack foods featuring whole grain ingredients support healthy blood sugar management and overall physical health. Consume a variety of whole grains regularly to attain most benefits.

Here is the full article that helped inform this post: http://www.livestrong.com/article/74703-foods-insulin-resistance/

Carbs and I got back together this weekend…and now I am tired and wanting more!

This past weekend carbs and I definitely got back together. In a big way. One of my best friends and her husband were visiting us in LA from Nor Cal, so we were constantly eating out and overindulging. We did get a great hike by the Hollywood sign in, but the weekend was filled with all you can eat brunches, mimosas, and late night pizza deliveries. While this was all fun and good at the time, I have been VERY tired this week and craving more carbs.

Confession: last night I got home much earlier than my husband and was starving. I had a healthy low carb lunch, but by the time I was home I wanted whatever I could get my hands on. Unfortunately for my PCOS and IR, leftover pizza won the no carb battle.

As I explore the challenges of this new lifestyle, it has been helping me to really understand the impact carbs have on my body. The more I know, the harder it is for me to get back together with carbs by staying strong in my decision for  us to break up.

Here is some of the info I found to help me stay strong and just say no to carbs:

Why are carbs making me tired?

Insulin resistance is a process in which the body is inefficient at managing sugars and starches you have eaten in your diet. When you eat a carbohydrate, such as a piece of bread or something sweet like ice cream, your body releases insulin from your pancreas to process that sugar. Without insulin, you would not be able to assimilate this sugar, called glucose, from your blood stream into your liver and muscles. In insulin resistance, your body makes too much insulin for the amount of carbohydrate consumed. This extra insulin is what causes so many of the listed problems, both functional problems (those which precede pathological), as well as pathological problems (those with tissue alterations.) Initially, the extra insulin often ends up processing sugar too rapidly and blood glucose levels are driven too low. This is called hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This adds stress to the body and causes the production of other hormones (especially adrenal gland hormones like cortisol), which increase blood sugar levels. As CI gets worse, more and more insulin is needed to process a small amount of sugar. The insulin eventually becomes ineffective at driving the sugar into the cells where the nourishment is needed. The cells have become resistant to the insulin.

As CI is developing, the extra stress on the hormonal system, particularly to the adrenal glands, overworks these organs. This results in a complex pattern of symptoms that differ from person to person.

Symptoms of CI include but are not limited to sleepiness, drowsiness, lack of concentration, or a feeling of being bloated after a meal, especially one containing sweet foods or starches. Always feeling hungry or having weak legs or knees after eating is also a symptom of CI. These are just a few of the functional symptoms.

All of this explains why I have been so incredibly tired…especially the more carbs I eat.

Why does eating carbs cause me to want more carbs?

Sugary foods and drinks, white bread and other processed carbohydrates that are known to cause abrupt spikes and falls in blood sugar appear to stimulate parts of the brain involved in hunger, craving and reward, the new research shows. The findings, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that these so-called high-glycemic foods influence the brain in a way that might drive some people to overeat.

For those who are particularly susceptible to these effects, avoiding refined carbohydrates might reduce urges and potentially help control weight, said Dr. David Ludwig, the lead author of the study and the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Also, research suggests that when blood sugar levels plummet, people have a tendency to seek out foods that can restore it quickly, and this may set up a cycle of overeating driven by high-glycemic foods, Dr. Ludwig said. “It makes sense that the brain would direct us to foods that would rescue blood sugar,” he said. “That’s a normal protective mechanism.”

Makes a lot of sense why I am wanting more carbs…my body thinks it is a reward and is wanting to restore low blood sugars when my levels plummet after they spike. I also have heard from a lot of other people that it is hard to change the mentality that a whole day or even week is wasted once you slip up on your diet. Have to take it a meal at a time…

Getting back on track:

Knowing all this, I am proud to say I made a healthy choice for lunch today:

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Greek salad with fresh feta and grilled chicken kabob. I especially love the garlic sauce many Mediterranean or Lebanese restaurants have. It is just garlic, lemon, olive oil, and ice!

Here are some great articles that helped inform this post:

PCOS & Insulin Resistance: Fighting Fatigue

Lately it has been harder and harder for me to wake up. Initially, I assumed it was because I was taking on new responsibilities at work and the learning curve was taking a toll on my energy. As it as seemed that fatigue has not improved, I thought I would do a little more research on PCOS and Insulin Resistance to determine if they are contributing to this not so fun fatigue my normal energetic self has been encountering.

As I develop questions on why things are happening to my body while fighting PCOS and IR, my hope is to share my findings with you and make my blog a one stop shop for being the healthiest and happiest you can be. Since I have been feeling so tired, I started to do some research and compiled the best info I found in this post. I hope it helps those of you with PCOS/IR…and people who have just been feeling extra tired lately, too! Many of these symptoms can be due to fluctuating hormone levels and increased anxiety.

As it turns out, PCOS and fatigue are both linked to an imbalance of the endocrine system and are characterized by an excess of male hormones. Fatigue, a symptom commonly associated with PCOS, is also closely linked to the thyroid and adrenal glands. At the heart of both of these issues, however, is a disorder known as Insulin Resistance. Lucky for me…I have both IR and PCOS.

To add insult to injury, fatigue frequently causes women with PCOS to treat their low energy with carbs and caffeine, which dumps more glucose into the blood in a never-ending spiral of weight gain and increasing insulin and glucose levels. As fatigue and insulin resistance worsen, excess fat cells produce too much of another hormone, estrogen.

Here are some additional causes of fatigue and how to combat them. Here’s to hoping this will lead to a more energetic week next week!

Lack of Sleep: Obviously, the first sign that you are zapped of energy could be that you aren’t getting enough sleep. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. My Endocrinologist prescribed me with Trazodone to help me sleep…I have noticed a big difference in how rested I feel and my husband says he has noticed I am not tossing and turning as much.

Poor diet: One of the most common causes of low energy can be from eating the wrong foods. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars will cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to skyrocket and then crash, leaving you ready for a nap. Start the day with a meal that contains at least 10 grams of protein (eggs or Greek yogurt are two good ones). Swap refined carbs for whole grain ones (try quinoa, faro, or oats) that won’t send your blood sugar into orbit. Over the last week, I have not been eating well due to the nausea, so perhaps this has been a big cause of my fatigue.

DehydrationStudies show that even mild dehydration can result in significant dips in energy levels. You need 6 to 8 cups of fluid each day for proper hydration (yes, this includes caffeinated coffee and tea) so drink up! I really have not been drinking all the water I should…I used to be really good at finishing at least one large water bottle a day at work, but lately not so much.

Exercise: Even if you are tired, exercising can give you more energy thanks to the secretion of feel good chemicals called endorphins. One study found that just 20 minutes of low-intensity aerobic activity three times per week decreased subjects’ feelings of fatigue by 65 percent. This 20 minutes of exercise is right in line with the 20 minutes prescribed by my doctor…I just need to make it happen.

Iron deficiency: If you experience heavy monthly bleeding, don’t eat animal products, or are an intense exerciser, you may be deficient in iron. Since iron’s main role is to transport oxygen, not having enough will make you feel exhausted and out of breath, even with minor exertion. Discuss getting your levels checked with your doctor before supplementing your diet with extra iron. My doctor did prescribe iron for me and even Vitamin C to help improve the absorption of iron. I also do not eat red meat or pork, so I certainly have iron deficiency in diet.

Hypothyroid: When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones it can affect your energy levels. Ask your doctor for a full thyroid panel (TSH alone is not enough).

Gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease: A hallmark feature of someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is fatigue or “brain fog” after eating foods that contain gluten. It’s recommended to be checked for celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, before adopting a gluten-free diet, which can mask symptoms and prevent an accurate diagnosis.

Vitamin B12 deficiency: If you take birth control pills or metformin or eat a vegan diet, you may be deficient in Vitamin B12. A defiiency in B12 not only causes chronic fatigue, but permanent nerve damage. Ask your doctor to check your B12 levels. Since I am definitely on Metformin, it looks like I should be adding B12 to my daily vitamin regimen as well.

Depression: Depression and fatigue are a vicious cycle with each fueling each other. Being depressed can be like living in a constant fog. Lack of motivation and sleep disturbances can contribute to depression. Engaging in regular exercise can help boost mood. If you feel you are depressed, we recommend seeking treatment from a mental health expert.

Sleep apnea: Several studies have shown that women with PCOS suffer from a much higher rate of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes your airway to be narrowed or blocked. Even if you do get a sufficient amount of sleep, if you’re not oxygenating well, you won’t feel rested. This can account for the tossing and turning my husband has been tolerating for the last 9 years.

Now that I have a better understanding of these causes, it will make it that much easier to get back to my energetic, positive self again. I hope these tips helped you as well!

Here are some of the helpful articles that helped inform this post:

Thursday Progress: Up 2 pounds, but optimistic for change

When I woke up this morning for my Thursday weigh in, I knew this was going to be a rough week. Between stress and not feeling well, this was certainly not a good week for exercise and low carb eating. As I have said before, this blog is not about a false lifestyle that keeps moving forward perfectly. This blog is about me and the true challenges that I am facing every single day.

Would I have loved to be down this week so I feel extra lovely in my Valentine’s Day dress this weekend? Absolutely. Do I wish that I was not doubled over in pain and able to stay on track? Of course. Do I realize that this is a marathon and sometimes I am going to need a water break? Definitely.

  • To be honest, it is a success that I did not call in sick to work every day this week. The pain has been so intense with cramps and discomfort with nausea that I find it a small miracle that I only missed 1 day of work this week. Success comes in all forms, so this is definitely a win.
  • While this is not a health success per say, I feel like I have been a pretty good friend to those important to me this week. I had a wonderful dinner with a childhood friend last night where we had real conversations about fears, anxieties, and dealing with life. I have a very good friend coming to my house this weekend and I am thrilled about the gift I found for her. A college friend is moving to Europe and I feel like I have been a good support for her as she prepares for this major change. My husband’s birthday is not until June and I already found a perfect gift for him. While these wins are not low carb or fitness related, I feel they bring so much to my life and those around me.

  • Carbs and I definitely got back together this week. In a big way. Pizza, crackers, brown rice pasta, pita chips, rice…it was a love fest for sure. All of this was mostly due to the nausea I have been feeling and the fact that I feel eating carbs really is a floodgate. Once you do it, it’s hard to stop. This weekend will be challenging with lots of celebrations and I know I will do my best…but am also aware that I will slip with food and alcohol as we celebrate a birthday and Valentine’s Day.
  • Exercise did not happen. Since I am calling getting myself to work due to pain I was  having a victory, it is not surprising that I did not pull myself out of bed for 20 minutes of exercise.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement. You inspire me to be honest and to stay steady on my journey. Every day is different, especially when faced with a major lifestyle change. Here’s to the journey…

PCOS and Insulin Resistance: Remedies for cramps and nausea

It has been a few days since I have written which is mostly due to how I have been feeling lately. While my medication has been wonderful and side effects have been minimal, the main side effect I have been having of menstruating every 2 weeks is starting to take a major toll on my body.

In chatting with my doctor, since the medications I am on increase my estrogen levels and I have an excess of eggs in my ovaries for the months with PCOS that I went without any menstruation, it is normal that I would be experiencing 2 periods per month. While there are clear logistical problems with this, the worst part has been that I have had the most painful cramps accompanied by headaches and nausea with these cycles.

I know that it is great that my ovulation has come back and I am so thankful the medication is working. I will admit that it has been very hard for me to deal with the pain which means I have not been exercising. On top of that, all I have wanted is carbs and sparkling soda to fight through the pain.

Today is better…I am certainly trying to fight mind over matter on this one and get back to my low carb diet. My guess is that the pain will continue to flare up and that this very thing might be something you are dealing with as well. Luckily, most of the abdominal pain and nausea have improved…but today I have been fighting a headache all day.

Whether you are like me with PCOS and IR or if you simply have a really tough time with cramps when Aunt Flo is in town, here are some things that helped me through the pain yesterday.

Peppermint green tea
Throughout the day, peppermint tea from Trader Joe’s really helped. There is something about a good cup of tea that comforts and heals…especially on a day like yesterday when cramps were unbearable. There are so many great health benefits of green tea as well that were added benefits to the comfort it brought me.

Sprite Zero

This was one of the lower carb items that made me feel better. Bubbles on ice always seem to work wonders. Normally, I would have chosen ginger ale, but we did not have any in the house and I was in no shape to leave bed.

Crackers

Basic table water crackers helped me get something in my stomach that didn’t make me feel sicker. I nibbled on these throughout the day. While these are clearly carb heavy, they were exactly what I needed when I had to eat something.

Brown rice pasta

Before knowing that carbs and I needed to breakup, pasta was my go to whenever my stomach was upset. Brown rice pasta was a wonderful alternative…it is still a higher carb food (comes in at about 34g a serving), but really is wonderful those times you need or crave pasta. This is also a great alternative for people with gluten allergies.

Bubble bath

Since moving into our new home, this was the first time I have broken in the bubble bath and it was so worth it! Soaking my stomach in the hot water really helped and really was the best I felt all day, especially since I brought some of my peppermint tea with me. Heating packs are also great, but I cannot recommend a bath enough.

Here are some other great things to eat and drink to help naturally combat menstrual pain:

Fresh Dill
Fresh dill is packed with calcium and can add flavour to any bland salad or dip.

Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are packed with calcium and can be easily made into a tasty paste.

Parsley
Parsley is not only high in minerals and vitamin C, but when used in a tea, it can be a great way to help your body relax from aching.

Celery
Celery can also help fight fluid retention during your time of the month.

Salmon
A plate of salmon is high in Omega-3 and helps fight inflammation.

Sacha Inchi Seeds
Dacha inchi seeds, a plant found in the Amazon, is rich in Omega-3. No idea where you can find this, but I guess it works!

Dark Chocolate
If you’re craving chocolate, make sure it’s over 70 per cent cocoa. This bittersweet treat will help you relax your muscles.

Water

We all know fluids are essential when your body is cramping or bloating. Smart recommends drinking two to three litres of water during your period.

Tea
Tea is an easy way to replace your caffeine craving. Smart recommends green tea to soothe cramps. now, even though green tea contains caffeine, try decaffeinated green tea instead — but be aware, you may lose some health benefits if it is decaf tea.

Hummus
Chickpeas are not only full of nutrients but eating hummus during your period can result in a good night’s sleep and help uplift your mood.

Avoid: Dairy
Avoid getting calcium from dairy products. Milks and cheeses can actually trigger cramps.

Avoid: Caffeine
Caffeine is another no-no. Drinking lots of coffee or pop during your period can increase higher levels of tension and anxiety.

Avoid: Too Much Sugar
Excessive sugary foods, even when you’re not menstruating, can also trigger cramps

Avoid: Alcohol
Anything that can damage your liver should be off the list.

Avoid: Red Meat
Red meat is also know to cause stomach upsets and cramps.

Here are some helpful links that helped inform this article:

Insulin Resistance and PCOS: Medication

I am not a doctor. Or even close. But I have been blessed with amazing doctors who are helping me get my PCOS and Insulin Resistance under control.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS FEEDBACK IS NOT ADVERTISING…trust me, these drug companies have no idea about this blog. This post is just my pure, honest feedback on my medication.

That being said, I do want to say that the combination of medications I have been placed on (along with my 110g a day of carb diet) has turned my life around. I am currently down 11 pounds in 2 months and have regained a menstrual cycle…both of which seemed impossible 2 months ago.

Overall, I will say my side effects have been very minimal. It is hard to pinpoint what medication is causing these effects..but as you can see, the list is pretty short:

  • Nausea- this was probably the worst during the 1st month of medication. My doctor explained that PCOS was causing increased testosterone making my 30-year-old body think I was going through menopause. These medications helped balance my testosterone and estrogen levels, so body basically went from thinking I was in menopause to thinking I was pregnant. When I told my doctor of this side effect, he was happy to hear this because it meant the medication was working.
  • 2 periods per month – this one has been extra fun. My guess is that since PCOS stores up your eggs (since you are not regularly ovulating), I am thinking that now my estrogen levels are normalizing, my body wants to ovulate as much as it can. This is definitely something I plan to discuss with my doctor in my upcoming appointment. This side effect could be considered a benefit for anyone trying to get pregnant!
  • We are not trying to get pregnant, but if we were…my doctor mentioned all these medications are OK for pregnancy except for the diuretic (Spironolactone)

Here is a rundown on the medications I am prescribed based on info I compiled from Drugs.com. Please check out the links at the bottom of the article for risks and side effects…AND PLEASE DISCUSS THESE OPTIONS FOR YOU WITH A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL AS I AM NOT A DOCTOR.

My doctor said that while medications help, diet is the most important factor in managing Insulin Resistance and PCOS…so more info to come in later posts on healthy, low carb recipes I love!

Metformin (Primary use for me: Type 2 Diabetes treatment)

 Metformin is an oral diabetes medicine that helps control blood sugar levels. Metformin is for people with type 2 diabetes and sometimes used in combination with insulin or other medications, but it is not for treating type 1 diabetes.

Spironolactone (Primary use for me: diuretic)

Spironolactone is a potassium-sparing diuretic (water pill) that prevents your body from absorbing too much salt and keeps your potassium levels from getting too low.

Spironolactone is used to diagnose or treat a condition in which you have too much aldosterone in your body. Aldosterone is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands to help regulate the salt and water balance in your body.

Spironolactone also treats fluid retention (edema) in people with congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, or a kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome. This medication is also used to treat or prevent hypokalemia (low potassium levels in the blood).

Trazodone (Primary use for me: taken at bedtime to help me sleep)

Trazodone is an antidepressant medicine. It affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression.Trazodone can be used to treat major depressive disorder.

Propanol (Primary use for me: beta blocker taken as needed when PCOS/IR causes rapid heartbeats from stress)

Propranolol is a beta-blocker. Beta-blockers affect the heart and circulation (blood flow through arteries and veins).

Propranolol is used to treat tremors, angina (chest pain), hypertension (high blood pressure), heart rhythm disorders, and other heart or circulatory conditions. It is also used to treat or prevent heart attack, and to reduce the severity and frequency of migraine headaches.

Here are the resources I used to help inform this article: