PCOS may be a complex disorder, but the answer is actually quite simple.
I used to be a classic example of the millions of women worldwide who receive band aid treatments for PCOS that fail to address the underlying causes. I started using prescriptions creams for acne when I was 12, and birth control when I was 16 to help restore my non-existent period. I soon progressed to antidepressant medications, antacids for digestive issues, and then on to injectable hormones, immune suppressant steroids, and IVF when infertility struck in my 30s.
And then I fell pregnant naturally.
But this was not just good luck.
Two years into my four and half year ordeal with infertility, I began researching and implementing the most proven treatments for PCOS. Rather than taking more drugs, I instead changed how I ate, exercised, and managed my emotional health.
The 10 strategies below are the ones I used to beat my PCOS and fall pregnant naturally without the help of drugs or fertility treatments. These 10 ideas represent the cornerstone of the help I now provide to thousands of women through my free 30 Day PCOS Diet Challenge.
1. I Quit Eating Sugar
I had been a sugar addict my whole life. I’d eat Pop Tarts or Lucky Charms for breakfast, Skittles with lunch, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups after dinner. Ice cream was a daily treat and soda was a way of life. Unfortunately, as I set out on my journey to overcome my PCOS I soon learned that quitting sugar was THE most important step I needed to take.
It was a difficult process but by implementing a series of nutritional and behavioral tricks to prevent the onset of cravings (see below for some examples), I now no longer have ANYTHING to do with candy, and I don’t miss it either.
If you do still feel the need for a sweet treat every now and then, my recommendation is to use fructose free sweeteners and include plenty of fats and protein with it to lower the glycemic load like I do in my Beat PCOS Dessert Cookbook recipes.
2. I Began to Eat Lots of Fat
In the past I had always been scared to eat fat. I avoided butter, animal fat and anything else I thought might make me gain weight. After months of research though I discovered that one of the biggest myths we have ever been told is that fat makes us fat.
For women with PCOS, eating a diet rich in fats from wholefood sources can make a dramatic improvement to their body fat and cardiovascular health. A high fat diet has been well proven to help you lose weight, restore ovulation, and even reduce the effects of acne and hirsutism (Goss et. al 2014; Gower et.al 2013).
Eating certain saturated fats can clear your arteries of unhealthy deposits (Mooney et. al 2012), while others can actually help you to lose body fat, particularly around your stomach and thighs (Mumme and Stonehouse 2015). Eating the right fat can actually make you thin!
3. I Learned How to Eat Carbohydrate Foods Correctly
I had always loved carbohydrates, especially highly processed ones. As a picky eater with little time and a dislike for cooking, bread and cereal were always my dependable friends… or so I thought.
Learning how to eat the right carbohydrate foods, in the right quantities was one of the biggest breakthroughs in overcoming my PCOS. While eating carbs correctly is a complex topic, the four key ideas I teach in my 10 Week Program are to eat low carb, slow carb, from wholefood sources, with every meal. This is also one of the key tricks to avoiding sugar cravings.
4. I Gave Up Being a Vegetarian
As much as I loved carbs, I love animals more. I’m totally obsessed with cute animal videos, and I rescue enough injured birds to be a familiar face at my local wildlife sanctuary. If I see an animal suffer, I suffer, and I’ll do anything I can to help.
But I also decided that I needed to put meat back on the menu…
While I struggled with the ethics of this decision, extensive scientific research convinced me that eating animal protein was the only way of ensuring I got the right nutrition I needed to manage my PCOS. The strongest arguments that brought me to this reluctant conclusion were that animal sources of protein are the most reliable way to get all nine essential amino acids, and that fish, meat, and eggs provide a vast array of micronutrients that cannot be adequately sourced from vegetarian foods.
5. I Trained Myself to Eat a LOT of Non-Starchy Vegetables
Eating more vegetables is a no-brainer I know, but it’s amazing how many people under eat non-starchy vegetables, especially leafy greens. I certainly don’t mean this to be judgy as I of all people used to be the biggest vegetable hater out there.
Two cups of non-starchy vegetables with every meal is a good place to start, and if you’re like me and find vegetables hard work, then make sure to add plenty of butter or olive oil. Not only does this make them taste 100 times better to the point you crave them, but eating vegetables with fat actually increases your bodies’ absorption of micronutrients (Unlu et al. 2005; Kopec et al. 2014; Homberg et al. 2009).
6. I Figured Out Which Foods I Needed to Avoid
While I sometimes loath the fact that I can’t eat gluten, dairy, eggs, cranberries, banana, and sesame seeds because they inflame my gut, I cannot overstate the massive impact eliminating these foods from my diet has had on my health.
Gluten, dairy, processed foods, and soy are the most common culprits for women with PCOS which is why everyone that takes part in my free 30 Day PCOS Diet Challenge excludes them from their diet. Among the heartwarming results achieved by the 15,000 women that have participated so far, I am shown again and again that getting on top of your food sensitivities is one of the biggest steps you can take to overcome PCOS.
7. I Discovered How to Take Care of My Gut Health
Treating the gut microbiome is the new frontier in functional medicine, and is particularly important for overcoming PCOS. Researchers have only recently shown a causal link between the gut microbiome, insulin resistance, and obesity (Saad et al. 2016) and it will be fascinating to see the discoveries made in this field in the coming years.
In addition to figuring out which foods I needed to avoid, some of the most valuable things I did to begin taking care of my gut health included eating more prebiotic and probiotic foods, managing my stress levels, avoiding non-essential antibiotics, and quitting sugar.
8. I Changed How I Exercised
My excess stomach fat used to be my number one motivation for running regularly and doing long cardio workouts. Little did I know that this kind of exercise was only making my PCOS worse. By switching to interval training, and adding in strength building workouts I was able to realize the benefits of exercise without continually upsetting my delicate hormone balance.
The exciting thing that I love about exercise is that if you learn to workout correctly you can directly reduce insulin resistance and lower the high testosterone levels that drive all of the symptoms you hate (Cheema et al. 2014).
9. I Learned to Prioritize My Emotional Health
Stress and anxiety have been clearly shown to make PCOS worse (Barry et al. 2011; Jedel et al. 2010), while PCOS also makes you more stressed and anxious (Benson et al. 2009). Not only have I experienced this myself but I have met hundreds of women in my PCOS Support Facebook Group who can relate to this phenomenon.
This positive feedback loop, while often overlooked is such an important factor to consider and can have a profound effect on ALL of your PCOS symptoms.
Being forced to get serious about my mental health and making self-care a regular part of my life is one of the most positive side effects of PCOS that I never would have imagined before I did the research.
10. I Showed Myself Compassion
While it is easy to say all of this now, implementing the lifestyle changes that eventually led to my natural pregnancy and freedom from PCOS was a long and challenging process.
Having the right mindset for this slow but steady transformation is the most important ingredient you need to add to make all the others stick. One of the most important lessons I learned along the way was allowing myself to make mistakes. To encourage, rather than criticize myself as I tried then failed, and tried again.
Put These Principles into Practice
Knowing these 10 simple strategies is one thing, but putting them into practice is where success is found.
If you are fed up with all the awful symptoms of PCOS and are ready to receive the support you really need, then please don’t hesitate to join me and my inspirational community of women in the next free 30 Day PCOS Diet Challenge.
Like I said… PCOS is complex disorder, but the answer is actually quite simple.
With the right help, a supportive community, and touch of grit anyone can beat their PCOS.