The Ugly Truth Behind PCOS

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I am 1 in 10. I have a condition known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS. For many years, this was an unheard of & unspoken illness. While the internet can sometimes be the bane of my existence, it’s provided a lot of insight and comfort recently. It’s so helpful and awe-inspiring to see so many others in the same struggle. It’s had a terrible impact on the last 15 years of my life but before I get into my story, let’s shed some light on what PCOS actually is.

PCOS is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels. 1 out of 10 women have this illness. Despite this ratio, experts believe that more than half of women with PCOS don’t even realize they have it. Women with PCOS have slightly higher levels of testosterone and androgen in the body than normal for the average woman. Despite the name, you may not necessarily have ovarian cysts. Symptoms can sometimes present themselves at the onset of a girl’s period; however, many won’t notice anything until they’ve gained a significant amount of weight or have trouble getting pregnant. In some cases, women don’t find out they have PCOS until after they have their first child. The most common symptoms are irregular periods, heavy bleeding, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain, male-pattern baldness, darkening of the skin, fatigue, and headaches. PCOS is also linked with chronic inflammation, which can leave you feeling achy, fatigued, and it contributes to weight gain.

Along with the myriad of symptoms, one of the biggest issues with PCOS is how it affects your ability to become and/or stay pregnant. In fact, it is the leading cause of female infertility. Between 70 and 80 percent of women with PCOS have fertility problems. This condition can also increase the risk of complication during pregnancy. Women with PCOS are twice as likely as women without the condition to deliver their baby prematurely. They’re also at greater risk for miscarriage, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes. However, hope is not lost. Having PCOS does not mean you will be incapable of becoming pregnant naturally; it just may take longer than others. Losing weight and lowering blood sugar levels can improve your odds of having a healthy pregnancy. Women with PCOS can also get pregnant using fertility treatments that improve ovulation.

There is no cure for PCOS; however, there are several medications and treatments your doctor may suggest. Medications such as birth control & metformin are often prescribed to reduce symptoms and/or regulate your period. Fertility medicines may also be recommended for those trying to become pregnant. Your doctor may require regular tests and follow up visits to be sure that the treatment/medication is working properly and to adjust if necessary. Some doctors may also recommend supplements, including berberine, folate, B12, vitamin D, and inositol. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and weight control are also key treatments for PCOS. Unfortunately, it can be more challenging to lose weight and to maintain weight loss with PCOS. Some recommended foods to avoid are foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and muffins, sugary snacks and drinks, and inflammatory foods, such as processed and red meats. Many women with PCOS often have higher than normal insulin levels. Doctors advise that just a slight weight reduction and increase of exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek help from your OB/GYN as soon as possible. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will be on the path to feeling better!

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MY STORY:


I am 1 in 10. Everyone has a story…this is mine. After suffering every single month throughout high school and falling very sick during my first semester of college, I sought help from a gynecologist. She diagnosed me soon after with PCOS at the age of 18. From then on, I was put on various birth control pills (and even that godawful…and pointless…patch) to try and regulate things. It has been mostly under control, except for my weight fluctuating like crazy, my face randomly breaking out like a teenager, and my period doing whatever it damn well pleases.

I do not have kids yet and am otherwise convinced that I won’t be able to have them. I have suffered two miscarriages – one in my very early 20s and another one recently. For my entire life, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a mom…but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me. Doctors aren’t quick to confirm infertility – seems they’d rather you suffer the agony of losing babies or being unable to conceive altogether before they step in. Nonetheless, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. I know there are plenty of options nowadays but the heartache of miscarriages combined with my age make it seem all the more daunting and unrealistic.

I’ve recently come off birth control and I’m hoping to not go back on it. I’ve been on it for 15 years, barring a few months here and there where I was giving my body a break or where I didn’t have insurance. While it is helpful for many of my symptoms, it tends to stop my period and cause a bunch of other issues…which I don’t need. I plan on taking it day by day to see how my body reacts and if all goes well, I won’t go back on the pills. The goal, as always, is to feel good & live a better, healthier life.

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If you or someone you know is struggling, please know you are NOT alone. Feel free to contact me anytime through social media or via email – I’m always available to lend an understand ear.

Stay strong & stay in the fight

xoxo

Gina

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My Fight to be Fit

Anyone who has ever been overweight knows just how hard of a process it actually is. Every single day is a struggle. Like many others, those struggles began for me as a child. I played sports and was fairly active during the summer but not all year round. As a result, my weight reached 180lbs by the time I entered high school. High school can be rough on any kid…but when you struggle with weight it’s that much worse. By senior year, I developed significant problems with my eating. I didn’t know that I had a “real” problem because I was never underweight and I was never formally diagnosed with any type of eating disorder. I’d go from eating one meal a day to, at my worst, one piece of candy or cracker per day. I made myself sick, which ultimately got me to eat again but not nearly enough. As the years have gone on, I’ve come to realize I suffered from what is known as Atypical Anorexia. That disorder continued to plague throughout college and ultimately ended with my spending upwards of 2 hours a day in the gym, barely eating, and drinking (heavily) every weekend. I got down to 130lbs and while I looked great…I didn’t feel it. Looking back on it, I had worked really hard in the gym but done nothing about my diet…or my mental state.

What many people in the fitness industry don’t truly understand is how much of this process is actually mental. You could do all of the right exercises and have the best diet…but if your head isn’t in the game…you won’t be either and that will almost ALWAYS catch up with you. It did for me.

Over the course of my entire life, I probably did almost every fad diet there was. At the time where I was living at the gym, I was also on the South Beach Diet. Like most other fads, once I stopped living in the gym and doing that diet, I gained a lot of the weight back. Over the course of the next 5 years, between health issues, medication and a lack of exercise, my weight climbed to an all-time high of 210lbs. I was miserable and completely clueless as to how I could change it. I needed help but I didn’t know where to turn. Enter the Biggest Loser and Jillian Michaels. The show has gotten a lot of criticism over the last few years for people gaining the weight back. Anyone who drops a crazy amount of weight without changing their mindset and, subsequently, their lifestyle, will fail. That’s just a given. Those who used the show as a method to change their life have stuck with it and their results have lasted. Those who used the show as a game and a chance to win money and fame…have not succeeded. It’s not easy. You have to work at this every single day. But that show, that woman…completely changed my life. If it wasn’t for the one night I turned on that show…I may not be where I am today. I began going to the gym the very next day and I never looked back. To date, I’ve lost and kept off about 80lbs & gone from squeezing into a size 14 to comfortably wearing a size 2/4.

It hasn’t all been roses & sunshine. I didn’t know much when I started. It took me a long time to lose weight and figure out what worked for my body. I began, like many others, by doing a ton of cardio. Slowly, with the help of online videos and Jillian DVDs, I began to incorporate weights into my routine. Without the proper guidance though, I ended up overtraining and doing many exercises incorrectly. This gave way to a serious shoulder injury, which landed me in surgery last October. I became a trainer and nutritionist so I could help others see that they weren’t alone in this fight and give them the guidance that I never had.

Since starting at The Arena, I’ve gone from a personal trainer to a professional. I will still argue that while you may lose some muscle, fasted cardio is the key to my fat loss. After all, every person’s body is different. However, I’m learning more and more everyday just how bad some of the most common exercises are and how they’ve created pain & made my pre-existing injuries that much worse.

Despite negative feedback and research, the Biggest Loser is the reason I got off the couch and did something about my weight. Was it the best, most credible source? Maybe not but it sure was the driving force behind my motivation and what kept me going every single day. I watched season 14 and I connected with the cast and trainers. I used Jillian’s voice as my motivation…and I made a change because of it. I may not have known the proper form or done the safest exercises but I got off my butt and got to the gym. I toned down the partying and eating out. I made small changes and learned how to implement a healthier lifestyle. I did the best that I could with the limited resources available to me. I also did it the smart way – making sure to not restrict myself or start some crazy exercise regimen. I made it work for ME…and it’s stuck 4 ½ years later. Along the way I’ve learned how to exercise safer and what proper form actually is. I’ve learned that I don’t need a TON of cardio to shed fat…but that for my terrible metabolism, I definitely need some. Most importantly, I found balance. Something I strived for my entire life. Now I want to help others do the same.

If you’re in the NYC or Westchester Area & are looking for personal training, nutrition coaching, or a kick-ass class, contact me! I hold weekly bootcamp classes every Tuesday & Thursday and am available for small group & individual training. Email me at gina@thearena.fit for more information.

See more of my videos and articles here: Fight to Be Fit

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

HIIT it Up!

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, workouts are a phenomenon sweeping the nation. What is it, and is it safe? Read on!

HIIT is a cardio session that consists of short, high intensity bursts. HIIT can be an incredibly effective way to work out to see the body composition and fitness results that you want, but you need to do it right. Numerous studies have shown that working your hardest is key when it comes to boosting endurance, increasing metabolism, regulating insulin levels, and losing body fat. HIIT routines that involve bodyweight work (e.g. push-ups) or added weight, such as kettlebells, medicine balls, or dumbbells, will tone your muscles while spiking your heart rate. All types of exercise will ultimately help you burn fat by burning calories, but the more intense the exercise, the more fat you will burn. As a result, it is a very effective way of helping people get the “shredded” look.

A true HIIT workout will involve pushing yourself to the max during each set, which should never exceed 90 seconds. These workouts are typically quick and convenient since they are such high intensity; they usually are 30 minutes or less. They can also be done virtually anywhere, with little to no equipment. The only stipulation is that you should rest in between sets. This may not be the first thing that comes to mind with such an intense workout, however, it is imperative. Recovery is essential so that the body works to adapt from the anaerobic (high-intensity) period to the low-intensity recovery period in HIIT. This workload results in high caloric expenditure, which can lead to fat loss.

That fat loss also comes from an increase in metabolism, which is a benefit to any high intensity workout. Research shows that this is due to an increase in post-exercise exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. EPOC speeds up your metabolic rate and can result in a metabolic boost for up to 48 hours after a complete HIIT routine! The high intensity cardio raises your metabolic rate to the point where you continue to burn calories even after the session ends—in some cases 15% more.

If weight loss is your ultimate goal, the old saying that you can’t out-train a bad diet is true…even if your workouts are super demanding. HIIT isn’t an excuse to neglect your diet, so keep it clean! By incorporating HIIT training into your exercise regimen and keep your diet in check, you’ll start to see some amazing results!

If you’re looking for a safe, yet awesome HIIT workout to try…subscribe to my weekly series on YouTube! https://youtu.be/1l6TamfSeko?list=PLcrZ2KJHxs8xBs1F3sT3jpUNjFVGGXjjG

Adventures in YouTube Land


Well, folks…the day has finally come. I’ve teamed up with the gym that I manage to create workout videos! It’s something that people have been asking about for a while so when my boss suggested it…I ran with the idea. As great of an opportunity as it is, the venture itself into videoland hasn’t been all roses & sunshine.

I love taking pictures and posing for them. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve had a camera in my hand basically everyday since I was 5 or 6 years old…and I was a ham for the camera long before then. BUT there’s a very big difference between a still photo and a video. That may seem like an obvious statement but let me elaborate.

Despite being heavy on and off my entire life, I still loved taking pictures. I learned how to pose to avoid double chins and look as small as possible. Let’s just say Tyra (and ANTM) taught me very well. I also love taking pictures and capturing memories of pretty much everything and everyone I’m around. It’s always been a big hobby of mine. This new venture…on the internet no less…is an entirely different animal.

I try to be honest about my struggles and this video business has definitely been one. Mentally, that is. Every week we film and as I sit down to edit…I cringe. I love being in front of a camera but when I watch the action shots back, I die a little. I work very hard to be where I am. So when I see rolls on my stomach or a double chin or some sort of flashbacks to fatness staring back at me…it’s like none of that hard work matters. Now, the rolls and whatnot are likely due to my bad posture and discomfort shooting in front of certain people…but it’s still really hard to watch. When you are in a video, you can’t pose. You’re doing some sort of motion, in this case exercising. It’s great when it’s just you talking – you can stand a certain way, get a good angle….but when you are moving around it’s about the action not so much how you look. When I shoot my talking pieces, I have someone behind the camera who I’m very comfortable with and who seemingly calms my nerves, while helping me sort out what to say. It adds more work and more time to the project but it definitely turns out much better this way.

I’m no fitness model. I work really hard to maintain my size 2/4 and keep my weight in the 130s. I found balance with food, where I can enjoy beer & various treat meals without a ton of guilt afterwards. However, I still struggle with body image issues. I have loose skin and suffer from mystery stomach problems…which together can sometimes mean my body doesn’t look like it should. Still, I manage to push all of these internal conflicts aside and I post my videos weekly anyway. I’m not perfect but I know my story is one that many people can relate to…and hopefully my workouts can help someone get started on their journey…just like certain videos helped me. The people watching likely aren’t nitpicking like I am. They are watching the workout and seeing a girl who has struggled her entire life DO IT. So while I may nitpick over some stomach rolls or weird faces., I find comfort in knowing that there may be a girl out there just like me who will watch my video and get motivated to jumpstart their own journey.

I may still struggle mentally…especially with this nagging shoulder rehab…but deep down I know that I’m not the same 210lb girl I used to be. Mentally or physically. While I can’t do many of the things that I want to do or that I used to do, I’m learning to adapt. The old Gina would’ve given up the minute she got hurt…and probably gained all of the weight back. This Gina has finally figured it out. It’s not easy. Every single day is a struggle but I try my best to put one foot in front of the other to keep going. I’m not the girl I used to be – and I’m so much better for it.

If you want to check out my Fight to be Fit video playlist, you can find it here. I welcome any & all feedback!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

Summer Shred – COMPLETE!

…and thus concludes my 6-week summer shred!

April 2017 >> Now

It wasn’t perfect by any means. Despite a serious lack of cardio along with Cinco de Mayo & birthday shenanigans, I managed to see really good results.

Summer Shred, Day 1 (April 2017)

Current look!

My plan is to continue this “shred” throughout the summer, while incorporating some treats along the way. I wanted to make this realistic this go-around. Last time, I was doing 2-a-day workouts and eating 1,200 calories a day…which consisted mostly of tilapia, egg whites, and a lot of boring foods. I was miserable by the end and the binge that followed reflected that. This time, I restricted my sweets and lessened my carbs…but that was it. No crazy strict diet was necessary. I lost the weight that I gained post-surgery and regained a lot of my muscle back. I also got much leaner, losing over 10% body fat in just 6 weeks time! Keeping my diet in check really helped make up for my inconsistent workouts. While the workouts weren’t what I initially planned, I did as much as life would allow. Life doesn’t always go the way that we plan so it’s important to always have a back-up plan in motion.

I say it all the time but the key to losing weight…and keeping it off…is making it work for YOU. You can follow a strict diet & do crazy workouts but at the end of the day if it doesn’t work for your lifestyle or body, it will not stick! Trust me. I’ve done it all. I went from an overweight adolescent, to disordered eating in high school and college, to very heavy throughout most of my 20s…and now here we are. It’s still a struggle every single day. This never gets easier – and anyone who says it does is lying. However, your will power becomes stronger. The food noise – that guilt you feel after having a drink or fattening food/sweet – gets quieter. You start seeing results. You do what it takes to never get back to that unhappy place. You eventually decide you never want to look or feel like that again. No slip-ups, injuries, health issues, or life mishaps interfere. One day it all clicks and you gain freedom (&a confidence) in your own skin.

Before my Shred (2/2017) >>Now 

I will continue to post about my modified shred diet & workout regimen in the coming weeks. I’m also currently working together with my gym to create beginner workout videos that anyone can do anywhere! Look out for those gems coming to YouTube soon! Stick with me and I will help get you on the path to being confident in your own skin. It won’t be easy…but I promise it WILL be worth it.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

This is 34

Another year older…another year wiser. This was a trying year for me but I did my best to push through all of the struggles…and come out stronger from it all.

I started a new career in a brand new field. It’s been quite the journey but I’ve never been happier going to work everyday. I finally understand what it means when people say it doesn’t feel like work. I may have had some financial struggles as a result, forcing some parts of my life to go backwards…but it’s all been worth it.

My shoulder finally gave out and I had no choice but to confront the issue that had been plaguing me for a long time. Being told you need surgery is tough on anyone but when you need your muscles to make a living…it’s that much worse. Combine that with the inability to properly workout…causing some weight gain and A LOT of muscle loss…and it can be mentally debilitating.

No one really tells you how hard it is mentally to get through injury recovery. Everyone talks about the physical element….but no one discussing how truly horrible it is to an otherwise healthy mindset. I’ve touched on this quite a bit on my Instagram and in past blog posts but it can’t be said enough. Despite my daily struggles and how I’ve seemingly gone backwards in how I view my own body…I’ve managed to make a pretty decent comeback. I am wrapping up a 6-week shred where I lost weight and regained my muscle & strength. I’m not at 100% but I’m damn close to where I left off a few years ago. I’ve also been working with a trainer/co-worker on corrective exercises. I’ll be writing a full blog post on this soon but suffice to say that if you are going through PT post-op, you should hire a personal trainer as soon as you are cleared. When you suffer an injury, you compensate for that pain and injury by using other muscles and seemingly doing exercises incorrectly. This will ultimately lead to even worse problems down the line. It’s well worth the time and money to invest in someone who can redirect you back to proper form & help get your strength back safely.

As I enter a new year of life, I’ve also come to some level of acceptance. For my entire life all I ever dreamed of was being married and having babies. While I still want those things, I’ve come to accept that when it’s meant to happen it will…and hopefully with the perfect person (for me). I may not be getting younger but I’m done making myself miserable over things I can’t control. I’m choosing to focus on something I can control – my own happiness. Other people can’t dictate that – only I can. That’s been my focus since New Year’s and will continue to be throughout this year. After all, eventually everything that’s meant to be falls into place.

So it goes, another year older & another year wiser. Here’s hoping this year is filled with lots of laughter, good health, and great memories.


Thanks for taking this journey with me!

xoxo

Gina

Summer Shred – Homestretch!

Hard to believe but week 5 is in the books! For those following along, I apologize for my crazy delay on updating you all. If you follow along on Instagram , you will see that I’ve been eating pretty much the same stuff and working out as much as possible. Life got pretty hectic over the last few weeks but I’ve managed to work in cardio wherever I can as well as my weight lifting days. While my diet has been mostly the same, I have stepped it up this week and gotten a little more strict. I cut WAY back on my carbs. Surprisingly, I haven’t been overly hungry or having weird sugar cravings. This has been my best “cut” yet. My workouts may not have been perfect and my schedule may have been chaotic…but I have seen some amazing results! I also had quite the non-scale victory…in Charlotte Russe of all places…while searching for a birthday outfit:

I didn’t buy that dress…but I did buy one even sexier and tighter.


I got to wear that dress confidently for my birthday celebration with friends last night. We had a very late dinner followed by drinks and dancing the night away. I decided that I’d keep it fairly healthy and safe for my stomach 


I didn’t eat the lettuce, as it had some sort of weird dressing on it. However I ate the rest, along with a taste of the table appetizer and was more than satisfied. For drinks, I stuck to one liquor (tequila) all night. I didn’t mix it with more than a splash of club soda and a few limes. 


I didn’t eat the dessert or bread that the restaurant provided either. I had a great time, didn’t get bloated or sick, and felt content. You don’t have to restrict your whole life to keep your diet in check. Allow yourself to enjoy the special moments in life and all of the food that comes with it. I may have had a pretty healthy night…but that’s what I wanted to have. I know ice cream cake along with Mexican and ballpark food await me this week…so for me it wasn’t worth it to pig out last night. Besides…there wasn’t room for much food in that dress 😉

As I enter the final week of this shred (and my birthday week), I have to say this really has been the most successful “cut” that I’ve ever done. I don’t feel like binging…and I got the results that I wanted. Could my abs show more? Yes. Could I weigh less? Probably. However, this was the healthiest, most realistic way to lean out that worked for ME. I will likely keep going beyond this week, so as to keep myself in check throughout the summer. I may not be AS strict but I will keep my diet as clean as possible and workout as hard as my body allows. 

If you’ve been following this shred along with me…stay strong! We are in the homestretch! Keep up with my workouts & meals on Instagram and MyFitnessPal. We got this!

-Gina