The Ugly Truth Behind PCOS

download

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!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

Advertisements

Road to Recovery – 1 year later

From day one to now

June 2014 – After training for months, I took part in the ROC race (think of the tv show, Wipeout). I trained like I had for Spartan races, focusing on my upper body above all. The day came and I was ready. I flew through the obstacles and then I got to the monkey bars. Historically, I was never any good at those. I was the little kid who’s parents had to hold her as she went across. But that wasn’t gonna stop me. I trained hard, doing many pull-ups. I could do this! I made it half way without a problem. Then I felt something pop and burn. I grabbed my shoulder and let myself fall. I shook it off and continued the race, finishing all smiles. In the weeks and months that followed, that smile quickly faded. At first I thought maybe I pulled a muscle or something…but it wasn’t getting any better. I continued to workout and work around my injury until one day I realized there was no muscle growth on my bad arm. I couldn’t take it any more. 

October 7, 2016 – I finally went under the knife to repair a nagging shoulder injury. After trying my best for two years to rehab and “fix” it on my own, I realized that my injury only getting worse. I went to the doctor and was immediately sent for a MRI, which revealed that I had a torn labrum and, because I waited so long, a frayed rotator cuff. The doctor was clear that while I didn’t HAVE to get surgery, the longer I wait the worse it will get…and the less likely I would be to get back to full strength. So I begrudgingly scheduled the surgery.

I’ve never had a broken bone much less surgery like this before. I had my tonsils out when I was 11 or 12 but nothing like this. Despite being clumsy my entire life, I somehow managed to escape the ER. Yet here I was – ready to undergo surgery. I wasn’t so much nervous for the actual surgery as I was for the recovery. I wasn’t wrong.

The surgery itself went fairly well, despite a nonsensical hiccup at the hospital the morning of. I was given a nerve block, meaning my entire arm was numb and feeling fantastic post-op. Until around 3am anyway. They say you should stay ahead of the pain and medicate. I didn’t want to overuse the drugs that I was given…so I didn’t listen. Big mistake. I learned good from that though and made sure to keep ahead of things for the next couple of days. I was religated to sleeping on a recliner for that first week…and almost a month in total. I couldn’t lay down without being in terrible pain so I gave up and slept like that. It killed my back but at least I was able to get some rest.

One week later, I went back for my first follow-up. I was given a clunky, yet very sturdy, sling/support device. I was also told that I couldn’t drive for at least another week, meaning I couldn’t go to work. I hate to sit still so this killed me. It’s important to note that I’m right handed…and the surgery was on my right shoulder. So this meant EVERYTHING was a chore. Basic things like showering and eating became a ridiculous task. 2 weeks after surgery I was able to return to work and begin getting back to “normal.” Which…wasn’t much. I couldn’t do many tasks at my job and I had to drive with my left hand (no sling could be worn…which hurt more than one may think). It wasn’t easy at all but I was determined. I also began physical therapy twice a week, which was a godsend. They got me moving again and helped me regain my strength.

Little by little, with the help of PT, I was able to get back to normal. A couple of months later, my insurance decided to stop paying for PT and that was that. I kept at it on my own, best I could. I had the idea of enlisting help from my co-worker, who specializes in massage therapy along with personal training. I knew that I needed help with correcting the bad form that I created and while I may be a trainer myself, it’s much more difficult to correct things on yourself. See, over the two years that I was injured I had to adapt and make changes to compensate for the pain. Some I knew I was doing…but many I didn’t. So I got the help that I needed and was well on my way to pain-free workouts…or so I thought.

March 1, 2017 – just under 5 months post-op and I was cleared for all physical activity. The doctor was really impressed with my progress, saying that I was healing faster than most. I wasn’t given any restrictions!  Sounds great, right? It was…except I know no limits and paid the price for that. I began working out the same as I always had…which produced the same pain it had in the past. As I write this, my eyes are rolling HARD. It was stupid to stop the PT warmups and just jump full speed ahead. People tried to tell me that – I didn’t listen. The following month, I began my 6 week summer shred. I went balls to the wall in my workouts and by the end I looked great…but my arm was killing me. 

I went back to the doctor, fearful that I did serious damage again. Lucky for me, doc didn’t think I did anything to my shoulder but he did think that I was suffering from some bicep tendinitis. I was told to scale back my workouts and to rest more. This completely deflated me.

Since then, I haven’t worked out much. I do weekly workout videos and often feel pain in the days that follow. It’s extremely discouraging but I have decided enough is enough. I was able to get back to full strength in just under 5 months…so I damn sure can get there again. I’m not the most patient person but I’m learning how to be better. I began my PT regimen over the weekend and my plan is to do that 3-4x per week (not counting other workouts). I will also enlist the help of my coworker again- not so much for the corrective stuff but for the magical ART work that he does. 

I want to ease my shoulder back into things this time. Knowing how I get, I’ve decided to work towards a couple of goals to keep me motivated. My first goal is to do pull-ups again…and do them unassisted. After all, they were one of my favorite exercises. I’m pretty sure that’s how I blew my shoulder out but maybe if I don’t overtrain and do it right, I can do them better than before. Another goal of mine is to do another Spartan race. That’s not on the forfront as I’m a little skiddish about hurting myself unnecessarily…but it IS something I’d love to do again. Lastly, and maybe most important, my goal is to have pain-free workouts. That is going to require A LOT of patience but I’m going to do my very best.

This injury has taught me many valuable lessons. I need to be patient and truly trust the process. I don’t do myself any favors rushing things. No one tells you how hard this is mentally. Everyone focuses so much on the physical aspect that the mental is all but forgotten. After going through this myself, I’ll tell you the mental is so much more important. If you can’t will yourself through the pain and will yourself to do the work, you’ll never recover. It’s truly a testimony of your inner strength so much more than physical.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an injury or injury recovery, know that it DOES get better. Take the time you need to rest and really take the time to get to know your body. It’s a long process but you will come out on the other side…stronger than before.

Until next time, stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

Sleep Your Troubles Away

lack_of_sleep

If you’re like me, you probably spend most of your day exhausted and chugging coffee just to function. One bad night of sleep turns into two…and before you know it you’ve barely slept all week. You think to yourself, I’ll catch up on sleep this weekend – but when the weekend comes, family obligations and household errands take the lead and all of a sudden it’s Monday again. Sound familiar? Well, turns out we aren’t alone…but this is a much bigger problem than we all realize.

Studies show that over 40% of Americans get less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is a basic human need, much like eating and drinking, and is crucial to our overall health and well-being. It’s important to every aspect of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being to get enough sleep.

Getting enough sleep won’t just invigorate you; it could also help control how much you eat. A lack of sleep is linked to overeating—especially the overconsumption of junk food—which can lead to weight gain. It also has an impact on hormonal balance. Two hormones that help regulate hunger—ghrelin and leptin—are affected by sleep. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived the level of ghrelin spikes, while the level of leptin falls. This leads to an increase in hunger. Not only does a lack of sleep interfere with hunger signals, but there’s also the problem that less time in bed simply gives you more hours of the day to eat.

In addition to weight/metabolic issues, a lack of sleep also will cause more long-term and serious health problems. Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Some research has linked a lack of sleep to an increase of the stress hormone, cortisol in the body and it’s now believed that people who experience short-term sleep deprivation are not able to process glucose as efficiently as those who get eight hours of sleep. This means that they have an increased likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

If a person is lacking rest but has continuous muscular activity, other issues such as cramping arise. Muscle fascia tears, hernias, and other problems usually associated with physical overexertion have also been reported in extreme cases of sleep deprivation.

Besides the many physical consequences of insufficient sleep, perhaps the most important consequences of sleep deprivation are deficits in working memory and attention. Lapses in ordinary day-to-day tasks can cause worrying results; from missing words or sentences while taking notes to omitting important ingredients while cooking. It appears that carrying out these tasks which require attention is in direct correlation to the number of hours the person sleeps each night.

As hard as it may seem, we need to make time for ourselves and for sleep. Doing this will ensure that you lead a much more productive and healthier life.

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

Summer Shred – Fighting to be Fit….Through the Chaos

What a week! The second week of my Summer Shred definitely didn’t go as I intended…but it wasn’t all lost. I stuck to my meal plan and my macros were almost perfect everyday. I lost a pound despite not working out as hard as I wanted to and I’m noticing my waist get smaller and smaller everyday!

While a stressful, busy work week kept me away from my own workouts most days…my diet was great. Here’s how the last few days looked:

Breakfast:

  • Wednesday, 4/26: 2 eggs with a sprinkle of cheese & caramel latte protein coffee
  • Thursday, 4/27: rice cake with tsp of PB & caramel latte protein coffee
  • Friday, 4/28: rice cake with tsp of PB & caramel latte protein coffee
  • Saturday, 4/29: mini bagel with cream cheese, caramel latte protein coffee, large iced coffee with almond milk & 1 splenda
  • Sunday, 4/30: (brunch at the diner) omelette with goat cheese, mushrooms, and tomatoes, caramel latte protein coffee, 3 iced coffees with a splash of milk & splenda

Lunch: 

  • Wednesday, 4/26 4 oz of ground turkey with 1 oz of quinoa and mushrooms
  • Thursday, 4/27 – 4 oz of ground turkey with 2 oz of sweet potato and mushrooms along with that had just lettuce and a sprinkle of cheese.
  • Friday, 4/28 – I had run out of meal prepped food…so I had a salad with lettuce, mushrooms, and cheese along with the remaining 2 oz of sweet potato
  • Saturday, 4/29 – I went to lunch with a co-worker after a very long but successful event for work. I had a HUGE Greek salad with grilled chicken and a few slices of grilled pita
  • Sunday, 4/30 – No lunch, since my breakfast was brunch…at 1 pm

Snacks: Pretty much the same everyday – RX Bars, Oh Yeah bars, frozen blueberries with crystal light, carrots or rice cake with PB, and cottage cheese. I also had Phormula1 shakes or BCAAs in my water.

Dinner: I had cauliflower almost everyday….which has destroyed my stomach. Laying off that and all other super gassy veggies this week.

  • Wednesday, 4/26 – 10 grilled calamari rings with cauliflower & string beans
  • Thursday, 4/27 – Palm Beach salad from Chopt
  • Friday, 4/28 – 2 turkey burgers with mushrooms and cauliflower
  • Saturday, 4/29 – 2 turkey burgers with a salad and 1/2 small avocado
  • Sunday, 4/30 – 1 turkey burger with mushrooms & 2 plain rice cakes

My macros were pretty good, all things considered. My fats were a little high the last two days but otherwise they were spot on:

Beginning tomorrow, I will be incorporating cardio into every workout…everyday. It’s gonna suck but I have to make up for lost time. Friday is Cinco de Mayo and anyone who knows me knows how much I die for Mexican food…& margaritas. I may allow myself a taco or two but I won’t go crazy. This girl has a goal and once I reach it, I can celebrate with as many margaritas and/or tequila shots my heart desires!

I plan on keeping my diet mostly the same but maybe incorporating other protein bars into the mix. Seems the coffee RX bars I love so much are discontinued and while I do enjoy other flavors, it’s just not the same. So I’ll mix it up a bit. My workouts will be as follows:

  • Monday – upper body + cardio
  • Tuesday – lower body + cardio
  • Wednesday – upper body (PT)
  • Thursday – lower body + cardio
  • Friday – total body (PT)
  • Saturday – cardio (1 hour)

Since Sunday is the annual fitness expo at MetLife, I doubt I’ll do a workout. I’ll make that an active rest day, as there will be plenty of walking and whatever else I can get myself into.

Here’s hoping for a less stressful and more active week 3!

-Gina

Summer Shred – Day 2

Another day in the books!! I won’t lie – last night got pretty ugly. I didn’t drink enough water and I was under my calorie goal for the day. That resulted in being my STARVING. No bueno. Today was much better. This is how the day shaped out:

Breakfast:

  • Egg white scramble (made with  3 medium egg whites, 4 pieces of asparagus chopped, 2 balsamic mushrooms chopped, and a sprinkle of cheese)
  • Medium dark roast iced coffee with almond milk (no sugar or flavor) from Dunkin

Post-Workout: Phormula-1 Chocolate shake (made with ice water)

Snack:

  • 100 Calorie Almonds

Lunch:

  • 3 oz ground turkey
  • 2 oz. kale
  • 2 mushrooms chopped
  • approx. 3 tbsp quinoa

Snack:

  • Coconut RX Bar
  • 4 shots of espresso on ice with splash of soy & 1 splenda (Starbucks)

Dinner:

  • 4 oz tilapia
  • 2 oz butternut squash
  • 10 Brussel sprouts
  • Salad (with shredded cheese & chick peas)

My calories were still on the low side but I drank a ton of water which kept me satisfied and full all day. That being said, my macros were once again spot on! 

Tuesdays are usually hell day for me. My day begins at 5:30am and doesn’t end until around 8 pm 😣 but that wasn’t gonna stop me. I hit the gym HARD and got a really good leg day workout in:

img_4809

Let’s keep this momentum going into day 3 tomorrow!! 

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina