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

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

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 – 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

Control Your Mind & Conquer Your Body


You’ve been working hard and seeing some serious results. You start allowing yourself a few more treats…you skip a few days at the gym…you tell yourself you earned it. You still work out and eat fairly well, but as time goes by, you start noticing that your clothes get a little tighter or that some of the pudge around the middle came back. All of a sudden it seems that while you’re still living a somewhat healthy lifestyle the weight is coming back. Now what? How can you avoid this seemingly inevitable slip backwards? Read on!

Research has shown that over 80% of those who lose weight actually gain it back (and then some) within two years. This doesn’t just take a toll mentally, but it also causes our body physical harm. Not only is the extra weight a health risk, but recent studies have linked the gain-lose-gain cycle to potentially life-threatening conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and cancer. Let’s discuss some ways in which you can prevent this from happening.

Get your mind right…and everything else will follow. That’s my number one key to success. That’s my big secret. There are no quick fixes to losing weight. You need to get your head in the game…and keep it there…if you want to maintain weight loss. It’s not easy. We work so hard to take the weight off, so that once a few pounds creep back on, we feel like we just undid everything. That’s not true. Life happens. Maybe we missed a few workouts or deviated from our diet a little, but as long as you keep your mind on the end goal, it won’t matter. Get right back to the gym and to your regular workouts when you can. Be stricter with your diet after those events pass. Everything will eventually fall back into place.

If I’ve learned anything over a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and weight struggles, it’s that deprivation is almost always the root of all evil with weight loss. Taking out the foods that you love will only lead to you binging on them later. I always use this rule of thumb: wait a half hour (or the length of one TV show). If you still want that snack/food, have a little. It will be better than eating twice as much later on. Also, consider having your favorite “unhealthy” snack as a treat rather than a cheat. People will often feel guilty when they think of themselves “cheating” on their new healthier lifestyle. If you look at is as a treat, you will look forward to it and there will be less guilt afterwards. Be sure to control your portions; just because it’s a treat meal doesn’t mean you should go nuts. Indulge a little, but still practice moderation. When in doubt, opt for a healthier version of your favorite “unhealthy” food. Almost everything has a healthy alternative. For example, choose guacamole or salsa rather than queso or another dip. Select frozen yogurt or protein based ice creams instead of the more fattening brands. Try to cook or bake your favorite foods so you can control what goes into it. You can create healthy options which may not be the actual food you are craving, but they are satisfying enough to have the same effect. Get creative! If you genuinely enjoy what you eat, it will make sticking with your plan that much easier.

In addition to diet, you MUST continue working out. It will keep your metabolism moving and keep those extra pounds/inches from creeping back on. Switch up your routine often to avoid plateaus…and boredom. Continue to set goals for yourself, even if you’ve already lost weight and/or accomplished the original goal(s) set for yourself. Setting small goals and switching your routine will keep you motivated and keep you moving.

An often overlooked key to success is the importance of surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people – people who will lift you up and keep you motivated. Not everyone will understand your journey and that’s ok – after all, it’s YOUR journey not theirs. However, it’s important to your success to have at least one person standing by your side to provide encouragement, especially on those hard days. This will not only keep you accountable, but it will keep your head in the game.

Besides getting your mind right, it’s also important to get your body right too. Schedule an appointment with your doctor and have him/her check your hormone levels. Your hormones control every aspect of weight loss, including your metabolism, where you store your fat, your appetite, and even your cravings. Your stubborn belly fat may actually be caused by a hormonal imbalance, such as high estrogen, low testosterone, low DHEA (a hormone of the adrenal glands), high insulin and high cortisol. It’s also important to check on your thyroid. Monitoring these levels will help keep you on track.

Anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight will tell you that the journey never really ends. It will take time and a lot of work, but eventually you will get to a place where you have never felt freer in your whole life. It really is an amazing thing. Keep in mind it took you more than one day to gain the weight so it certainly will take more than one to lose it! As hard as it is, and as bad as it may seem, know that it really WILL be worth it in the end.

Stay strong & stay in the fight 💕

Gina

Fighting to be Fit…3 Years later!!

 

I’m about a week late but…Happy 3-year Blogiversary to all of us!! Thank you all for your continued support as we Fight to be Fit!

I had big plans for this little blog last year but life had different ideas. 2016 was a rough year for most of us…and I was no exception. I suffered a major setback with my health, in the form of severe chronic fatigue and the reappearance of my PCOS symptoms. On top of that, my shoulder finally gave out on me & I had no choice but to undergo surgery. It’s been a really long road…but I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

For starters, I’m officially 3-months post op! Although I still have pain, I’m 1000% better than I was before. My range of motion isn’t perfect but it’s definitely improved. I’m finally able to raise my arms above my head without pain, which is something I haven’t been able to do in over two years! Despite my progress, I get in my head a lot. I think about how hard I worked and where I was before this injury happened. My workouts have resumed but they are nothing like they once were. It’s a huge adjustment mentally but I’m trying my very best to focus on the positives. I may not be able to lift heavy or do the exercises I once loved, but I will be able to soon. Deep down I know that if I push myself too far too soon, I will only make matters worse…and set myself back even further.

As far as my health goes, I have good and bad days. My chronic fatigue has gotten much better, which I believe is due in large part to a supplement called Adrenal Restore. That shit is magic. I wrote a whole review about it last year…and everything still holds true today. My PCOS symptoms have been horrible. I’ve developed pretty debilitating migraines, which sent me to the ER earlier in the year. All things considered though, that’s been mostly under control and since that episode have rarely happened.

The surgery mixed with my health issues definitely set me back with my weight loss. I gained back a good 20lbs over the last year….and it definitely wasn’t muscle. I went from weighing over 200lbs to getting myself ripped to something in the middle.

I won’t pretend that I’m happy about the setbacks or that I’m proud of where I’m at. However, despite my physical setbacks I learned that mentally I’m stronger than ever. Sure I have bad days like everyone else…but rather than get discouraged by the bad I’m using it as motivation. I know if I keep working hard and stick to a (mostly) clean diet, I will see great results. Hell, I’m already seeing some drastic improvements!

November 2016 >> December 2016


Being on a weight loss journey really teaches you the art of patience…and about yourself. We are all much stronger than we know and it’s not until we are truly put to the test that we realize our full potential. That being said, I won’t make any elusive promises or grand gestures as we go into our 4th year. My goal is simple: continue to inspire all of you reading and give you all hope that no matter how hard life gets or what obstacles you face, it IS possible. After all, nothing worth having comes easy 🙂

Let’s all continue this Fight to be Fit together throughout 2017…& beyond!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

Gina