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Dining Out The Smart Way With Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Let’s be honest.

When you have dietary restrictions of any kind, dining out has the potential to suck.

It’s way too easy to forget what you aren’t supposed to be eating when you’re with a group full of people who are chowing down on sugary, fried deliciousness. Before you know it, you’ve ‘sampled’ a bit of what they have, then flagged down the waiter to order your own dish.

It tastes great in the moment of course but has the potential to cause some pretty nasty after-effects. As you probably know, us ladies with PCOS are prone to symptom flare-ups in general, but the food we eat heavily plays a part as well.

Great news: with a bit of preparation and willpower, it doesn’t have to be that way!

Before your next restaurant outing, jot down these tips to prepare you. They’ve been a big help to me no matter where I go.

NOTE: These are great tips because they apply to any dietary guideline — Keto, Paleo, whatever!

Check The Restaurant’s Nutrition Guide Online.

This is always, ALWAYS the first go-to. Most restaurants have printable PDF nutrition guides on their websites.

Print off the guide or view it in your browser and study. the. heck. out of it.  If it’s a restaurant you frequent on a regular basis, you can circle dishes that fall into your dietary guidelines on a hard copy of the guide.

You’ll walk into the restaurant already knowing what you’re going to order, which is half the battle and will help you stick to your guns a little better than going in blind.

Be Mindful Of Portion Sizes.

Alright, so you’ve found meals that fit into your diet. Awesome!

But there’s still one aspect you’ve got to be aware of when dining out: portion sizes.

At a lot of chain restaurants, the portions are huge. A meal meant for one person can easily feed two (or even three!) people. Unfortunately, this also applies to meals that are otherwise considered ‘healthy’. I’ve chosen what were supposed to be lighter meals from restaurants to later find out that I’d gone over my caloric limit because the portion was way too big.

There’s no great way to judge your portion sizes besides eyeballing your plate. If it looks like too much for you to handle, either split it with a friend or eat half and take the remainder to-go.

 

Eat A Snack Before You Go.

This piggybacks on the last tip. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ve been starving before I’ve gone out to eat. You know what I said about eyeballing your portions? Well, that goes right out of the window when you’re really hungry.

The best defense for this?  Eat a small snack before you leave out. It doesn’t have to be anything major. Some nuts, string cheese, a piece of fruit… you get the idea. It’ll curb your appetite so you’ve not ravenous, but still hungry enough for a full meal.

Drink Water.

Another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how much some of us forget to do this at restaurants. When I’m drinking pop, wine or a cocktail, I’m prone to be way more lax with what I’m eating than if I have a big glass of water in front of me. It also suppresses my appetite and helps me feel pretty full as I’m eating my meal.

Plain or lemon water is also typically free at most restaurants. Bonus!

You Can’t Go Wrong With A Salad (Usually).

Nightmare scenario incoming:

You’ve just gone out to a restaurant with a group of people. You aren’t familiar with the menu. When you get there, you realize that most of the offerings aren’t acceptable for your dietary guidelines. What do you do?

I know this is cliche, but it’s true: you can’t go wrong with a salad.*

The most basic of side salads come with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, olives and a packet or cup of dressing. You can request that some items be removed, or add others on, like grilled chicken or steak. Trust me: it’s not ideal, but better than giving in to something that’s guaranteed to be much worse.

*I’ve seen some salads so dense in calories and fat from chain restaurants that you’d be better off getting a double bacon cheeseburger with large fries! Watch out for salads that have breaded meat, a lot of croutons or copious amounts of salad dressing.

Have any tips for dining out that you don’t see here? Share them in the comments!

 

Stay Positive,

Elle

How Melatonin Helped My PCOS Sleep Issues

Sleep is a very tiresome subject for me. Get it?

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Up until recently, I hadn’t had a normal sleeping schedule in well over a decade. I would get enough sleep to barely function on the weekdays, then try to ‘catch up’ on some zzz’s during the weekend (which, unfortunately, isn’t a thing).

Tired and Frustrated

We’ve all had the occasional night where we didn’t sleep well. The stress of something we’re going through keeps us up, or maybe it’s just hard to get comfortable.

For several years, I chalked my poor sleeping patterns up to my adolescent years. As a young teen, I’d stay up late to watch movies or talk shows, play video games, read and so on. When I got to my twenties and realized it was a struggle for me to fall asleep before 2 a.m., I knew I had to change things up.

I made a tremendous effort to regulate my sleeping patterns. No electronic devices before bed. A dark bedroom at a comfortable temperature. Physically being in bed about an hour before I wanted to fall asleep for some wiggle room.

Nothing worked.

And then, thank goodness, I found out that my poor sleeping habits may have been the cause of something more substantial than habitual late nights in my youth.

PCOS & Poor Sleep = Common

Turns out that women with PCOS tend to have issues with sleeping. This includes sleep apnea, insomnia and generally having trouble getting there.

I had tried OTC (over-the-counter) sleep aids before, but they’d always made me feel… weird. Zzzquil, while effective, made me feel as if my brain was ‘shutting down’ after I took it. I also had what can be described as a temporary paralysis of sorts, where I could barely move once it got into my system.

Worst of all, I’d get in a full eight hours of sleep but felt just as groggy and exhausted when I woke up than I had when I went to bed!  It wasn’t for me.

About six months into our marriage, my husband realized how much getting a good night’s rest was a problem for me. In passing, he mentioned Melatonin, both the natural hormone our bodies produce for sleep and the synthetic kind widely available in most drug and health food stores.

I took it once over a year ago and have never looked back. By far, it’s the best OTC sleep aid solution for anyone who wants a more natural remedy for sleeplessness.

 

What makes Melatonin awesome?

I really could go on about why Melatonin is amazing, but I’ll keep it to four important reasons.

  • It’s a natural remedy. When it comes to women with PCOS (including myself), some opt for natural and holistic remedies to manage symptoms. Synthetic Melatonin merely increases the amount present in the body so that getting to sleep is a lot easier than normal.
  • It works gradually and feels ‘normal’.  As I mentioned above, some OTC sleep aids ‘force’ you to sleep. Melatonin’s effect is no different than the natural tired feeling one would have normally.
  • You can take it when you need it.  I’ve found that I go through spells where my sleeping is regulated so well, I don’t need to take Melatonin. This will vary by person, of course, but Melatonin isn’t like a prescribed sleep aid; take it when you need it, stop when you don’t.
  • It’s affordable. Melatonin is easy to find and, typically priced between $8 and $10, is easy to acquire without breaking the bank. One bottle usually has about 100 tablets. That’s a three-month supply; not bad.

I’d recommend it to anyone struggling with poor sleep, but I can’t suggest it enough to women with PCOS who are missing out on good night’s rest.

Thinking about giving it a try or have already taken it? I’d love to hear your experience.

Stay Positive!

– Elle

The Most Popular PCOS Diets

PCOS and nutrition is a very popular and sometimes controversial topic amongst nutritionists, doctors and women with PCOS.

Some women swear by certain diets. Others who have tried the same dietary guidelines found that their symptoms worsened and opted to follow another diet.

No matter the diet, women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome have the same common goal — avoid insulin spikes. Since most women with PCOS battle with insulin resistance, they opt for diets that are low in sugar, carbs and are absent of preservatives and other hormone-disrupting chemicals.

In the four years since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve done extensive research on PCOS compatible diets. Ketogenic, Paleo, Low-Carb and Low GI are, by far, the most discussed and suggested diets for women with PCOS.

Keep reading for a breakdown of all four diets and my thoughts on them at the end of the post.

 

Ketogenic Diet

What is it?: The Ketogenic diet, also known as Keto, is a unique high-fat, low carbohydrate diet that has extremely strict daily allowances for carbs (typically 20g or lower) and a goal of literally no sugar consumption.

When the body goes without sugar or carbs for a time (length varies by person, but typically a week or two), it enters a state of Ketosis, believed to be a “fat-burning” state. Since women with PCOS often have trouble shedding weight, it’s thought to be doubly helpful by encouraging weight loss and minimizing symptoms.

What’s a typical meal on Keto?: With all grains and most carbs and sugars cut out, you’re limited to any meat, non-starchy vegetable and most fats.

For example, dinner might be a steak with broccoli for dinner, with a salad paired with high-fat dressing on the side.

Why is it popular with PCOS Women?: Since the diet greatly reduces the carb and sugar intake (the primary causes of insulin spikes), many women report a reduction in symptom inflammation and an easier time losing weight.

 

Paleolithic Diet

What is it?:  The Paleo diet has become wildly popular in the past decade. It’s modeled after what’s thought to be the diet of cavemen, e.g. only things that could be hunted, fished and harvested. In other words, it’s a grain-free diet consisting of a wide variety of  meats, fruits and vegetables. Some who follow the diet exclude dairy products like milk, eggs and cheese.

What’s a typical meal on Paleo?:  Paleo meals provide a bit more wiggle room than Keto in that starchy vegetables are allowed sometimes.

An example of a Paleo dinner would be pork chops, mashed sweet potato and kale.

Why is it popular with PCOS women?: The paleo diet seems to borrow from the low-glycemic index list of foods, which offers a lot more wiggle room in what can and can’t be eaten when compared to keto.

Low-Carbohydrate Diet

What is it?:  The low-carb diet is one of the most popular diets of the last three decades. The goal is to keep carb intake much lower than that of the Standard American Diet (about 300g carbs a day). Atkins, probably the most well-known low-carb diet, limits newcomers to about 25g. After a short length of time (it was a week last time I was on it), the carbs are increased to 50g, then 75g and so on. In other words, it’s a pretty dramatic removal of carbs from the diet, followed by gradually increasing them to a reasonable amount.

What’s a typical Low-Carb meal?:  Low-carb diets are extremely flexible in what can be had and want can’t. Unlike Keto or Paleo, grains are not excluded.

A low-carb dinner may consist of a low-carb tortilla wrap filled with taco-seasoned ground turkey and lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, etc.

Why is it popular with PCOS women?: It’s about one of the only diets that doesn’t seek to cut out particular food groups so much as it promotes carb intake in moderation. You can still enjoy the occasional snack or treat so long as you’re mindful of your intake.

Low Glycemic Index Diet

What is it?: The Low Glycemic Index Diet (or Low GI for short) is a list of foods ranked by how much the blood glucose level is raised upon consumption. It’s a go-to for people who are diabetic and pre-diabetic or insulin-resistant. The typical rule of thumb is that the starchier the food, the higher the blood glucose level.

What’s a typical Low GI meal?: Again, one of the positives about the Low GI diet is the variety of foods available.

A dinner on the Low GI diet could be grilled chicken breasts, brown rice and lima beans.

Why is it popular with PCOS women?: With the flexibility it offers and a very easy list of foods to remember at the grocery store, it’s a diet that aims to make managing insulin levels as easy as possible.

 

So What’s The BEST One?

There isn’t one.

But only because there’s no such thing as a one size fits all diet or nutrition plan.

I’ve tried all four of these diets with varying results. I do have preferences leaning towards a couple (which I’ll cover down the road in separate reviews). You really need to try them individually before you can make a definitive decision.

I wouldn’t suggest, say, sweeping your kitchen of all low-GI items to try Paleo. But next time you’re at the grocery store, write a small list with items from the diets you want to try. Make meals following those plans and see how you feel. If you like it, stick to it!  If not, you can always move on and try something else.

Did I miss one?  Please share it with me in the comments!  (Honestly, I thought really long and hard about this topic and could only come up with the diets listed above).

Stay Positive!

 

– Elle

Hirsutism and PCOS: 5 Hair Removal Methods (& My Experience With Them)

If you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, chances are you also contend with excess facial hair or hirsutism.

It’s believed that 7 percent of all women in the US endure hirsutism and its related symptoms. It’s also one of the symptoms doctors look for when diagnosing a woman with PCOS.

Besides irregular menstrual cycles, it was one of the first symptoms I noticed that led me to believe I had PCOS. And, at least as it concerns outer appearance, is one of the most difficult symptoms for women to combat. It can do a number on a woman’s self-confidence, especially if the hair is fairly dark and/or dense.

I’ve been dealing with excess facial hair (and the subsequent removal) for about eight years now. That’s twice as long as my PCOS diagnosis!

With the exception of electrolysis, I’ve tried just about every hair removal method out there — with varying results. I hope that sharing my trials and tribulations with hirsutism will help other women find the best method for them.

shave-360312_640Shaving

Shaving seems like a no-brainer when it comes to removing any hair on the body. Razors are inexpensive, painless (with a steady hand, at least) and relatively quick. It’s always there when you need it and can get the job done.

Some women use razors to get rid of the fine peach fuzz mustache above the lip in lieu of bleaching or waxing, and it seems to work for them.

Shaving was the first method I used to get rid of my facial hair. It seemed to do the job on the surface but I started having problems after shaving for several months, most notably razor bumps and my skin texture becoming a bit rougher. For this reason, the shave method belongs on the very bottom of the list and I do not recommend it.

Verdict: Shave only if you have to. If an emergency situation comes up and you have very noticeable facial hair that would cause embarrassment, use a single blade razor with mild shaving foam to remove the hair. Otherwise, the other methods are much better options.

waxing-1247337_640Waxing

Waxing and exercise should really share the mantra of ‘no pain, no gain’.

If you’ve ever waxed your legs, bikini area or gotten a Brazilian (which you should receive some kind of award for bravery for), you know it hurts. It just does. There’s no two ways around it. But you also know the payoff is silky smooth skin. And it extends to the face, too. Some women wax their peach fuzz, their eyebrows and even the odd stray hair that women who don’t have hirsutism get. So how about women who do have more than one or two strays?

Like waxing any other part of the body, removing the light hair on my jawline and chin was not pleasant. When I finally got past the pain and finished, my face was definitely smooth. I did have some issues with skin inflammation after but using witch hazel seemed to minimize it.

Verdict: If you can’t stand pain or have really sensitive skin, I would recommend using some other method. Otherwise, it can be a really good way to remove facial hair. It isn’t my preferred method, but by no means is it as troublesome as shaving.

cream-1464295_640Depilatory

Depilatories, if you find the right kind with a scent that doesn’t make you gag, are amazing. It’s my go-to method for body hair removal, especially my legs. For one, it dissolves the hair from the root. Done right, it’s the best non-painful way to remove hair and enjoy long-lasting results.

When the topic of depilatory face creams come up, I’m torn. It’s perfect for peach fuzz and has the potential to remove lighter density hairs but can really cause problems for people with sensitive skin. If left on for too long, it can also burn the skin and leave a noticeable mark. This was my experience the third-go-round of using depilatories, and I haven’t tried them since.

Verdict: Depilatories are a gamble. I’d suggest trying different brands and using a very small portion of your face to test your skin’s reaction to it. Pay close attention to the recommended time listed on the instructions and don’t go over it.

 

20160912_161136Epilators

Epilators are a bit tricky to use but offer great results. They essentially serve the same purpose as a tweezer in that they pull the hair from the root. A lot of them are marketed as pain-free, but in my experience that’s stretching it. It might be less painful than, say, waxing, but it still stings.

Some resemble a small electric razor. Others look like a coil with two handles at the end like the one I own (as seen in the photo). Regardless of the design, they’ve become very popular methods for facial hair removal. Personally, I think it’s a great way to quickly remove hair.

Verdict: There’s a bit of a learning curve with epilators, but I highly recommend them. They’re not painless, but they remove hair from the root fairly quickly.

tweezers-273113_640Tweezing

I have a love/strong dislike relationship with tweezers. There aren’t many tools that offer such precision when removing hair. But, like some of the other methods listed, it hurts. After extended use the pain does lessen in intensity, but it’s always there.

This aside, the tweezer is my favorite go-to for hair removal.

With clean, moisturized skin, a good vanity light (or natural sunlight) and some spare time, you can do a really thorough job of removing facial hair with tweezers. It’s honestly worth the half hour just to get rid of them. Again, I do have skin inflammation issues from time to time but witch hazel works well for me in minimizing that.

Verdict: It’s not perfect but so far, it’s my favorite way to get rid of excess facial hair.

As always, it really does come down to your personal preference. Choose what works for you. If that’s more than one method, then go for it!

What methods do you prefer? I’d love to hear from you.

Stay positive!

– Elle

Traveling with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: 5 Tips For The Road

Plane, train or the old-fashioned road trip — you name it, I’ve done it.

You’ve heard the old saying before that travel isn’t about the destination, but the journey. I don’t know who said that, but that’s not always true. Sometimes the journey is a long one.

A VERY long one.

And the only saving grace of holding is there is knowing the destination isn’t that far off.

This is applicable to everyone, of course. But traveling while keeping PCOS symptoms under control can be a challenge.

If you’ve got a trip planned soon or thinking about traveling down the road, I encourage you to implement these five tips to make your travels (and you!) as comfortable as possible.

Note: The tips used are direct counters to the most common PCOS symptoms that would pose a problem while on the go.

Get Some Sleep.

This is probably the most important factor in enjoying your trip. Yet, I’ve noticed it’s the first thing that people compromise on.

“I’ll just get some sleep while I’m on the road.” Sound familiar?

For the average person, this may very well be a viable solution to make up for missed sleep. But when women with PCOS may suffer from fatigue on a daily basis anyway, gearing up for a road trip on an empty tank isn’t the right move. If anything, doing your best to ensure a good night’s rest is the first step to pleasant travels.

Take it from me. I set out on a cross-country road trip with my husband two years ago. I was so excited and nervous (I’d never done anything like it up until that point) that I only got about four hours of sleep. Long story short, I was exhausted for most of the day and I even had headaches. It wasn’t fun.

I know it might be difficult to calm yourself enough to get it a solid eight hours if you have an exotic vacation planned for the next day.

Try.

Make your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Put away all electronic devices (yes, that includes your phone!)

If you drink calming, bedtime teas, brew a cup and enjoy shortly before bed.

Do whatever you need to start the day fully energized and ready to go.

 

Remember Your Multivitamins/Medication.

We’ve all left that one pair of shoes at home that we fully intended to pack and wear on vacation. On my end, the forgetfulness has extended to more important items, like my multivitamins and even some of the PCOS-related medications I’ve taken over the years.

As you know, women with PCOS and our experience vary wildly. Some of only take multivitamins for an extra boost in energy when we’re sluggish; others, like me, have to take them every day.

It’s normal to flit about the house while you’re packing. It’s also normal to forget an item or two. That’s why I suggest writing a quick post-it note somewhere visible in your house reminding you to take any medications or multivitamins you have with you. This way, you won’t have to check your purse on the road, then realize you left them in the medicine cabinet at home!

 

Pack Snacks & Meals.

Eating on the road is a sticky situation.

Driving? You’ve got gas station/pit stop fare to choose from on small stops. And if you’ve settled in for the night, there’s likely a glut of drive-thru choices that aren’t the most nutritious.

Plane and train fare have the potential to be about the same. And even if you’re lucky to find something acceptable to you, it may be a bit overpriced for the offering.

Colette Harris and Theresa Cheung’s  The Ultimate PCOS Handbook does an amazing job in explaining why women with PCOS eating preservative-laden foods can exacerbate symptoms related to missed menstrual cycles, low energy levels and more. Guess what most of the food you’ll find on the road will have?

Yep. Preservatives.

If you’re on a lengthy train or car ride, I can’t stress enough how packing your own snacks or meals will come in handy. You’ll come to find that I’m not a fan of telling women with PCOS to follow any particular diet since we’re all different, but think of your favorite foods and snacks that fall under your diet guidelines and pack accordingly.  You’ll save yourself unnecessary calories, additives and maybe even a few bucks.

Stay Hydrated & Moisturized.

This is another tip that works for anyone but really hits home for women with PCOS.

If you’ve got skin sensitivities (prone to acne, dry or oily skin, etc) or dandruff, moisturizing and drinking water is the best solution. For instance, my forehead and cheeks tend to get oily, yet my nose is often dry and I also have dandruff.

When I don’t drink enough water, my face gets oilier, my nose drier and my dandruff becomes a big problem.

Staying hydrated is critical for, well, everything. It’s also easy to pass up when you’re on the road or vacation for soft drinks, juices or alcoholic beverages. You don’t have to chug several gallons of water, but keeping up with your water intake will leave you feeling better overall.

Staying moisturized is a simple solution: find a travel-size bottle of your favorite lotion/face moisturizer.

Stay Calm.

Maybe your flight got delayed or you have a very long layover on your hands. Perhaps your road trip itinerary got thrown off a bit by an unexpected breakdown or a forced detour.

I know this is easier said than done, but stay calm.

Some women with PCOS get a little more anxious, worried or depressed when things don’t go right. But stress and PCOS are a terrible combination and has the potential to make your trip a miserable one.

My best advice for this is simple: do what you need to do to keep yourself calm and happy. Read. Browse the internet/social media. Chat with your travel companion(s) about something funny. A short nap may even do the trick if it’s been a long day.

Including these tips have been a life-saver during my trips. I hope they’ll help you, too.

 

Are there other tips you use that I’ve missed?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

Stay positive!

– Elle