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Category Archives: PCOS

Fueling Your Body, Nourishing Your Soul

Greetings, Lovelies. It’s been a while. And, honestly, it’s because I’ve been in a funk. A whirlwind of family activities, new responsibilities, last semester of grad school work, learning to navigate a newly-escalated and life-threatening allergy, getting involved with allergy-specific legislation, and the drudgeries of the daily grind have caused me to do the one thing I hate to admit: I stopped taking care of myself.

It wasn’t pretty. And not just because my pants were getting tight.

I was moody, irritable, short on patience, bloated, crabby because I was bloated, stressed, unhappy, and out of control. I abandoned all my good nutritional habits for convenience (I shudder admitting this), and I quickly set myself back at square one. All of the huge improvements that I’d experienced over the past years shrank into memory, and my PCOS symptoms returned stronger than I remembered.

The important part of this post, however, is that I am not dwelling on my lapse of self-care. Instead, I want to share with you how I’ve started taking it seriously again–for the benefit of EVERY human I come in contact with, especially the ones with whom I share a home (LOVE you, my family!)

First, I reread Jimmy Moore’s Keto Clarity. I knew that getting my body back into nutritional ketosis was the first step to healing my ailments. If you aren’t familiar with Jimmy Moore and you want to know more about low-carb living or keto, please visit his blog: Living La Vida Low Carb.

Next, I prepared: shopped for the right foods, made a plan, etc. etc.

So far, so good. I’m terrific at reading, researching, listing, planning, and prepping.

The hard part for me is getting motivated, sparking that fire and then carefully and consistently tending it, making sure that I am devoted enough to myself to do the hard work ahead. I’m not good at committing to myself. (I couldn’t even get through a 30-day Bikram Yoga challenge at my local yoga studio because I put the needs of others ahead of my own). I’m much better at making sure the people I love are taken care of and shuttled where they need to go, and I prefer to make sure that colleagues and friends have the support that I can offer them before I worry about me. So, despite the fact that I hadn’t had a period in over four months, the notion that I needed to do this for myself, for my own health, wasn’t really lighting my motivational fires.

And then came the most soul-nourishing message from my kids: I can’t be a fun, easy-going mom, ready to go on any number of new adventures at a moment’s notice if I am not taking care of myself. I can’t help them feel their best if I am crabby and impatient because I am not feeling my best. I can’t expect them to practice healthy habits if I am not practicing them myself.

I like being a fun mom. I like adventuring with my kiddos. I like exploring this world with them in a hands-on kind of way. I like getting messy, sweaty, muddy, full of life’s experiences.
I started keto with full motivation on March 2nd.

For someone like me, who has struggled her entire adult life with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the state of nutritional ketosis is an oasis in an otherwise deadly desert.

Day #2 of snowboarding fun!

By March 5th and 6th I felt so fantastic that the kids and I went snowboarding two days in a row! My sugar was fully stabilized. My energy levels were high, and the fog that had clouded my brain for the past few months lifted. The sense of freedom I experience in nutritional ketosis is astounding, and, even better, it allows me to be the fun, active, and engaged parent I strive to be.

By March 11th, after dropping a little over sixteen pounds, my body naturally regulated my cycle. I did not need a medical intervention to induce a period. I’m waking up BEFORE my alarm clock. I do not NEED coffee. In fact, I haven’t had any since February. My coffee pot isn’t even on my counter any longer–it’s in the basement on my shelf of forgotten kitchen gadgets. My skin is now clear, and I know that within a couple of months my weight will naturally settle into the range where I feel strong and healthy–all because I am properly fueling my body and actively nourishing my soul.

I know there will be peaks and valleys along the way. I anticipate the fear-mongering comments I will surely be receiving about my cholesterol levels and the impracticality of eschewing all grains. But, for this journey–MY journey–all that matters is that I finally have what I need to see it through.

All my best to you, Lovelies!

A New Year: Two Weeks In…

Happy New Year, Lovelies!

Yes, I know it’s now two weeks into a new year; so, let’s not waste anymore time! Here’s what’s been going on in the Klien Street Cave….

Thanksgiving landed me in the ER. Twice. With the holiday’s heavy carbohydrate load–mashed potatoes, biscuits, stuffing, pie crusts, etc.–and my POOR food choices, my insulin resistance had a heyday, and my ovaries blossomed with debilitating cysts. I couldn’t find comfort standing, walking, sitting, sleeping, NOTHING. In fact, the pain and nausea got so bad, my little family of four had to leave a post-Thanksgiving celebration in order to bring me to the hospital where, overwhelmed with extreme pain, I started vomiting and wound-up on anti-nausea medication, an IV drip, and morphine before undergoing both a transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasound, accumulating over 700+ pictures of my internal lady parts. Lovely, I know.

I was sent home on Vicodin to deal with the pain of an ovary that was swollen to four times its normal size with cysts until I could follow-up with my OBGYN practice. I went to see a new doctor (the only one with an appointment available) at that practice the very next day. After spending about five minutes with me (and that included an internal and an examination of my ultrasound pics), he told me that PCOS doesn’t cause painful cysts and that I should follow-up with my PC physician, who didn’t have an appointment until the next day.

That night, the pain became so severe that I wound up back in the ER, back on an IV drip, back on anti-nausea medication, and back on morphine. This pattern was not one that I wanted to keep repeating. Even though I had worked so hard at keeping my diet clean and Paleo-focused up to Thanksgiving, I had lost control of my diet over the holiday, and my body was making sure that I knew what a mistake I had made–in quite the memorable fashion.

My PC doctor confirmed what I already knew: my pain was caused by the cysts on my ovaries. She put me on Metformin to help my body better regulate my insulin response, and she fully supported the idea that I should follow the Paleo way of eating as closely as possible–advice that, you can believe, I took to my very disappointed-in-myself heart.

Christmas came and went, and for ONE day only I allowed myself a few little treats with no relapse into my painful cystic state, but I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough for my health, because, even with a Paleo-focused diet and Metformin, the extra weight I’d accumulated wasn’t budging. Not one little bit. Gross. I hated the way I felt. I’ve never been thin–I don’t aspire to be, either. I’m too muscular for that. But, I have been at a healthy weight. And, getting back to that healthy weight became the focus of my New Year’s Resolution.

And this, Lovelies, is the point where I get truly excited. After much contemplation and even more searching, I have found something transformational: Bodymedia Fit LINK Armband.

My new best friend

Let’s be clear: I am not saying that this is for everyone. Nor am I saying that you should get one. I am simply offering insight into how this tool is helping me achieve the best me possible, when so many other products, plans, and methods have failed.

First, this armband is the perfect trifecta for me:

1. It provides centralized data for a multitude of different measurements. By wearing the armband, I can collect data about my calories burned, calorie balance (it syncs with MyFitness Pal), total activity time (both moderate and vigorous), the number of steps taken per day, and total sleep time and sleep efficiency.

2. It motivates me to meet the goals I set for myself. Because I set my own goals, I am immediately more invested; however, the LINK armband syncs with my iPhone5, and I can real-time monitor my calorie burn, my activity time, and how many steps I’ve taken. What is more motivating than seeing how close you are to achieving your goal? The activity manager feature even suggests additional activities to help you reach your daily goal!

3. It is flexible and supports my specific needs. The LINK does not require that I follow any specific program. No points. No mail-order food. No gimmicks. No false promises. The armband requires that I nourish my body the way my body needs to be nourished. For me, that means following Paleo. So, I plug all my Paleo-eats into MyFitness Pal and the calorie information is transferred automatically to my armband. I set my own step goal, and I monitor it throughout the day, parking farther away from my destinations and taking stairs when possible, because each step counts. I also set a daily activity time goal, and I work to meet the times I have set for myself. I make sure that if I’ve planned a workout that I keep that workout time like any other appointment in my planner, and I make sure that I play with my kids whenever the unplanned opportunity arises. Because, after all, activity is activity.

Second, it works.

One of the benefits is weight loss: 15 lbs. to date. Which, for someone with PCOS, who has been so discouraged by past experiences, 15 lbs. is an outstanding start!

As much as I love the results as they are reflected in my physique, I am enjoying the feelings of control and informed participation much more. For the first time, I am able to concretely see what is and isn’t working for my body. Pie charts, bar graphs, and percentages are my friends. I can make correlations and inferences by observing these data trends that I now have available–for instance, seven hours of sleep is my magic number. Every night where I have gotten approximately seven hours of sleep, I have lost weight. Less sleep=no weight loss. Information is powerful stuff.

And, Lovelies, do you know what is even better than my success? My husband has gotten onboard with a LINK armband of his own! We are on this journey as partners now (as opposed to me journeying and hubby hanging on for the ride), and our family is so much stronger for it!

I hope you are all having a wonderful start to your New Year, too! Make sure to share all of your New Year successes with us!

Paleo & PCOS TMI…

Okay, Lovelies. A little bit of revealing info today, so, if you are embarrassed by bodily functions, stop reading now….

…for those of you left, here we go.

Many people ask me, “Why Paleo?”

The easy answer is, “For many reasons.” However, in order to truly understand my reasoning, you need to understand my experience–I’ll attempt brevity.

Once upon a time, a decade ago, in September of 2002, I thought I was pregnant. At-home tests confirmed it, a blood-test confirmed it, initial OBGYN visit and uterine palpation confirmed it. Less scientific, but equally convincing, were my bouts of nausea and exhaustion, hormonal acne, and ridiculously sore and swollen breasts. (I was in a wedding while all this was happening, and I was terrified that they would swell right out of my bridesmaid’s dress). According to the popular pregnancy books, I’d done everything right: I scheduled appointments with my doctors, abstained from all the right foods and beverages, got adequate sleep at night, and lowered my stress levels.

All was going well until we went for what was to be our 12 week ultrasound and discovered that I was, in fact, not pregnant. Instead of seeing a 12-week-old fetus on the ultrasound screen, we saw my cyst-covered ovaries. I’d experienced a chemical pregnancy. A cruel trick of nature triggered by a bigger problem that threatened to prevent our future parenthood altogether: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

So, with discouraging words from my doctor, I began to research ways to avoid fertility treatments and still get pregnant.

Low-carbohydrate diets seemed to be the trick.

With full commitment, I jumped on the Atkins’ bandwagon, and I was more than happy to put back on the weight I’d lost to get pregnant while carrying our daughter to term. Taking the weight off after she arrived was not as easy as I’d hoped, so I turned to another low-carb diet a friend at work was using successfully.

While on the birth control pill to regulate my periods, and when our daughter was just eight months old, I lost twenty-five pounds on South Beach and discovered that I was (surprise!) pregnant with our son–the best unexpected news we’d ever heard!

Over the next few years, my weight fluctuated depending on how I ate. I met with various doctors and left them after they’d just prescribe me medication to control my PCOS symptoms. No one would listen to my desire to deal with the causes of my syndrome, but one doctor suggested trying a whole-foods vegan diet. It sounded easy enough, and, a high vegetable intake sounded great, so I embraced it for a year. I ate tons of vegetables, fruits, and grains, and I got really, really, really, fat and sick. I returned to the doctor’s office to be seen by a new doctor. Bloodwork revealed lots of scary things (amongst them, hypothyroidism, triglycerides over 700, and a fasting blood sugar of 105), and this new doctor recommended low-carb living to get me back under control. So, again, I took researching into my own hands. I knew that I responded well to a low-carbohydrate diet, but I wanted to find one that excluded dairy and focused on the quality of the food rather that the grams of carbohydrates each bite contained.

Paleo entered my life on August 1, 2012. With the help of a high-school acquaintance whom I now call friend, I began the journey at my sister’s home in TN, in preparation of bringing this lifestyle home to my husband. I wanted to have all the kinks and questions worked out so that when I arrived back home on August 10th, I’d be a Paleo guru for my family.

Well, guru status will be forever pending; however, my family has embraced this lifestyle, and all its benefits surround us. So just what are those benefits and “Why Paleo?” for this Cave Family?

  1. Metabolism–Our kiddos burn through fuel like crazy. They are (like most kids) incredibly active, but their intensive karate training schedule (4 days per week, a total of 5 hour-long classes) requires that they eat well to perform well and recover well and still have energy for kid-stuff. Cave Hubby (a hands-on electrical foreman) works ridiculous hours. He leaves for work by 5 AM each day and returns home around 5 PM, though in up-coming weeks it looks like his return will not be till 7 PM, and his work week will be six days instead of five. His work is both physically and mentally demanding. Obviously, he needs to fuel for performance as well. Since starting his Paleo journey with me, he has dropped about ten pounds (thanks, revved metabolism!) and has been eating MORE, yes, MORE. The key here, though, is that he’s been eating high-quality food. And, for me, though my work as an adjunct professor isn’t physically demanding, I place a lot of training stress on my body. Let me tell you, low-protein recovery is not fun! I’ve seen dramatic changes in my performance in under a month of Paleo-eating. And, yes, Lovelies, I suspect that in the next day or so I will be able to say that I’ve officially dropped twenty pounds!
  2. Hormonal Balance–After nearly five months without menstruating, I experienced a cycle this month–three weeks after starting Paleo. I did not need to have my female parts tricked with drugs into cycling! They did it all on their own thanks to the balancing act that’s going-on inside my body by eating whole, organic, grass-fed, pastured foods. Also, the cystic acne that so frequently ravages my jawline (another gem of PCOS) has all but disappeared. There are some healing scars, but no new damage–even during my period! My once-thinning hair is growing back, thicker and fuller and healthier, and I am back to a regular sleep/wake cycle.
  3. Wellness–I can’t ever remember feeling so centered and grounded. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. It is as if the fog I was wandering around in for so long has lifted and revealed a landscape I’d never realized existed. Most importantly, though, is that by our good examples and natural eating habits, my daughter might not have to experience PCOS first-hand. My son can prevent becoming a Type II diabetic. I refuse to treat the symptoms of PCOS with a lifetime of prescription drugs–I now prevent the symptoms altogether! We can stave-off heart disease and not claim genetic victimhood. We are active participants in the quality of our lives, and, Lovelies, life is good!

Wishing you all a great week ahead!

XO

Nikki

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