When I think of my PCOS journey I think of a lot of sadness and shame. But some peace at this point of the journey.
I was a competitive athlete growing up and a nationally ranked swimmer and went on to swim in college at a big 10 university. Throughout my high school years I always felt like something was a little different about myself. I didn’t really get periods, I had horrible, horrible acne and a ton more body hair than any of my friends, which is obvious when you live in swimsuits. I now know that this was because I have PCOS.
I had so much shame around the acne. I just felt really ugly and different.
With swimming you have to wait to shave before a big meet, which requires you to grow out your leg hair and I just felt very manly and gross and different, which you never want to feel in high school.
However, I do think my swimming ability was helped by the fact that I could build muscle so easily. I was always way more muscular than my friends I had a six pack until I was 22. I used to sweat more than anyone in the weight room! This was all due to PCOS.
I ended up going on two rounds of Accutane to help deal with my cystic acne, one round my junior year in high school and one round right after college. I know this drug can be controversial but it really helped my self confidence. Thankfully, my acne has been at bay since, however I still suffer from deep scarring.
Working out 3 to 6 hours a day through high school and college kept me lean and muscular however once I stop swimming I noticed I started gaining a fair amount of weight. I went into working on political campaigns for my profession and like to joke with each presidential campaign I worked on I gained about 20 pounds (I worked on 3). which I now know is due to the stress and cortisol levels that my body endured
I remember being so embarrassed about my facial hair and even though I’ve spent thousands trying to remove it with a laser it always seems to grow back once I met my soon to be husband and let him into my life it was a really horrible moment when I had to disclose my facial hair to him. So much shame. it still hurts today to think of that but he was wonderful and accepted all of me as any loving husband would do (even though at that time he was my boyfriend).
When we got married four years later I did everything possible to lose weight for the wedding I trained for a half marathon and I woke up early at 4:45 am four days a week to meet with the trainer. I put so much effort into losing weight and I ended up losing about 7 pounds over a year. Instead of realizing something was different about me I internalized the fact that I couldn’t lose weight and held a lot of shame around it. I remember when I lived with roommates we went on a diet one time and exercise plan and I did everything to a T and then somehow they were losing 15-20 pounds and I was saying exactly the same. Now I know that’s because of PCOS and it’s not because I’m bad or was not doing enough it’s because of how my body operates.
For so long I hated my body. I was mad at it. I felt like it didn’t look how it should. It didn’t feel like me. But through my fertility journey I started gaining respect for all my body could do. I also met an amazing nutritionist who helped me understand things I had done in the past decade had actually made my PCOS way worse … being stressed out, restrictive eating and not eating when I was hungry had actually made my set weight point higher. She told me it was my job to feel good. That I needed to keep my blood sugar steady and to listen to my body because it knows what’s best for me. I learned to eat when I was hungry and eat things that make me feel good and to let myself indulge in things here and there if I have a specific craving. She taught me that when I would go on a 3 mile run at 3 am feeling bad about something I ate or drank that that was actually “a purge” and that I had been displaying a lot of symptoms of disordered eating, which often happens with PCOS women.
Finding her and learning from her has changed my life. I have grown to accept my body and I’m working on loving it just the way it is
I found wonderful drugs through an amazing endocrinologist who helped me get pregnant using a combination of Metformin and Letrozole. It took me six months on these medications to get pregnant the first time and only a month on these medications the second; I had started eating intuitively the second time I got pregnant
I’ve had two successful pregnancies and somehow escaped having a miscarriage, which I know so often happens with PCOS women. I feel very fortunate.
Having our two sons has brought so much joy to life and a new appreciation for all the things my body can do right, even if it’s a larger body.
I found ways to incorporate much more protein into all of my meals, which I have found helps keep me satiated and also have some element of carbs with every meal so that my brain never freaks out and thinks I’m starving or causes my blood sugar to spike up or down.
It has been a whole new way of living and it’s been difficult but also rewarding and the best part of it was learning how to trust my body.
I found after my first pregnancy it was fairly easy for me to get back to my set weight point within a few months however I’m four months postpartum with my second baby and still feel a good 15 pounds away from my set weight. I’m trying to be patient with myself and accept myself for where I’m at but I’m not gonna lie it has been difficult and I’ve struggled with it. Thankfully, I can still wear my clothes they just don’t fit the same.
Being a competitive athlete with a six pack to someone who is curvy and over 200 pounds has been a process.
I’ve done the work to accept myself and my larger body. However I’m still self conscious around my former teammates who all look fairly similar to how our bodies looked in college.
I try to put myself in their shoes and remember I wouldn’t think any differently about them, if they looked like me.
PCOS is hard.
It causes us to feel less like women.
But I have found strength in trusting myself and seeking community with those that also have struggled with it.
I know if I continue to trust my body, eat intuitively and love myself the way I am that life will continue to get better and that I’ll continue to feel more comfortable in my skin.