Finding Balance: Living with PCOS
I have Hypothyroidism and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which is a metabolic/hormonal dysfunction that can cause inability to get pregnant, and increase your chance of complications and miscarriage. It also makes it harder to lose weight and so easy to gain it back; a never ending uphill battle for me to try and lose weight. My husband loves me dearly but about a year ago he voiced his concerns about my health and weight with us starting to try and get pregnant. He did not want to lose me to complications with pregnancy or during childbirth since he knows my mom and me almost died during my birth. At 80 pounds overweight and at the heaviest I have ever been, I realized how heartbroken and physically sick with disgust in myself in how I let myself get this heavy. Not even just about the weight, but also how unhealthy and physically de-conditioned I had become. I so badly wanted to carry a happy healthy baby, and I knew I had to make a change. This was the trigger for my transformation.
Caitlyn Christensen, Respiratory Therapist, 26, weight lost: 36.2 pounds during the challenge. 51.4 pounds since her heaviest
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome in your transformation?
My biggest obstacle has been my own self. I am the mastermind of making up excuses in my head. I self-sabotage and emotionally eat when I’m stressed. I want to do what I want, when I want and eat what I want. If I didn’t want to workout I would tell myself I don’t have to. The challenge forced me to get out of my own head and just do it because of the competition factor, and I am a very competitive person.
What was the one most important thing you learned from the challenge?
I learned that you cannot expect exercise to counteract the effects of poor nutrition. Abs are made in the kitchen. Food is fuel for my body and what I put into it is a reflection of what will become of my health and fitness. For myself, I have a lot of bloating triggers that I discovered with some of them being wheat and dairy, so when I started to cut those products out I noticed a drastic improvement in how I felt and my waist shrunk almost immediately.
How did the PCOS affect you in your every day life?
PCOS has a lot of unwanted signs and symptoms including weight gain, excessive body hair, metabolic dysfunction worsening my already low thyroid giving me mood swings and constant fatigue. It also can inhibit the bodies ability to produce hormones required for getting pregnant and maintaining the pregnancy. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for a little while now without success as of yet.
How did the PCOS affect you in the challenge?
Surprisingly the exercise and proper nutrition during the challenge helped me feel less fatigued and sluggish, I already take medications to counteract the effects of the PCOS but I felt as though they were maybe more effective during the challenge to the point where I had to reduce my thyroid dose as my metabolism improved.
What is your motto?
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
What was your eating habits like before the challenge, what types of diets have you tried in the past?
I just wanted to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and felt entitled to treats often throughout the day and week. I would quite often have pizza and frozen yogurt nights and eat 3/4 of the pizza in one sitting. I remember eating a whole box of Oreo’s throughout the day once and had to replace the box so that my husband wouldn’t know how many I had eaten. I have tried weight watchers, numerous cleanses, Paleo. The main reason I felt they failed was that I did not have the commitment or motivation to complete them on my own.
What was your training like before the challenge?
For about 2 years prior to the challenge I was practically sedentary and did not go to the gym even once or twice per month. I had chronic back and neck problems and pain. Finally I started working out 3 days per week with a Goodlife fitness trainer and began with the basics to improve my stabilizer muscles and core strength. Then when I had completed a year of personal training and was nearing the end I became afraid of transitioning into developing my own workouts and losing all the progress I had accomplished as I still had a fair amount of weight to lose. That was when I decided to sign up for Nadine’s challenge.
What had to change for you in your every day life in order to find balance and understand the PCOS?
I had to actively decide to take my health seriously and seek help. For about 6 years I just coasted on having no periods and did not care about finding out why or what could be wrong. If I had found out sooner maybe I could have gotten treatment earlier on and not gained so much weight and gotten to the point that I did. I had to decide what was important to me and put my body and my health first. I did a lot of research on natural remedies as well and started implementing them.
For those that struggle with PCOS, what advice do you have to them?
I would say that you are certainly not alone as it is one of the most common syndromes for women to have. I know so many women with PCOS with varying degrees of symptoms. I would also say that if you are struggling with weight problems just start with tracking your meals or start eating at more frequent intervals but smaller meals to stabilize glucose levels. PCOS acts similarly to diabetes in that sense as it has the insulin resistance component. So just by increasing protein and reducing carbs and eating smaller meals more frequently can help. Also short spurts of higher intensity intervals do so much more than an hour of cardio on the elliptical and improves insulin sensitivity.
What have you learned from all of this from a mental stand point?
My biggest road block is my own self. I justify my treats, I make excuses and I emotionally eat. I’ve had to overcome these during the 3 month challenge, but it is a hard thing to completely get rid of. Once I was done the challenge I discovered that I started hiding my “stashes” of treats again from my husband which is something the old Caitlyn used to do. I have since told my husband to help me with that accountability, and we have been trying to work through the psychological reasons for why I and so many others do that.
What would you say to others that are interested in joining the challenge?
I would say definitely do it, it will keep you motivated to be competing for a specific time frame and for a very rewarding prize. I would also say to expect the unexpected and to not wrap your emotions up in with winning the challenge and thus being completely crushed when/if you do not win the contest. We were all winners in the end, but go into it with that in mind and really just do it for the experience and the knowledge you will learn.
How was the support from home with being on the challenge?
My husband was very supportive, did a lot of the household chores, and made his own meals because he knew if I had to make two different meal plans (since he is a vegetarian) I would not have had the time and would get burned out. He also encouraged me throughout the challenge and told me every week how beautiful I looked.
You said you developed the mindset of doing whatever you wanted, how did that change when you were in the challenge?
I felt like I just needed someone to tell me what to do. I am a very willing person to adapt when everything is on the line and it felt good to have someone else for once control what I was doing and giving me the tools I needed to succeed. And the fact that by following her plan and advice I was losing around 3 pounds per week which was definitely confirmation that what she was telling me to do was working.
What is next for you?
I have been maintaining my weight quite nicely since I finished the challenge within 2-5 pounds. I am actually 2 pounds lower now than during the challenge and have been enjoying regular nights out and spending time with my husband and my friends. Right after the challenge was done, Nadine had put me in touch with a friend of hers who is a female power-lifter. I love lifting heavy weights, and have been interested in the idea of doing a bit of power-lifting as a sport/hobby. I would like to drop another 15 pounds by the end of the summer to hit my goal weight and also be in a lower weight class for which I would then qualify for Alberta Power-lifting Association. Also hopefully in the near future I would love to get pregnant and be a mommy someday soon.
Are you looking to start your own transformation journey? Click here to fill out your FREE assessment