September is PCOS Awareness Month!

Ah, PCOS – the annoying syndrome that most people have never heard of that wreaks havoc on almost every part of an affected woman’s body. Hair loss, hair growth, weight gain, anxiety, depression, acne, darkening skin, thyroid problems, fatigue, irregular or absent periods, infertility… it’s the gift that keeps on giving. But, the good news is, that PCOS is treatable, and though fraught with frustration, it can *kind of* be reversed with weight loss and medication. The problem is, losing the weight you need to lose to reverse it feels near damn impossible, but people tell me it IS possible, so I’m going to be optimistic and believe that.

I always try and blog at least once in September about PCOS, because I think more people need to know what it is, and we need to beat down the doors of stigma. When I first found out I had PCOS, I was MAD – mad because for years, I was the hallmark poster child of the syndrome, but never once did my doctors think to look beyond a sluggish thyroid or blame it on my own lack of efforts that no matter what I did, my weight continually ballooned upwards. It was only diagnosed after gaining seven pounds on a doctor-ordered liver cleanse (where I pretty much ate nothing but green veggies and drank only supplement liquids) that I demanded every single blood test and scan of pretty much every metabolic function in my body. Sure enough,  after an ultrasound, I had plenty of cysts, in addition to highly elevated androgen levels that explained my metabolic dysfunction, my tendency towards anxiety, and why I’ve always lost fistfuls of hair. I also was unable to breastfeed my daughter for more than three months as my body simply never produced enough milk, despite trying every single method known to lactation consultants and witch doctors alike.

I’ve seen several doctors over the years, and while I am fortunate to be in good health, the weight is one nut I cannot seem to crack. However, more science is being done every day on how this syndrome can be treated, and with the help of experts like Dr. Fiona, I do believe we’re getting closer to finding solutions that will work for every varied and complex case of PCOS. Many people want to write off this syndrome as something that’s not important, an ‘invisible illness’ that ‘fat people use as an excuse to stay fat’ (I got those gems from the trolls of the Internet), but the truth is, it can have devastating effects. One in 10 women has PCOS, and for many, PCOS means years of challenging fertility treatments, medication to control blood sugar before it leads to full-blown diabetes, and an exasperating growth in emotional imbalance leading to panic attacks and depression.

I’ve bought many books over the years including A Patient’s Guide to PCOS, The PCOS Diet Plan, and PCOS for Dummies, but I have a new favorite. Dr. Fiona McCulloch’s 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS is packed with the scientific data and reasoning behind so many methods for treating and reversing PCOS, and at times it felt like I was having lunch with a very smart yet very cool doctor who “gets it” as she explains why such and such causes such and such to happen. I also liked that in the first few chapters, there are several quizzes and lists that help you identify which type of PCOS you have; splitting it into four categories of A,B,C, and D, to help you determine what areas you need to focus on.

Dr. McCulloch is a self-described ‘data junkie’ and you can really feel that in her writing. As a nerdy former grad student myself, I like digging into numbers and statistics. One of the most helpful resources she provides to readers is a chart that details insulin counts. If you have PCOS, you’re likely insulin resistant, which means that your cells are less sensitive to the actions of insulin, so you tend to hold onto fat and sugars in the bloodstream much more than a “normal” person. Dr. Fiona details an extensive chart of food that you can work into your diet based on a low-insulin count for breakfast, and modified insulin counts for lunch and dinner. For example, a piece of chicken has an insulin count of 20 (good) whereas a low-fat blueberry muffin has an insulin count of 116 (not so good). I’m going to be incorporating some low-insulin-count foods into my current low carb eating plan, and see what happens when I start to play with the numbers a little bit.

I also like that she lists some supplements you can try to help with the various issues of PCOS. I have never tried a supplement approach for my PCOS, and I’m thinking about checking out Myo-Inositol and Holy Basil per her recommendations. I was sent a free copy of Dr. McColloch’s book to review, but am not under any obligation to mention it at all. I just found it helpful and wanted to share.

If you think you might have PCOS, ask your gynecologist or endocrinologist to test you for some of the hallmark symptoms. It can explain a lot of frustrations with your health, and with new advances in sciences, I do believe we’ll get closer to finding a way to reverse PCOS for everyone.

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Thinking About Weight Loss Surgery

I’ve been thinking about weight loss surgery. In typical Alyssa fashion, it’s probably something I don’t need to share with a small corner of the Internet, but also in true Alyssa fashion, that’s just who I am and as Popeye says, I am what I am and I be what I be. A few years ago, I didn’t think I was a candidate for weight loss surgery. I’d ask my doctor and he’d shrug saying, “Well, you’re borderline. You COULD, but you don’t really need to.” My endocrinologist recently told me he didn’t feel it was necessary for me, as I’m obese but healthy as a horse in terms of stats like cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. However, seeing some of my friends in the midst of their transformations following weight loss surgery has me wondering: is it a good option for me?

I used to think weight loss surgery was a quick fix. Before I knew what it entailed, I remember I once said to a friend that had bypass surgery that I had to lose weight “the hard way”. Thankfully, I knew I had my foot in my mouth immediately once I said it, and I apologized for minimizing her hard work and struggle. Becoming friends with several remarkable people in the WLS community has enlightened me that it’s not a quick fix, but rather, a tool. And lately, I’m wondering if I need to add a tool like the Sleeve to my weight loss toolbox. I’ve been thinking about this for a long while, more specifically, this year as I began to really work on my fitness with a personal trainer. With intense exercise five times a week and following the Weight Watchers diet, I’d see a loss of 1-2 pounds a week, but then the next week, I’d gain it back. This is my whole history of dieting: losing and gaining the same five pounds, over and over, and I can confirm that doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result leads to insanity.

Weight Loss Surgery

I recently did a full blood panel and health work up with a metabolic specialist. She was convinced I’d have metabolic syndrome, or a low thyroid, or Cushings disease, or something that explained why my body refuses to let go of its cozy outer layer. We found no smoking gun, other than low Vitamin D, mild sleep apnea, and my ongoing imbalance of testosterone and estrogen, my hallmark symbol of PCOS. She sent me to the dietitian, apologizing as she wrote the referral, saying she knew that I knew “this stuff,” and that I wouldn’t learn anything new. I’d been numerous times to a dietitian, in addition to trying Weight Watchers, The Zone, Atkins, Diet to Go, on and and on and on. I went, because I firmly believe you can always learn something if you ask a lot of questions. However, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that this whole weight loss thing is hard, duh, but it’s harder than it should be, for me. I recently told my husband that the reason that weight loss surgery is beginning to be appealing to me is that I want to turn the page on my constant hamster wheel of trying to lose weight. For the last 18 years of my life, I have been in a constant state of needing, wanting, and trying to lose weight. But you see, I don’t want to do that for another 18 years. I want to move on. I want to actually LOSE weight. I want to try and actually see results as an effort from trying. Maybe the only way to do so is to trim a little bit of my stomach.

This is a decision I don’t intend to make for several months, possibly years, as I am once again trying the only diet that ever works for me, low carb and low glycemic, in addition to tracking with Weight Watchers, attending meetings, and working with a personal trainer. I know many of my family members and friends have strong opinions about wether or not weight loss surgery is right for me, and I respect the difference of opinions, but also remind myself that at the end of the day, it’s my body, and my choice. There are also other factors to consider about the timing of a surgery like, if I chose to do it, would I do it before my second pregnancy, or is it best to wait until after? (Don’t get excited now – I don’t plan to bake any more buns in the oven for awhile, yet.) There are also things about the surgery I’m just not sure about, like, am I ready to go under the knife for my weight? Am I ready to measure things meticulously and to sip water instead of chugging it? Could I be at peace with any potential side effects from the surgery? (From my research, though rare, it can happen.) These are all changes I need to consider seriously, because as a highly analytical person, I need to be 100% confident in a decision, especially one that will drastically change my life. I’ve loosely discussed some of these things with my new doctor, and she’s agreed I’m an excellent candidate, but that we should give it another “one last go” before making a decision.

I know that in regards to losing weight, my efforts aren’t perfect. I fully eat too much popcorn at the movie theatre, reward myself on weekends with food (a habit I’m working on breaking), overeat, and sometimes skip the gym in favor of being a sloth. However, I also know that realistically, healthy habits should not require perfection to see tangible change… and that’s where I need some help. While I can feel the strength in my body from working out and eating well, I don’t see the reduction of my body weight that I’m really yearning to see. And that’s frustrating, when you put in so much sweat equity and moments when you got a salad with dressing on the side, when everyone else ordered fries. I love myself and I fully recognize that my body is remarkable and beautiful at any size – walking 60 miles in the fight against breast cancer, carrying a beautiful and healthy child to 40 weeks. In honor of my body and myself, I want to make it stronger, and above all, healthier. My vitals are strong now, but what happens as I age and continue to carry around an excess 100 pounds?

If you’ve had weight loss surgery, how did you know it was the right choice for you? If you’re thinking about it, why? Chime in, but please, be respectful of both my opinion and those who have opted to have the surgery. There’s not one single right solution for everybody, and we can respectfully share differing thoughts.

Step by Step

On Saturday, Matt and I headed out to Charmlee Wilderness Park for a hike. Charmlee is nestled in the Santa Monica mountains, and hikers are rewarded with sweeping views of the coast, complete with crashing waves and bird’s eye views of millionaire mansions.


I had been looking forward to a nature retreat — where the only tweets I’d be interacting with were from real live birds. I was also excited to log some miles towards my 3-Day training, as I’m now to the point where I need to be totaling at least nine miles a week. The hike started out perfectly — not too hard, not too hot, not too many people. I played with my new camera, stopping to photograph buzzing bees and the occasional bumbling butterfly.


We did two miles easily, enjoying the relatively flat trail. On the second part of the loop, we decided to explore a few trails we hadn’t tried before. I got nervous when the trail started leading us way down into the valleys of the hills, because I knew that what goes down must goes up.


The hills started climbing. I put one foot in front of the other, determined, triumphant. Surely my walk training counted for something. 3 miles done. I was doing fine. And then all of a sudden I wasn’t. It was like I hit a wall. I was hot, thirsty, and tired. I was out of breath. I was sweaty. I suddenly felt the weight of every single extra pound I carry, the pounds I’ve carried for many, many years. I wanted to stop. I wanted to give up.


I had no choice. If I decided to stop hiking at that very minute, no bus, train, plane, car, horse, Rapunzel braid or carrier pigeon was coming to pick me up. No bike would suddenly materialize by my side. No rope would cascade down the side of the mountain to help me hoist myself up its side. I had no choice but to keep going.


So I did. I put one foot in front of the other. I took small steps and deep breaths. I battled the voice in my head that was telling me I couldn’t do this. I kept going. Because I had to. Because I had no choice. I asked Matt to take these pictures, because I wanted to show you the struggle. Finally, I saw the parking lot below us. At that point we had made it five miles, and I smiled.


All that sweat, all that struggle. All a reminder that the best I can do is just take this journey step by step, and slowly, but surely, I will succeed.






Fat n’ Jolly: What didn’t I eat this Christmas?!

Hey guys! I hope you had a very Merry Christmas, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, a wonderful day otherwise. I’m definitely feeling pudgy and bloated and ready to get BACK ON TRACK because this Christmas, I certainly whooped it up by indulging in a little bit of almost everything. Let’s recap:

1) S’Mores Fudge that I made for Matt’s work. Thankfully 96% of this went into his work and only an empty plate came back, but I did have to test it out, of course.
2) Country Benedict, ala my chef father in law. Doesn’t this look amazing?! A country pork gravy poured over homestyle biscuits with a poached egg and sausage patty. So. Damn. Good. (It was worthy of that swear word in there.)

Country Benedict

Country Benedict

3) Angelo’s Smokehouse Christmas Ham
4) Yogurtland Apricot Tart Frozen Yogurt
5) A Chopped Salad
6) “Pot of Gold” appetizers – almost egg roll-like in taste but stuffed with spinach and cheese
7) Caramel Brownies and Czech Kolacky cookies

April and my mom made Caramel Brownies

April and my mom made Caramel Brownies

8) Eggnog Cornflake crusted French Toast (another father-in-law creation)
9) Hainan Chicken — a yummy dish from a popular San Gabriel Valley restaurant called Savoy. Chicken is poached in homemade broth all day, served with rice and a ginger salt and chili sauce. So simple, so good. YUM.

Hainan Chicken from Savoy

Hainan Chicken from Savoy

10) Huevos Diabla from the Local Peasant, one of my favorite restaurants here in Woodland Hills. The tortillas were handmade and it was covered with crumbles of queso fresco and cilantr0. Mmm. I’ve been having quite an overeasy infatuEGGtion lately. I had enchiladas with an overeasy egg on top last week, the country benedict, huevos rancheros when I was out with my awesome friend Lisa, and today, this Huevos Diabla. I didn’t know what I was missing before when I mistakenly thought ‘dippy eggs’ were no good. I have learned and now celebrate the runny egg!


11) Arkansas Green Beans made by my dad. These are a different take on a greenbean casserole. Just think “bacon.”
12) Prime Rib. Another father-in-law creation (Sense a trend here? These people know good eats. We even had Yorkshire Pudding!)
13) Clementine Oranges (hey, there had to be ONE healthy thing on this list.)
14) Peach Momotaro Blooming Tea from Teavana. (TWO healthy things. Had to make myself feel better.) This was a great gift from my brother who got me a Blooming Tea Set. Super cool!
15) A Chipotle Veggie Fajita Burrito Bowl. My meal of choice off the I-5 on the very long drive up. Delicious!

So… as you can see, there was a whole lot of indulging going on. Do I feel guilty about it? Well, yes, kind of. But am I glad I stuffed my piehole with such an amazing assortment of food? Yes. If music be the food of love, play on. Being able to eat such delicious things (and knowing how to stop when I’m full!) reminds me how lucky I am to indulge in such luxury. For that, I am grateful. I am also grateful for the ability to start over, starting now. The first thing to be crossed off the list? Sugar. I don’t do well on sugar. If anything bloats me up and makes me a crank-monster, it’s sugar. Sugar is the first to go, cold-turkey style. After that? Grains. 2014 is my year – the year the Double Chin Diary turns from a wistful “hopefully soon” weight loss blog to a success story. Yep. It’s gonna happen. It has to. Enough excuses, more action.

Now — help me feel like less of a diet failure by telling me what you indulged in this holiday season. 🙂

Medically speaking, attitude is everything.

On Tuesday I had my long awaited follow up appointment about “Weight management” after starting my thyroid medications. I was nervous, not knowing what to expect, as while I’d been on my best behavior food and exercise wise, my body likes to go rogue. We don’t have a scale in the house anymore either, and after several crushing weigh ins, I was expecting to hop on the scale and be met with a gain, because that’s always what happened before. Why should doing everything right matter? I got on the scale. Down three more pounds. WHEW!!!!! Now, 3 more pounds in a month and a half is devastatingly slow progress. However? It’s progress. Three pounds in a month, after ten months, is 30 pounds. I was relieved, and to make it even better, my blood pressure was fantastic – 110 over 79. As I celebrated my small but valiant victory, the new doctor came in and said, “Aw, too bad you haven’t had much progress, have you?”

My happy mindset deflated like a cheap balloon. I recognize that medically three pounds in a month and a half sucks – – but for a patient who gained NINE POUNDS after a 12 day detox eating nothing but cauliflower and medical shakes, it’s nice to see my body actually reacting in the way it should. As I explained to the doctor that I was actually relieved and happy with the weigh in, I realized how important attitude is. No, it’s not ideal, but a solid, “hey, we’re on the right track” at least, is invaluable to someone who needs a little bit of cheerleading. Most people refer to their doctor’s demeanor as “Bedside Manner”, and while I don’t need information to be sugarcoated, I would like a little bit of optimism.  This applies to all things medically related; a lazy liver, ridiculous allergies to feathers, even scary-looking but benign ovarian cysts. When shit’s gone wrong, some positive encouragement from people who know what they’re talking about is hugely helpful. Otherwise, Dr. Google and I spend lots of late night hours together, my anxiety growing as I comb through horror stories of the very conditions that ail me.

There’s part of me that thinks I need to just “man up” and look past a need for rainbows and sunshine in a medical environment. After all, medically, obesity sucks. It’s dangerous, it’s a huge risk factor, and for most people, it should be simple to treat. However, I’m not most people, and I’m also not the type of person who can easily man up. I’m sensitive. I’m artistic. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t. But; attitude is everything — and a positive one can make a big difference.

Have you had trouble with doctors having a more direct bedside manner? Does it bother you or not? Why or why not?

How Olga Reminded Me Why All of This Matters

This weekend, I had the honor of flying to Minnesota for a quick weekend visit to see my grandmother. My brother and sister had planned this trip for months before, and while on the phone with my sister two weeks before they were to go, I wistfully said I wished I was going. After some gentle coercing from my sister and brother, I had a plane ticket booked from LAX to Minneapolis. However, I was a surprise for my grandma! Nobody knew I was going, and we had some very excited relatives to see upon my arrival.

Alyssa, April and Tommy with their Grandma

Alyssa, April and Tommy with their Grandma

One thing I love about seeing my grandma is filling in the gaps of our family history. I know the basics, but I’m always so curious about where exactly we came from, and from who. For example, while I didn’t get specifics, I’ve confirmed that many people on my dad’s side of the family have “a way with words”, a talent that I hope I’m properly utilizing. I also found out in addition to the name Hannah, which I love, and hope to name one of my future children, we also had a Matilda in the family, and her nickname was Tilly. Those are awesome heirloom names for the time when I finally pop out a spawn. (Believe me – I was reminded about 17 times this weekend that I’ve been married THREE YEARS and still have yet to “bear an heir”.) (Ok, so it wasn’t put in those terms, but the heat is on. Procreate! Now!) (***All good things come to those who wait, was my response.)

While describing family relations, my grandma mentioned Olga, my grandpa’s brother’s sister-in-law. Olga wasn’t remembered for her charitable contributions to society, or the way she made a mean biscuit. Olga was remembered for being “a big lady”. If Olga was an ounce, she was 300 pounds. In fact, she was so big, that she had to have a custom casket made, and the pallbearers had to hold it from the bottom instead of the sides, so she didn’t bust through the bottom. I was horrified. None of this was being mentioned in a patronizing or rude way, but simply as a matter of fact. This is the sad side of obesity. If my body continues to go rogue and my actions don’t fight it, could I be remembered as the person who needed a custom casket? Nope. I won’t allow it.

As I’m harshly reminded every time I visit the doctor, I need the plus-size blood pressure cuff. Airplane seats are snug. I don’t want to outgrow things any longer. I’m fine with outgrowing things mentally, but not physically. I want to be “regular” size, and heck, even being described as “chunky” is fine. But please, for the love of God, I cannot be remembered as the person who needed a custom casket. This message stood with me as we ate dinner at the 58 club, known for its appearance on Man Vs. Food for Juicy Lucys, a hamburger patty stuffed with oozing cheese. I enjoyed some appetizers of fried cheese curds and onion strings, but when the time came to order my meal, I ordered a juicy lucy with no bun, and carrot sticks instead of fries. Enough is enough. I can splurge, but I need to make sacrifices too. I can’t always have my cake and eat it too, because there are things more important than French fries and pretzel rolls. When I croak, I want to be remembered for things like this: my blog, my cupcake decorating, my kindness, my sense of humor, my altruism, my sarcasm, my blonde hair, my blue eyes, my foot-in-mouth disease… please God, anything, but the size of my body. (And I just remembered I’m going to be cremated. Whew!)

Have you ever experienced someone being remembered in a less than positive light, for the way they looked or something that happened to them? What was your reaction?