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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Weight Loss Wednesday: Personal Training and Weight Watchers

Hello there!

How are things in the land of double chins? I’ve been on Weight Watchers for about two months, and in true Alyssa on Weight Watchers fashion, I keep losing and gaining the same five pounds.


My thoughts on Weight Watchers as a program continue to be up and down (like the scale), as I love the group mentality, the food tracking, and the accessibility of the plan; however, I struggle sometimes wondering if the plan *really* works for everyone. I recently found out that the points Weight Watchers put me at were “too high” based on my height, weight, gender, and age, so my leader recommended I go lower on my app, even though there is no way for me to manually change my points. She also told me not to eat my weekly “treat” points. So, fine, I’ll do these things, but it makes me think there’s a flaw if the formula they use to calculate your points is not actually relevant or effective for everyone. However, knowing me, as soon as I lose weight consistently I’ll be like “BEST DIET EVER!”, so take that with what you will.

One thing I’m excited about with Weight Watchers is I now have an accountability buddy! A friend whom I met at birth class back when I was prego just joined Weight Watchers. We’re already texting each other our meals and will be attending meetings once a week together. Having a friend to stay accountable with is so fun, and it’s great to be on the same page with someone of equal sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and post-baby-body woes.

All the tireds.

Speaking of post-baby body woes… This old gray mare aint like she used to be! I finally rejoined my gym about a month ago, and while I was starting to work out on my own, I was running into some challenges. I got bored easily of cardio and felt uninspired and achey.IMG_0228

During my pregnancy my hip popped out of place twice, and I had to see a chiropractor about it. I also redeveloped plantar fascia, and found out today I have a heel spur. I knew that to prevent injury and improve my overall strength, I needed the help of an expert. I decided to try personal training! I went in to the initial appointment expecting I’d commit to once a week. Well, with some of my trainer’s smooth persuasive skills, I realized I needed to make a more concrete investment in my health, and I’m now being tortured trained three times per week. I really like my trainer because she  puts up with my crap (AND CALLS ME ON IT!), and above all, she kicks my ass. I leave our sessions soaked in sweat, tired, but with a happy endorphin glow. I’m really excited to see what this does for my overall fitness, and I hope it’s the key to unlocking that slimmer, more energized me.

We also do Crossfit type stuff, and there’s lots of props like boxes, ropes, balls, and weights, which keeps me interested as I have the attention span of a caffeinated squirrel. I make some pretty great expressions during my sessions, and I feel like Spiderman adequately summed it up:

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So there you have it. As usual, weight loss continues to be elusive sparkly-haired unicorn for me, but I’ll catch that beast, one day. In the meantime, I’ll be tracking my points and getting into beast-mode!

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer? What was it like?

***Have a baby or know someone who does? Enter to win a prize package from Wellements at LaLaLyssa.com!

***Big love to Diet to Go for the shout-out, and also, PT Pioneer’s Top 50 Weight Loss Blogger’s List for including the Double Chin Diary! <3

A bundle of joy arrives in November!

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My husband and I are very excited to share that in November, we’ll be parents! We enjoyed an awesome five years of marriage before deciding to expand our family, and now that we’re expecting, we’re over the moon. I’ll be sharing more on the blog later about what it will mean to have a plus-sized pregnancy (hint: nothing dramatic. With healthy eating and exercise, you can have a healthy, normal pregnancy — I have so far been lucky to have not gained a pound, and have felt great!), and how I ultimately made the decision to move forward with my life despite not reaching my goal with weight. But for now, I wanted to share a little bit about how we broke the news.

Matt and I went on a Caribbean cruise in mid-March, and thankfully, even though I was about eight weeks along, other than fatigue, I felt really good (I did miss my mojitos, though!). We decided to take a photo on the beach and write “Baby C” in the sand (See below). I’m wearing my weekly bump shirt that I made (thanks to my pal KJ Pugs), and two awesome gals on the beach helped us stage a mini photo shoot. Because we live eight hours away from our immediate family, we knew we’d have to break the news digitally to some people. Thankfully Matt’s Dad was coming down to visit, so we got to surprise him in person with a custom mug that says “Grandpa, Est. 11/15”.

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We also got to tell my best friend and sister in person. I bought them aunt onesies, wrapped them in boxes, and had them both open the boxes at the same time. My sister screamed so loud and jumped up and down that I’m pretty sure the cats thought it was the apocolypse — it was awesome! Here she is right after hearing the news, and right after putting on her makeup (sorry, Ape! My timing was off on that!), hair still wet in a babushka.

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Surprising my parents was a little bit more complex. We decided to have my sister print the photo from the cruise, and present it to my parents while we skyped them. You’ll hear my sister say we shipped the picture. Thanks to my awesome brother, we have this video of my mom’s insane reaction. (Back story: My mom has been annoyingly obsessed with becoming a Grandma since I was about 18 (not kidding!). She had to be sternly reminded several times that we would have kids when we were ready, and I always told her good things come to those who wait. See, Mom? It finally happened!) PS if you’re offended by F-bombs, do not watch this video because there are several of them! My favorite part is the dog jumping up and down with my mom.

I’d been trickling out the news slowly to family and friends, and as of today I’m 13.5 weeks pregnant and thanks to a detailed scan last week, we know that Baby C. looks great and is so far nice and healthy! (Please say a little prayer, send good thoughts, or make a wish on a dandelion that all continues to go well.) 🙂  To pre-emptively answer a few questions I’ve been getting lately:

  • How am I feeling? As I mentioned earlier, my only major symptom has been fatigue, but I’m starting to perk up a little bit. I haven’t had any morning sickness and I feel so fortunate that so far I’m feeling really, really good. Being crazy excited helps 🙂
  • When is the due date? November 12, a Scorpio!
  • Will we find out gender? Yes! Definitely. I think we still have a few more weeks to go before we’ll know. I definitely have a “feeling” it’s one gender, so I’ll be curious to see if I’m right!
  • Any cravings? In the earlier weeks I craved a Veggie Delite sub from Subway, and have been super averse to chicken. In fact, I’m struggling with eating meat in general. I’ve never been a big meat eater and am having to be creative about getting enough protein. The most consistent craving I’ve had is berries – strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, which I have almost daily. I’ve also craved Sour Patch Kids and Cheez-Its, but am trying to keep my junky indulgences to a minimum.
  • Was the baby planned? Yes, indeed! I am very grateful to have conceived as having PCOS can make things dicey in terms of fertility, and I am well aware of the struggles so many people go through to become parents. I am holding all of the hopeful parents to be in my heart that one day their dream is fulfilled.

So that’s my news, Double Chinners! I’ll be back on the DCD more often now because, heck, I missed y’all, and even though my new blog is cool, DCD will always be my home. Thank you as always for your loyalty and time, and for reading my little old blog. I’m a pretty lucky gal! <3

September is PCOS Awareness Month, and I am 1 in 10

September is PCOS awareness month! You all have seen me write about PCOS before: Long story short, a dear bloggy friend of mine told me I needed to be checked for it after she heard about some of my ailments, I finally got checked, and I was a classic case. PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, it affects 1 in 10 women worldwide, and is the most common endocrine disorder in women. Although PCOS has ovaries in its namesake, PCOS is largely a hormonal issue, and as all you all know, hormones are microscopic things that make a huge deal in how your body runs and functions.

I had heard about PCOS in passing, but never heard enough about it to consider it would be a large reason for the many health challenges I was encountering. Since high school, I’ve lost handfuls of hair every time I shower, and sure enough, visited a doctor about it twice. It was chalked up to stress and I was on my way. (I still lose a lot of hair, but have now just accepted it as I still have plenty, thankfully.) I also visited the doctor at least twice a year with complaints of impossible weight loss, and several times, I was told to just work harder, no doubt the doctor assuming that my tales of healthy eating and exercise were just lies (and twice, I was prescribed prescription weight loss pills, which I did not choose to take). I also had telltale signs of insulin resistance; feeling panicky and shaky if I didn’t regularly eat, having severe headaches when I didn’t eat enough carby stuff, and sometimes got panic attacks that felt like surges of electricity running through my body. The menstrual side effects were mostly masked for me as I had been on birth control for many years to control difficult cycles (also a large indicator of PCOS). What makes me angry about all of these signs is that they had all been presented to doctors over the years who never thought to piece them together, because as my endocrinologist finally pointed out, I’m a classic case and likely have been for years.  Click here to go read more of the symptoms. I’m lucky that I haven’t experienced all of these, but there are also some weird PCOS symptoms that are not included on this list that I’ve experienced like mental fogginess, “carb coma”, chin acne only (a hormonal spot), and super sensitive skin. (What makes this syndrome even trickier to diagnose? Many people have completely different symptoms — for example, while 50% of women with PCOS are obese, some are not overweight at all. Some women with PCOS also don’t even have cystic ovaries, yet their hormones match the profile of being PCOS-consistent. Confusing, right?!)

How did my PCOS get discovered, then? In 2012, I had had enough with the BS of trying to lose weight. I’d been blogging on the DCD for three years, and had started a 3x weekly morning boot camp. I was busting my ass in hopes of dropping some weight for one of my bucket list trips to Thailand. Instead, I gained weight. About six months prior, I had stopped taking my birth control and allergy medication in hopes that maybe some of my earlier weight gain was from medication. Without the assistance of hormones (birth control is a common treatment for PCOS), my symptoms intensified, and I demanded my general care doctor do an ultrasound of my ovaries. Sure enough, the scan and blood work revealed several small cysts, in addition to high androgen levels, both tell tale signs of PCOS. Since my diagnosis about a year and a half ago, I’ve lost 22 pounds, largely thanks to the great care I’m receiving from my endocrinologist, who placed me on 1,000 mg of Metformin, a Diabetes drug that can help control insulin and imbalanced hormones. He also does regular blood work, and we did some adjusting to my thyroid, which likes to go back and forth between normal and too low. In the past two months, all of my liver and thyroid levels have become balanced, which means my skin has cleared up, I have more energy, and I’m slowly but surely losing weight when I make very dedicated efforts. This was impossible before my diagnosis and treatment, and while I will have to have my blood work monitored every 3-5 months to adjust medications, for the first time in awhile, I have hope when it comes to losing weight. There is no cure for PCOS, but with weight loss and medication, many of the symptoms can be reduced.

So why am I writing about all of these very personal things on a very public blog? Because we all have a right to know what’s going on with our body. If this is the most common endocrine disorder in women, and I had all the symptoms for over TEN YEARS and was never told about it until a fellow ‘cyster’ suggested I get checked, I want more people to know about it. Sure, PCOS is a “tame” problem to have, in comparison to other medical concerns. But PCOS can be the launching pad for many other debilitating illnesses: ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and severe anxiety and depression. If just one woman goes to the doctor because she has any of the following symptoms, this blog has done its job. When you have an invisible illness, which means one that can’t usually be physically seen, like PCOS, Crohn’s disease (which my best friend suffers from, or Lupus (another dear friend of mine suffers from this), uneducated people sometimes minimize its effects. I’ve even had people remark that I should stop using PCOS as an excuse for not losing weight. This is not only inaccurate, it’s insensitive and hurtful when you’re experiencing the very real complications of said “fake illness”. I can lose weight with PCOS, just as I can live a healthy and happy life. However, the key to this is treatment, and that treatment couldn’t have been discovered had it not been for one friend courageously telling me to go get checked. Like any other medical symptom, if you genuinely feel that something isn’t right, you need to look into it, and if nobody listens, keep going until you find someone willing to fully investigate what’s going on. You are worth the hassle. You are worth the time. You are worth the knowledge — because you might be 1 in 10.

I wear teal for me.

I wear teal for me.

What’s up, Wednesday?

This week feels simultaneously really long, and really short. How is that even possible, right? Here’s a few things I’m diggin’ as of late:

1) My friends at Diet-to-Go occasionally let me ramble over at their official blog. This week I shared ten of my favorite health and fitness people to follow on Instagram. There’s no way I could ever list everyone amazing I follow on Instagram, but this is a good start. Check it out and let me know who else I need to follow! #1 is my buddy Alan, who I’ll get to see at Fitbloggin’ in a few weeks!

2) Thanks to a lovely reader of the DCD, Carrie, I checked out my first ever TOPS meeting! TOPS stands for Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, and is a community supported weight loss group with a $28 annual membership fee. (Yeah – annual! Cheaper than one month of Weight Watchers!) I really liked the group I went to, as there was singing; cute weight loss related songs to the tune of pop culture songs like “You are my sunshine”, and a chance to win some money, as there were several weight related bidding games. You follow whatever eating plan your doctor gives to you, and the weekly weigh ins and meetings are for support. I’m still trying to find the right day of the week and time for me to go to meetings as I’ll be traveling often the next six months, but you should definitely check out a meeting. It’s a refreshing twist on group weight loss.

3) I’m finally back on track with healthy eating. Grief does strange things to you; in my case, making me want to eat chocolate cake all day every day. I had a few weeks to project my emotions through food, but the buck stops here. For the past few days I’ve been good about sticking to a low-carb eating plan. Here’s what I had for lunch today; turkey breast slices, broccoli, and some sparkling orange seltzer. It’s definitely less exciting than chocolate cake, but I don’t feel crummy, and it will help me reach my goals.

4) This week officially marked 24 weeks to go until the Double Chin Divas and I walk 60 miles!!! I’ve got to get on a solid training plan, and thankfully, the 3-Day provides several ways to stay on track. I’ll be seeing April this weekend, and I know we’ve got a nice long walk planned to help us log some miles. I am surprised at the way my gratitude strikes me when people make a donation — I cry. It’s so incredibly special to be able to do something like this to show my support for the millions of people in America who have been affected by cancer. I’m carrying the names of loved ones lost with me on my journey, or names of survivors to honor. Please help me make a difference in the fight against cancer. Just one $10 donation can help change somebody’s life.

5) I’m currently binge watching Orange is the New Black. Who else watches? I kind of love all of the characters, and I think they did a really good job capturing the complexities of females. Now, some of the stories are a little bit too far out, like, have you ever heard of a prison without security cameras? But, it’s a great, entertaining watch for vegging at night. Now, I just need to remember that enjoyable TV shouldn’t mean I sacrifice sleep, cuz I’ve been tiiiiired this week. Anyone else do this and regret it the next morning?

That’s all I got. Tell me whats up with you!

xo

Why liking your doctor makes a huge difference.

When I think about the past two years in terms of doctors, I have a veritable cast of characters that come to mind. Getting married, becoming unemployed, going on my husband’s insurance meant switching from Kaiser, where all of everything was neatly contained in one HMO system, to the wild west (but totally awesome) land of PPO. I didn’t need referrals to see specialists for all that ailed me; and for once, my histamine-hating body rejoiced at the fact that I could pick my allergist based on reviews, proximity, and office hours of convenience. Granted, there were some trials as I adjusted to the PPO plan, like the fact that I needed several different docs — an allergist, a primary care doc, a dermatologist, a lady doc, and an endocrinologist (apparently I’m high maintenance). I hit gold with my allergist, but didn’t so much love my primary care doc. Instead of a doctor who actually listened to my complaints about my weight, I got the old “You’re not trying hard enough. Exercise more, eat less.” Now. Surely there’s some truth to that. But had this doctor taken the time to *really* investigate my claims, they’d find that blood tests don’t lie, and neither was I. So I dumped him, and moved on to the next. I bumbled around with a few different doctors, and now, a year later, I feel that I finally have my medical dream team assembled.

Curvaceous and Stunning Vaudeville Star Lillian Russel

Yesterday I had a two month follow up with my endocrinologist. I like this guy, because not only does he have a great sense of humor (reminding me that I was born in the wrong era, because my weight back then would have been highly desired — even mentioning the curvy old film star Lillian Russel, see below!), he TAKES TIME TO EXPLAIN THINGS. As in, he actually busts out his doctor pen, and starts to draw diagrams on the paper sheet on the exam table. Yesterday, he drew a diagram of the kidney’s role in weight loss, and why a long-term low carb diet can be challenging on the kidneys. (We’re trying a 1,300 calorie  day diet now, with moderate “good” carbs.) I had some very pointed questions about some of the hormone issues I’ve been having, and he gave me very direct, yet polite, responses. There’s a bedside manner that’s needed anytime you’re working with the public, especially when it’s sensitive stuff. I don’t need to be coddled, but if I ask a direct question, I want a direct answer, but delivered softly. This guy has it mastered — even making jokes about Dexter while taking blood. Schwing! I have what’s called “white coat hypertension”. I’m usually nervous at doctor’s appointments, so yesterday, my first blood pressure reading was sky high (156/92. YIKES!). I now know to ask the doctors to re-check mid-way through the appointment. I’ve known this for years, yet Kaiser wouldn’t retest me, and I ended up having to visit a hypertension clinic where, no surprise, my repeat blood pressure readings were great. The doc yesterday got me laughing, took my blood pressure a second time while cracking jokes about my Metformin induced nausea, and lo and behold, my blood pressure was a relatively healthy 126/79. That? Is a good doctor. One who listens, takes note, suggests helpful modifications, and cares.

So who cares if I like my doctor, right? I care. You have to decide to take action after leaving your doctor’s office, to try and manage the things YOU can control. Some things you can’t control, but some you can. I left my appointment feeling encouraged, positive, and motivated to keep working on my weight loss. And that’s why I realize it’s important to like the person who’s helping to take care of and treat YOU. Because YOU matter at the end of the day, and to keep yourself in tip-top shape, “liking” the person who’s giving you the orders is super important. Have you found a doctor you like?