The first thing you should know when trying to lose weight is whether or not you have Insulin Resistance (IR). There are a few tests that can be run by your doctor. One is the fasting glucose test, which checks your blood sugar levels after a long fast - typically overnight. Another one is the Glucose Tolerance Test, where they give you some yucky liquid to drink, then test your blood sugar at 1 and 2 hours post drinking. HOWEVER - not all women with Insulin Resistance can be diagnosed through these tests. We're just weird like that. A good sign of insulin resistance is the lack of menstruation and high levels of testosterone, which can be visible in the form of excess hair, especially on the chin, or male-pattern balding. I'll admit, I did not go to a doctor to diagnose my IR. I performed the test on my own, with a blood sugar monitor. I watched my blood sugar levels after different foods, and saw that I had higher levels for longer periods of time when I consumed simple carbs or sugars.
Ok, so we know now if you have IR or not. Next step, are you gluten intolerant? This is a little tricky to figure out as well. It's rumored that up to 85% of all women with PCOS have some form of gluten or wheat sensitivity. Do you have migraines or intestinal problems? Since high school, I've fought migraines on a weekly basis. They were so bad that my grandmother's phone number was on speed-dial in the nurse's office. I couldn't figure out what was causing them, and most meds didn't help. I just had to take naproxen and go to sleep. I went gluten free, and after about a year, I realized that I hadn't had any migraines. By eliminating one thing from my diet, my migraines disappeared. This is a little TMI, so skip the rest of paragraph if you don't want to hear this (although I'd suggest suffering through it, because it's really important if you have digestive troubles!)- I spent the last 5-6 years thinking diarrhea was normal. It wasn't like I had to stay by the restroom constantly, but anytime I did need to visit the restroom, I had diarrhea. I seriously thought that was normal, because I had lived with it for so long. I decided to take the gluten sensitivity test, and BAM! No more diarrhea. Seriously. I've been trying really hard to stick to a gluten-free diet for over a month now, and I have had normal BMs. I never thought I would be so happy about the consistency of my poop.
So how do I do take the gluten sensitivity test? It's simple, although you have to be very strict about it for 2 weeks. Eliminate all gluten from your diet. That means no wheat, barley or rye. (This can also include oats that are processed in the same facility as wheat.) This doesn't mean you have to stop eating carbs. Actually, that defeats the purpose of the test, because you don't want to see how your body reacts without carbs, you want to see how it reacts without gluten. Try your hand at baking a loaf of gluten-free bread. If you can make a cake, you can make bread. I personally recommend Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix. I love rye bread, but can't have it because of the gluten. This bread mix tastes JUST LIKE RYE. It's... AWESOME. (especially with swiss cheese and turkey slices) If you like pasta, see if you can find Quinoa Elbows. I get them in the bulk section at Central Market, and my hubby can't tell the difference. And yes, this test also means that you have to give up any grain alcohol and beer. It is possible to only have a wheat sensitivity, but not barley or rye. In this case, you'd simply cut out wheat products.
Alright - Now that we know if you have IR and/or a gluten sensitivity. What should you do now? As with any diet, watch your fat intake (but healthy fats like avocados are still an important part of anyone's diet).
> The next step is to eliminate simple, refined carbs and sugars.
- Switch from white rice to brown rice. If you are feeling particularly crafty, get a cauliflower and grate it, then substitute it for rice. I've done this on many occasions, and it is fantastic! Better yet, you don't have to cook it. And did you know that you can get green, orange and purple cauliflower? I like using the orange when I'm making a Mexican dish, and purple when I'm just feeling weird :)
- Switch to whole-grain pasta, unless you are gluten intolerant, in which case I would suggest checking out the gluten free section of your grocery store for pastas made with quinoa or brown rice. Or switch to spaghetti squash! When cooked, the inner flesh peels away like strands of spaghetti. My husband loves it! We haven't had actual spaghetti in several months.
- Shy away from potatoes and corn. These have high amounts of simple carbs. This does put some gluten free products on the 'limit' list, because they use potato starch and corn flour.
- Experiment with new grains, like quinoa, millet and amaranth. I have to admit, one of the best things about my PCOS diagnosis was being forced in to trying new things. I have learned to cook so many more things that I like a whole lot more than what I was eating before. Eating healthy makes me feel better, mentally and physically.
- Make sandwiches a lot? Try a gluten-free bread from your own oven or low-carb tortillas!
I'll be honest, I could probably continue writing for hours, and still not be done. That's the fun of changing your diet! There is so much you can do differently, so many new foods to try. Enjoy the opportunity!
I can't forget to discuss exercise. *boo hiss* I hate that word, exercise. Even when I was skinny I hated it. I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma in 9th grade, so finding physical activities that would help me lose weight were difficult, for a while. Here's how I work out - > Yoga. Oh, I love yoga. It has done wonders for my body. It's such a relaxing workout. I have several different yoga DVDs I use, but I mainly use my Wii Fit. It tells me if I'm doing the poses correctly, which is awesome. I prefer Hatha Yoga as opposed to a flow Yoga. Hatha Yoga focuses on a single pose at a time, where as a flow yoga, such as Vinyasa Yoga, transitions quickly from one pose to another. With my asthma, flow yoga is too fast-paced for me, and I have to rely on my inhaler to get through a session. With Hatha Yoga, I focus on each pose and have plenty of time to breathe.
> Walking. From fall to spring, I love walking around the pond at a local park. The ducks are always out, and we take food with us to feed them. In the spring, the baby ducks start showing up, and it's just adorable to watch all of them. This past spring, we found a duck we lovingly named Michelle, who had 18 babies! (All of the pictures except or the last one in this post are of Michelle and her babies: Michelle) In the summer, because it's so hot here in Texas, I like indoor walking tracks. You can also walk around the mall, but I was born with the inherent need to spend money, so the mall is bad for me :)
> Swimming. Ok, I'll admit I hate going out in public in a swimsuit right now, so I don't do this often. But swimming is great exercise without a lot of strain. Ok, I don't mean sitting in a pool. I mean actually doing laps, or using weights.
> The trick with exercise is to find something you enjoy. Check out your local rec center and see what classes they offer. Zumba is a very fast-paced, dance fitness program that is super fun! My local YMCA has pilates classes as well. Want to do something really off the wall and sexy? Take a stripperobics class.
Have fun and enjoy yourself as those excess pounds start going away!
(I realize that there are no links to articles and research. I will be compiling those and updating this page later, I promise.)