I never ever thought I’d be publicly disclosing that I have PCOS. When Julie Duffy Dillon first reached out and asked if I’d come on her podcast to talk about my experience with PCOS, my first reaction was heck no! Being that I have a presence online and the fact that I work as a psychotherapist, I just prefer to keep my personal life as private as I can. But that same night I was looking up PCOS hashtags on instagram and the very first hashtag was #pcosweightloss. I knew right then and there that I needed to go on Julie’s podcast because I want others to know that dieting does not (and should not) be the way to manage your PCOS. Check out the podcast episode here.
When I was diagnosed with PCOS, of course I immediately googled all the best treatment options… as one does. 🙂 And all I saw over and over again were recommendations to lose weight and eat minimal carbs if it all (keto was recommended consistently). At the point of my diagnosis in my early 20’s, I was at a pretty low weight for my body from extreme dieting but my doctor confirmed that watching carbs was a necessity for managing PCOS so of course I listened to this medical professional. I cut out all carbs in all forms and basically maintained this way of living for 3 years.
I thought everything was just fine and dandy because I was finally feeling like I could walk down the street without assumptions being made about my eating habits, I was being praised left and right for my shrinking body, I could walk into any store and find cute clothes in my size, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I finally had permission to eat (too bad I was too scared to eat at that point- losing the advantages that thin privilege gives you can feel really scary). Well, things were fine and dandy up until I ended up passing out at the bottom of the stairs and waking up with a severe concussion, a chipped tooth, and a broken nose.
In hindsight, I was able to see that although everyone around me thought I was finally so incredibly “healthy,” I was FAR from it. I would make a million excuses to avoid spending time with friends because that would mean we’d likely end up going out to eat and I was too afraid of being around foods I didn’t want to consume. I felt intense anxiety eating the minimal amount I did eat, and most of my time was spent counting calories or grams, obsessing over the scale, or thinking about food. But I was thin for the first time in my life so I was obviously healthy, right? WRONG.
Guess what? Even though I was eating absolutely no carbs, I STILL had PCOS! People are under the impression that weight loss or diet can cure PCOS and no, that’s not how it works. I have lots of thin friends with PCOS and they can’t cure their PCOS by becoming more thin. There is just so much misinformation out there regarding PCOS and I’m here to tell you that you do not have to diet or restrict your carbs if you have PCOS.
The reality is that all of the long term research on dieting consistently shows that dieting leads to more weight gain and those same statistics apply to someone with PCOS. When you restrict calories, your body is put under stress which leads to an inflammation response. And for people with PCOS who often have insulin resistance, inflammation makes it so much worse!
When it comes to carbohydrates, sure, you might find that doing keto or going on a low carb diet feels good when you first start the diet. However, it puts a lot of stress on the body over time, and eventually the cravings can start feeling unbearable and the diet becomes more and more unsustainable. I’ve found that it’s not about cutting out carbohydrates but increasing protein and eating carbohydrates at regular intervals. There are a lot of things you can do to manage PCOS and related insulin resistance issues. Julie goes through allllll of that in her online course and none of it includes dieting!
What I’ve personally found helpful to manage my PCOS is working with a non diet dietitian, taking a supplement called Ovasitol, and exercising regularly to manage stress. Like I mentioned before, Julie has an online course (affiliate link) for those of you with PCOS who need support in managing symptoms and recognize that dieting is not the answer to treating your PCOS.
I spent a long, long time hating my body. I felt like my body was a betrayal and couldn’t handle normal amounts of food like everyone else, I felt like I was cursed with a slow metabolism, and felt angry that I put on weight so easily. And now I recognize that my body is far more resilient than I’ve ever given it credit for. Do I love my natural body shape and round belly? No, most day I do not. But I know that my body size and shape is irrelevant to who I am as a person and I do not want to be dieting on and off for the rest of my life.
No, I don’t have the body that society tells me I should have. I do gain weight easily and as I continue to heal from some recent medical issues, I’ll likely end up right back in my larger body. People can think whatever they want to think but my larger body works just fine. It lets me hug my baby sister and the people I love, my body lets me travel and see beautiful places around the world, my body carries my voice which is pretty damn powerful… my body works. It’s just bigger than society and diet culture tries to dictate it should be and should I spend my life trying to shrink myself into society’s narrow standards of beauty? Na, it comes at way too high a cost. I’d rather spend my life really LIVING and not constantly trying to lose another 10 pounds.
My PCOS journey has been long and messy; heck, I’m still on it and I work every day to be compassionate with myself but the bottom line is that I’m sharing parts of my journey with you because I want you to know that if you have PCOS too, weight loss is not the answer. You aren’t failing if you’re in a larger body and you still deserve ALL kinds of food. Check out the podcast I did with Julie here and let me know your thoughts!
Read more about why dieting is so problematic here.