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5 Common Mistakes Women with PCOS make

At the start of a New Year, you may be making resolutions, deciding how you want to move forward in every area of your life. Maybe you have decided to start a new diet, to lose weight, to sign up to a gym, finally get your PCOS under control.

If you’re anything like me, you may be feeling ultra motivated, ready to take on the world. I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person. If I make a decision, I go after it 100%…

Until I start losing steam.

Slowly slowly I let things slip.

And I fall off the bandwagon.

That’s one of the reasons why I don’t like making New Years resolutions.

I’d far rather set some goals and have a realistic and tangible plan to work towards those goals. I also try to think of any potential obstacles and pitfalls that I may come across. That way I can anticipate the things that may derail me and make sure that I can avoid them.

So, with that in mind, I want to share 5 common mistakes women often make when it comes to their PCOS. These mistakes are easily made but you need to be aware of them so you don’t get overwhelmed or side tracked and ultimately lose the motivation you need to reach your goal of getting in control of your PCOS.

1. Treat the Symptoms, Not the PCOS

Very often, when we think of our PCOS, we think only of the symptoms. So, for example, we have hair where we don’t want it. We get some medication like Spironolactone to try to control the hair growth. Or, we want to lose weight so we go on a diet and focus heavily on the scale.

Treating the symptoms is something we all want to do. I have been there too. But the thing is, if we only look at the symptoms of our PCOS, and not the underlying hormone imbalance, we will always be putting a bandaid on the problem, without addressing the problem itself.

I can’t stress how important it is manage your PCOS and manage your hormones first and foremost. Once you’ve done that, the rest of your symptoms will fall into place and you should start to see improvements in them too.

The next logical question is, “How do you balance your hormones and manage your PCOS?” Well, that’s a very big question that takes some time to answer. So, I have put together a free video series explaining all the ways that we can deal with our PCOS. You can find the training here: I promise you’ll walk away with a lot of valuable knowledge.

2. Take too many Supplements

Now I know that this one seems a bit counter intuitive. If you’ve been following PCOS Diet Support for a while, you’ll know that I’m a firm believer in the use of supplements for PCOS.

But, the problem comes in when we take too many supplements at the same time and we don’t give thought to how the supplements might be interacting with each other.

The other thing is that if we take too many supplements at the same time, how do we know which supplements are working or even which ones might be causing some bad side effects?

We could also be spending a small fortune on supplements that we simply don’t need.

So, I always recommend that you start with some baseline supplements and then evaluate your symptoms and how you are doing and go from there.

The baseline supplements that I normally recommend are:

If you would then like to add any supplements to this regime, I would recommend adding one at a time and giving each supplement 4-6 weeks to evaluate your symptoms and results. If you’re having negative side effects you can stop taking it immediately and you’ll have a better idea of which supplement is causing the problem.

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3. Substitute with gluten free products

I’ve written about gluten’s impact on our PCOS before (you can read that article here) so I won’t go into all of the details now. But I have recommended a gluten free diet for many years.

Many women, when they hear this, mistakenly head to the shops and stock up on gluten free pasta, gluten free bread, gluten free biscuits, thinking that they are making healthier food choices.

And I can understand the thinking. Gluten causes inflammation which will make us more resistant to insulin and make our PCOS worse. So, let’s eliminate gluten from our diets and just go for gluten free alternatives.

The problem is that so many of these gluten free alternatives are made with highly refined and processed flours. They can have a much higher glycemic load than regular products and will shoot up your insulin and blood sugar levels.

So, I tend to avoid gluten free products. I prefer to eat food that is as unprocessed as possible. So, instead of sandwiches for lunch, I opt for soup, salad or left overs.

4. Too much, too soon

Another common mistake that we can easily make is trying to change too much, too soon. When we find out that we should be exercising more and changing our diet, we often try to do it all at once. We get overwhelmed, exhausted and burnt out.

Make no mistake, any kind of lifestyle change takes time and effort. It’s not an overnight thing. So, decide what area you’re going to tackle first and start there. Take things one step at a time.

When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, I followed a low GI diet that still included wheat and dairy. Once I found out about dairy’s impact on PCOS, I cut it out completely. I then discovered gluten had an impact on my hormones so I cut it out next. It was a process.

The thing is that we have PCOS for life and we’re on a journey with our PCOS and our body. Make changes realistically and a step at a time. It will help you to feel less overwhelmed and out of control. You’ll be less likely to give up or fall off the bandwagon.

5. Thinking you’re alone

When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, I felt so alone. I didn’t know of anyone else who had PCOS and it felt like no one understood what I was going through.

The reality is that the symptoms of PCOS can often be personal and embarrassing. We don’t often talk about our excess hair with our friends. We struggle to admit let alone talk about our struggle with depression (a common and often unrecognised symptom of PCOS). That makes it harder for us to connect with other women with PCOS.

But, the truth is that at least 1 in 10 women have PCOS. In fact, an article I read recently suggested that 6.8 million women have PCOS in the US alone, never mind the rest of the world.

The numbers are staggering. There is an incredibly high chance that at least one of the women you know also has PCOS.

The moral of the story is that no matter how alone and isolated you might feel in dealing with your PCOS, you really aren’t. There are literally millions of other women who fight the same fight and share the same struggles. You are not abnormal or weird or any other label you might give yourself. We’re right there with you!

So, those are 5 common mistakes that many of us make. As you start 2017, I encourage you to dream bug, set big goals and for them with all your heart. Make this your year and don’t let these pitfalls get in your way!

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know if you relate to any of these or if there are any other pitfalls with your PCOS, leave me a comment below!

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

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24 Responses

24 Responses

    1. Generally, I recommend a dairy free diet. So, I would suggest that you avoid cheese as it causes a big insulin response which will impact on your testosterone levels.

  1. hi I’m Aima, i have been living with PCOS for 7 years now, and all i want to do is to be able to have babies, i have tried to balance my hormones and all, i also have a problem with facial hair growth as well as on the body….I’m fighting depression / mood swings what can i do? help I’m exhausted.

    1. I was diagnosed with pcos at age 20 . I‘ve never had a normal cycle and my first period came only with birth control pills when I was 19. I suffered excess hair in all my face neck and body , my chest was always flat and I felt ashamed about all these stuff . My weight was always normal but my hormones were always imbalanced. I‘m afraid that I could never have a child or start a relationship with someone because there are many things that aren‘t okay with me ..

  2. I found your site 4 years ago after weaning my second child. It had been 12 years since my diagnosis, and it was such an eye opener. I had been led to believe that PCOS only affected fertility, and so I only was trying to treat that symptom in the past. When I was trying to conceive my first child, I was recommended to lose weight to help regulate hormones, and had also been told to cut gluten, dairy, soy, and refined sugar to reduce inflammation in my back and shoulders that I thought was unrelated to anything. So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, and started an elimination diet that cut all that out, and had helped my grandpa lose a significant amount of weight. I found out I was pregnant 2 months later after losing some weight, and just went back to eating however I wanted because the diet was too restrictive during pregnancy. I got pregnant again unexpectedly when my baby was 16 months old and was overjoyed, but also eating really terribly and under a lot of stress, and the pregnancy ended in early miscarriage. I went back on the same diet on the recommendation from my OB, to regulate my hormones, and got pregnant again pretty much immediately, and then went back to eating however I wanted. When I weaned that baby again I went back on the diet because my mood swings and anxiety were super bad and I was hoping it would just help me even things out, but it was so restrictive that it wasn’t sustainable. That is when I found your system. It was the first time that I really understood the phrase “Knowledge is power.” I realized that all the symptoms I had that were unexplained were related to PCOS, and were manageable with diet. It really has been a life changer. And while I don’t always follow it when life happens, I always know where to go to get back on track when I’m ready! Thank you so much!!!

  3. Hi,
    I have have had 2 years struggling with my health. I was diagnosed with pcos in February 2018 and also found out I had gallstones. For two years i kept increasing in weight and no matter the diet the exercise. I thought it was gastritis so was looking after what I ate. Then in February to June i was on diet waiting for open gallstones surgery( had other commitments ) . I only lost 10 pounds. I was so sad. It been 3 months since my surgery.been on birth control pills 2 months and diet and still no weight loss.my excess hair is sometimes embarrassing, my hair loss sometimes scary and my depression is also scary.. Thanks for this post. Will continue reading up on this. At least I am not crazy.

  4. Lost 30 lbs and worked out for a full year in 2017. 2018 Came around and I am burnt out. I have no steam left and it’s so disappointing b/c I was doing so well. I feel overwhelmed and down b/c this has always been the cycle – lose weight gain it back, lose weight and gain it back. Theres just something that happens once I lose those 30 lbs that I just cant keep the steam to keep going. Thanks for putting my thoughts and feelings into words. I am hoping that I can slowly rebuild my steam back.

  5. Hello!

    I was diagnosed about two years ago now. And my doctor told me the only thing I need to do it lose weigh. Tbh this made me despressed as I’ve always struggle with my weight. And I’ve had a lot of other trouble with family, o my health ya always been sidelined. I’d love to change that now, but it’s finding the motivation. If I am honest I’m scared to change in case it doesn’t make a difference and i may possibly find out I will never been able to convince my own child.

    Please can someone help me 🙂

  6. I have had PCOS for around 12yrs and have almost off of the symptoms especially the excessive hair growth on many areas, stubborn weight that I cannot seem to lose.

  7. Hi Tarryn!
    I stumbled across your site last week and I have watched a couple of videos and read a few posts. Everything you have said so far has been relatable.
    I am cutting out gluten and dairy this week. Thankyou so much for sharing your PCOS journey – from that doctors appointment to when you found out you were pregnant. That has really given me hope and courage to begin in earnest to help myself to a more organic diet.
    – Sarah 🙂

  8. Hi Tarryn,
    I am 39 years old and recently diagnosed with PCOS, I have irregular periods and high testosterone levels (should be less than 20, mine was 58) I am experiencing hair loss, I’m currently taking BCP to regulate period, and now I have been prescribed spironolactone for hair loss by my endo. I am also hypothyroid, and have taken medication for years to control it. My question is, is this all connected? Is this a result of something I did? I am not extremely overweight, nor do I eat poorly, of course my diet is not perfect and I could loose a good 10-15 pounds. I can be more consistent with my healthy eating. Is their any hope for me? Can I reverse some of the symptoms?

  9. I have known about my PCOS since I was 16 (I’m 19 now) and for the first year or so took metformin and spironolactone, with this saw little improvement so I stopped taking them. When I got to my freshman year of college I started working out three times a week and started to see improvements in my irregular periods; I’ve been a bit lazy and busy this year though lol I plan on getting back into working out as well as trying a lower GI diet with little to no dairy. Being in college makes this difficult, any tips? This article helped so much, I didn’t realize that depression was a common side effect of PCOS. I thought it was just the fatigue, but perhaps it’s something to talk to my doctor about. Thank you so much for this helpful content:)

  10. I have known I have PCOS for five years now, and I take metformin for it. I also started to take Provera every month to have a period, after 3 years without one. I was diagnosed borderline diabetic for awhile and then told that since it had been borderline for so long that I would just be considered diabetic. My doctor started me on the once weekly shot Trulicity and Adipex. (Not sure if it makes a difference or not, I still haven’t lost much weight, but I don’t take the Adipex everyday) In the past six months my periods have come back on their own. I’m still needing to lose weight and want to eat the healthiest that I can. My husband and I are going to start the IVF process soon, and I won’t be able to take these medicines while pregnant. What suggestions do you have for me for loosing weight in the next few months and staying healthy during pregnancy?

  11. Hi Tarryn, what do you think about taking Vitex and Ovasitol together? I also take Apple Cider Vinegar. What is the best way to take all 3? I’ve cut dairy, red meat, sugar and coffee from my diet so far. Tia.

  12. I’m really struggling with my weight, I can’t lose any been on every diet going and lost and gained over and over and ended up bigger than ever. I really need todo this because I have just found out that I am borderline diabetic. So depressed with the excessive hair everywhere and losing hair from my head.

  13. Where can ovasitol be found i Europe ?
    i have heard that magnesium is a must for PCOS since it regulate insulin very well, what do you think Tarry?

  14. I was diagnosed with PCOS at 20, im 27 now.
    I am struggling with diet because my fiancee eats poorly and only drinks coke (he had stomach surgery and can eat anything and not put weight on).

    Ive managed to cut out soft drink completely for the past 3 months and I’ve been trying to have breakfast everyday and have healthy ones at that.
    But my partner always wants to have take out and unhealthy food – how do you even start to change that? I just seem to crumble because im too tired to cook

  15. I’ve just come from the doctor’s and they suggest I may have pcod. Can you tell me more about how it is officially diagnosed? I have been prescribed tests but I want to be mentally prepared.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis, Jen! PCOS is normally diagnosed if you have 2 out of these 3 symptoms:

      1. Irregular menstrual cycle
      2. Signs of high testosterone
      3. Polycystic ovaries

      Normally an ultrasound is done to look for the cysts, as well as blood tests to look at hormone levels. This, with your medical history, will help to make the diagnosis.

      I know it can be really confusing and overwhelming. You might find this free series on PCOS and how to manage it helpful: http://www.pcosmasterplan.com

  16. Hi Tarryn (P.S Awesome name 😉 )

    Thank you so much for this informative post and video! It’s so great to know there is such a wide net of support out there for women with PCOS.

    Quick question, do you have any thoughts on Type 1 Diabetics taking Inositol? I was diagnosed with PCOS and small ovarian cysts quite a while back (never really got treatment for it), however now I’m noticing more and more PCOS symptoms. Just wondering if it’d be okay for me to try Inositol, being a controlled Type 1 Diabetic (who is also plant based, sugar free and gluten free).

    Thanks again
    Taryn

    1. Taryn- I am type 1 diabetic & take Ovisitol. I truly believe Ovisitol (plus being gluten & dairy free) helped me have regular cycles after years of not having any. Ovisitol did not affect my insulin needs.

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