When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, I had no idea what PCOS was or what was happening in my body. I immediately got my hands on some books and started reading up on my condition and all that it meant for me (the internet didn’t have nearly as much info on PCOS as it does now).
Since being diagnosed 6 years ago, I have spent countless hours researching and talking to experts and piecing together a PCOS management that works. I've already shared some of my experiences and knowledge on PCOS Diet Support. Now, I want to share more of the things that I have learned with you so that you don’t have to spend all of your time researching and can spend more time doing things to better your PCOS symptoms.
So, here is my list of the 10 things that you can do to improve your PCOS symptoms (there will always be more to add to the list but this is a good starting point).
1. Understand what is happening in your body
PCOS can leave us feeling confused and unsure of what is actually happening with our own bodies. There is also so much conflicting information out there on food, supplements, exercises and medications that we can use to get our PCOS under control. But, what should we start with and how do we know that something is actually right for us?
Well, the first step is to understand how PCOS affects you. Once you know what is happening in your body, you can work out what you need to do about it. Without that understanding as your foundation, you’ll always be at the mercy of the next fad diet or miracle cure, without the certainty of knowing what your body actually needs.
2. Get your Insulin levels under control
We know that PCOS causes us to have some irregularities in our insulin processing. It’s a bit of a double whammy because our bodies tend to over respond to carbs by releasing too much insulin and our ovaries respond to the insulin by releasing too much testosterone. So, if you can get some control of your insulin levels, you’ll have greater control of your overall PCOS symptoms.
3. Get moving
We know that we need to exercise to for our health and general well being but we also need to exercise to keep our PCOS in check. Even if you aren’t seeing any movement on the scale, your metabolic markers and hormones are still benefitting from your efforts and will help your symptoms.
4. Change the way you eat
In the UK, we have the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (or NICE) and they publish guidelines for the management of many medical conditions. The NICE Guidelines for PCOS suggest that dietary and lifestyle changes should be the first line of treatment for all women with PCOS (1).
5. Take supplements
There are so many supplements that are available, many of which help with different aspects of PCOS. Also, women with PCOS tend to be deficient in a number of vitamins and nutrients that we just won’t be able to get enough of in our regular diets. So, supplements are important in addressing some of the underlying deficiencies and issues in PCOS and are an important piece of your PCOS management plan.
6. Know your why
Making any kind of change to the way you eat or to your lifestyle can be challenging. If we don’t know why we need to make the changes, it’s much harder to do it. Your why is your reason for wanting to be healthier and in control of your body.
When I was first diagnosed, my why was wanting to have children. Now that I have two beautiful children, my why has changed. I want to have the energy to run and play with them and I want to be healthy till I’m very, very old so that I can watch them grow up and have children of their own. I also want to feel good about myself and enjoy all that life has to offer, unhindered by my PCOS.
It’s this that keeps me motivated and helps me to fight my cravings or reminds me to take my supplements every morning.
7. Have a plan
Having a plan is important, whether it be a meal plan, craving plan, snack plan or eating out plan. It’s when we’re not prepared that we’re more likely to go for convenience and ditch our exercise routine or make unhealthy food choices.
8. Get your team on board
You know the saying. “No man is an island”? Well, no woman with PCOS can or should do it on her own. We all need support, whether it be from our partners, family, friends, the medical community or the wider PCOS community. You need to build your team of supporters so that they can give you the encouragement, advice, love and sometimes tough love when you need it.
9. Just keep swimming
Dori from Finding Nemo said it so well when she said, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” There are going to be bad days and days when we mess up but it’s so important that we just keep swimming, swimming, swimming in the direction that we ultimately want to go in. Remember your why? That’s the reason that you get up and try again every time you fall off the bandwagon.
10. Celebrate the wins
With PCOS, our wins may seem small to others but they are huge for us. Having a period? EPIC! Losing 1lb? Brilliant! Getting out of bed and going about our day despite our mood swings or depression? A job well done.
We need to be real about our struggles and acknowledge when we’ve done well. We need to be kind to ourselves and show ourselves some love and celebrate the steps forward in the right direction, no matter how big or small they may be.
So, there are 10 ways that you can improve your PCOS symptoms. Some of them are very practical whilst others are a bit more on the emotional side.
I'd love to hear from you! Do you have any other ways you can improve your symptoms that I haven't mentioned. Leave me a comment and let me know!