For PCOS Sake!

Slightly off my usual fitness and training posts, however I felt it was time to discuss an issue that is important to me and something I have struggled with for the past sixteen years.

Polycystic Overy Syndrome (PCOS).

At the tender age of 16 I was diagnosed with PCOS. Having to go through the variety of tests at such an age was completely terrifying and rather embarrassing. Can you image – being sixteen, not knowing what this “PCOS” was or meant and being sent to the maternity ward of your local hospital for a scan? Being surrounded women in their twenties, thirties and forties looking at you, knowing that they thought you were a knocked up teenager? Horrifying! Plus, with an absent Mother to join me on such appointments it was a pretty scary ordeal to face alone. But I did and after many, many tests and specialists; it was confirmed – I has PCOS and the Doctors did nothing further, other than put me on the Pill. I was told at the time I don’t need to see them again until I wanted to discuss children. At sixteen; that meant nothing to me. So with the Doctors not being too concerned and no further support offered I went on my merry way.

My teens were spent not thinking about it at all, in my twenties I started to think about it a little more and event went so far to by some support books so I could spend more time reading about what I face. Safe to say the books went un-touched and gathered a great deal of dust sitting on the shelf. However, it has only been in my thirties that I have really started to realise I need to pay much more attention to the condition.

This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, as I have got older I have discovered that a number of friends and even my sister also suffer from the same thing – so it is a lot more common than i originally thought. Secondly, now that I am in my thirties one of the side effects of PCOS is really starting to get to me…..The struggle with weight loss.

You may be thinking, “What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome”? PCOS, as it is known, is a common condition that effects the way in which a Woman’s ovaries work. The main features of this condition are Irregular Periods, excess androgen (high levels of male hormones in the body – JOY) and Polycystic Ovaries (ovaries become enlarged and contain follicles which surround the eggs).

So what does this mean? It means that someone with PCOS will have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Irregular Periods
  • Fertility Issues
  • Excessive Hair Growth
  • Weight Gain
  • Thinning Hair
  • Acne/ Oily skin
  • Thinning hair loss from the head

Plus further down the line PCOS suffers have greater risk of developing more serious conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and High Colesterol.

So we get all the fun!

I have lots of friends who struggle with different symptoms. The most heart breaking being the infertility issues. For me, that doesnt cause too much concern. I knew my chances were very small early on, so I have dealt with that and enjoy my childless life.

My biggest problem with PCOS is the weight gain, or in my case the inability to loose weight; despite constanty training and leading a relatively healthy vegetarian diet.

So after reading several books, which I found rather useless, I started researching online and stumbled upon PCOS Diet Support. This site was founded by someone who had PCOS. So unlike the many books I read, most likely written by someone without the condition, it was refreshing to hear from someone with experience.

I discovered an article written here about having PCOS and eating Gluten foods. I suppose it is not that much of a shock to find out that the two do not mix. Accoring to research Gluten Free diets are highly recommended for someone with PCOS. Gluten foods play havoc on an already inbalanced hormonal system, could possibly cause a spike in insulin levels and if Gluten intolerant could contribute to Insulin resistance.

So, in order to get my insulin levels right and in the hope of being able to control my weight better I have made the decision to change my eating habits and remove gluten from my diet.

Although I have never been a big pasta or bread person there are so many foods that contain gluten that I never realised. This week has been a big learning curve for me. The obvious foods have not been a problem, but as a vegetarian I was shocked to discover that most Quorn products (from which I get most my protein from) contain some form of gluten.  A lot more attention is going to have to be paid to food packets in order for me to be able to change my eating habits and be as Gluten Free as I can possibly be.

I know it is going to be difficult, but luckily I have a few friends who are already Gluten Free and have made the change. So all I can do is follow advice I have been given and read the labels of everything I buy.

I am hoping to make some serious progress in the next few months and I will be sure to document it when I can.

Wish me luck!

Mission Complete

In September 2015 I took part in the first ever Mission 24 event run by Regiment Fitness. A 24 hour boot camp event, where one member of your team of four has to take part in each session.  Certainly not for the faint hearted. But as a team we worked through and I personally managed ten sessions out of the twenty four. It was the most emotional event I have ever taken part in and as soon as we were done I stated adamantly that “I would never do it again.”

So fast forward to 2nd July 2016, and guess what? I was taking part in my second Mission 24. This time we had two teams of three, meaning there would be less chance for rest and more hard work needed to get through the night.

This year I felt that I was going in knowing what to expect, I wasn’t completely blind sighted as I was in the first event. I made lots of adjustments in my preparation this time round. In the days leading up to Mission 24, I cut back on training (as agonising as it was), I planned what food I would have and I prepared the whole of my boot camp wardrobe; including winter clothing, Dry Robe and multiple pairs of trainers.

After a quickly setting up our tents on arrival it was soon time to begin. At 10am the first session started. I think everyone signed up to the event was taking part in this session as I remember there being bodies everywhere. It was clear that there were so many more participants than the previous year.

As expected, with the sun shining the first few sessions were full of enthusiasm. Everyone was full of energy and excitement. Knowing what would be coming later, I decided from the get go to take it easy; it was going to be a long 24 hours after all.

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So the next session I decided to sit out; reassess and observe everything that was going on. Originally I had planned an hour on and then an hour off. However, that plan soon went to pot as after resting for the second session I did two in a row. The fourth session I got in a quick power nap; to then smash out four on a trot.

My plan was caput!

I started to mark out the sessions I wanted to do take part in, avoiding any Tabbing sessions to conserve energy and worked out that if I got into the right mind set I could end up completing many more sessions than I had previously. So, that’s what I did. I knew that as soon as the night hours came, I would not be able to keep warm or be able to sleep, so I kept going.

 

After a brief break around 7pm, when the keen Tabbers did their thing, I took an hour break. Then, smashing out four more sessions it was midnight. At this point I had reached ten sessions, the same amount I had completed in 2015.

Perhaps some adrenaline had kicked in and it gave me a second wind or I was high as a kite from the lack of rest, who knows. But I planned in three more sessions that would take me up to 4am.

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It was during the 3am session that the pain and the exhaustion kicked in. I felt like I was drunk, my run was more like a shuffle and I was half asleep whilst boxing with another team member. I had worked myself to the point where I would just pass out; which I did. Perfectly timed as a third tabbing session was due to take place.

After a brief, but very effective power nap, I was back to it again at 6am, completing the final five sessions to bring my total to 18 out of 24.

Mission Complete!

 

Throughout the 24 hours we received a great deal of support from fellow members, family and friends. However, we also got the standard question….Why? My answer was “why not?”

When I look back to think what we had done, some of us for a second year in a row, I could see why people would think we were completely mad. The whole experience is something that you can’t really explain, especially to those who are less active.

Even now, as I write this blog I struggle to find the words to illustrate this event. There is nothing you can say to make people understand the emotion you feel from being awake for over 24 hours, pushing yourself beyond any limits you thought you may have had and getting through some of the darkest possible hours. It is the ultimate test for your mind, endurance and fitness. I have had so many people tell me “I’m not normal” – perhaps that is the case, but during this event I was surrounded by people who were doing the same as me. So, does that mean that none of us are normal? I don’t think so.

What I saw from this event was a group of like-minded people who are willing to sign up to a challenge and throw themselves whole heartedly into completing it. It is not easy, no one ever said it would be. But some wise person once said “if it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great!”

 

As I come to a close I remember that feeling of finishing and accomplishing what you thought was impossible. I may not be the fittest or the fastest of the bunch, but when an old friend calls you “The Female Terminator” you feel pretty fantastic!

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