How To Live Your Best Life with Lean (Thin) PCOS
It’s amazing that so many women suffer from PCOS (including lean or thin) yet there’s no known cause or cure.
I was diagnosed with PCOS (was not told or aware at the time that there were varying cases) when I was 18 years old. At that point, I didn’t take it too seriously as I “knew” women with PCOS were obese and I had always been underweight (even though I had a good appetite). My menstrual cycles were almost always pain-free, relatively light and irregular.
Since being diagnosed, every doctor I visited informed me that the only way to treat my PCOS was with birth control pills. I tried it for a couple of years and hated it – I was ALWAYS nauseous.
The only really annoying symptom with my PCOS was a little facial hair and so, I decided to use hair removal techniques and I stopped birth control pills. After that, the consistencies with my cycle were its irregularity, it was painless and relatively light – none of which bothered me.
The “real” trouble came when my husband and I started trying to conceive (stay tuned for our fertility story).
What Is PCOS And How Is Lean PCOS Different?
PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a hormonal imbalance that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and fertility and can be associated with
- insulin resistance/impaired processing of glucose (insulin is a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar)
- type 2 diabetes later in life
- higher level of androgens (male hormones)
- depression & anxiety
- high blood pressure
- poor cholesterol levels (high LDL – bad cholesterol and LOW HDL – good cholesterol)
- fertility challenge
There seems to be no significant difference with lean women with PCOS other than the fact that they are often misdiagnosed as weight gain is still the number one sign of PCOS in some countries.
If you would like to check out some of the differences, Very Well Health has a concise article on The Unique Challenges of Lean Women with PCOS that is pretty informative and interesting.
The Main Things I’ve Learned Along The Way
It wasn’t until many years later, after joining forums and researching PCOS on my own, that I learned about lean PCOS. Through my research and my experiences, I’ve learned that:
- while there may be similarities, symptoms are NOT set in stone and are not the same for everyone
- some PCOSers show little to no symptoms
- there are MANY misconceptions about PCOS
- a treatment that works for one may not work for others
- some doctors have no clue what they’re doing and could sometimes lead you down the wrong path (as happened in my case)
- lifestyle change is necessary – healthy diet choices, exercise and stress reduction are 100 % the way to go
- lean or thin PCOS women are misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed
The reason I’ve decided to write about my journey and all that I’ve learned along the way is that I struggled to find information about lean PCOS. Most of the information that I came across suggests that weight loss is a big factor in minimizing symptoms, which of course is not helpful to those of us who are already thin.
5 Most Effective Lifestyle Habits for PCOS
Even though there is a lot more information available now and more doctors are understanding PCOS, it is still not very well understood with different doctors suggesting different treatment plans. While there is no magical pill or cure for PCOS, there are very effective methods that will manage and drastically reduce the symptoms and chances of it affecting other areas of life (diabetes, high blood pressure). These tips are sure to help:
Educate yourself and keep up to date with information
Understanding how PCOS affects us is arguably the most important step in managing our PCOS. This helps us to understand why we’re making the lifestyle change. Each time we struggle, we can draw on this knowledge and remember exactly why we’re doing it. This is much more effective than making a lifestyle change just because someone told us to.
Below I give an outline of the diet I’ve been using to manage my PCOS. It has been so effective that it resulted in the conception of our third baby (link). The number one change which also happens to be the hardest for me is reducing sugar and carbs in an effective manner. I discuss the factors to consider when making a lifestyle change here (link to lifestyle change post – moderation and one step at a time is key).
There are many supplements recommended for PCOS. I personally get very overwhelmed when I research this and I honestly tend to give up – it’s information overload. I dislike tablets – period. So supplements have never been a favorite of mine. The less I can take, the better. I understand that it’s difficult to get all the necessary nutrients from food and this means that I work harder on getting my nutrients from food. I spend more time researching various foods that can help me manage my PCOS.
That being said, I do take a few supplements – I’m currently breastfeeding and I take Wellman daily, calcium supplements and omega 3. Once I’ve stopped breastfeeding I plan to continue with a multivitamin and fish oil to ensure that I’m getting all the necessary nutrients.
Exercise is important for everyone – men, women & kids. If you have lean PCOS and you don’t like exercise – find a way! It’s so misleading for us to think that we don’t need exercise because we’re thin. You don’t need to do a cardio-intensive program but you need to get moving.
Personally, I dislike gyms so I work out at home.
Maintaining motivation can sometimes be challenging but I try my best and find the time and be stronger than my strongest excuse!
The key here is to find what works for you so that you’re more likely to stick with it. I’ve found that having a workout buddy is very effective – sometimes it’s my husband and sometimes it’s my friend. But having that support and accountability is awesome.
Aim to exercise for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week – if you can exercise daily, the benefits increase.
Ensure you have a good self-care routine that involves physical, mental and emotional care. Each day, find some time to destress. If you’re feeling down, find an outlet – write, talk to someone, or take up yoga.
My Lean PCOS Diet
I am not a health expert nor am I the best at understanding everything nutrient related. I have found what works for me and I’m sharing it in the hopes that it can help you as well.
These foods and tips help me manage my lean PCOS. My body responds well to an anti-inflammatory diet which typically includes, but is not limited to:
- fatty fish – salmon
- leafy greens
- extra virgin olive oil
- Dark chocolate – in moderation
The foods that I generally avoid (though I do indulge from time to time):
- simple and refined carbs
- packaged snacks
- processed foods including sausages and luncheon meats
- excessive amounts of red meat
- sugar (brown and granulated)
It’s important to remember that there is no cure for PCOS but its symptoms and possible bad health associations can be managed effectively through maintaining a healthy diet, incorporating exercise into daily life and ensuring self-care is a priority.
How has PCOS affected your life and what have you been able to do to manage it? Leave a note in the comments below, I’d really love to hear from you!