As I’ve grown into my fitness lifestyle, I’m realizing more and more that there just isn’t a whole lot of information out there on PCOS when it comes to an active lifestyle.
We know that we need to eat less calories than other women, but how exactly does that work when we want to get stronger?
My goal here is to write out my experiences, in the hopes that they will help other women with this syndrome.
Let’s start with my history. I was diagnosed when I was 25 or so. I had over a dozen cysts, elevated testosterone, and weighed 265lbs at 5’11”, which is obese. I had been in the military on weight management before that, they did not diagnose me and gave me diet information that helped me to balloon to this size – they kept telling me to eat pasta and tortillas. Because I’d followed the military’s direction on how to lose weight and continued to gain, I thought that I was incapable of weight loss and had basically given up. I was very sedentary, I lived in the south while being pale, rarely walked anywhere, and wasn’t involved in any sports.
A few years later, I got a job offer in the Pacific northwest and made the decision to go there. I left my car with my husband and flew up to my new job with two suitcases, a laptop, and no cell phone. I moved into a room in a big house for cheap, and started taking the bus to and from work. This had several effects on my health.
- I was walking a minimum of a mile a day to and from the bus.
- I was working on a campus and suddenly had access to a variety of very cheap ethnic foods that I’d never tried before. I wanted to try everything, so I’d go to a different place for lunch each day until I ran out of new places to try. This exploring included more walking, an extra mile or three a day. I ended up settling on pho as a favorite new comfort food, and was eating that for lunch nearly every day for an entire winter.
- My cycles normalized a few months after moving into the big house that contained 2 other healthy women. I thought at the time that it was just due to being around them, now I think it was a combination of that and starting to be healthier in general.
- I now had to carry my groceries home by hand. The grocery store was about half a mile from home and uphill. This changed my shopping practices, I stopped buying drinks and switched entirely to water and tea.
- I had very little money, but I suddenly had access to farmer’s markets that carried veggies I’d never heard of. I wanted to try them all, so I went from eating next to no veggies to eating them on a daily basis.
- Between boredom, brokedom, and no car, I ended up spending my weekends exploring. I’d hop on a random bus and ride it to see where it went, then wander around.
- I developed a nasty case of plantar fasciitis from my sudden switch from no walking to heavy daily walking. I sat down one day and looked at the soles of my cheap boots, discovering that I’d worn down the heels on the outside. I went out and spent more money than I ever had before on a good pair of boots, I think it was around $160. A couple of weeks later, the pain lessened considerably and I could get up in the morning with almost no pain.
A year after the move, I was down around 200lbs. I felt great and no longer got winded walking uphill. My husband finally made the move up with me, and I realized after a few months that our marriage was over. We’d grown far apart in that year apart, both physically and mentally. He’d spent most of that year on a sofa watching tv, while I had been out exploring, making friends, and taking dance lessons.
There’s no such thing as an easy divorce. I found for the first time in my life that my appetite was gone. I slimmed down into the 180lb range after a couple of months. I felt less healthy than I had before, I got winded easier and felt weak. I was happy to be down in the weight range I’d been in when I was 17, though, so I wasn’t too worried about it.
Once I felt ready to start dating, I created an online account and started talking to men. I met my current boyfriend this way. He is the one that got me to join a gym and start lifting. I did a lot of research online about weight training, starting with the fitness subreddit FAQ and expanding into buying myself a copy of Starting Strength and starting that program. That was the start of a bumpy path into serious weight training, which has actually led to me competing.
I’m not the strongest person out there. A good friend of mine that’s almost a foot shorter than I outlifts me in all the major lifts. Some of the reason for this is my fear of getting obese again, which I realize is a very real possibility if I let myself get out of control. I get very uncomfortable the minute the scale tips north of 200lbs, yet 200lbs now looks better on me than 185 did a few years ago.
I understand that you need to eat above maintenance calories in order to build muscle and get stronger, yet getting too heavy has become a phobia for me. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I know that I can do more.
I started lifting when I was 30, well past my lifetime peak strength. However, I still have a long way to go before I find out what I’m really capable of.