How Jenny Lost 40 Pounds with PCOS
I’d like to share a story of one of my patients, Jenny. Jenny has PCOS, a hormonal condition that affects up to 10% of all women. It can make weight loss very difficult. Jenny’s story is inspiring because she was able to lose 41 pounds in 2 1/2 years. She works full time, is a mom, a new bride AND had both her feet operated on during this time with made exercise impossible for months. Jenny persevered and met her goals … and even more. I always get asked how my “successful” clients lose weight. Here is Jenny’s story on how she lost 40 pounds with PCOS!
How Jenny lost 40 pounds with PCOS
Eighteen years ago when I became a mother, my weight went from 125 pounds pre-pregnancy to over 180 pounds. For the years prior to being diagnosed with PCOS, I was experiencing irregular periods and difficulty losing weight, with my weight bouncing between the 160 to 180 range. What triggered the diagnosis was when my doctor found that I had two ovarian cysts. Once they were removed, I became aware of my condition and started doing some research.
- Realistic eating plan … and portion control
About two and a half years ago, my husband – boyfriend at the time – found a nutritionist that specialized in PCOS – Martha McKittrick – and that was when my weightloss journey truly began. I was 174 pounds, at 5’ 2” when I first met with Martha and was ready to change. What Martha did was provide me with the tools, resources and accountability I needed in order to succeed. Based on my weight and condition, we came up with a food and fitness plan – staying at the 1200-1400 calorie intake range, limiting the amount of carbs I eat per day, adding more vegetables to my diet. We made a list of foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks that matched with the plan based on what I like to eat and have access to on a daily basis. After leaving my first session, my goals were to keep track of my daily meals, exercise five times a week, and eat carbs for dinner only three times a week. Martha also provided me with tips on what to do if I was eating out. The biggest lesson I learned walking out of our meeting was portion control – how much to actually eat per serving.
- Tracking what she eats
Following the meeting, I started using the MyFitnessPal app to track my meals and workouts. I like the app because I can log my meals on my phone throughout the day and see if I need to make any adjustments for dinner. At least three times a week I try to pack my own lunch. When I have meetings where food is available either at lunch or as snacks, I try to stay away from the carbs as much as possible. If it is impossible to stay away from the carbs, for example if the food options are pizza, pasta, or bread, I rethink my dinner options. During the weekdays, I have more control over what I can eat, but on the weekends it becomes challenging especially when there is a family celebration. I am Hispanic, and we love to eat carby foods. Often in my family, my plate is served for me and I cannot control the portion sizes I am given. Refusing to eat is looked down upon. And sometimes, we go out to a restaurant and everything just looks delicious. I realize this is just the reality of life. To deal with that, I splurge on some days, knowing I will have to be a little more strict with what I eat in the days that follow. I also realized that I gained about 5 pounds anytime I went on vacation, for the same reason. Now I continue to keep track of what I eat, even on the bad days, so I know how to counterbalance the rest of my week.
- What she eats on typical days
My daily meals change from day to day. For breakfast I usually have a cup of fruit and either yogurt or oatmeal. On weekends I may go to a diner and get an egg white omelette with spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese. I try to swap the hash browns for lettuce and tomatoes or fruit if the diner allows and I always skip the bread. Sometimes I share my meals with the people I am with so I will have ½ a waffle and half an omelette. For lunch I typically have either a salad, a sandwich made with low calorie whole wheat bread ( my go-to is Pepperidge Farm Light Style Oatmeal Bread), soup, or chicken/fish with steamed vegetables. For dinner I usually eat a protein (chicken, ground turkey, shrimp, or salmon) a vegetable (either a salad or a mix of veggies), and a carb (beans, brown rice, pasta, or some type of bread) but if I’ve had too many carbs during the day, or have a carby snack, will skip the dinner carb. I have snacks two to three times a day – a cup of fruit (sometimes with peanut/almond/sunflower seed butter), a Yasso Bar or Skinny Cow ice cream, carrots or celery with hummus (or peanut/almond/sunflower seed butter). On some days – mostly weekends – my snacks become extra carby – a slice of cake, doughnut, cupcake, cookies, etc. In those cases, if I can anticipate it, I try to eat no, or less carbs during my other meals. Basically I will choose to eat a cookie over eating rice. It was one compromise I was willing to make.
- Wears an activity tracker
My fitness watch – the basic Vivofit – has become my best friend. I take it wherever I go. The only time I went a whole day without my watch on was on my wedding day. I started with a daily step count of about 6,000 steps per day and now my average is 14,000 steps. Having the watch keeps me motivated – especially having a daily step goal. I love challenges, and so reaching my step goal has become a game. I just had to make some minor changes to my daily activities to reach my goal. For example, taking the train to work each morning I get on the train one stop further and I get off one stop earlier. Throughout the day, if I am in the office I make sure to get up and walk to get a cup of water or go to the restroom at least once every hour. During lunch, even when I bring in my own meals I will walk with a colleague to get their lunch with them.
- Regular exercise
I have always been an active person – exercising for about 30 minutes or more almost every day of the week. It was so discouraging at first for me to see how quickly other people can get fit and toned while I struggled with weight loss. But once I was able to adjust my diet, I started to see the pounds shed. And exercising became more fun. I have a gym membership with New York Sports Club, which is great because they have so many locations. When I go, I use the fitness equipment they have but what I enjoy most are the classes. Since sometimes the classes don’t fit with my schedule, I also signed up for an online fitness program – Beachbody on Demand. What I like about the program is that it is more affordable than a gym membership, I can choose a different trainer every day and I can do the workouts anytime, anywhere – at home or on vacation. But working out at home takes a lot of willpower. I have trained myself over the past few years to wake up early to go to the gym for an early morning class, so now it is much easier for me to wake up and take an online class in the comfort of my own home.
- Accountability and support
Having accountability was so important to my success. I continued to meet with Martha to make sure I was taking the right steps to reach my goals – committed to making sure I worked hard so that I could show off my success to Martha at each meeting. At home, my son and my husband have been so supportive of my health goals. The time we spend together during meals is so valuable to me and I was concerned about what that would mean if I changed my diet. However, I am so glad that we continue to have dinner together, the only difference is that now they are eating more vegetables than they used to, and I just skip the carb. They also join me to workout. My son and I went to kickboxing classes for a while, then going to the gym together in the morning. Now that he is in college, we don’t have the time to go together but continue to encourage each other. My husband sometimes joins me when I workout at home. And we try to do other fitness-related activities like bike riding, going for long walks, or playing Dance Dance Revolution on the Nintendo Wii. I also found an accountability buddy – a friend who was also struggling to lose weight. We decided to help each other. Every day we text pictures of our meals and sweaty selfies. We motivate each other and make sure to keep each other on track, especially on days when one of us splurges on food. We recently joined a fitness group on facebook and now have a larger network of friends to keep each other accountable.
- Met her goal … and more!
My goal when I first started working with Martha – which I thought was truly unrealistic at the time – was to get down to 140 pounds. Today I am at 133 pounds. I am happy with my weight right now, and feel completely satisfied with my food and fitness routine. I don’t feel like I am deprived. Instead I have learned that every meal does not have to be the best meal ever. And I also learned that it is okay to fall off track as long as you get back on it.
I’d like to thank Jenny for sharing her personal story! It was such a pleasure to work with her. This journey has taken her over 2 years so it was not a “crash diet”. She truly learned the tools she needed to lose weight and make behavior changes. She continues to track what she eats on many days and checks her weight on a regular basis. She plans healthy snacks during the day and cooks some of her meals. She also has support at home. Best of all, Jenny doesn’t deprive herself – she still goes out to dinner, has sweets on occasion, and participates in larger family meals on the weekend. All of these tools can help you lose weight as well. I find it especially inspiring that a woman with PCOS can do this. Hopefully Jenny’s story will give hope that you can lose weight and keep it off …. whether you have PCOS or not!
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.