How Lindsay is Beating PCOS with Diet, Exercise and Mindset
We know how difficult it can be to accomplish certain goals such as exercising more, improving your diet or losing weight. At times, it seems like no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t happen. Now think about what it would be like if you had a medical condition that can cause weight gain, mood swings, and depression and how much harder it would be to meet your goals. I met a woman, Lindsay Martin, who has a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that can cause all of the above, yet she was able to “beat” her condition and accomplish her goals. Before you think that you’ll skip this long blog post because you don’t have PCOS and can’t relate ….STOP! This blog post is more about inspiring hope in anyone struggling with a weight/health issue. By reading how Lindsay was able to face and conquer the adversity in her life, you can hopefully be inspired to do the same.
As a registered dietitian and certified health and wellness coach, I’m always intrigued by how some people are able to overcome large hurdles to meet their goals. How do they actually do it? How do they stay motivated in tough times? So when I heard Lindsay’s story, I knew I had to interview her.
Quick review of PCOS
For those of you who have PCOS, you know all too well what the symptoms can be. But if you aren’t familiar with it, here is a quickie rundown:
-PCOS is a complex hormonal, metabolic and reproductive disorder that affects up to 15% of women.
-PCOS is a leading cause of infertility in women.
-Women with PCOS constitute the largest group of women at risk for developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes
-The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate more than 50% of women with PCOS will become diabetic or prediabtic before age 40.
Check out the PCOS Challenge website to learn more
How I met Lindsay
I was at an advocacy day for PCOS in Washington DC back in May 2018. There were about 50 of us, meeting with Senators and House of Representatives congressmen/women to advocate for PCOS awareness. (very cool experience BTW). I noticed a very fit woman who assumed was there as an exercise expert. We were very busy so I never had the chance to meet her. A few months later, I saw her on facebook and was very surprised to learn she had PCOS and had gone through a major transformation. She was in the process of training to compete for a fitness competition and I saw her “before” and “after” pictures. I reached out and here is my interview with her:
My interview with Lindsay: tell us a little bit about your story
Started at age 15: In 2001 I was fifteen years old when I began to notice I wasn’t having a normal menstrual cycle. I was having 2-3 cycles a year, usually 4-6 months a part. Like so many others, the doctor’s answer to this was to put me on birth control. The doctor said my cycles were abnormal because I was an athlete and that the type of activity I was partaking in was causing my cycles to be “off-track”. I never thought anything else of the answer and lived with the idea that female athletes did not have menstrual cycles, or very few if they did. I also had acne, and the doctor again chalked it up to the fact that I was an athlete, I was sweating a lot and was in the dirt so that was causing my acne. Besides what teenager wasn’t having some sort of acne issue?
College – symptoms worsened: As I went into college these two symptoms stayed with me. I began to play with my birth control to see if I could have a normal cycle, and of course I would end up going back to having few cycles a year, but what was different is I didn’t play sports anymore. I wondered how will my doctor explain this?! I went back to my doctor to tell her that my cycles were still abnormal and she pushed me to get back on my birth control. At that time I was beginning to have symptoms of depression and anxiety, I was having terrible cramps that were outside of my cycle week, and of course my acne wasn’t improving. By then my doctor told me I was probably just a hypochondriac and she ignored my concerns. I began to believe that maybe I was just a moody person and that I just had a bad attitude towards things in life. I was losing interest in school and I was becoming uncomfortable with who I was. I was noticing I was having stubborn fat, which I ignored because I figured I wasn’t playing sports any more and well, I was a freshman and who wasn’t gaining the freshman fifteen!?
Post college – symptoms even worse: Fast forward to after college, by now I have fluctuated in weight so many times and my symptoms were worsening I was really becoming insecure. What made it worse was that people weren’t believing me and most people would tell me I was fine, I wasn’t over weight so what did I have to worry about? Things were getting worse though. I was noticing I was having hair growing on my belly, on my face and nothing I was doing was helping. My anxiety and depression were at all time high and low, I was feeling like I was completely off the rails in my life. I can’t even count how many times I contemplated suicide, I was hating who I was, and I couldn’t figure out why I was like this. Why couldn’t I just be happy and why did I have to be so mean all the time? One night I woke up in the middle of the night with my shorts covered in blood and I was in the worst pain I had ever experienced. When I told a friend everything that was going on she recommended her doctor, and that’s when my life began to change for the better.
Finally – her diagnosis: PCOS
In 2010 when I met my doctor I was so afraid of what was going on and all the tests he wanted to run, no one had done this with me before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first thing my doctor noticed on me was the stubborn fat I had around my waist line and I remember quickly puling my shirt down and feeling so embarrassed he saw it, because that told me I wasn’t making it up. Of course, these next steps a lot of us cysters are familiar with. We did the ultrasound and sure enough I had a cyst rupture, explaining the event I had experienced a few nights earlier. He ordered blood work and I had my blood sugar checked as well. Once the results were in my doctor explained to me that if he had never met me and he looked at my file only, he would have assumed I was 200 lbs, a diabetic, and on the verge of cardiovascular disease. My mouth dropped and I began to cry. I didn’t understand how this was possible. PCOS he said, I said P what?! Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
From there we began Metformin, I was put back on birth control, and he prescribed me Spironolactone as well. My doctor explained the importance of exercise and diet, how he specializes in PCOS and even his wife has this syndrome. As most of us know it was an overload of information and I had no idea how I would ever keep this under control. I’m pre-diabetic now?! I have something that can’t be cured?
It’s been eight years since I was diagnosed, it’s been seventeen years I’ve been living with PCOS, and it’s been one year since I was diagnosed with manic depression. This is my story of how I learned to manage my PCOS and NOT let it manage me.
What kind of changes did you make to your diet/exercise/lifestyle to get this transformation?
Over the past eight years I have learned how important it is to make changes to diet and exercise, and the key is to be consistent. It didn’t happen overnight, and it’s taken a lot of research on my end to really understand what was healthy for PCOS, what wasn’t, and what was my personal kryptonite.
I learned a lot about which foods are good and bad for PCOS. Ultimately, I learned to understand what the body needs the most to function, and that’s macronutrients. I’ve learned to understand what macros I need to be at the weight I am happiest with, while still being healthy. I have found this is the easiest way to manage my meals and to look for foods that stay within my macros. If we live by macros it can help with staying away from foods that don’t compliment our bodies.
When it came to my exercise regimen it wasn’t a matter of what to do, it was a matter of doing it. Despite playing sports and working out off and on throughout college, it wasn’t my favorite time of the day. I have learned it wasn’t the exercise that was the problem, it was my attitude. I had to change my mindset to make a change in my life. Learning to have a good attitude about exercise has helped me to come to love working out and wanting to exercise. I’m not perfect, I don’t wake up every day with the perfect “heck yeah” attitude, but I no longer walk around with an attitude that it’s too hard and it’s just easier to lay around and be depressed about it. Once you have gone into a dark place enough times you learn to teach yourself to never go there again. Exercise is more than just walking on a treadmill a few times and saying, “I tried and it didn’t work”. You MUST put the work in. I work out 5-6 times a week for at least an hour each time. I do cardio, I lift weights, and I play sports again.
I’m consistent with both my diet and exercise, and that is key! Stay consistent, don’t quit because it gets hard. This is cliché’ but, if it was easy everyone would do it. Learn to tell yourself that this is a lifestyle, there is not an expiration date on this lifestyle, this is your new normal.
Are you taking any prescriptions meds or supplements?
I do not take any prescription medications anymore. I am not on birth control, I am not on metformin, I am not on spironolactone, I am not on any mood stabilizers, nothing! A lot of people ask me how in the world I’m able to do this. It wasn’t an easy road to get to here, and there are some medications that I could still take to help, but this is the choice I’ve made.
Number one, exercise and diet. Without these two there is absolutely no way I could be medication free. Secondly, supplements and vitamins are very important. These help fill the wholes someone may have from the lack of micronutrients they’re not receiving from the whole foods they’re consuming. Supplements and vitamins are just that, they’re there to support your body.
There are tons of products out there and to say which one is the best is hard to say. We all have our favorites, and we each are different. Whether someone has PCOS or not, everyone’s decision on which products are best for them, or what exactly someone may need has to be tailored to each person. There is not one size fits all answer for this.
What is your exercise routine?
My current training regimen is 5-6 times a week, cardio is currently at 4 times a week and I’m expecting to up this soon. Each day I have a different muscle group I focus on and I lift weights accordingly for that muscle group. For an idea of how I break up those muscle groups a week could look like this:
Monday – Back & biceps
Tuesday – Quads
Wednesday – Shoulders & triceps
Thursday – Biceps & Triceps (the reason I do arms “again” is because when they’re grouped with other muscle groups I don’t work them as hard on those days
Friday – Hamstrings & Glutes
Saturday – Back & biceps again (I work on a 4 day rotation but leg days never change)
Sunday – OFF DAY
*You’ll notice I don’t work my chest, that’s a personal choice, but there are days I will throw some exercises in for my chest*
What do you eat on a typical day?
What I eat is the same every day. It helps me to stay on track easier, so I don’t have to think of something to make every time I’m going to eat. It also makes meal prepping easier as I can buy in bulk and then cook everything all at once.
My meals look similar to this (this is not in detail of everything I eat):
Breakfast – Oatmeal and egg whites
Mid-Morning meal – Protein Shake
Lunch – Jasmine Rice, lean protein, and veggies
Mid-Afternoon meal – Corn tortillas and lean protein
Post-Workout – Protein Shake
Dinner – Jasmine Rice, lean protein, and veggies
Do you experience mood swings, carb cravings, fatigue?
I experience all three of these, and quite often! Here’s the thing, just because I’ve learned to manage my PCOS and not let it manage me, doesn’t mean I walk around symptom free. I still deal with a lot of symptoms, they’re just not as severe, some have diminished completely, and others hang around like an annoying gnat!
Mood swings: My mood swings aren’t as severe as they used to be, even without medication. I must learn to slow down on my reaction to situations, I have to take more time to respond, and lots of deep breaths. I have had to teach myself that not everyone is OCD like me, not everyone is a perfectionist like me, and not everyone suffers from anxiety and depression like me. Just because I live with these obstacles doesn’t mean I’m entitled to others to cater to me. I have had to learn that I too must be understanding of other’s feelings and quirks. If I find I’m feeling snappy then I just need to take a break, make some time for myself, and then regroup!
Carb cravings: My carb cravings are 24/7 haha! I LOVE CARBS!! I have a gluten intolerance. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever consume gluten, but I do my best to watch what all I am consuming that could have gluten in it. Because I’m not on a no-carb diet I’m able to feed my carb cravings, and with good carbs so my body thanks me and doesn’t store these carbs as fat. I do have cravings for pizza, and lasagna, I mean I’m a HUGE Italian fan! I give myself cheat meals, but I find when I consume pastas I end up with migraines, insomnia, and stomach cramps. Is it worth it? Ehh..probably not, but I’m human and I love these foods for cheat days!
Fatigue: Fatigue is something I experience every day. I’ve found supplements and vitamins are a big help in this area! As long as I stay on top of these every day it really helps me to not worry my face might smack down on whatever surface is in front of me.
How do you stay motivated?
A good friend of mine recently said, “I truly believe you can not motivate people. But you can help create a vision for someone, and that in turn will create the motivation someone needs.” I have tried diet and exercise in the past, many of times, too many times to count. I tried, and I failed. I say I failed because I quit, I stopped trying. It wasn’t until I created a vision of my WHY, before I was able to truly learn how to manage my PCOS and to stay committed to doing so.
I believe this to be true for anything in life. Create a vision, know your WHY, and let that drive you for your motivation.
What words of advice can you offer to other women with PCOS or just anyone struggling?
Don’t give up. I know you’re going to roll your eyes at that, but it’s true. Giving up isn’t easier, getting up and doing something is easier. There are too many resources out there these days to feel alone or to feel you can’t find the answer.
Ask yourself “have I tried?”. I mean REALLY tried. I’m not saying everyone has to be on the same regimen as me. If you take a look at all the hard work I put into my exercise, my meals, my support, everything I do is 200%. Trust me, I’ve been there where I tried and I gave up after a week. I tried and I gave up after a month, I tried and I gave up after one year! I’ve done the yo-yo life too. Keep going, and truly TRY YOUR HARDEST. DO YOUR BEST.
Find support. Don’t go at this lifestyle alone. The technology we have these days is too easy for us to not find support. Find a coach who can help you to learn how to manage your lifestyle. Research as much as you can about PCOS and really understanding what’s going on.
How do you track your progress? Do you weigh yourself, measure inches or just go by how you feel?
I’m not sure how many inches I’ve fluctuated over time but my weight fluctuations have been as follows:
Most of my life 110 lbs. (always active in sports)
Early twenties 135 lbs. (About the time I was diagnosed with PCOS)
Mid-twenties 103 lbs. (When my anxiety and depression was at it’s worst and I was at the point in life that I didn’t want to keep going)
Current weight 130 lbs. (I’m the healthiest I’ve been, I’m strong, I’m toned, I am happy with where I am!)
When it comes to the scale. Yes, I weight myself about once every couple of months. It’s not because I’m concerned with how much I weigh, it’s because I want to make sure I’m staying on track. If you take my weight fluctuations above it can tell you at my most unhealthy and heaviest I was 135 lbs, I wasn’t working out and I was eating and drinking whatever I wanted. Now I’m at the healthiest I’ve been and I’m 130 lbs of muscle. That tells you it’s not the number on the scale, it’s why the number on the scale is that number. Are you 130 lbs because you’re overweight or because you’re pure muscle? It makes a difference.
I do understand when someone is on a weight loss program the need and desire to jump on the scale, I have clients that do it all the time. There are even times when I ask my clients their weight. However, when I notice they’re frustrated the number isn’t dropping I remind them that we aren’t just working on dropping fat, we are also building muscle, so the scale isn’t going to be your friend every time you jump on the scale.
I hope Lindsay’s story was able to inspire some of you on how not to give up and to forge ahead to meet your goals. I love the words of advice she has to offer anyone struggling to meet their goals. I’d like to thank Lindsay for being so open and sharing her story.
A little bit about Lindsay
In her own words … Born and Raised in Texas, a true “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” gal. I’m a Christian and a proud wife. As a transformation coach, I help others transform their lifestyle by helping them reach their goals and objectives, and helping each person understand their potential.
*FB: @ PCOS Fit Chick
*FB Support Group: We Wear Teal on Tuesday’s! (Please note this group is for those affected by PCOS).
*Health & Wellness and Blog Website COMING SOON!
Martha: I’d love to hear your stories about how you are meeting your goals or what motivates you!
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.