June 6, 2011

Special Health Update: PCOS & Weight Loss Strategy


To many, this is an unknown acronym.  But for those who suffer from it, the condition - known as polycystic ovarian syndrome - is almost a certifiable guarantee of an impending weight problem - particularly if weight is already an issue before the diagnosis.

PCOS is a condition in which the ovaries don't make enough hormones for the eggs to fully mature.  Aside from the technical definition, PCOS makes the bloodstream insulin-resistant - and can cause not only weight gain, but extremely difficult weight loss among the women who are diagnosed (this is significant since statistics show that 6 out of 10 of PCOS sufferers are overweight).

Even more alarming, PCOS can cause increased abdominal (androgen) fat stores, resulting in the "apple" shape that studies suggest is more dangerous for women than the typical female "pear" shape.

If you are a woman who struggles with both a PCOS diagnosis and excess weight, the outlook can be grim.  Doctors may prescribe metformin, thiazolidinediones, or Rimonabant to lose weight, but these medications are not without complications and side effects - some more uncomfortable than the weight itself.

So what are the natural (read: drug free) options?

First, and most critically, women with PCOS must clean up their diet.  Using a healthy detox program like Clean and following up with an eat-clean lifestyle handbook is a great start to eliminate processed foods, chemicals, and sugars from the diet and begin to reduce the glucose stockpiles in the blood that lead to stored fat.  The PCOS diet should rely on vegetables, lower-fructose fruits, lean meats, and whole grains.  If you are unsure what to eat while adhering to a "clean" diet, consult a registered dietitian for a customized program.

Second (and here's the great news!) - even moderate levels of exercise (such as 20-30 minutes daily) can improve PCOS symptoms and speed along weight loss.  The most important factor in the exercise you choose is that it gets your heart rate up and is enjoyable for you to perform.  Whether running, walking, swimming, lifting weights, doing power yoga, or cycling, there are plenty of great exercise options to explore - and hiring a personal trainer can ensure that you are engaged, using proper form, and motivated to continue.

Finally, consider online support for women with PCOS.  Personal blogs like Maddy's PCOS Diary, compilation sites like SoulCysters, or even video diaries on YouTube can be both inspiring and community-building.  The most important thing to know about the disease is that you are not alone - in fact, 6.6% of U.S. women (over 1 in 20 women of childbearing age).

As with any health problem, one of the worst things you can do is ignore the symptoms and pretend like it isn't happening.  Take charge of your health and make PCOS a condition you live with, not a condition that impairs your life.  Assemble a professional health team (your doctor, personal trainer, and registered dietitian) as well as a personal support network (friends, family, and online communities) and you can conquer PCOS-related weight gain.

The Path to Whole Living

We believe that what sets bene-fit apart as a fitness company is not that we offer great personal training, boot camps, or training programs (although we do offer top-notch services in all of those areas), but rather that we focus on total wellness - addressing the needs of our clients holistically, rather than in separate parts or pieces.

That's why we subscribe to one of the best wellness magazines out there - Whole Living.  Rather than most women's health magazines that try to woo you with pictures of impossibly skinny (and, confoundingly, muscle-free) models or pitch over-the-top diet trends (lemon juice and cayenne pepper detoxes? no thanks.), Whole Living offers sensible ideas for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being - and bene-fit is definitely on board with that.

A recent issue addressed the concept of whole living (otherwise known as the catch-all term wellness) and tried to nail down the top ten ideas./thoughts/mantras on what makes a whole living philosophy unique and practical.  We chose to reprint those here for your introspection:

10) Rather than trying to fix your body from the outside, focus on how you want it to feel from the inside.
9) The mark of true confidence is the ability to look someone in the eye.
8) Let the seasons guide your diet.  The earth grows what you need when you need it.
7) Respect your feet.  They've mastered the art of staying grounded while moving forward.
6) Take charge of your own reflection.  Stop letting the mirror win.
5) Enlightenment doesn't always make a grand entrance.  It slowly transforms ordinary to extraordinary.
4) Change happens somewhere between the acceptance of what is and the anticipation of what could be.
3) Wellness is about making your life bigger, not your hips smaller.
2) Surprise yourself when you push past your physical limits.
1) Nothing connects you to who you are like the people who have known who you were.

Today, take some time to reflect on your own wellness - whether you are just starting your personal path to whole living or whether you've mastered the art in your daily life.  Do you have some tips or thoughts on whole living for bene-fit readers?  Share them in the comments section - we love hearing from you!