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Four months of this experiment have now come and gone!  This has seemed like the fastest month by far, probably because this lifestyle change has become a habit that I don’t think about it as much as I did in the beginning.  I just keep a general framework in my mind and try my best every single day to work within it.  I am spot on for a few days and then I may not get the chance to exercise for 2-3 days in a row.  Instead of trashing the whole endeavor, I just start right back up and make up for lost time.  It’s making good choices most of the time that makes the difference.

‘Tis the season for all manner of diet blunders, but I have been successful in resisting the temptation to fall off the wagon.  I enjoyed Thanksgiving without so much as an added pound, which I did, not by turning down the delicious meal, but by remaining moderate in my food choices and continuing to work-out, even when out of town.  I used to be fairly frustrated about the fact that I have not lost many actual pounds, despite lots of effort, but I now know that each pound lost is backed up by lean muscle gain and is stable, meaning the scale does not fluctuate wildly anymore.  When I lose a pound now, I’ve really lost it.  Because of this, I no longer feel like a slave to the scale or a rigid diet that cannot include an occasional treat (within reason).  I trust myself and my body.

My supplements have changed quite a bit this month with the addition of D-Chiro-Inositol, myo-inositol, and a weekly prescription of Chinese herbs.  I have not been taking any of them long enough to report much change yet, but I am very hopeful.  I sincerely wish that I could report today that I have recorded an ovulation, or even gotten a spontaneous period, but more time is needed it seems to get those kind of results.  Here’s a link that details my supplements and all of the changes that have been made along the way.

Despite feeling impatient at times in regards to my progress this month, I generally feel such gratitude for the positive changes this experiment has made in my life and for my husband and baby as well.  I look great, but better than that, I feel great too.  My interest in life is filled to the brim and I feel my creative juices flowing again.  I periodically catch myself smiling, almost giddy with happiness and excitement for the year ahead of us.  I am feeling more confident about being able to handle the responsibility of having two children.   I am actually just starting to feel ready to be pregnant again. This goal, I am confident, will be met in 2011.

So, I guess we should take a look back at the original success criteria for this 6 month experiment, noting my progress since last month:

1) Ovulation and Menstruation – It had been a while since my last period, and I began experiencing some signs of Estrogen Dominance (constant fertile cervical fluid, ferning on ovulation microscope every day).  I started an oral natural progesterone supplement called Progon B, and 8 days later I started spotting and got a very light period lasting about 4 days.  I have since started Chinese herbs and acupuncture to stimulate ovulation, but no rise in basal body temps. yet.  This goal is still a work in progress, but I have never felt closer to this goal than now since it was with Chinese herbs that I was able to regain my cycle back in 2006. Very hopeful to see what the next few weeks bring.

2) Stable weight and body measurements –  I am wearing clothing that I have not been able to in many years.  I once had a pretty remarkable wardrobe from my fashion design days in NYC, and thankfully I kept some of my more timeless pieces.  The clothes not only fit, but they look really good.  This thrills me to no end!  The big news is that I now have a waist!  I have not been able to wear anything that accentuated it in many years.  I actually pulled out a belt and wore it over a dress for the first time in as long as I can remember.  I have been fighting a puffy Insulin Resistance belly since childhood.  I still weigh myself most days and I hover around 112-113.5 lbs with very little fluctuation.  This goal has been met and exceeded!  See my body measurements below.  Despite not losing many more pounds, my measurements keep going down.  YES!

3) Little or no acne – Similarly to last month, I have had some success and failures this month in regards to my acne.  Myo-Inositol has helped me fight the urge to pick at and scrutinize my pores, but I have since screwed with the dosing too much and so the jury is still out as to if it can help my OCD-type preoccupation with my skin/acne for the long haul, enough to make a lasting difference in my face.  I was hoping that I would know something more by the time I wrote this, but I’m still not sure enough to make any grand declarations.  Hopefully the picture, and my face, will become clear enough to make an accurate report.  This goal is still a work in progress.

4) Stable and positive emotions – I’ve had some resumption of some roving anxiety that I have suffered with in the past on several occasions this month (likely low blood sugar from new supplements), but for the most part I have felt very even keeled and happy.  I feel confident and much more take-charge than maybe ever before.  I’m not shying away from things that used to intimidate or scare me.  I’m ready to take on more responsibility in my life.  This goal has been accomplished yet again!

Body Measurements:

1) Natural waist:
a- 27″ on 10/7
b- 26″ on 10/23
c- 25″ on 11/23
d- 24″ on 12/22

2) Lower abdomen (around fattest part of tummy):
a- 32″on 10/7
b- 29 1/2″ on 10/23
c – 28 1/2″ on 11/23
d- 27 1/2″ on 12/22

3) Lower hips (around largest part of butt):
a- 35 3/4″ on 10/7
b- 35″ on 10/23
c- 33 3/4″ on 11/23
d- 33 1/4″ on 12/22

4) Individual thigh circumference (around thickest part of one thigh):
a – 20 3/4″ on 10/7
b – 19 3/4″ on 10/23
c – 18 3/4″ on 11/23
d – 18 1/2″ on 12/22

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I was able to survive Thanksgiving with my weight and this experiment intact!  I decided to eat everything I wanted (and then some), including pie, for my Thanksgiving meal.  I just did not eat leftovers day after day like I normally would have.  I had a couple of pieces of pie in the days following, but nothing else really naughty.  I exercised a little while we were away and even tried jogging for about 15 minutes one day.  I have never been able to run for very long before, but all of my work-outs from the last 3 months must have helped my endurance a lot.  When we returned home (11/27/10) the D-Chiro-Inositol that I ordered a few weeks back was in the mailbox and I took my first dose that evening.

At my acupuncture appointment prior to Thanksgiving, I told her about the constantly positive saliva microscope results and she agreed that it was time to start some supplemental progesterone to balance out my estrogen dominance.  I will continue to take the Symplex F/Ovatrophin until tomorrow, making it a two week course, and then I will start an oral natural progesterone called Progon B for two weeks, or until I get my period.  I asked her about natural progesterone cream and she said she did not prescribe it anymore because studies have found it to accumulate in fatty tissue and then it releases into the blood stream when you may not want it to – definitely not something she wants someone with mixed up hormones to use!

Three months are now completed in this PCOS Experiment!  This month the experiment went from a highly regimented plan to a sustainable way of life.  I’ve been so self-disciplined since this experiment began that I no longer felt the need to record my progress daily, and so I ditched my daily format.  I was feeling stressed until I could stop and type out everything I had eaten for the day, and with a toddler, finding the time was getting tough.  The new, free-form blogging is much better suited to where I am in my progress.

I decided to take my exercise requirements down just a slight notch, from 5-6 days a week to working out every other day, alternating cardio and strength/resistance training.  I also started adding in a little bit more complex carbohydrates in the form of gluten free rolled oats a few mornings a week.  I made these changes in the hopes that I will be able to not only finish this six month experiment, but to keep it going for the rest of my life.  I’ve been afraid of burning out as things in my life become more complicated and prevent me from adhering to a strict lifestyle.  I have only seen the scale go down since I made these amendments to the original plan.  I started the month a solid 115 lbs and now I’m seeing the scale hover around 113 lbs most mornings.   I’ve continued to find my clothing slowly getting looser and more comfortable.   I just did my body measurements since the last monthly report and I have dropped more inches (see below).  Wow, that is satisfying to see!

Since last month I’ve noticed my weight being less vulnerable to restaurant meals and changes in my diet.  This weight stability gives me a lot of confidence when we do have a family dinner out or I want a glass of wine or a square of dark chocolate as a treat.  I might have seen the damage to the scale a few months back, but I have come far enough now that it’s no longer a problem.  I’m assuming it’s because I have raised my metabolism and healed a fair amount of insulin resistance.  The other more noticeable change since last month is the appearance of my face.  I have a quite naturally fleshy/full type face and even at times of being thin, it looked chubby, especially in photos.  I can see the reduction in puffiness and fullness in the mirror and can see it in photos too.  What an awesome and unexpected side effect of this experiment!

Since I am not reporting on my diet and lifestyle daily anymore, I want to give a synopsis of the things I am still currently doing on a weekly basis to help control my PCOS symptoms and to help my body heal.  I continue to add a splash of apple cider vinegar to every glass of water I drink.  I have half a grapefruit several days a week.  I drink green and spearmint tea once or twice a day.  I work out every other day, doing both cardio and strength training.  I go to acupuncture once a week.  I try to reserve a few minutes a day for a relaxing bath, usually with Epsom salts and essential oils.  I’m still eating very cleanly, with an emphasis on low carbohydrates and whole foods.  I eat small snacks that contain protein in between meals to keep my blood sugar stable.  I take a wide range of daily supplements prescribed by my acupuncturist to help my body heal my PCOS.  I record all info about my supplements here, including changes as they occur, and there is lots of change monthly.

So, I guess we should take a look back at the success criteria for this 6 month experiment, noting my progress since last month:

1) Ovulation and Menstruation – This month I started having almost daily fertile signs and symptoms which has lead both my acupuncturist and myself to believe that I am now experiencing some Estrogen Dominance (a build up of estrogen that is never balanced by progesterone because of the lack of ovulation).  I started experimenting with a saliva microscope and it shows that I am in the presence of increased estrogen every time I use it.  A week ago, I started back on Symplex F for two weeks to try to stimulate ovulation.  I had my first high temperature this morning, so this is not proof of ovulation, but a girl can hope.  Suffice it to say, this goal is an ever evolving work in progress.

2) Stable weight and body measurements – Overwhelmingly, this goal has been met and exceeded!  I started this experiment at 117 lbs, went down to 115 lbs for a while, and I’m now around 113 lbs consistently.  My abdomen is pretty darn flat and not reactive to eating.  See my reduction in body measurements below.

3) Little or no acne – I’ve experienced both total clarity and an upsurge in acne at different points this month.  I had not experienced a completely clear face at any point in the months prior, so I would say that I have had at least some success in this department.  When I don’t fuss about and pick or squeeze on my face and keep it clean and doctored up with my various acne preparations, I can now have relatively clear skin.  Even with that though, I still had some breakthrough pimples that surfaced no matter what I did to prevent them.  This goal, while I’ve seen moderate improvement, is still a work in progress.

4) Stable and positive emotions – Like my acne progress I spoke about above, my emotional health has been both very good and wavering at times as well.  I’ve had some mild depression and reduction in motivation in regards to this experiment during this month, but I really think I solved this problem by changing the parameters of this experiment as I mentioned earlier.  My self-assurance and confidence has been quite good and I have felt more like reaching out to people and less introverted.  I am going to call this goal accomplished for now, especially since I’m no longer dealing with rocky emotions on a daily basis, just in isolated drips and drabs.

Body Measurements:

1) Natural waist:
a- 27″ on 10/7
b- 26″ on 10/23
c- 25″ on 11/23

2) Lower abdomen (around fattest part of tummy):
a- 32″on 10/7
b- 29 1/2″ on 10/23
c – 28 1/2″ on 11/23

3) Lower hips (around largest part of butt):
a- 35 3/4″ on 10/7
b- 35″ on 10/23
c- 33 3/4″ on 11/23

4) Individual thigh circumference (around thickest part of one thigh):
a- 20 3/4″ on 10/7
b- 19 3/4″ on 10/23
c – 18 3/4″ on 11/23

I’ve now completed the second month of my PCOS experiment.  Building on the momentum I started during the first month, I’ve made even more progress.  Beginning at about the 6 week mark, I began to start actually looking forward to exercise and I know now that I can call working-out a habit.  This has fulfilled a lifelong goal of incorporating regular exercise into my life, something I have never been successful with ever before.  On the odd day that I am not able to work-out, I really miss it!

My body has continued to get firmer and smaller, despite not losing any additional pounds.  I can easily see and feel muscle definition in all muscle groups of my body.   I can now safely say that it IS possible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time and not have the scale budge at all.  Some online sources say that women could never build muscle fast enough to have this happen, but as we all know by now, women with PCOS are different!  See my body measurement comparison below if you don’t believe me.   I only started taking my body measurements on 10/7/10, a little over 2 weeks ago, so my results are not complete for the month report, but I will measure monthly for the remainder of this experiment.  I was astonished by my preliminary results though!

One of the biggest developments has been in regards to the way my abdomen looks and feels after meals.  My post-meal bloat had really improved during the first month, but this month things have gotten even better.  I can eat a full meal without my stomach swelling at all or appearing thicker.   I would often look pregnant after eating before starting this experiment and this would adversely affect my self-esteem on a daily basis.  This problem is completely gone and I’m going to wager a guess that it’s because I am healing my insulin resistance since central weight gain is a common symptom.  See the reduction in my waist measurements below.

The other most pronounced change that has happened this month is an almost complete recovery from my daily bouts of hypoglycemia.  I read an interesting article on inCyst.com that finally explained to me how my hypoglycemia is related to PCOS.  I had always thought that Cysters were supposed to be fighting high blood sugar and so my own low blood sugar was a mystery to me.  Here’s a little excerpt from the article.  “One of the first things that happens with PCOS, before you develop full blown insulin resistance, is hyperinsulinemia (elevated insulin levels).  This extra insulin is always in the blood, which means you may have more of a tendency than average to experience drops in blood glucose.” Now that I know how it all works,  I feel an even greater sense of accomplishment that I have taken a step in reducing my increased risk for diabetes.

I have continued to feel stronger emotionally and my ability to handle stress well has increased more this month.  I am able to handle many tasks at once and juggle the demands of being a mom with my own health and wellness needs.  It’s been a very difficult month for my son and without this experiment to keep me on track, I might have thrown in the towel a handful of times.

Let’s take a look back at the success criteria for this 6 month experiment, noting my progress:

1) Ovulation and Menstruation – I have not detected ovulation yet based on taking my basal temperatures each morning.  I have had major ovarian twinges and sharp pains a few times this month along with other ovulation signs and symptoms, but for some reason, my body just cannot do it.  I’ve also had a few days throughout this month where I have had some very light spotting, but no period.  I’ve never had any sort of spotting before that was not associated with my period, so this is quite unusual.  We are still actively trying to stimulate ovulation at acupuncture each week along with taking my supplement regimen to regulate my cycles.  This goal is still a work in progress.

2) Stable weight and body measurements – I have maintained my weight (within a 1-2 lb. fluctuation) the entire month and my body measurements have only gone down, which obviously I don’t mind.  My mid-section is not bloated and I have been able to wear the same size (or smaller) clothing throughout the month.  This goal is more than accomplished!

3) Little or no acne – Last month I was experiencing quite bad hormonal chin acne for the first time in my life, but after my acupuncturist added B6-Niacinamide to my supplement regimen on 9/28/10, that has stopped.  I am still breaking out like usual on various areas of my face though.  I wrote an acne blog post earlier this month, on 10/10, where I talk about all of the natural remedies that I’m experimenting with to help my acne.  I will be updating that post with more in depth progress in a few weeks.  Again, I think I will probably not see major improvement in my acne until I have a regular cycle, and that might still be a while.  This goal is still a work in progress.

4) Stable and positive emotions – Considering what a stressful and complicated month it’s been, I have come through on the other side of it as strong and confident as ever.  This new found positivity is gaining momentum and I’m able to have a good day even when things are not technically going well externally.  I still need to work on occasional angry and bitchy hormonal outbursts, but I have faith that these will resolve completely before long.   I am going to call this goal accomplished for now!

Body Measurements:

1) Natural waist:
a- 27″ on 10/7
b- 26″ on 10/23

2) Lower abdomen (around fattest part of tummy):
a- 32″on 10/7
b- 29 1/2″ on 10/23

3) Lower hips (around largest part of butt):
a- 35.75″ on 10/7
b- 35″ on 10/23

4) Individual thigh circumference (around thickest part of one thigh):
a- 20 3/4″ on 10/7
b- 19 3/4″ on 10/23

At the beginning of this experiment I specified that my main exercise would be 30 minutes of pushing Jude in the stroller around the neighborhood, but he started objecting quite early on and so I have been almost exclusively doing work-out DVDs and Netflix streaming exercise shows while he naps everyday.  I really love the variety of these options and there on many more in the Netflix archives still to explore.  That said, doing cardio in a small space, right in front of the TV is monotonous and hard on the knees.  I’m not sure why I did not think of it before now, but while my husband is home on the weekends, it’s a perfect time to get out and do some aerobic walking.  This change of pace really breaks up my work-outs and prevents me from getting board with the same old exercise “programs”.  I will save the DVDs, etc. for bad weather only on the weekends.

Exercise – 30 minutes of brisk walking outside at the school track.

Mind/Body –  I went for a walk (see above) with my Dad and we were able to visit the whole time.  I talk to my Mom a lot on the phone, but rarely get 30 minutes of uninterrupted face time with him.  It’s always a grounding experience.  I also got almost an hour of outdoor time in our backyard with my Mom while Jude played and we pushed him in the swing.  We had beautiful weather and we all enjoyed just being outside and being together.

Diet – forgot to weigh

Breakfast – iced green tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop cottage cheese

Lunch – large chopped salad with roasted chicken, veggies, fruit, cheese, and homemade apple cider vinaigrette with multi-grain crackers

Dinner Out – Shared chicken enchiladas, re-fried pinto beans, and guacamole salad with Jude

Snacks – 1/2 grapefruit, handful of raw almonds, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, iced green tea with milk

I was able to work out both days of this weekend, bringing my new work-out average to about 6 times a week now.  It’s absolutely amazing to me that the exercise DVDs that were scarily difficult just a few times ago are now not difficult enough.  I’m going to have to find a few new ones and rotate out the easier ones.  I want to keep myself challenged, even though it is my natural inclination to coast for a while.  The body and the way it builds endurance is truly amazing.  My tolerance for physical activity has grown so much that I feel like my day is missing something when I take the day off.  I’m not going to say that I exactly look forward to it yet, but exercise has found it’s way into my life in meaningful ways. I’ve always wanted to be more physically fit and I am thankful to this experiment for helping me with this goal.  Rather than jewelry, furniture, or some new hot boots, a treadmill tops my “I want” list.  If I am able to stick with regular exercise for the remainder of this experiment, I am going to reward myself with a nice treadmill.

Exercise – Self: Slim and Sleek Fast DVD – about 40 minutes with 3 lb. weights

Mind/Body – I was able to have a nice long writing session for this blog during nap-time, which felt really good.  I’d been meaning to get my thoughts out about PCOS acne for a while, but needed the time to get then ordered and written out.

Diet – 117 lbs.

Breakfast – black/green/spearmint tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop of cottage cheese

Lunch – Leftover shrimp cassoulet and a scoop of fat-free Greek yogurt

Dinner – Seafood stew with cod, muscles, and scallops with a side salad with veggies, blood orange segments, and homemade apple cider vinaigrette and crackers

Snacks – green tea with milk

I’ve been doing my PCOS experiment for exactly a month now (started on 8/23/10) and, wow, have I made progress!  I’ve lost and kept off a couple of pounds and have reduced accumulated body fat.  Since losing weight is not the main goal of this experiment, the most important accomplishment is maintaining my 115 lbs. with very little fluctuation, a problem I’ve had for as long as I can remember.  I’ve tightened and toned muscles all over my body and increased my endurance for exercise and weight lifting tremendously.  I’ve trimmed girth from my mid-section and I can now see muscle definition in my ab area.  I no longer have a constant and big, bloated belly and can wear more of a variety of clothing styles because I am not always hiding it.  My facial hair, while not a big problem for me, is not growing anymore and has become a non-issue.  I am stronger emotionally with a generally more optimistic frame of mind.  I am having way more good days than I have in some time.  My mind no longer routinely dwells on sad and negative thoughts.  I no longer have many carb or sugar cravings and can function well on a lower carb/glycemic diet with few blood sugar lows.

Let’s take a look back at the success criteria for this 6 month experiment, noting my progress:

1) Ovulation and Menstruation – No progress yet, but too early to tell.  I started a medically induced period a little over two weeks ago, so it’s not quite time for one yet either.  We started ovulation induction at acupuncture on 9/14/10 and I began taking Ovatrophin PMG (for 10 days) the same day.  I’m still currently taking the Ovatrophin PMG, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks.  This goal is a work in progress.

2) Stable weight and body measurements – I would eventually like to lose a little more weight, but I’ve picked a healthy weight and have maintained it now for weeks.  I rarely have any bloating in the mid-section anymore.  I declare this goal accomplished for now!

3) Little or no acne – If anything, my acne is worse than ever.  I think long term hormonal balance will have to be achieved before I get success here.  I have a long way to go yet in meeting this goal.

4) Stable and positive emotions – Aside from a few isolated incidents here and there, I have made extraordinary progress here.  I am going to call this goal accomplished for now!

Exercise has been proven to help with insulin resistance, both aerobic exercise and weight training.  I have to fight very hard to not be sedentary.  As my toddler gets more and more active though, it gives me the impetus to get moving.  I am starting with 30 minutes of pushing Jude in the stroller at a fast walking pace, 3 times a week.  On the alternate days, I will do some light weights, ab work, and push-ups.

I record my daily exercise in the Daily Status/Progress section.