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Baby Ian is now 6 months old and I am JUST starting to get my life back in order again in terms of meeting my long term health goals.  I promised myself when I first started this experiment that I would not abandon my health and wellness goals once I was no longer seeking pregnancy.  I’ve been enjoying reading back through this blog to remind myself all of the wonderful meals I created and lifestyle choices I made to get the fertility results I was after.  As it turns out, I don’t think they are all that different from what my new, “post baby” health plan should be.  After all, I still have PCOS and Celiac Disease, and will for the rest of my life.  It’s time to start thinking about my health for the long term and how to stay trim, healthy, happy, and vital as I age.  I recently saw an interview with Deborah Szekely, one of the founders of the health and wellness movement, who just turned 90 years old this week.   Not only did she look great, but she was as eloquent and vivacious as someone half her age.  What a testament to practicing what you preach, but really, what an inspiration!  I’m 35 now, and so I will set my health goals at living to 100+ years old.  That leaves 65 years, or 780 months.  I hear-by rename this blog, My 780 month PCOS Experiment.  To christen the name, I’m going to round-up and share all of the new health/wellness information I’ve come across recently as this passion of mine has slowly emerged in importance again in my post pregnancy life.

1) A more nutritious and PCOS friendly gluten free bread

I’ve often been dismayed at how refined and lacking in nutrition most commercially available gluten free breads are.  And when you look at the carbohydrate content, it’s not something a woman with PCOS should be eating either.  After some searching around, I came across a woman’s website, http://www.elanaspantry.com/, who has developed many gluten free baking recipes using primarily almond flour.  She also uses coconut flour and several types of alternative sweeteners that I’ve grown to like.  I’ve taken her “Paleo” bread recipe and adapted it for myself and I’m really happy with the results.  It is packed with protein and has almost no carbohydrates.  It’s easy to make, nutritious, and filling.

2) Grain Free Diet

The woman I mentioned above, Elana, is a celiac, but she also has Multiple Sclerosis, and has developed her own grain-free, healing diet that keeps her symptom free.  I was not aware before reading her website that many people with Celiac Disease and other kinds of auto-immune disease do better with no grains in their diet, in addition to avoiding the gluten producing ones.   I also found out on her site that both Celiac Disease and Diabetes have the same gene in common and so it makes a lot of sense that I have insulin problems/PCOS AND Celiac Disease.   The diet that I followed at the beginning of this experiment was primarily grain free, as well as low carb and low sugar and obviously I did very well with this way of eating, so I am going back to it, but with renewed vigor as I now better understand the hows and whys.  I do want to mention that it is not a “Paleo” diet though.  I eat dairy and beans and probably all sorts of other things that are not allowed on the Paleo diet.  It’s simply a diet that I have tailored to my own, particular health needs.

3) Xylitol

Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is primarily derived from birch trees (and the fiber of other fruit and vegetables).  It’s low in calories and carbs unlike sugar and it also does not affect blood sugar the same way sugar does.  I’ve been a big fan of agave nectar in the past as my alternative sweetener of choice, but with the recent studies showing a correlation between fructose and high triglycerides, I have decided to limit my use of it, as it is a “high fructose” product.  I am REALLY picky about my sweeteners, as I cannot stand that weird artificial aftertaste that many, even natural, sweeteners have.  I don’t use stevia for that very reason.  Xylitol tastes very much like cane sugar to me.  Xylitol has many other health benefits though that I am also very interested in.  When ingested, it creates an environment in your mouth that is not welcoming to the bacteria that cause plaque and so it can do wonders for one’s oral health if used in sufficient quantities over time.  In fact, it can help remineralize your teeth, virtually healing them from within.  It’s been shown to do the same things for bones too.  There is also research that shows that it prevents ear and respiratory infections.  It’s amazing to me that there is such a product out there that I am only recently hearing much about.  My whole family is using it now with great results.

4) Unsweetened, unflavored protein powder

I’ve been looking for a protein powder that I can add to baked goods and smoothies to boost protein without adding a flavor (vanilla for example) or any sweetness (such a stevia).  Both hemp and pea protein powders were recommended by Dr Frank Lipman.  I found hemp powder at my store, and I can say that so far I am really happy with it.  It has a very mild and pleasing natural flavor and I like the green color too – it just “looks” healthy!  I use it in my new bread recipe as well as smoothies to replace the yogurt that baby Ian can’t tolerate right now while breastfeeding.  I can see lots of ways to use it in the future as the package says that it can be used replace up to 25% of the flour in a recipe.

5) Dr. Frank Lipman

I mention Dr. Frank above, and for good reason.  He’s an MD who practices “Functional Medicine” in NYC, and a wonderful source of health and wellness information.  He gives truly sane, well researched, and highly usable advice to stay on the cutting edge of health.  After reading his website, I can wholeheartedly recommend him as a valuable guide to health.  I love his site and his Facebook presence.  The best thing I can say about him though is that I trust him.

6) Misclaneous – Here’s a list of some of the other things that I’m still doing regularly (or have resumed doing recently) to help treat my PCOS:

-cooking with and making salad dressing with organic apple cider vinegar

– having green tea every morning

– having sufficient protein with each meal and snack

– taking a multi-vitamin, B-multi, vitamin C and D, calcium, magnesium, omega 3s/fish oils, and probiotic.  I’m keeping my supplement list quite simple right now since I’m breastfeeding.

– deep, mediative breathing any time I can

– avoiding toxins and chemicals in my cleaning and personal care

– eating whole, mainly organic foods

– avoiding sugar, most grains, and things with a high carbohydrate and glycemic load

– eating lots of healthy fats (unrefined olive and coconut oil, pastured butter, avocado, nuts/seeds, fish/sardines)

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I could barely move around at Gymboree this morning because my pants kept falling down.  I wore these same pants a few weeks back with no issue and so I did not think to wear a belt.  I may not be losing weight, but I must be losing inches/fat and gaining muscle.  I have noticed the same thing with a few new pairs of skinny jeans that I bought at the beginning of this experiment.  They look less skinny and more baggy.  Having more muscle mass is supposed to help you burn more calories at rest (raises metabolism) and helps reverse insulin resistance – both super health benefits for women with PCOS.  Oh, and it looks good too.  😉

Exercise – 30 minutes of Crunch: Burn and Firm Pilates with 3 lb. weights.

Mind/Body – Epsom salt bath with Clary Sage essential oil and a good book.

Diet – 115 lbs.

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

Lunch – Huge salad with veggies, fruit, cheese, avocado, and multi-grain crackers

Dinner – Soy Lacquered Salmon with lime and cilantro, crock pot black beans with spring onions, and lemon/ginger broccoli

Snacks – Multi-grain crackers and a slice of organic cheese, 1/2 grapefruit, venti black iced tea, handful of almonds, chai tea with milk

I’m proud of myself for using this weekend to continue my experiment rather than using it as an excuse to fall of the wagon.  Traditional diets, ones that are based on restriction and scarcity, often have “cheat” days where you “reward” yourself with foods that are bad for you.  By now, I feel like the diet portion of this PCOS experiment has become a way of life.  I don’t feel like rewarding myself with foods that I know undermine the work I’ve done so far.  They don’t even seem appetizing.  Nothing tastes as good as total health feels.  I’ve gotten a taste of total health lately, and I want more.

I was able to take some time this weekend to write up two posts that I had been wanting to for a while.  One is about my favorite way to relax, in a hot bath with Epsom salt and essential oils.  With a little more research, it seems that Epsom salt also may help underlying PCOS health concerns, such as insulin resistance.  The other is about the supplement I take called Gymnema 4g, an herb that has been used for centuries to help regulate blood sugar.  I credit it for my now month long adherence to the lower carb, PCOS diet and my diminishing hypoglycemia, carb and sugar cravings.  Both definitely worth a read:

https://melissacottonwomack.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/gymnema-helps-regulate-my-blood-sugar/

https://melissacottonwomack.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/epsom-salt-bath-with-essential-oils/

Exercise – Took the day off.

Mind/Body – Was able to sneak in a hot, highly concentrated Epsom salt bath with lavender essential oil.  Read more about vet life on the Yorkshire dales.

Diet – 115 lbs.

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

Lunch – Huge salad with roasted chicken, veggies, fruit, cheese, avocado – Multi-grain crackers

Dinner – 1/2 large, grilled NY strip steak with a pat of fresh herb butter, 1/2 roasted acorn squash with agave/butter/cinnamon and sauteed Swiss Chard with thinly sliced and browned garlic and fresh nutmeg.  A very small glass of red wine.

Snacks – Multi-grain crackers and a slice of organic cheese, 1/2 grapefruit and a handful of raw almonds, green/spearmint tea with milk

I’ve tried to eat a lower carb diet in the past with very limited success.  I have such a problem with hypoglycemia even on a normal diet, and so lowering my carbohydrate intake made it much worse.  I really think one of the reasons why I have been able to maintain my current diet with less and less blood sugar problems is because I’ve been taking a supplement called Gymnema 4g by Standard Process/MediHerb as part of my supplement regimen for this PCOS experiment.  Gymnema is a herb that has been used in the East for over 2000 years to help control blood sugar.

Here’s what Standard Process/MediHerb has to say about how it works:

“Gymnema supports healthy pancreatic function and the normal production of insulin in the body.1 By helping to maintain normal blood sugar levels within a normal range, it can help support weight management and balance energy levels.”

I take two Gymnema tablets after each meal and it helps keep my blood sugar stable until the next meal, even without a snack in between (although I do eat one most of the time), even if I exercise in between.  Normally, I would suffer from near black outs, fuzzy thinking, and blurry vision if it had been too long in between meals.  I don’t feel any of this anymore, even on particularly light or low carb eating days.  I started this experiment having some sugar and carb cravings.  When I introduced the Gymnema about half way through the first month, the cravings subsided dramatically.  The benefits seems to gradually increase as I’ve continued taking it and sources online confirm that it has a cumulative effect.  I’m excited to see how much better I can feel on it as the weeks pass.

I’ve never had a major sweet tooth, but I’ve most definitely been addicted to carbohydrates most of my life.  When I was young, my parents actually called me the “Carb Queen” because I would always select just a few starchy side dishes, a dessert, and a roll at our favorite cafeteria restaurant, and call that a meal.  My brother and I would eat a large stack of frozen waffles with syrup for breakfast most mornings in our childhood.  As I learned to cook, I would make biscuits and white cream gravy instead.  When I became a teenager, and thus a vegetarian, I gorged on incredibly large servings of pasta and french fries.  Protein?…who needs it?!  After I learned about PCOS and insulin resistance, I tried at various times to lower my carbohydrate intake with diets, but they were all too harsh and I went into withdrawal and always quit the diet because I could not function.  I feel like the diet portion of this PCOS experiment is the perfect compromise.  I get to eat small portions of slow converting, whole, unrefined carbohydrates to prevent the symptoms of hypoglycemia and then fruit to satisfy sweet cravings.  After a full month of doing this experiment I feel like I have beaten my addiction to carbs as I no longer think about them or crave them – same with sugar.  I’ve never gotten so far in a lifestyle change before.  I feel so very accomplished.

Exercise – 30 minutes of Crunch: Burn and Firm Pilates DVD with 3 lb. weights

Mind/Body – Decided to ditch Fast Food nation and start reading the James Herriot books again, which I always find inspiring and sweet.  I soaked in a hot, Epsom salt bath with lavender essential oils while I read.

Diet – 115 lbs.

Breakfast – small latte, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 scoop cottage cheese

Lunch – leftover Mediterranean veggies, roast, peas, and lima beans

Dinner – Pork loin with Vidalia onion and grapes, roasted Portobello mushroom cap with herbs/garlic/cheese, green peas.

Snacks – multi-grain crackers and cheese, 1/2 grapefruit, cashews, cottage cheese, handful raw almonds, 1/4 Bumble Bar

My figure is improving.  I was this weight just a few months ago (still on the thin side from breast feeding), but my stomach was very large and puffy, especially in contrast to the rest of my body.  I know this kind of fat distribution is a classic insulin resistance characteristic.  This has been an issue for me since puberty and has been hard to dress around.  I am encouraged to see some improvement in the area that I most needed.  The acne though is another story.  That part still looks terrible.  My favorite part of pregnancy was the complete absence of acne for 9 whole months.  I am hoping that my face will look better after this cycle is over.

Exercise – arm work with light weights, ab work, push-ups

Mind/Body – Gave up my “me” time today to work on birthday cards for my Mom’s 60th birthday, which we’re celebrating this weekend.  We got Jude his first set of crayons and construction paper and before his nap, I had him go to town.  I took his scribbles and made a card from him to my Mom.  She’s going to freak.  By the time I ate lunch and exercised, Jude was up early from his nap.  No Zen for this mama.

Diet – 113.5 lbs

Breakfast – tea with milk, 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1×1″ chunk of feta cheese

Lunch – lentil soup with veggies, edamame, lemon and Parmesan cheese

Dinner – leftover roasted chicken, brussel sprouts, and green bean almondine with a small bowl of lentil soup from lunch

Snacks – edamame, 1/2 plum, cashews, tea with milk, 1/8 Bumble Bar, cottage cheese

My acupuncturist and I discussed the new “Restorative Endocrinology” plan to heal my PCOS naturally at my appointment today.  Providing I don’t get pregnant this cycle, I will begin the new regimen after my appointment next week. It will consist of  6 supplements in combination with acupuncture and the diet and exercise that I’ve already started.  I am beyond excited to begin this part of the experiment!

After trying it for a few days, I can definitely say that eating the hardier breakfast is helping this experiment dramatically.  I have lots of energy and the fuel to last me until lunch with no snacking.  What’s more, I feel more full all day, and with minimal snacking, so I am eating less in general, even though I am eating more in the morning.  I can also eat this breakfast while still slowly losing weight, or at least not gaining weight.

Exercise – arm work with light weights, ab work, and push-ups

Mind/Body – Took a long soak in a hot tub after workout.  Bliss.  Had acupuncture today and was able to totally relax on my back for an hour and meditate.

Diet : 114 lbs.

Breakfast – 2 fried eggs, 2 chicken breakfast sausages, 1 large scoop of cottage cheese

Lunch – Huge salad with veggies, fruit, avocado, and cheese, leftover lamb chop with mint pesto, 2 yucca crackers

Dinner – roasted lemon/garlic chicken, 3 tiny purple potatoes, sauteed brussel sprouts with raisins.

Snacks – cashews, whole plum, cottage cheese, 1/4 Bumble Bar, edamame.

Had a very interrupted night of sleep due to Jude’s horrid teething pain, but yet I woke up with energy and a positive attitude, and not trying to beg out of our stroller ride.  Lost another half pound and my enlarged, fertility med tummy seems to have calmed down and my clothes are fitting better again.  Hit a major lull in energy around 3:30, so I guess the lack of sleep (and the harrowing stroller ride) has caught up to me.  Continued to feel worn out the rest of the day, but I pushed through despite it.  This just feels like good old tired from a busy day, not fatigued like I have been feeling prior to this experiment.

Exercise – My normal 30 minutes of fast walking and pushing the stroller was abbreviated by a screaming toddler.  I had to carry him, kicking and struggling,  from about 8 blocks from our house, so I guess I got an arm workout today too.  Did some ab work and later a truly epic trip to the grocery store all on my own.

Mind/Body: Spent some time during Jude’s nap writing and working on this blog.  Feels good to get my thoughts out there in hopes of helping others, and at the very least, so I can have a good record for myself when I need the information and inspiration to keep going on the path to health.  Took a quick Epsom salt bath and did some deep breathing exercises, but it was interrupted by Jude crying and so that sort of undid the zen I was trying to cultivate.  Some days the mind/body thing just ain’t happening.  There’s always tomorrow.

Diet:  114.5 lbs.

Breakfast – One fried egg, 2 pieces chicken breakfast sausage, one piece of gluten free toast, tea with milk.

Lunch – leftover day: meatloaf, peas/carrots, portobello mushroom with cheese, broccoli

Dinner – open face uncured ham and part skim swiss cheese sandwich on gluten free bread with mayo, avocado, and tomato.  sesame slaw, fruit salad

Snacks – cottage cheese, 1/3 Bumble Bar, freeze dried apples, cashews, tea with milk, 1/2 plum

1) Small, protein snacks in between meals – Eating lower carb that you are used to can lead to a shaky and hypoglycemic feeling, even if you are not actually feeling classically hungry.  Snacking keeps your blood sugar stable and that shaky feeling at bay.  It also helps you from having sugar cravings and from binging on high carb foods.  Drinking a full glass of water with each snack makes it seem more substantial.

2) Small, protein snack before bed – I know this goes against all conventional wisdom in regards to general health and losing weight.  When I had Gestational Diabetes, I learned that your blood sugar can become dis-regulated during the night and you need some protein for it to work on to keeps things stable.  I had to monitor my blood sugar many times a day, and on the mornings after not eating my before bed snack, my blood sugar was high and out of the normal range.  I was also more likely to cheat on the GD diet that day because my body was trying to find stasis all day.

3) Beans/Legumes/Pulses! – Beans are indeed the magical food.  Yes, they do have some carbs, but they are low on the glycemic index, fiber rich, high in protein, and very filling.  They are the perfect starchy element for a PCOS diet, especially when are seasoned nicely and with a little Feta or goat cheese crumbled on top.  They take the place of rice or potatoes in a meal.

4) Sneak in fruit wherever you can – It gives your mouth that sweet bite that it wants without eating something high in sugar.  I don’t eat fruit for breakfast, but I put several fruits in my daily salad or eat some after a meal, like a dessert.  Combined with some protein such as some roasted nuts or cottage cheese, they are also the perfect in-between meal snack.  I try to stick to the lower glycemic ones, such as berries, stone fruit, and apples.

5) Have an emergency pre-portioned “sweet” at hand. When I am having a particularly hard time with sugar cravings, I pinch off a quarter sized bite of an energy/nutritional bar and try to savor it.  I like Bumble Bars because they are made with low glycemic, but natural sweetener (brown rice syrup), have decent protein, and are not so high in carbs that 1/4-1/3 of a bar/day (4-6 active carbs) will wreck the diet.   This stops me from looking elsewhere for a sugar fix and tastes sweet enough to fool my brain.

For more info on my PCOS diet, click here.

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.