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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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My parents are visiting and so my husband and I decided to go out to celebrate our 8th anniversary, which falls later this coming week.  We chose Truluck’s, a seafood restaurant, and as a result, I was able to stay within the bounds of my diet, aside from some velvety, parmesan mashed potatoes.  I worked out and ate lightly for lunch to accommodate the rich, restaurant meal, but those more refined carbohydrates left me bloated and sleepy.  I could tell my body did not react well to them.

Our anniversary this year sort of crept up on us both and the pace of life prevented the forethought of dinner reservations or gifts.  It’s funny how now that we have Jude, our anniversaries don’t seem to require near as much planning or expense as they used to.  I don’t need a sparkly new thing, because I have everything I want.

Exercise – 1  1/2 hours of yard work and 40 minutes of Crunch: Super SlimDown DVD

Mind/Body – Hot, Epsom salt bath with lavender essential oil and a good book.

Diet – 116 lbs.

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

Lunch – Small scoop of tuna salad (mayo/mustard) with fruit, veggies and avocado.  Multi-grain crackers.

Dinner – Chilled, steamed shrimp, crab, oysters.  Grilled scallops, parmesan mashed potatoes and sauteed trumpet mushrooms/sugar snap peas/white asparagus.  Mixed fresh berries with sweetened whipped cream.  1  1/2 glasses of Rose’ wine.  1 cappachino.

Snacks – Multi-grain crackers and cheese, 1/2 grapefruit, handful of raw almonds, Cup of green/spearmint 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!

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

Had a mild headache most of the day that progressively got worse with some malaise and probably low blood sugar.  I should have taken a snack with us while we did errands.  I took 4 caps of chlorophyll to try to get past the headache.  The first two helped and the second two did not.  The Bumble Bar after dinner was what helped the most.  Some days, I just don’t get the mix of carbs to protein right and my body rebels.  This will take practice and knowing my low blood sugar signs better.

Exercise – I took the day off.

Mind/Body – Took an hour nap with Jude

Diet – 115 lbs.

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

Lunch – Huge salad with veggies, fruit, cheese, avocado, and roasted chicken with homemade apple cider vinegar dressing, whole grain crackers

Dinner – leftover meatloaf, asparagus, acorn squash from last night

Snacks – 1/2 grapefruit, cottage cheese, cashews, 1/2 plum, multigrain crackers, brie cheese, green tea with milk, 1/4 Bumble Bar

1) Cinnamon – Eating cinnamon with a meal helps to keep blood sugar from spiking afterward.  I put a liberal amount in oatmeal and always mix it into nut butters before spreading them on apple slices or crackers.  It tastes good and helps keep blood sugar stable.

2) Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice herbal tea – I have a MAJOR Starbucks chai tea latte addiction that I have quit and restarted several times in the last few years.  The Bengal Spice tea, while having 0 carbs, contains roasted carob and so it tastes slightly sweet, especially with a good splash of milk in it.  This is a good substitute for the Starbucks chai, which contains a boat load of sugar.  I add a black tea bag when I want some caffeine in the morning, but it’s nice that it has no caffeine on it’s own so I can drink it at any time of the day or night.

3) Oatmeal Muffin in a Mug – A friend turned me on to this really innovative recipe for a no bake and flour-less oatmeal muffin in a mug that you make in the microwave.  You just combine 1/3 cup quick cooking oats, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, one egg, and a dash of salt in a coffee mug and microwave for one minute.  Dump the muffin out and slice and eat (with a little butter or cream cheese if you feeling naughty)  I feel it’s a little dry and bland, so I add cinnamon, a teaspoon of agave nectar, and a teaspoon of apple sauce.  I would think mashed banana, other baking spices, nuts, and dried fruit would be good too.  Easy, friendy carb, and with a pretty good hit of protein.  Also a way to take oatmeal on the go.

4) Chicken tenders – I toss a whole pack of raw chicken tenders (I usually get organic) in a few teaspoons of olive oil and salt and pepper and spread them out of a baking sheet.  I bake them for 15 minutes at 350.  Alternatively, they are good on the grill.  I let them cool and them store them in a zip lock in the fridge.  They are a quick and easy lean protein to put on salads or to eat as snacks.  I go through a bag per week.

5) Mary’s Gone Crackers – Gluten free crackers are usually very high in refined starches and flours as an attempt to make them most like the glutenous versions.  Same thing with bread.  I’ve yet to find a suitable, lower carb, gluten free bread that is actually beneficial to your health, but I did find a good whole grain cracker.  Mary’s Gone Crackers are a mix of whole quinoa, flax seeds, brown rice, and sesame seeds that are baked into a very crispy little wafer.  They are toasted and nutty in flavor and despite being pretty hard on the teeth, eating 6 or so of them sure is nice with a salad or as a snack with cheese or nut butter.

6) Splash of Juice in Water – Other than unsweetened teas, water (with Apple Cider Vinegar) is pretty much the only thing I drink in order to avoid excess carbohydrates .  That is usually OK, but sometimes I must have something sweet to drink.  When this happens, I put a splash of unsweetened 100% fruit juice in my water and that usually satisfies that craving without going too far off the diet.  Organic Apricot nectar is my favorite.

Jude had a bad night last night and so I’m dragging butt today.  We had a 9am Gymboree make-up class today, which is a little early for a slow morning.  My “cold” is still not progressing and I’m back to thinking it’s allergies.  Developed a stiff neck and headache after lunch today.  Jude woke up after only a half nap, so I’m just off today, in both my schedule and how I feel.  I figured it might be low blood sugar from very few carbs at lunch and so I ate a snack of cheese and crackers and that made me feel good again.  Felt fine the rest of the day and night.  Period on the way out.  Going to do a trial of not eating oatmeal for breakfast.   I think this may be what is causing the bloating.

I saw Jude sharing toys with other kids today a handful of times at Gymboree today.  Several mothers commented about how they could not believe a 16-22 month toddler could be made to share.  I’ve never even approached the topic with him before and I’m not sure where he got it.  Sweet boy.  This mama was proud.

Exercise – Last 15 minutes of Crunch: Burn and Firm Pilates DVD and then arm work with 3 lb. weights, ab work, and push ups.

Mind/Body – The closest I came to any Zen today was when I fell asleep while getting Jude down for his nap.  I woke up 45 minutes later.

Diet – 115 lbs. (-2lbs)

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

Lunch – Huge salad with veggies, cheese, fruit, avocado, and roasted chicken with homemade dressing made form ACV, virgin coconut oil, Dijon mustard, agave, and olive oil

Dinner:  1/2 NY strip steak, crock pot black beans with goat cheese, avocado/tomato/lime/cilantro salad

Snacks – 1/2 grapefruit, cashews, few bites of cottage cheese, green/spearmint tea with milk, multi-grain crackers, slice of cheese, few bites of Bumble Bar, herbal tea with milk

Ugh, 1 1/2 lb weight gain in one day?  I am just a couple of days away from my period, so perhaps this is just water weight.  I don’t look any differently and my tummy appears to be flat(ish).  I’ve been reading some other PCOS blogs and suspect that I’m not packing in enough protein as I need to keep hypoglycemic feelings away in between meals, continue to lose weight, and not have the energy lulls in the afternoon that are sometimes requiring naps.  I feel super sluggish this afternoon and just blah, with zero motivation.  I keep getting lightheaded when I stand up.

Exercise and Mind/Body – Had to pack and prepare things to go out of town for Labor Day weekend during the nap today.  I frankly don’t have the umph to work out anyway.

Diet – 115 lbs

Breakfast – small latte, 2 fried eggs, 1 chicken breakfast sausage, 1 large scoop of cottage cheese

Lunch – chopped salad with veggies, fruit, cheese, and edamame.  lentil soup

Dinner – Ate on the road out of town and had two bean, cheese, sour cream tacos on soft corn tortillas.  I also ate one of my husband’s chicken floutas because the tacos were so small and under filled.

Snacks – mary’s gone crackers, cottage cheese, plum, cashews

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.

I’ve been doing this experiment for a week now, and can say that I really like the path my life is on.  It’s the way I wanted things all along, but I could not achieve it for many reasons. I feel like I seized this opportunity at the perfect time and I am grateful for the stroke of inspiration that fueled this decision.  What else could I accomplish if I were to act on my inspirations more often?  I also feel like I am finally taking advantage of having the privilege of being a stay at home Mom.  It took a lot of personal sacrifice to make staying at home with Jude a reality, but I have not been able to fully embrace it lately.  When you are not feeling well, caring for a child all day feels more like a life sentence.  After a week, my hypoglycemia seems to be better and I need fewer snacks to feel ok with the lower carb diet.  I am also not running to my emergency Bumble Bar sweet like I was at the beginning of last week.

We finally traded out Jude’s bottle for a sippy full time yesterday and it was extremely trying.  Both my husband and I had a hard time listening to our son scream and cry and basically beg for his “ba-ba” – something that we would have once been happy to get for him.  The problem is that Jude is drinking a lot of milk via a baby bottle, to the exclusion of his meals and he is quite thin for his age and height.  I knew we needed to make this transition for a while now, but I did not feel strong enough to do it.  I made up my mind that Sunday would be the day and we were able to get through it without caving in.  I feel so relieved and proud that it’s done and this experiment is responsible for part of it.

Exercise – 30 minutes of fast strolling and 1 hour at “open gym” time at Gymboree.

Mind/Body – Took a 20 minute soak in an Epsom salt bath to help my sore back that I got from swimming this weekend.  It felt so good that I was able to really relax and breathe in the lavender and geranium essential oils that I added.  I was also able to fit in a short nap before Jude woke from his nap.  I fell asleep after getting through a few pages of a good book. I woke up feeling happy and re-energized.  I really love this midday mommy retreat.

Diet – 114.5 lbs.

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

Lunch – Huge salad with veggies, cheese, and fruit.  Leftover beans/corn/pepper medley.

Dinner – Two broiled lamb chops with mint pesto, 1/3 of a baked sweet potato with cheese, butter, and green onions, sauteed baby spinach with garlic and lemon

Snacks – 1/8th cup edamame, 1/2 plum, cashews,  1/8th Bumble Bar.