I talk a lot about how becoming physically strong helps PCOS. But when it comes to living a PCOS-friendly lifestyle, your mental strength is equally important. If there’s one thing I have learned from coaching many women, it is that the way we think will shape our recovery more than any other factor.
Right after I was diagnosed with PCOS, I bounced back from being very sad to being borderline obsessed with fixing myself as fast as possible. I was impatient, single-minded and willing to do almost anything. I started a very restrictive diet and doubled my efforts at the gym. I’d climb the step mill for an hour with my heart beating at 170 beats per minute and then hit the weight room. Not much changed… I did not fix myself.
I sought the advice of an endocrinologist at a prestigious university. At my first and only appointment, this man burst into the exam room with his face buried in my file. He did not look up and just blurted out:
“Yes, you have PCOS. There is not much I can do to help you. Do you have hair on your face I can give you some meds for that.”
Dr. Insensitive, MD then grabbed my face to take a closer look.
I explained to him that I could not lose weight no matter what I did and that I was exhausted every day, all of the time. He rolled his eyes in disbelief. He suggested that I try harder: work out more and eat better.
That was the end of the appointment. I felt humiliated and frustrated.
I went to this doctor because he specialized in metabolic disorders and I was sure that my metabolism was broken. Now he just dismissed my concerns and showed me the door.
This guy was a jerk. If an older and wiser me had been in that office, I would have told him so to his face! But he was not wrong. My body was not broken. It was just responding to how I was treating it… and I was not treating it very well at all.
Ok, I just dug up this rotten memory to tell you this: I know what it feels like to think that you’re broken and that your body is a defective model.
If you feel like your body is broken, I want you to try to stop thinking that way- it will only hurt you. That way of thinking pits you against your own body. It makes you feel like your body is what’s getting in the way of you having your best life. That’s a terrible feeling to have, isn’t it? Feeling like you have to punish yourself and restrict yourself, so your body will submit and finally listen.
I have found a different way to treat my PCOS…
My PCOS diagnosis is just information about my body that I did not have before. My PCOS is just a fact; it is not my enemy.
And now that I have that information I can use it to guide my decisions, to serve as part of the owners’ manual I needed to care for and protect this powerful, awesome body. Not only has this mental shift brought me emotional peace but it also was the beginning of my healing.
Today, I use what I know about my PCOS to shape my environment so that I can thrive. Instead of being critical of my body, I am critical of my environment, my habits and routines. My self-esteem and my vitality are much higher as a result! When my body is not performing at its best, I take a look at how I’m treating it. Not only does this usually fix the problem, but it also keeps me from putting myself down. Win-win!
I’m convinced that this is the best way to treat PCOS. Using the information we have about our bodies to shape a lifestyle that will allow us to thrive. This way of thinking about PCOS gets great life-changing results, but it requires patience. The changes will not come quickly, and that’s ok.
Think of it this way:
If you kept a potted plant in a closet and never watered it, it would become unhealthy. Now if you took that plant out to a window sill and gave it water would the plant be immediately restored?
No. It would take weeks to see new growth and maybe even months for it to blossom again. The same laws of nature apply to your body.
As you slowly remodel the world around you and work to transform your habits into a PCOS-friendly lifestyle, It will take time for your body to respond. I can promise you that you’ll begin to feel impatient and frustrated.
Those old negative feelings about your body might reemerge. That’s ok, it’s normal! Acknowledge your frustration, take a deep breath and turn your focus to all of the good things you are doing for your body. You can’t control how quickly your body will recover from unmanaged PCOS. But you can control your actions. So fix your attention on small steps in your healing journey and let the results come to pass in their own time.
This different way of treating PCOS is not easy. You might have to work really hard at just changing the way you think before you can even make a single successful lifestyle change. It is not a fast process, but it works because it comes from a place of compassion, love, and partnership for and with your own body.
If you are sick of feeling like your body is defective, if you are tired of being angry at PCOS I invite you to change your mind and start treating PCOS differently.
PCOS is just information about your body; it is not your enemy.