Episode 9: PCOS Basics – Part 1: Eating Well
Hello ladies! Welcome back to Slim & Satisfied with me, Dafna Chazin. Today, I’m introducing a new three-part series dedicated to PCOS diets. I’m going to cover what kinds of foods we should be eating, I’ll identify some non-food success boosters that can optimize our results, and I’ll tell you some of the best practices surrounding supplements, vitamins, and minerals.
I’ll be outlining what some basic, yet essential, information when you start looking at a healthy PCOS diet plan. This is something I go into in depth with some of my clients, so this is a sneak peek into what it’s like to work with me!
As you may already know, PCOS is an endocrine and metabolic disorder that affects 10-20% of women of child-bearing age. There are several different manifestations of this, so it varies from person to person. Symptoms of PCOS are challenging—things like sugar cravings, acne, hair growth, anxiety and depression, and infertility due to lack of ovulation are all possible. Menstrual cycles can also often be unpredictable.
Believe it or not, a change in diet has been shown to be more effective than any other treatments for PCOS symptoms—even medications! I want to show you how to use food as a powerful tool in our weight loss journey. We want to be intentional in our food choices and put thought into our goals and what we want to accomplish. A good PCOS diet can make you feel like a whole new person and can restore your self-confidence and femininity.
First, we should talk about what I mean when I say ‘healthy weight.’ It can be a vague term and can cause a lot of confusion, so it’s good to explain it now. When I say healthy weight, I’m not referring to the green zone on the BMI chart or a random number plucked out of the air. It’s much, much more complicated and in-depth.
Here is a more realistic way to figure out what your individual healthy weight is:
If you got to this weight by eating a healthy diet consistently, staying within a constant calorie range, it can serve as a good indicator that you’re near your healthy weight. For most women,this is between 1600-2200 calories per day. We still need to make mindful food choices and portions, but if we’ve settled into a number on the scale we’re likely there.
Body acceptance. When you’re satisfied with how you look and feel comfortable in your own skin you’re likely near your healthy weight. No matter how many pounds you drop, if you don’t like your body, you’re likely not going to like how you feel. It’s important to feel satisfaction and acceptance within your body.
Quality of life is essential. You should be at a weight that allows you to get up and move around. If you’ve found you have more energy and feel less irritable, you’re probably close to your healthy weight. If you feel uncomfortable and aren’t showing up day-to-day, you may have some more work to do. It may be smart to accept a slightly higher weight if it means you’re mentally comfortable.
Moving on, I want to point out that many women who are losing weight could be coming off medications—and that’s a big deal. This is a great step towards a healthy weight. This could mean her blood work is looking good, her doctor is happy, and she’s able to find ways to mitigate some of her PCOS symptoms.
I want to get at the core of what every PCOS diet should include. This means I want to find some components of the plan that are going to help us get to a healthy weight and alleviate some symptoms of PCOS.
It’s important to note that we are looking for foods that deal with the root of PCOS—hormonal imbalances. That being said, we should break down what that means.
Women with PCOS often deal with high levels of insulin—the hormone that helps break down sugars in the blood and turns it into energy. Sometimes, the sugar in the blood doesn’t get into the cells as it should, so it builds up. When we eat foods high in sugar, the body produces even more insulin, leading to a doubly bad situation of high blood sugar and higher insulin levels. Insulin levels are also tied to testosterone levels, and spikes in those can cause acne, facial hair growth, and lack of ovulation.
I also want to talk about what we can do to reduce insulin resistance.
First, insulin isn’t bad and eating carbs isn’t wrong. In fact, including carbs can make eating healthily more sustainable. But how can we include them and still remain in control of insulin and blood sugar levels?
A big step we can take is to add more fiber to our diet. Most women don’t get the correct amount of fiber every day. It can help with the feeling of fullness, it can curb sugar cravings, reduce cholesterol, and improve intestinal health. Gradually increase your fiber intake until you’re at about 30g of fiber a day.
Another way to reduce insulin resistance is to omit sugar. This seems obvious, but there’s an important distinction between two types of sugar; natural and added. Added sugars add nothing to our diet. It gets absorbed quickly in the blood and spikes insulin and blood sugar levels. Because it can’t be broken down for nutrients, it’s stored as fat. Another major key is remembering the composition of the bacteria in our gut. If we continue to feed sugar-eating bacteria added sugars, we will continue to crave those unhealthy foods. When we leave sugar out of our diet, we reset the palate and changes how we perceive the sugar. This isn’t saying you won’t enjoy treats, but you’ll be able to appreciate it.
Naturally occurring sugars appear in a lot of foods we may include in the early stages of a PCOS diet plan. Fruit, dairy, sweet potatoes, and more are generally okay so long as they are minimally processed.
Taming inflammation is key in a PCOS diet. For our purposes, we’re talking about low-grade inflammation. This sort of inflammation means the body is in a constant state of healing itself. Blood cell counts are high, the immune system is aroused, and your body is fighting a problem during this state.
The best way to reduce inflammation is to focus on plant-based foods—I’m talking about tons of veggies. We want to break them down into Non-starchy vegetables and Leafy greens. We’re leaving the starches out of the equation for now. Our goal is to eat 4 colors per day, up to 4 cups per day. They can be spread out among snacks and meals and can be raw or cooked.
Leafy greens get their own category because it’s important to make sure you’re getting them. Kale, spinach, and arugula are all good choices. Aim for 3 cups (measured raw) per day. Remember, foods that are shelf-stable and usually processed—the opposite of what we want.
Adding specific anti-inflammatory spices like ginger and clove can help as well. Evidence shows they can lower inflammation, and at worst, make your food taste great!
Finally, adding healthy fats can also be beneficial. Unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, flax, chia, etc., are good sources. Stay mindful of the portions regardless, but avoid trans fats. If a food has a package, it has a label, and on that label will be trans fats.
What you’ll learn in this episode
In today’s episode, you’ll learn the basics of a PCOS diet plan. I break down the individual components that make up healthy, sustainable changes and pick up some key tips for finding your healthy weight, and how to alleviate some symptoms of PCOS, including insulin levels.
My FREE PCOS Meal Prep Starter Kit which includes a 3-day anti-inflammatory meal plan complete with recipes and shopping list as well as my 3-step process to detoxifying your kitchen.
Grab your copy here: www.dafnachazin.com/pcosplan
Get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org