PCOS Diva Success Story – Bethan
I’m Bethan, a 36-year-old mum from the UK and I’m on a mission to beat my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) symptoms through self-education and a holistic approach to healing without medical support.
My main symptoms were extreme weight gain, inability to lose weight, uncontrollable sugar cravings, irritability, brain fog, headaches, fatigue, sleep issues, and high stress levels. All common PCOS symptoms, but no-one ever explained this to me… If only I’d learned this sooner in life! I would have saved myself so much heartache, disappointment, ££££’s, a bad relationship with food, and worst of all, a bad relationship with myself!
To understand my struggles, here’s a snapshot of my life with PCOS…
I was diagnosed with PCOS at 19, following an ultrasound which confirmed ovarian cysts, and I was simply told that I’d potentially struggle to conceive – something a 19-year-old student didn’t give much thought, so I continued living in (not-so) blissful ignorance.
I gradually gained weight throughout my twenties, particularly around my stomach and hips, which set off a life-long battle with negative body-image. I had also fainted a few times on nights out, where I blacked-out on the dancefloor and assumed dehydration. But it also happened at home first thing in the morning, having not drunk the previous night. Once, I fell flat on my face and chipped my front tooth! I didn’t recognize the signs back then, but I now understand this was hyperglycaemia caused by PCOS.
Despite being conditioned to believe conception would be difficult, we were extremely lucky and happily pregnant after just seven months of trying. However, my PCOS symptoms intensified with pregnancy (I just didn’t understand this then). The overriding issue was feeling faint coupled with insane sugar cravings. I often woke feeling light-headed (and nauseas) which a ginger biscuit fixed. Then a coffee and oatmeal for my long commute, followed by a mid-morning pastry and a baked potato for lunch. Chocolate would combat the afternoon slump, and I often ate out with clients in the evening. This routine continued throughout my pregnancy and caused a 70 lb. weight increase by the end!
I was desperately unhappy with my post-pregnancy body and tried everything to lose weight once I was able to. I lost 9 lbs. post-birth and hoped breastfeeding would help to lose more (as many resources suggested), but my sugar cravings intensified with each feed so, hello biscuits!
When I was cleared for fitness at the 6-week post-partum health check, I joined several local exercise classes and an online transformation programme focused on body weight movements. I trained five days a week (sometimes twice) and cooked only nutritious wholefoods for three months, ensuring I was in calorie deficit each day. After all this effort – I only lost five lbs.!
I was crushed. It made no sense, I felt disheartened and unmotivated, so I stopped exercising, relaxed my eating habits and in the next three months put it all back on again, and more!
When my daughter turned one, and still believing exercise = weight-loss, I joined a more intense programme of extended HIIT classes three times a week. I loved the buzz but after eight months, I had put weight on including more belly fat! I couldn’t understand it and felt like a failure.
I explained all this to my doctor, begging them for an endocrinology referral and ‘jumped through all necessary hoops’ (another ultrasound to re-confirm cysts and further blood tests which were all normal – surprise!) Then I finally received this rather discouraging response from endocrinology stating: I ‘should adopt a calorie-controlled diet of no more than 1200-1400 calories, that I ‘must be at the mild end of the spectrum given I managed a pregnancy’ and that I’m ‘likely to be like 60% of the adult population with a higher than ideal BMI, the majority of which is lifestyle driven.’
I felt gut-punched. I’d pinned my hopes on this referral and needed help because nothing I tried worked. My weight, stress, anxiety, headaches, sleep, and cravings were out of control and I didn’t know why. I felt rejected, defeated, and hopeless. Cue more emotional and stress eating – I reached rock bottom.
From this, I eventually decided I was the best authority on my body, and from now on, I would rely only on myself. My newfound motivation and research quickly led me to PCOS Diva and Healing PCOS (which I devoured in a day!) It was like reading my life! I marked up everything that resonated and felt like I’d cracked a code. I felt relieved and encouraged for the first time ever.
I ticked over half of the symptoms for each list on inflammation, hormone imbalances, thyroid dysfunction, and blood sugar levels. My mind was officially blown! I was now convinced that PCOS was the reason I couldn’t lose weight. It was the key to it all – affecting my stress levels, exhaustion, bad mood, anxiety, headaches, disrupted sleep, and fatigue.
I requested more thorough blood tests, but again these returned ‘normal’ and once again I was left confused. I then discovered 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS by Dr. Fiona McCulloch, and The PCOS Plan by Dr. Nadia Brito Pateguana and Dr. Jason Fung. From these, I learned I have insulin resistance (based on my symptoms and resemblance to the case-studies but without medical confirmation).
I implemented the recommended lifestyle changes including a modified diet, managing stress levels, less intense exercise, and supplementation. In the past six months, I’ve lost 27 lbs, my lowest weight in five years! Plus, I’ve reduced several other symptoms caused by inflammation, hormonal imbalance and insulin resistance: my backache and eczema patches have disappeared, my overall mood is better, I’m less agitated, stopped getting headaches, and I’m no longer bloated or constantly drained and exhausted – an unbelievable difference!
For the first time in my life, I finally understand what my body needs, what harms it and what benefits it. I’ve made amazing progress through self-education, empowerment, and by adopting a holistic and naturopathic approach to healing my underlying imbalances. I’m still working on my full healing plan, where I hope to eventually reverse my diagnosis, but for now I’m focussing on healing one day at a time, in a sustainable way.
Want to hear more from Bethan? You can find her on Instagram here: