Get On Track for the New Year [Podcast]
Your 2019 mantra: “My health practitioners are absolutely important. They’re integral to my journey. But I’m at the head of this helm.” – Melissa Christie
Will 2019 be your year? Melissa Christie shares practical wisdom and tools to help make this the year you see real improvement in your positivity and PCOS symptoms. It’s all about planning, tracking, and being mindful. Make this the year you improve your relationship with your body. Listen in (or read the transcript) as we discuss:
- Her unique PCOS journey
- Tricks for managing bad habits & building sustainable positive ones
- Harnessing the power of reflection with an End of Year assessment
- The 2019 PCOS Day Planner designed to help women with PCOS manage, track, understand, and take ownership of their health
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Amy: Today’s PCOS Diva Podcast guest is Melissa Christie. She is an Australian mum with PCOS and the founder of PCOs Pathways. It’s an online resource dedicated to sharing knowledge with women about the many PCOS treatment options that are available. And Melissa is also the creator of the 2019 PCOS Journal, and it really is a fantastic resource for women with PCOS. It’s a comprehensive and informative day planner. Think it’s the first of its kind out there on the market. And it’s really designed to help women with PCOS manage, track, understand and take ownership, which is so important, of their health. And I was so excited to see this project. I know Melissa will tell us more about how this planner came into the world and more about her work.
But I would love for you, Melissa, to tell us about your PCOS story and how it led you to start resources to help women with PCOS?
Melissa: Thank you, Amy. And thank you so much for inviting me to be here on this podcast. It’s so exciting for me and I’m really grateful that I’m such an admirer of the wonderful work that you do. So, it’s exciting to talk with you about this today. So, my PCOS journey, well I was diagnosed in 2012, but it was really more in 2015 that things really changed for me. So, between 2012 and 2015 I was really actively treating my PCOS. But in 2015, my husband and I conceived our first baby, but sadly I miscarried the baby at 13 weeks. And we happened to be traveling at the time. We’d been backpacking all year and we were in India. So, it was a really, I guess, unusual experience as well. There as so much grief about losing this child, but also we were in a foreign country, and I needed to have surgery. And so it was this kind of, yeah, there was a lot of layers to this sort of experience that happened. And because I was overseas, I wasn’t around my normal healthcare practitioners.
And so, in the aftermath of losing the baby, there was all this grief, but there was also, and many other women with PCOS would relate to this, there was this added layer of fear that I would, well one, that I might never be able to have another, conceive another baby, but also that if I did, that I might have another miscarriage, because women with PCOS are almost twice as likely to miscarry. So, I felt really, really driven to want to heal my PCOS. And because I wasn’t around my healthcare practitioners, I kind of felt like I was a little bit on my own. I mean, I had my husband. I don’t mean that I was alone, but I mean I felt like I really had to delve into this whole PCOS thing myself.
And so, obviously I jumped online because that’s sort of the resource I had there. And this was a few years ago now, and there wasn’t as much then. And I just sort of really quickly found that it was overwhelming. There was a lot of information. I didn’t know what information I should listen to or what I shouldn’t. And I delved in deep and I started getting different supplements to try and help myself heal. And I just, I found that I was really lost in it all, like I didn’t know what treatments were affecting what symptoms that I had.
And at this point I was actually still traveling like, we had lost the baby in India, and we had considered coming home because the next destination was Europe, and I really, I didn’t care about traveling anymore. But we decided it would be sort of too sad to come home for that reason. So, we decided to go to Europe. And it ended up being this really healing journey that was a really important part of my life. But during it all, I just didn’t know, I was just really lost. I, yeah like I said, I didn’t know what treatments were affecting what, and I just remember saying to my husband, like, when I feel better, I really want to try and contribute to creating support tools for women with PCOS. Like we deserve to have more support than this. Like there just wasn’t, there was no clarity around the condition and around what we could do. And I just really wanted to contribute to changing that.
And so, I’d sort of made that decision there and then went on this huge healing journey. I was lucky enough to conceive again five months later. For me, Chinese medicine is what really works for my body. And so, I was able to conceive, and I, once, during the pregnancy I was just totally in my pregnancy, I look back on it and wish I had harnessed the time I had a bit better. But after I actually gave birth, suddenly I was really filled with a lot of motivation and a lot of determination. And when you don’t have a lot of free time, when you have a young child, so I found that when I did have free time, like a.k.a. when he was asleep, I was really good at time management. I was super motivated, and I just thought, this is it.
And I started building my website and then I thought about creating the journal. And I just felt really dedicated to it. And for me, the start of the journal was going okay, I want a chart that enables me to see what my symptoms look like every single day, because my memory is terrible and I can never remember when did my acne start improving? Or did it start improving because I started yoga a month ago? Or did it start improving because I started taking Vitamin D two weeks ago? I wanted to be able to start to see this correlation between what was affecting what, and I wanted to see actually ow my symptoms were presenting every day. Because I just knew my own sort of memory wasn’t cutting it.
And so, that was the beginning of the journal. I was like, “Okay, I want to make this chart.” And then just kind of grew from there, and it’s just been this really empowering journey where ultimately for me, it’s been about taking ownership of my health. It’s been about saying, my health practitioners are absolutely important. They’re integral to my journey. But I’m at the head of this helm. My health is important to me. It’s more important to me than it is to anyone else. I care about my health more than anyone else does, so I really need to take that ownership of it and understand it. And that’s what I try to sort of put through the journal as well is just this tried to share this understanding, everything that I’ve learned about PCOS, about our options and it’s about sort of really beginning to understand your own body in quite, in a lot of detail really.
And so, the journey since conceptualizing this idea has just been really wonderful because I’ve been able to connect with women like you who’ve really supported me, and also connecting with the PCOS community, this amazing community of women who, I don’t think there is a more connected community out there. It’s quite amazing when you go online and you look at our support groups and all these wonderful pages and Instagram accounts. I mean, we’re a very connected community, and I think it’s because we need each other, because with, we struggle to find good healthcare and it leaves us feeling alone, I think. So, when you go online and you see how connected everyone is, it’s quite amazing and really powerful.
And I, for that experience back in 2015 when I lost that baby, I felt like I had lost all my purpose when that happened. That was the most overwhelming feeling for me. And for now, I obviously have been very fortunate to have given birth to my son. And so him, along with it turning into creating this journal and being in this community and connecting with all of these women, it’s given so much purpose to my life. And so, this awful experience really shaped my life and in a way, I’m kind of grateful for it. It’s hard to say that, but it is true. Yeah.
Amy: Wow. And that was such a beautiful story. There’s so many parts of that that really resonated with me. And I just, I want to thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. I think that I agree with you that women with PCOS, we’re very, a connected community. But I think we’re also a very creative community. And so, I mean, we all have gifts that we need to share. And I think that that really helps with the healing process. And you can see how creating this journal has really helped with your healing process.
Melissa: Oh, absolutely. It really has. I mean, the funny this is, is too like I obviously have a massive stock of these journals with me. And so I decided even though it’s dated to 2019, I actually, as soon as I got it from a printer, I just scrub out the dates and write the 2018 dates. And I’ve been using it. And so, although it’s been really helpful in my journal, even creating it, but now using it has also been really helpful for me. And I’ve learned all these things about myself. And it’s just, I don’t know, it’s just something funny about it to me that I wanted this, I ultimately made this journal for myself, in a way. I mean, I wanted it. And it sort of didn’t exist and to actually have made it and be using it is, it’s something I’m very proud of. And I absolutely agree with you about how creative the women in this community are, and how much sharing our stories really does help us. And I think that’s why there are so many of us online connecting with each other.
And when I, it’s funny, when you look at the stories of women like you who’ve created these really incredible helpful online resources for women with PCOS, when I read the stories of the women who’ve created these websites, there’s always this kind of, this point in their story that’s really similar where the sort of, they’d been diagnosed and then they’ve received the really half-hearted healthcare, and they’ve gone, “Hold on a second. I deserve better than this.” And they’ve gone out and they’ve done the research and they’ve empowered themselves of that knowledge and taken ownership of their health. And then it has been so powerful that not only have they helped themselves, they’ve then gone out and it’s led to creating these amazing websites. And I just, I’m always trying to share with the women in the PCOS Pathways community just how powerful taking ownership of your health is. How powerful doing research is. And I’ve reference this before saying just look at the stories of these women. It’s so powerful that it ends up enabling them to help other women. I mean, it sort of speaks for itself. It’s quite amazing.
Amy: Yeah. It’s so true. And when you were talking, I wrote down the word deservability. I think maybe I made that up, but-
Amy: When I was writing my book, it’s a theme, it often came back to this sense of I deserve to feel good. I deserve my best health. And I do think that you have to have sort of that ah-ha moment, like know what? I deserve better than what I’m getting. And that was where, that was an ah-ha moment for me. PCSD who are celebrating 2019, our tenth years anniversary.
Melissa: Right. Yeah.
Amy: And as I’m recording this podcast with you, I’m almost have gone over the threshold of 100 interviews and podcasts. And for me starting this interview process, it was really trying to access some of these PCOS experts so that I could learn, and then in turn share what I was learning with other women with PCOS. And I encourage if you’re listening and if you feel like you have something to share and to add to the conversation, or if there’s something out there that a resource that you feel like hasn’t been created, well go ahead and create it because we could all use it.
Melissa: That’s it. We sort of, we need all the help that we can get, and often it’s coming from within the community. And again, that just sort of speaks for itself, doesn’t it? And it says a lot about the healthcare that we’re receiving that when you look at the big PCOS clinics or online resources and you look at who they’re run by, they’re usually run by a women with PCOS who said we deserve better than this, and went out and created it.
Amy: Yeah. Well, I want to shift the conversation to some more practical kind of tips, things that you’ve found along the way in your journey that you can share with us. It’s a new year, and we have this great new 2019 journal as a resource. And one of the things that I see in your journal and is a really part of your practice is tracking positive habits. And I would love for you to share maybe part of your routine and part of your habits with us. And maybe some of those habits are something that we can adopt to make our PCOS journey in 2019 more positive.
Melissa: Yeah. I’m excited to do that. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot about how that’s, and I mean I’ve been thinking about it when creating the journey and the journal, sorry, and in the lead up to this podcast as well. When I look at what my practice is, and oh my God, I’m so far from perfect. I’m such a work in progress. But when I look at what I’m doing, there’s kind of this overarching habit that I try to keep, and then from within that there’s some changes. And when we think about what a habit is, it’s a lifestyle change, really. It’s something that you want to implement in your life that is sustainable. It’s not a fad. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not necessarily a strict diet. It’s something that you want to be really sustainable. And so, the habit that I have really tried to implement in my life is ultimately self-care, and then from within that, there’s more specific habits that I explore and try.
And so, when I say self-care, I mean we talk about this a lot in our community about how important self-care is and how powerful it is that, but it can be a lot of different things. Self-care can be giving yourself a foot massage. It can be not going to that event because you don’t feel up to it. It can be exercise. It can be a change in your diet. Self-care is really about prioritizing your health. It’s about deciding that you want to put your health first. You want to put it right up there. You’re really making this an important part of your life. And healthy habits, the same. It’s you going, I want to really make my health important to me. So, I have this overarching habit of self-care in that I try to practice self-care at least once every day. And it takes shape in a lot of different ways.
And in the journal, if you have a copy or you end up getting a copy, you’ll find there’s lots of different suggestions for how we can practice self-care, and different habits that you can form. And there’s this really nice little chart in there as well where every day you can tick off all the habits that you want to achieve. So, maybe a habit that you want to keep is that you take your zinc every day, so you can sort of write that in there and then every day you can satisfyingly tick it off. I think it’s really motivating.
So, some of the habits that I sort of explore within that overarching idea of the habit of self-care are things like actually, this is probably my favorite one actually, is lying a hot water bottle over my abdominal area. And I try to do this almost every evening between when I get my period and when I ovulate. And for me personally, I find that if I do that, I actually ovulate by day 19 of my cycle, which is great. I mean, I’m so happy with that. And when I don’t do that, my ovulation is often delayed. There’s a few other factors that come in for me. But I’ve found that a hot water bottle is really powerful for me, and the reason is that it heats up the area, so it actually, it brings fresh blood into your whole sort of reproductive area and it can help it not be so stagnant, and it kind of can invigorate the area. So, for me and my PCOS, I have a real issue with being quite stagnant. So, that’s what works for me. It’s not necessarily going to work for someone else.
And the thing with habits is you want to find things that are enjoyable, and sustainable and that work for you. So, it’s a bit of trial and error and it’s definitely about you don’t want to go in thinking that you’re going to strive for perfection. You want to, I think when it comes to habits, if you strive for perfection, and then you inevitably stuff up. You don’t want to just throw it away and go, “Oh, it’s not for me.” I don’t think it’s good to go in like that. I know there’s a lot of things around that say it takes 30 days to form a habit, or 21 days that it’s actually, that’s not proven. None of those numbers are proven. But what is true is that if you do something for long enough, it will become a habit. So, it needs to be sustainable and it needs to be enjoyable too.
So, I don’t actually practice the same things every day, necessarily. One thing that I definitely do every, well, I’m not perfect so I don’t do it every day, but I do it almost every day is in the evening when I’ve finished working and I want to unwind and I watch something on telly or on Netflix, I do something for myself at that time. Because all I’m doing is watching something. So, it’s very easy to watch something and give myself a foot massage or give myself a face massage or a belly massage or put that hot water bottle across my belly. So, it’s funny like, healthy habits, they don’t necessarily need to be something specific. For me, it’s a specific time of the day that I do something. It’s that evening when I’m unwinding that I can implement a habit. And it doesn’t need to be the same time every day. It’s about sort of just practicing something that is good for me. And sometimes it’ll be hot water bottle for two weeks in a row, or sometimes it’ll be a foot massage for a week in a row. Or it changes.
And I think that flexibility is important in terms of just not striving for that perfection. You want this to be enjoyable. You want this to be a sustainable lifestyle change, if that makes sense. I hope that that makes sense.
Amy: Oh, it definitely makes sense. I know I call myself the recovering perfectionist, because it’s very hard for me not to get caught up in oh my gosh, I didn’t do it today, so I’m going to throw in the towel.
Amy: But I also think that having PCOS, it’s, a client of mine said it’s like the biggest science experiment. And it really is.
Melissa: That is true.
Amy: Experiment with the foods that you eat. And in the supplements that you take. Because there is no one size fits all approach. And I think it’s true for self-care and habits too. And I love what you said. It needs to be something enjoyable. And as I’m recording the podcast, I’m sipping on my warm water and lemon. I know that we, you had a challenge because you’re Australia and I’m here in the States, and trying to find a time that we could both, I know it’s very late for you. I always start my day with warm water and lemon because know what? It’s good for me, it’s good for my liver and getting my digestive juices flowing. But most importantly, I like it.
Amy: And if you don’t like it, don’t do it. Find something else.
Melissa: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I was going to say that actually, like if you’re trying to form a habit and it’s really important to you, and you get to that day where you didn’t do it or you haven’t done it for a few days, I think there’s a choice there. If it’s so important to you, then treat those days as slip-ups and go on. Be very forgiving of yourself, and then keep going. Or try to think of another way that you could achieve this that you might enjoy more or that might be more sustainable. I think we’ve always got that choice. And they can both be positive choices. We don’t need to sort of make the choice where we go, “Oh, I give up.” We can just change what we’re doing. One of-
Amy: I love that. And I also think something that’s been very powerful for me in my journey is realizing that you’re always one step away, one choice away from kind of getting back on track. Whether it’s just taking a deep breath or trying another one of your healthy habits, or having something healthy to eat. You’re always one choice away.
Melissa: Oh, I really love that. That’s really nice. I’ve been thinking lately in terms of, because along with healthy habits, there’s also bad habits. And I, a lot of us struggle with some bad habits. And I mean, for me personally, I am dealing with a pretty heavy food addiction. So, that’s sort of the bad habit struggle for me. But I’ve been trying to think, the way I’ve been thinking about it lately when I sort of am faced with that choice of actually embracing a bad habit, I sort of think to myself, okay, well, I can take one step towards my goal, or one step away from my goal. Which direction does this take me in? And I don’t know, it’s just a little thought, but it’s been helpful for me. It’s been really nice. But I’m also really clear about my goals, so I can, that’s sort of a powerful question for me when I ask that to myself, does this step me towards my goal or away from it? Yeah. But I like what you said. That’s really nice. It means it’s a choice. It’s always a choice.
Amy: So, something that I really liked about your planner because it’s looking at the year, at the end of the planner, you can really reflect back on the year and ask yourself some powerful questions. And we’re starting a new year, but I think it’s kind of a great time to pose some of these questions to look back at 2018. So, I was wondering if you could share some of those kind of end of year assessments with us.
Melissa: Yeah, I would love to do that. I’ve got it in front of me. I’m having a little look. I think I’m going to focus on, there’s the question are kind of grouped into sort of different categories, like your lifestyle, your cycle, your treatments. But there’s a section called Your Journey. And one of my favorite questions is how is the relationship with your body, and has it improved over the last year? I think it’s so important. When we lost our first baby and we were overseas, I ended up actually doing a Skype call with a life coach who, he was actually my yoga instructor’s husband, and I vaguely had met him, but I didn’t really know him. And anyway, I was quite desperate for some help, because I was really struggling.
And he told me that we should treat the relationship with our body as we should treat the relationship with anybody. That we should have respect and kind of and compassion, and that we should really listen to our bodies. And that was such a powerful message for me to hear. It really affected my life, and it has stuck with me so much, especially the listening to my body part. Like if you body says, sort of gives the signals that it’s full, like try to listen rather than ignoring it. Like you’re body’s trying to tell you something. If your partner told you, “I’m full,” and then you tried to sort of shove spoonfuls of food down their throat, I mean that would be absurd. And so, just sort of having that idea that oh, like I’m in a relationship with my body and I need to listen to it was really life-changing. And I really try to incorporate that through the journal. And that’s why at the end, I asked how is the relationship with your body and has it improved, because it’s been a real intention for me to help you improve your, the relationship with your body throughout this journal. And yeah, and I encourage you to think about that now about 2018.
Another question I’ve got here is do you have a better understanding of your PCOS? When you started this year like, what was your knowledge about PCOS, about your options and about your own experience of it? And has that changed? Have you learned more about yourself and what your triggers are? I just recently worked out that a trigger for me is stress. And I mean I think I knew that, but I didn’t realize the extent of it. So, I’m not even just talking about a busy day. I’m talking about if I watch like a suspenseful movie and I spend two hours there like clenched up, my ovulation gets delayed. And I’ve actually found that since using the journal and I’ve found these triggers, but that kind of really tenseness in my body actually really affects me. And it’s such a small thing, but oh my God, it’s been a really powerful thing for me to learn. So, actually now if I am watching a movie or anything like that, like I actually really focus on making sure that I breathe through the like intense parts of the movie, and I’m not sort of so tense.
So, it’s nice to look back on your year and say, do you have a better understanding of you PCOS? Do you know your triggers more so than when you began? And that’s progress, and that’s motivating. Progress is always really motivating, especially leading us into the next year where you want to improve your health more and more. You want to set those New Year’s resolutions, and if you can see that you’ve made progress this year, then it sort of, it puts you in good stead for next year. And if you feel like you haven’t made progress this year, that’s fine too. I sort of encourage you to start to get pepped up for 2019 because we love a fresh start. And a new year is the epitome of a fresh start.
So, I definitely encourage seeking a better understanding of your PCOS and seeking out new healthy habits. And I really give testament to the fact that when you find one that works, it’s really life-changing. And the idea is to keep seeking them out. I mean, earlier this year in February, I made all these changes to my diet, and one of them included not eating after dinner. And the other changes that I made have fallen to the wayside. But that one just stuck. It just worked. And now it’s not even, I don’t try to do that. It’s automatic and I’m really grateful that I did it because I know how healthy it is to do that. And so you’re going to have wins like that. And if things don’t work, that’s okay. Just try something else and really feel proud of the ones that do stick, like I feel right now.
Amy: Yeah. And I agree with the not eating after dinner. That has been really, created such a shift for me and the way that I feel. And my weight as well.
Amy: But the questions about your journey, to have a better understanding about your PCOS, how’s your relationship with your body. I think it could be helpful too to kind of reverse engineer that, like think about how you want to feel at the end of 2019 and journal about that.
Melissa: That’s really nice, yeah.
Amy: And then work, and then that kind of becomes your goal to work towards having a better relationship with your body, having a better viewpoint of PCOS. I know in the beginning of our podcast, you mentioned that you feel like it’s almost a blessing. I don’t want to take the words out of your mouth.
Melissa: No, that’s okay.
Amy: Is that what? Yeah.
Amy: Like can you imagine if you set that as your goal? Like to feel by the end of this year that PCOS is a blessing. Like how different would you approach 2019 if that was kind of your end goal?
Melissa: Absolutely. And the funny thing is, like I mean I did say that PCOS has turned into a blessing for me and it’s not just because of what I talked about earlier, but it’s also because I have such a greater understanding of my body which has enabled me to really connect with myself as a woman. I said this recently, like in a strange way, it’s like grown me up a bit. I love knowing about my cycle. I love understanding that about how my body works. And it makes me really sink into the experience of being a woman on this planet, where a lot of the time there’s such a disconnect with our cycle. And I know certainly for me when I was diagnosed with PCOS, I had no understanding of what my cycle was doing. I had no connection to it whatsoever. And so that has been such a blessing to learn that and to really fall into that experience of being a woman, yeah.
Amy: Oh, I think that’s a perfect place to end the podcast. I’m just so grateful that you came on, Melissa. And if people want to learn more about your journal and the work that you do with PCOS Pathways, can you tell us how we can find more about it?
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. And thank you so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. You can go to my website, pcospathways.com. And if you go pcospathways.com/shop, you will go through to the page where you can purchase the journal. And the journal comes in a few different ways. So, there’s a digital downloadable and printable version. And then there’s the physical journal. And then there’s also a little a bundle there that’s got the journal and also an e-book of Dr. Gretchen Kubacky’s PCOS Mood Cure as well. So, there’s a few different options there. And yeah, I hope that you check it out if it interests you. I mean, for me the journal is, it’s when you make that New Year’s resolution that 2019 you’re going to improve your health. For me the journal is just a, it’s like a physical embodiment of that decision. It’s going, okay, in 2019 I’m going to prioritize my health and I’ve got this kind of, this companion to go on the journey with me. So, yeah. Thank you. Thank you for having me, Amy. It’s really nice.
Amy: Oh, well thank you. And I’ll be using my journal this year, so looking forward to it.
Amy: And thank you everyone for listening. I so appreciate you being here, and I look forward to being with you again on another podcast very soon.