Tag Archives: girltalk

Low Carb and PMS

Firstly, welcome to all the new followers! Thanks for sifting through everything and tuning into LCO. 🙂

Today I want to briefly touch base with all you women out there who go through the irritation that is PMS. (Guys, clearly you don’t have to read along here, but hey, you never know when this information might come in useful to help your significant other!)

So, then: what is PMS and how might LC effect it? The first thing we should clear up before we dive into that is that not all women will ever experience PMS, some of us may suffer through some symptoms of it, while others get the full whammy. So, PMS: Pre-Menstrual Syndrome describes the symptoms prior, during, or even after a women’s monthly period arrives. Generally speaking these symptoms can include things like bloating, water retention, cravings, abdominal cramping, muscle pain, back and neck aches, headaches, gas, and/or migraines. Some of us might have all of them, others none! I tend to trade potential muscle aches for breast tenderness, no fun. Another thing many women.experience are mood swings, crankiness and depression.

Most of us assume that all this is due to hormonal swings as our body goes into its cycle. That’s not entirely accurate; hormones are certainly a piece of the puzzle, especially for women with PCOS – estrogen excess and progesterone deficiency can definitely be a factor. Other possible causes are a lack in Vitamin B6, abnormal glucose metabolism – i.e. high insulin resistance – and electrolyte misbalances. In addition, you’re more at risk of developing PMS symptoms if you smoke and/or have a BMI of over 30.

And this is where the LC comes in. Some of us may have gone to the doctor to ask about these things we go through around out period, and we might have been told that weight was a factor. So we troll the Internet and decided to try an LC diet since it seems to be the current thing to be doing. Great. Just be mindful that weight loss will initially mess around with all your internal settings, so make sure you’re taking the appropriate minerals and vitamins and keeping your electrolytes up. Cutting out foods you’ve been eating your whole life can lead to a sudden deficiency in certain essentials, so just be mindful of that.

Something else to keep an eye on is that some people appear to get worse PMS symptoms while on LC I honestly don’t know why – and I’ll try to find out, so stayed tuned!  – but it can get pretty bad. My advice is, if you’re one of these people, to up your carb count when you feel it start to get bad. If you do find that your PMS gets worse while on an LC, I would love to get your pointers and opinions.

Clear Skies,
Vee

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PCOS

I promised at the start of this blog that I would be discussing PCOS as well as an LC diet. If this doesn’t interest you, then that’s fine, just skip this entry. 🙂 This is just the introductory entry, we’ll look at the diet in a PCOS light a little later on.

PCOS affects 1 in 8 women all over the world. In Australia, that’s 12% of all child-bearing women, and around 12 million women in the United States. More or less. That means that if you’re on a bus with twelve women, likelihood is that at least 2 women have it. Some of them won’t even know that that’s what’s causing some of their issues. Maybe they’re trying to get pregnant and have had no luck so far; maybe the lady sitting next to you is wearing those long sleeves because she’s embarrassed by the excessive arm hair she’s got – man hair, her friends might have teased in high school. And the girl sitting down the aisle to the left? Maybe she’s that fat not because she overeats but because she’s got high insulin resistance because her body’s hormonal balances are shot the hell.

For a very long time, PCOS was not considered a single illness: instead it had a host of other names, practically each symptom being addressed as an individual diagnosis. In 1935 a Drs. Irving Stein and Michael Leventhal first described the condition we now call PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  It went through a few phases, carrying a variety of different names.

So let’s take a look at what it actually is…

PCOS is complicated, and for such a common disease it’s actually relatively unheard of. Until I was diagnosed with it I’d certainly never heard of it; hell, for a long time even after the diagnosis I couldn’t figure out what it was. The GP who had diagnosed me wasn’t the best of the best, and she simply gave me the verdict and then left me to my own devices. I hope that isn’t the case with the rest of you, but I figure it depends on who you get – some GPs aren’t 100% familiar with PCOS, and as a result aren’t comfortable to get into the nitty gritty details. That said, I have a great respect for the medical profession, but if you’re not getting the information you need – even after asking several times – it’s time to move on, find a specialist or try a different GP. Gynaecologists are a safe bet for specialist information, or of course, you could hop onto the Internet and try your luck.

In a nutshell, the PCOS is all about insulin resistance – which we’ve covered here –, hormonal imbalances, infertility issues, and irregular periods. We’re not sure how or why PCOS takes hold; there’s plenty of theories with some heavy evidence weighing towards genetic factors. I suppose one of the big problems is that the diagnoses of the syndrome is still so young; it’s really a modern thing, and because of that a lot of women from before the 1990s didn’t know that’s what they had. For example, a woman in the 80s or 70s struggling to get pregnant or perhaps enduring several miscarriages with no apparent reason, might have had PCOS. In fact, it’s likely. But she’d never have been diagnosed with it because the terminology wasn’t widely used. Any daughters she might have run the risk of inheriting the genes prone to high insulin resistance but because she doesn’t know she has it she has no way of monitoring or forewarning her children. Sucky. Luckily we now can diagnose it, so those daughters at least know what they’ve got if they start having the same issues, and with any luck they can help their own kids prevent, avoid or deal with the syndrome themselves. We’ve come a long way since 1721 when the first suspected case was recorded.

This progress is largely due to the sharp development in medical technology and, of course, a deeper insight into female reproduction and women’s health – you’ve got to remember that for the longest time, women couldn’t become doctors, which must have had an impact on the study and diagnoses of women’s health issues.

The symptoms of PCOS, for those unfamiliar with the syndrome, are anovulation – when the ovaries don’t release the egg so ovulation doesn’t occur -, excessive androgens – male hormones -, and, of course, insulin resistance. These can lead to irregular periods, flawed ovulation, acne, hirutism, infertility, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes – especially type II -, and certain types of cancer. Mind you, apparently not all women develop polycystic ovaries and these symptoms vary from woman to woman, I don’t suffer from acne, for example, and only have minor trouble with hirutism compared to other women with PCOS.

Diagnosis tends to be made clinically, meaning that if a woman shows certain symptoms the GP assumes it’s PCOS and may or may not run a few blood test. To know for sure, ask your GP to run more thorough tests, such as a pelvic ultrasound that might show up any cysts growing on ovaries. Other tests they might run is a glucose test, which involves fasting, having blood drawn, drinking a sugary solution, and then having blood drawn at regular intervals. This helps them narrow down how high – if any – insulin resistance you have and how at risk you are for diabetes.

When I was first diagnosed, I was simply told to ‘lose weight’, without being given any advice on why or how. No one told me it would be difficult to lose weight, because no one told me what was causing the weight gain to start with. I’d been put onto a contraceptive pill to control my irregular periods, but further information about why any of this was happening to me didn’t occur until my regular GP happened to be away and I landed a different one. My new GP drew me some pictures and explained it to me in a way that I could understand, writing out some key terms for me to go home and research in my own time. She’s the one who explained about the weight loss – the fact that you’ve got too many male hormones in your system means your body is producing female ones to counter them, and that’s part of what’s causing the trouble. Your body’s storing those hormones rather than flushing them from your system. Remember that Breakthrough Bleeding post? Yeah, that’s where this comes in again, all that estrogen that you’ve been storing in your fat cells because you’ve got too much testosterone floating around in your system is causing a spike in your androgen levels. And round and round and round it goes until suddenly you’re suffering from crippling menstrual cramps, migraines, and worse.

Getting this under control is no easy feat, but the important thing to keep in mind is that it can be done. There’s no cure yet for PCOS, but there are ways of dealing with it, of coping and working around the symptoms in such a way that you can live a happy and full life, and yes, with a little bit of patience, effort and careful diet managing, you can conceive and carry a child to term quite easily. I don’t have any children, so I’m not speaking from experience in that regard, but studies have shown that even a small loss of weight can help remedy the hormonal imbalances that are blocking your way to motherhood. I’ll do some more research in that regard and write about it later since I don’t have any real world experience to back it up with.

I’ll leave it there for now, if you have any questions or whatnot, you know how to reach me.

Clear Skies,

Vee

A few Sites and Articles to look at for more information:
http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1069067/
http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos-exams-and-tests (this one is a little…um, mundane. I don’t usually site or use WebMD as a source, but it gives you a good place to start)
http://www.womhealth.org.au/conditions-and-treatments/95-polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos
http://www.healthyfoodguide.com.au/articles/2009/february/food-and-pcos-how-diet-can-help
http://www.pcosdietsupport.com/ (This one’s particularly good)

Psyche Up!

Motivating yourself isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Even the most confident among us sometimes need a little help, a little push. This goes for everything, not just weight loss. It goes for the athletes, the recovering addicts, the student – those essay won’t write themselves, you know! – and just about every walk of life out there. Without motivation we fall into a lazy lump and often refuse to get out and do anything.

I often need to give myself a reason to get out of bed, especially in winter when there’s a temperature difference between my snugly, warm bed and the real world. I remember when I was a kid I’d remind myself of at least one fun subject at school that day – “Oh it’s Friday, that means library time after recess!” or “Oooh, Thursday, history class!” – which would be enough to get me out of bed before my poor mother had to come and drag me out again. Nowadays it’s not that easy, but I still get out of bed, motivation or no, because well, I believe in getting in to work. It’s an ethics thing. Mind you, I will get out of bed if it’s baking day  – Wednesdays – because baking is one of the most relaxing things I do now. Other days, I don’t need to psyche myself into anything, I’m just so ‘up’ that it all just happens! Like today, I thought today was going to suck, but I feel great, I’m doing things, I’m keeping up with the dishes at the Cafe and I’m not having to work at being friendly to my customers – it’s just happening.

Days like this are awesome and I find that they come when I’m settling into a proper ketosis.  The brain fog has lifted and I’m thinking clear as a bell, I’m feeling more active and there’s no need to push. Sure, I’m tired – I’ve been working all week – but it’s a tired I can deal with because I’m happy.

What do we do on days when we’re not feeling up to anything? Days when it all just seems too much and the diet can go #$%@ itself? I had one of those last week. I’d just had it. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, I just didn’t want to be doing this anymore: I wanted to be at the weight I need to be and just be done with it. I wanted to eat that damned piece of bread sitting on the table, and I wanted to stuff my face full of chocolate without bothering to keep track of it. Above all, I wanted a real coffee, with real milk. But no, I couldn’t do that. It was a day where everything I put in my mouth was not what I wanted. I was depressingly sick of eggs, and even the organic smoked ham we get for the Cafe wasn’t at all enticing. I wanted to eat cake, and cookies, and drink a creamy glass of the Jersey milk we have at the Cafe.

But I didn’t.

It takes some serious willpower to not give into days like that, and there have been days when I have just thrown it all in the air and gone for broke. Some days there’s a good reason for it, most of the time there’s not. That last one was a doozy, but I survived it with minimal damage.

“But…how?” you ask, desperately stuck in the same problem, “I really want to give in and just eat whatever I want! It’s not fair!

Honestly? I took a break. I went to the bathroom, washed my face and glared at my grumpy self in the mirror. We had a serious discussion, my reflection and I that went something like this:

“I want the damned cake we just baked. It’s fruity and chocolatey, and we’ve got our period. Can’t we cheat just a little today?”

“We can’t, because if we do we’re going to cheat more and more and more.”

“So? We’ve been doing this since November. That’s too long!”

“We’re making such awesome progress though! Just look at yourself! Seriously, three months ago, did you have this gorgeous hour-glass shape that other women desperately want? NO! We worked really hard for that and we’re going to keep working hard at it until our arms are beautiful, and our hips sit right. We’re also going to keep working at it until our thighs slim down. We are going to spectacular and don’t you dare wreck it now!”

After this talking to, the grumpy reflection subsided somewhat and I was able to face the rest of the day without doing anything to sabotage my progress. Sometimes I find you’ve got to work yourself through the stage of weight loss, kind of like the stages of grief: first you feel loss, then denial, then anger, etc. It’s kind of like it is grief in a way: you’ve cut out something you’ve relied on for so long it’s a little bit like losing a loved one. Don’t fool yourself, though, it isn’t like losing a loved one. You’re regaining yourself! Keep that in mind.

My motivation comes from seeing the great affects from the lifestyle: every week there’s something new, something better. I take courage from people’s compliments, however small or large they are. I comfort myself with the knowledge that my husband can now pick me up without straining his back. And I find motivation in the fact that my sex life has improved. Oh yes, ladies and gents, your libido will sort itself out, you’ll be way more flexible, and your stamina will shock your partner. There’s nothing quite as motivating as sex.

Having now shocked your sensibilities – or not, and oh, dear I just remembered my parents read this…um. Hi parentals! – other things I use to motivate myself with are the promise of dark chocolate. I try to have one day when I can build in some 90% dark chocolate treat. No more than two or three squares because I really can’t stuff my face with it, but just enough of a treat that it makes me feel good. Extra special treat motivations include a single cheat meal a month of ice cream or frozen yoghurt. I know that it’s not strictly in line with the diet, but sometimes you’ve gotta lose the belt a little bit in order to keep going.

Motivation is a funny thing. We need it for a lot of things. Including keeping up the exercise regime – and for that I take another long look in the mirror. Those flabby arms I now have because I’ve lost the majority of my arm fat? Gotta work those weights to get rid of those! Do you want to look smashing or don’t you?  Beauty is pain, people, beauty is pain. Okay, well, maybe not pain, but it’s certainly long-winded and hard-work. We’re here for the long haul, not just for right now, so let’s work towards that big picture, the light at the end of the tunnel: the body we’ve always dreamed of.

Clear Skies,

Vee

A Word About: Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a sad reality of our modern world.

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were setting up the Cafe and overheard two young teenage girls, probably around 14/15, talking about ‘bambi legs’ and how to get them. We shared a confused look and went back inside. A quick Google later had us both kind of shocked. Apparently ‘bambi legs’, apart from referring to legs after amazing sex, refers to bony thin legs – apparently it’s a ‘thing’ to signify how ‘beautifully’ skinny you are. These were young girls I’m talking about, girls who haven’t finished growing and aren’t even out of puberty yet! Now I know full well that I can be old fashioned when it comes to certain things – I can’t abide fully made up 12 year olds, or young teens wearing ‘adult’ clothing, some things just shouldn’t be messed with: when you’re a kid, be a kid, don’t pretend to be 19 when you’re 11, that’s just asking for trouble.

Okay, let’s move on. After overhearing yet another conversation about ‘being fat’ today, and again, coming from young teenage girls, this time about how to be a ‘better bulimic’ – because the grammar there isn’t enough to drive you crazy – I decided I had better address these issues a little bit. So I hopped online and did some research and came across this website. This site clearly defines the most common eating disorders – eg. anorexia, bulimia – and talks about signs, symptoms and potential treatments.

I think it’s important to have a good understanding of eating disorders when you’re dieting. Not only because it’s important to have a full understanding of the things people go through to conform to a certain ‘norm’. I’d like you to have a look at this video by Cherry Dollface and think about what she’s getting at. If you’re changing your lifestyle to look more like the model on the cover of a magazine – male or female! – you might want to reassess your goals: you’re never going to look like someone else. That’s just the way it works; I know we would all love to have supermodel looks, but that’s just not possible for most of us. Don’t set a goal that you’re never going to be able to achieve: it’ll just make you miserable. Society puts enough pressure on all of us – men and women, girls and boys – to look and act a certain way without us adding to the pressure by trying to be someone we’re not. We certainly don’t want to be saying “I’m on this diet so I can look like … ”; that just sets a bad example for anyone, especially the young and impressionable teens who are already confused about who they are!

Teens are probably the most pressurised of all humanity; not only do we expect them to get some sort of sensibility and education, we also want them to grow up, not hang around with the wrong crowds, stay safe, and in some cases – we don’t want them to grow up at all! They’re busy planning not planning for their future: they’re in the now and that might mean study for some, partying for others, or both. It also means figuring out who you are, trying to work out what you’re into: do you like rock music? Classical? Do you go with fashion trends or do your own thing? Are you going to get that tattoo or not? Your friends smoke, do you? Your friends drink, will you? All of these things and more make up the hazardous environment of growing up as a teen. And then, bang! Kids get swamped with images from movies, magazines, social media, the rest of the internet telling them they’re ugly, fat or have the wrong eyebrows. All of this when you’re swamped with hormones and trying to work out how you fit in the world.

Admittedly, a lot of teens cope quite well. Others don’t and turn to things to help them buff up or slim down are things like eating disorders or protein shakes. None of which their bodies are prepared to cope with. And it’s not just teens that are at risk here, adults are just as much in danger of become victims of social pressures. The only thing I can say is that if you feel pressured and you’re suffering, remember that you’re stronger than you think and this will pass! You’re your own person and the only one you have to be is yourself. You can choose that, by the way; you can choose who you want to be. And if you can’t cope with the pressure there are elements in place to help you out: talk to your GP, or at least to someone you trust – a family member, a friend – you’re never really alone.

Clear skies,

Vee

A Word About: Breakthrough Bleeding

(Aside: If you’re not comfortable reading about women’s monthlies uncomfortable, go ahead and skip this entry. I do strongly recommend that women read it as it might help you not be too surprised when things happen…)


You’ve conquered carb flu and your cravings, more or less. That’s awesome. So what other surprises lie around the corner? Well, for me, it was the really random and constant breakthrough bleeding that I started to experience in my second month. Now, I’m on the pill which I take religiously every day: we haven’t decided if we want kids yet, and it’s the only way I can control my PCOS-odd periods, so when I get bleeding before I’m meant to I start to worry. I didn’t mention it to anyone, thinking it was just my body adjusting to the diet; I had read that depending on the dosage you’re taking, the pill can be affected by drastic changes in diet, so I figured I’d just wait it out. Now, before I was on the pill I’d have some pretty heavy periods that lasted for ages, that was when I had them at all – one of the delightful side effects of PCOS, which I’ll start discussing soon – but having breakthrough bleeding for more than a month was a little bit insane, even for my messed up reproductive system. So what did I do? I could have called my GP I suppose, in fact I probably should have, but I thought I’d hop online first and see if I could find an explanation before I ran to the doctor’s.

Turns out I wasn’t alone in this. In fact, the Internet forums are full of women – a lot of them panicking – who went through the same thing. Funny thing about women, our reproductive organs enjoy a steady balance of hormones, and as it happens, estrogen is fat soluble. Guess what that means? Our body’s been storing the darned stuff in our fat, at least that ‘s the way I understand it. Now that we’re low carbing, the fat’s being burned up and the excess estrogen is flooding our system triggering a hormonal response that can lead to off-rhythm menstrual cycles and for some women who have given birth over the last year or so a restart in breastmilk. I figure this is one of the reasons why women with PCOS are told to lose weight before they try to conceive: the more fat we’ve got the higher our estrogen stores are, the more out of balance our hormones get, and the cycle continues.

Keep in mind, ladies, that while you’re having these breakthrough bleeds your birth control isn’t working as well! So take extra precautions if you don’t want to get pregnant!

 Clear Skies,

Vee