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The Fertile Chick: Don’t Take Away My Carbs!

Nicole The Fertile Chick

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For me, that was one of the most devastating outcomes of my PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) diagnosis…having to give up a lot of the food I loved.

Gosh, it was hard. You see, I’m a foodie. I’ve always been one. Add to that the fact that I have one heck of a sweet tooth, and that I am also an emotional eater, then you can see why this was a particular hard pill for me to swallow, no pun intended. I’ve always been one of those people who e-n-j-o-y food. I derive the same amount of pleasure when eating sweet, hot bread and melted butter as I would from a fine dining meal. I love my food. It also hasn’t helped that, probably since I was a teenager, food has always been my number 1 therapist. To this day, when I’m feeling stressed or upset, eating has always been able to calm me, albeit only temporarily.

And did I mention that sweet tooth? OMG, you don’t even want to know! You know how normal people take off the frosting from cake before they eat it? Well, I’m not one of those people. For me, cake with no frosting is simply no fun. In fact, when I was younger, I would sit down with the cake board long after the cake was all gone, and ‘take care’ of every last piping of frosting. Yep, I was that bad!

What didn’t help matters is the fact that I used to be able to eat like a horse without putting on any weight at all. I would eat like a maniac, yet I was still as skinny as a rake. So thin was I that, at a point, I made it a point of duty to drink a bottle of malt drink every day, just so that I could look human. Ah, the good old days!

With no weight issues, I was totally oblivious of how my diet was wreaking havoc on my body. Fast forward to when I got married, started trying for a baby, encountered difficulty, and went seeking medical assistance…and I was told I had PCOS. PCO what? At first I was in denial, especially as I didn’t have absent periods, which I thought was the hallmark of the condition. But when I thought about how my weight had rapidly increased in a short space of time, and also the fact that even though the hair on my scalp was thinning, I had hair sprouting in a lot of other unwanted places, I had to accept the bitter truth.

So then, what to do?

My doctor didn’t prescribe any drugs to monitor my blood sugar, as he didn’t think I needed it. Instead, he insisted I overhaul my diet. I remember looking at him like he had grown a horn, when he told me to reduce my intake of white bread, rice, and carbs in general. Ah! So, what would I eat then?! It wasn’t until he explained what these were doing to my body that I had no choice but to get with the program. You see, women with PCOS often have higher levels of insulin in their blood, and many have trouble maintaining a healthy weight. This already elevated insulin level increases even more upon the consumption of carbs…and sugars in general. This leads to even more pronounced symptoms of the condition; more weight gain, prolonged cycles, hair loss, and the inability to ovulate, just to name a few.

As a TTC woman, there was no love for sugar that was going to stand in the way of me and being able to get pregnant, so I had no choice but to overhaul my diet. Even though I knew myself well enough to know that a total elimination would not be possible, I proceeded to limit my white bread, rice, yam, etc., to once a week, usually on Sundays. I also trashed my daily habit of drinking sweet drinks and soda, which was quite hard. Because I knew that it had to be sustainable, otherwise I would backslide quicker than one could say PCOS, I made sure I substituted my carb-y meals with foods I actually enjoyed; spicy beans, moi-moi, pepper soup, different types of salads…I soon got to the point where I would actually look forward to my meals every day. And don’t get me wrong, I didn’t eliminate carbs completely. I did have the occasional whole wheat sandwich, and included sweet potatoes, boiled plantain, and even plantain flour (for those ‘swallow’ days), in my meal plan. And, with this, I saw a marked difference. Even though I eventually moved on to IVF, my PCOS symptoms were greatly reduced. I lost weight and my hair regained a lot of its body.

And then I had my kids, and I proceeded to r-e-l-a-x!

I started eating anyhow again. There were no more limits for me. I would send for cupcakes, just because. White bread and butter became my TV-watching companion once again. Because I was no longer TTC, I didn’t think I had to be mindful of my PCOS. I could eat anything I wanted now, right?

Wrong! So, so wrong!

The weight piled back on in a flash. The moodiness and lethargy returned. But the one that actually got my attention was when I went to the salon the other day, and my stylist was lamenting, not only the limpness of my hair, but a small, coin-sized bald patch on my scalp. Eeehhn?! Bald what?! My vain self could not stomach that one oh! Haaa! No way oh!

While still in the salon, I was already on my phone, checking out a popular hair growth supplement, which has been endorsed by a number of local and international celebrities. There was a part of me that wanted to order it on the spot, but another part of me that remained wary of this kind of drug. I couldn’t help but wonder what I would be sacrificing to get the rapid hair growth it promised. Well, it didn’t take too long for me to find some not-too-pleasant reviews of this drug, with some people complaining of skin breakouts and even hair loss (such an oxy-moron, right?). Still under the dryer, my research led me back full circle to PCOS. Yep, PCOS again. I found out that, at heightened levels, PCOS leads to elevated levels of androgens or testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of these hormones in women with PCOS cause hair loss, especially DHT.

I knew there was no more running away from it. Yes, I was no longer trying for a baby, but I could no longer deny the fact that living a healthy lifestyle to control my PCOS is a lifetime commitment, and not just for a moment. Apart from hair loss, unmanaged PCOS can lead to type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even heart problems. I know I want to be here for my girls for a long time to come, so giving up my bread is a small price to pay.

I can hear some PCOS ladies mumbling and complaining now. How can one overhaul one’s diet, especially in this festive season? My people, if I tell you that I won’t eat Christmas rice or cake, I am telling you lies! But here is how I intend to do it.

When it comes to festive rice, or pasta, or potato meals, instead of having that meal and the protein, have the protein and the meal. Confused? Okay, let me simplify it. If in your former life, you would have a plateful of rice and a piece of chicken, now you should have much more of the chicken (or other protein) and a small serving of rice (probably a fourth of what your previous portion would have been). If there are other add-ons like moi-moi, coleslaw or salad, you could use these to further supplement your reduced portion of the carbs. But please, the coleslaw or salad I talk about isn’t the type drenched in salad dressing, baked beans and ketchup. Some of these so-called salads can pass for soup, by the time we Naija people finish with them. No, not those.

As for desserts, I’ll be the first to raise my hand to say I still indulge in these once in a while. I’m not the person who will ignore the tray of birthday cake being passed around, just because of PCOS. I beg, I didn’t kill anybody. Let me enjoy my life small. But instead of going for the giant slice, with an even taller layer of frosting, I now opt for much smaller slices. If you can ditch the frosting, better, but if you are like me and are still trying, then moderation is key.

The bottom line is being able to find something that can form part of your permanent lifestyle…because this is for life. Stay well clear of these fad diets, because the weight that is waiting for you when you’re done with these diets, will make your starting weight seem like a learner! I was doing my nails once, when one of my Nail Tech’s clients walked in, holding a flask of what she called her breakfast. Unfortunately, the flask fell and its contents spilled to the floor. You would have thought you were in a bakery from the smell that emanated. Apparently, she had made coffee with lots of butter (yes, butter), honey, cinnamon, etc. Apparently this diet she’s on (the Keto diet) is about using fat to burn fat…meaning a very fat-rich diet but with zero carbs (not even fruits). My mouth was open as I listened to her. When I asked her about cholesterol, she was mumbling. May God never allow us encounter the ‘diets’ that will give us issues later in life.

In summary, your diet needs to be sustainable…and in addition, you have to be ready to plan for it! You must have a meal plan. You can’t wing it, hoping you’ll just find something healthy to eat sha. Hunger is the surest and fastest way for you to slide back into your old ways, without thinking twice about it. A few weeks ago, I went for a friend’s mother’s wake keeping straight from work…starving. In the gift bag each person was given, was a massive bowl of rice, a pack of small chops and a fizzy drink. By the time we were on Eko Bridge, I had wolfed everything down. I didn’t even leave one puff-puff for my kids. Alas, the guilt I felt wasn’t enough to undo the damage. I know if I had planned better and not gone there hungry, I would had more restraint.

I hope this helps not only my PCOS sisters, but those looking to eat healthier. It ain’t easy, but with determination and commitment, we can achieve it.

Happy Holidays!

Photo Credit: Sam74100 | Dreamstime.com

Nicole is a woman in her late 30s, with a passion for all things fertility related. She suffered infertility for the first 3 years of her marriage, and found it extremely isolating. After she had her kids, she started The Fertile Chick (www.thefertilechickonline.com) to create a community and happy-place for all women, in various stages of the fertility journey.

18 Comments

  1. eesha

    December 19, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Wow! thanks for this and to think i almost skipped this article. I too suffer from pcos, but luckily i got pregnant a year into my marriage but before getting pregnant i had little or no cycle or sometimes non-stop periods, that was what made me go to an ob/gyn in the first place before i was told i had pcos during the scan. I am in the hair thinning phase, it is awful, my hair has been stagnant for the past few years, i am so tired of it. Now i know why, i do low-carb dieting and it works wonders for me, actually i was on it when i got pregnant. Baby dust to all TTC.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      Nicole The Fertile Chick

      December 19, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      Congrats on your pregnancy hun! And you’re already on the right track by maintaining a low-carb diet. With a healthy diet, hopefully our hair will bounce back again ooo! That’s my own prayer 😀

  2. Ajala & foodie

    December 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I suffer from PCOS as well, but I also have ulcerative colitis so there are very few things I get to enjoy as I am gluten and lactose intolerant. Thankful though I can still eat rice and stew. Yam and potatoes likewise but I have had to cut back on this things I can’t remember when last I ate yam or swallow. I also know it is not advisable or feasible to cut out carbs completely hence where I get to indulge my love for rice. I have always loved Asian flavors so I have learned to make lots of Asian inspired food that takes your regular day to day food to amazing like hoisin glazed salmon, Korean bbq ribs. This TTC deal is not yams when you are dealing with other health issues.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      Nicole The Fertile Chick

      December 19, 2016 at 11:50 pm

      Men, you got it right! This TTC thing no be small thing! You got me salivating at the mention of Asian cuisine. By far the best way to make healthy food more interesting. Good luck on the journey hun!

  3. missdodo

    December 19, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    I think this article is for me. Though I don’t think I have pcos, but I sure noticed some hair thinning (though my hair grows fast) …. I guess I need to eliminate my excuses and acquire new taste (my tooth is too sweet for my own good)!

    Thank you for this wake up call.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      Nicole The Fertile Chick

      December 19, 2016 at 11:52 pm

      That sweet tooth is the undoing for many of us. But we shall prevail, by God’s grace! Good luck! It will be worth it in the end!

  4. Sultana

    December 19, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Nicole!! This could be me! sans PCOS and hair loss and bread. I’m a rice fan! Not swallow but rice and more rice! I’ve bought basmati now though, then thinking of Ofada.

    Wanna do keto sans the butter and mayo and fish. But step by step. Will reduce carbs to a day too and work from there.

    Please do a piece on UTI and yeast for about to conceive moms. That’s my issue right now. The recurrent yeast.

    As always, love your totally relatable article.also a fan of the blog.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      Nicole The Fertile Chick

      December 20, 2016 at 8:11 am

      But that Keto diet though. I’m still not convinced. Will look into the UTI topic hun…and thanks so much for reading and following the blog xoxoxo

  5. Ada

    December 19, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Good to see pcos sisters here.I am almost one year into marriage and no baby because all of a sudden my testosterone levels skyrocketed from like april 2016 after managing my pcos well for years.I started breaking out ,increased hair groth on my chest,chin etc. After three failed attempts of clomid and ovidrel shots, my RE told me to go on low carb diet till further notice. Ofcourse me wey be foodie was like what about my beans, plantain,party jollof rice wanted to cry. But just like the writer when I look at how much I need kids before 30 so as to focus on my life, omo it is worth it. I am not yet pregnant and hope to be before our 1st wedding anniversary. My daily routine is 45minutes cardio/ resistance training,more protein and healthy fats like avocado, no rice (have cauliflower),yam,sweet potatoe,plantain,bread (i make my wrap using keto complaint alternatives),beans once a week and lots of low carb veg like mushrooms,kale etc. I have a baddass sweet tooth and but this diet has kinda curbed it for me. My facial hair has reduced,hormonal acne (since teeagehood reduced, cyst on my face stopped and my tummy is flatter. I weigh 66kg so you can imagine how i look 2 months into this diet. I am just looking forward to being pregnant. Not an easy lifestyle for us pcos sisters but with God we shall overcome.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      Nicole The Fertile Chick

      December 20, 2016 at 8:13 am

      Wow! I’m awe of you babe. People like you inspire me to want to do better. Good luck with the TTC efforts hun! May all your hard work pay off xoxoxo

  6. Keeping it Real

    December 19, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Victoria Beckham was diagnosed with PCOS. She made up her mind to be close to being superskinny. She turned her back on every food that was a fertilizer to these cysts. Guess what she made a career out of being so thin, controlled her body and symptoms and when she was ready to have her last child, it was so easy breezy. So ladies, its possible to beat this and create a new normal. I remember returning to Naija and being so overweight and looking 20yrs older, in one year. one look from my husband was all I needed. I despised the sweet taste of all variations of rice and all things carbs. I became a regular customer of Port Harcourt roasted fish,0 and eating like a bird. Omo, I hid away from my fiends for 3 weeks. 3 weeks!!!!!!, my facial features changed, my bulging bloated tummy that looked like a football became flat. I was suddenly sexy again and fitting into my size 12 (UK ) jeans. It was pure heaven when my husband returned from the rig in like a month after i came back and he couldn’t take his eyes and hands off of me. He begged me not to let that ‘thing ‘ happen again. Of course I understood cos I hated the bloated look from face to feet. I beat it. My husband’s love and attention and feeling like a million dollars is way tastier than any rice or bread or sweets. Once you fix your mind on eating right, the days of thining hair and looking like Michelin tyres cos of some wicked cysts is gone. Like my grandma always said growing up, if you hate cockroaches so much, don’t enable them by leaving dirty dishes with leftovers on the sink, they will come visiting and extend their stay to your bedroom and crawl up on you. So ladies,, the foods that feed the cysts, you can kiss them goodbye or limit to once in two months. My husband always keeps me in check. I guess I am blessed like that….It is a terrible situation if there’s no strong motivation to do something about it, so i hope my story inspires at least one person that it can be done. If you want more info on, feel free to visit my blog. ..Peace.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      Nicole The Fertile Chick

      December 20, 2016 at 8:14 am

      I can so relate to the feeling bloated and looking older. It’s such a struggle! Girrrrl, I think I need you to inspire me some more oh. Biko, what is the link to your blog 🙂

  7. anony

    December 19, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    NICOLE! Your article gave me oxygen and you literally just EXPLAINED my life. I LOVE FOOD… In fact, if I didn’t have friends or family, and all I had was meat,soda, cake, sweets, ice-cream, I’d be fine!!! I’m also an emotional eater, eating when stressed, busy, tired, depressed e.t.c

    Luckily, I don’t think I have PCOS, but it’s a no-brainer that eating healthy is the key to enjoying life. From your article, I’ve taken away eating your PROTEIN and the meal and not the other way round.

    I’ve also been eating lots of water melon and guava with green tea to subdue my cravings. I weigh about 90kg and hope to lose 20+kg, I just love slim people (they look really smart, energetic and full of life 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Thanks NICOLE for this post, I found it very very beneficial and refreshing…More power to your elbow…Hey beans where you at?

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      Nicole The Fertile Chick

      December 20, 2016 at 8:17 am

      You and me both oh, as per loving slim people :-D. In fact, when I tell my DH how much weight I REALLY want to lose, he gives me the side eye always…lol! Fruits are a great way of subduing sweet cravings, and I’m PRAYING to do better in 2017 with this…and not succumb to the odd snack of plantain chips here and there…lol! Thanks for reading hun…and good luck losing that 20kg. Something tells me you’ll do just fine!

  8. Nicole The Fertile Chick

    Nicole The Fertile Chick

    December 19, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    Men, you got it right! This TTC thing no be small thing! You got me salivating at the mention of Asian cuisine. By far the best way to make healthy food more interesting. Good luck on the journey hun!

  9. Judgejudyjudy

    December 20, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Totally loved reading this. Thank you for educating us!

  10. Judgejudyjudy

    December 20, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Totally loved reading this. Thank you for educating us!

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      Nicole The Fertile Chick

      December 20, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks for reading hun xoxoxo

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