PCOS and Weight Gain: My Story

It’s been a rough 10-plus years to say the least. What I have gone through with my body and my weight has been a painful journey. Hormones, I hate you. I know I need you, but I hate you when you don’t work right.

Let’s head back to 2005. The year Jared and I got married I started to put on a significant amount of weight. I thought to myself, ‘well, we’re newly weds, lots of stress, new lifestyle, new everything it must be weight gain from stress.’ After all, I don’t have the best genetics on my side as both my parents are quite overweight.

The second year came and I started to put on more and more weight to the point of needing to go buy new pant sizes every couple months. At the end of that second year,  I had put on nearly 60 pounds since we were first married and 85 lbs since I met Jared. The strange thing was that I had not altered my lifestyle at all. I ate the same types of things, exercised the same amount, and lived the same lifestyle I had lived for nearly my whole life. I did not know what was going on. I don’t know why I waited so long to seek after answers. Maybe I thought because I had obesity in my family that it was just my lot in life. I wish more than anything I had taken charge sooner, but that was then and all I can focus on is now.

In the beginning, my doctors quickly discovered that I had hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid.  It can cause many medical conditions, including weight gain. My mom has hypothyroidism and so I wasn’t that surprised. Believing that that was the reason for the weight gain, I started on medication. Nothing really changed, my weight continued to go up.

In 2007 we decided we were ready to start trying for a family. That was when all of the answers came flooding in.  Shortly before that year I stopped having regular menstrual cycles. I thought it was strange, but I had heard of others that didn’t have regular menstrual cycles either.

In order to conceive you need to ovulate.  And, in order to ovulate, you need to have a menstrual cycle. Problem! We began earnestly to seek answers. After several tests, I found out I met all three criteria for Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, often referred to as PCOS. Ovarian cysts: check. Elevated testosterone: check. Insulin resistance: check. My many struggles finally had an officially named endocrine disorder that explained their cause.

After the diagnosis, we went through many, many medicines and procedures and finally got our first baby, a girl. She was our miracle baby. The pregnancy caused me a net gain of about 30 lbs, and I stayed at that weight for a long time.  I even lost 20 pounds at one point, but eventually returned to my post-pregnancy weight.

When my baby girl was two years old, we decided we were ready to start the process, nay, the battle, to fight for another baby. I went on progesterone to help with the fertility issues in order to conceive. In the two weeks that I was on progesterone, I gained 20 lbs. Yep, you read that right, 20 pounds in 2 weeks! I have also never felt more horrible in my life emotionally as well as physically.

At my highest weight ever, we eventually conceived. We found out 6 weeks into the pregnancy it was twins! Two miracles this time. The honest truth? I was scared, really, truly terrified.  I was scared to start a pregnancy, a twin pregnancy nonetheless, at the weight I was at. My doctor assured me I’d be okay. I was okay.. With that twin pregnancy I gained 50 additional pounds. I was very ill at the end of and after my pregnancy. I suffered from late developing preeclampsia, fluid retention in my lungs, high blood pressure, and some psychosis among a myriad of other problems.  Those problems caused me to lose 35 of the 50 pounds I had gained.

Once I regained some of my strength and my health, the weight shot back up. It was like my body thought that it needed to be in homeostasis, to go back to what it was before. I was taking care of three children three-years-old and under. I was hardly eating, hardly sleeping, and stressed beyond belief. You’d think I would lose weight under conditions like that, but not me, not with the way my body works.

Over the last 4 years since the twins were born, it seems that my biggest challenge has been insulin resistance. Curse you insulin resistance!  People often associate insulin problems with diabetes, but I am not at all diabetic. In fact, my blood sugar levels are perfect. But insulin resistance is a by-product of the endocrine disorder I have. Insulin is a hormone. When you are insulin resistant your body does not process sugar and fat correctly. It takes all the sugar out of whatever you eat, whether it’s a seemingly a healthy vegetable or fruit OR a donut or bag of chips and quickly turns it into fat leaving you with a small storage of energy to be burned and a large storage of “energy” (fat) that is just stored.  One thing that both brings me comfort and sorrow is multiple doctors telling me “this is not your fault” regarding that massive weight gain. I’ve been told I’m badly misjudged by a doctor and perhaps I am. Perhaps people think I’m always stuffing my face with unhealthy food and not care about exercise, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure, 30 lbs, even 50 lbs could be my not so perfect eating habits and lifestyle, but doubling in size cries for more explanation.

There are things I will have to do, ways I will have to eat if the weight is to come off. A ketogenic, paleo type diet for now is my best bet. It makes me sad to not be able eat things that I would normally think as “healthy” such as a banana. But the truth is that my body, in the state it is in, does not fully really recognize the difference between a banana and a snickers bar in regards to it spiking my insulin levels and storing sugar as fat.  It will take the sugar from each and store it nearly the same. Crazy, huh? It’s ever so frustrating. But then I look at my husband who was diagnosed with full fledged Celiacs Disease nearly two years ago. My oh my how his life has changed. He has had to give up so many of the things he loved, a way of life he has lived. If he doesn’t’ his body will attack itself. My diagnosis is not much different. My body is attacking itself too in a different way. Sugar spikes attack my health just as wheat products attack Jared’s health.

Insulin Resistance is the root cause of many, many medical issues. PCOS and weight gain being just two of them. It’s not to be taken lightly when the hormones in your body don’t function correctly.

So here I am setting out on a journey to heal my body, my hormones and my endocrine system. It’s tough being in a body that can’t do the things you’ve always done or hope to do. It’s embarrassing fighting unwelcome obesity and being twice the size you’ve been most of your life. It’s tough being judged for many things that have been out of your control. The more important thing is that there are many things that ARE in my control, and though hard to accept, I’m trying really hard to keep my chin up, keep at it, and literally fight for my life.