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Why PCOS is good for you

September 10, 2013
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With this post, I have zero intention to make light of poly cystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, adenomyosis, pituitary failure, hypothalamic amenorrhea, PMS, PMDD, acne, or any other of the myriad of health issues that can befall women.  They are not funny.  They are not good.  They are not easy to handle, not in any sense of the word.

On the other hand, I cannot help my natural born instinct to analyze the Big Picture, and to think about what the glass looks like when it’s half empty.

A lot of health advocates say — and I agree — that most people don’t eat a good diet or try to be healthy simply because they have not been sick enough yet.  Unfortunate as this fact may be, we are creatures of complacency and habit.  If something is tolerable, we tolerate it.  Only when it becomes intolerable do we often do something about it, which is why so many of the paleo dieters out there come from histories of obesity, diabetes, and the like.  With rock bottom (though obviously not exclusively) comes great change, of that there can be little doubt.

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For this first, simple reason, any health problem can turn out to be a good thing.  It can bring you greater wellness in the long run.  Awesome.

Yet all health problems demand more than simple hacks when you encounter them in real life.  They require listening and troubleshooting and patience and often identity re-formulation. This is made all the more extreme in the case of female health problems such as PCOS, HA, cysts, and the like.

Why?

Working with hormones is hard.  It’s complex.  It’s tricky.  It takes a long time.  Moreover, hormones play directly into how we feel, who we are, and our fertility and femininity.  To that end, suffering through hormone disruption awakens us to the power of these systems.  It screams out loud and demands our attention.  It makes our bodies so powerful that we cannot ignore them, so important that we must take the time to listen.

I have worked with or shared my PCOS book with thousands of women by this point in my career.  Perhaps the hardest, but most beautiful and important, lesson I have learned is that while life has given each of us lemons in this respect, we inevitably always turn physical unrest into margaritas.

When we have problems such as PCOS and HA, the only way through them (naturally, at least) is to listen to our bodies.  It is to respect them, to come to understand their complex power and beauty, and to provide them with the nourishment they require.  It is to love them, to develop intimacy with them, and to work with them rather than against them.    It is to learn what different signals mean, to react to them appropriately, and to constantly be on the alert for new needs, new desires, and new improvements.  It is to do our absolute best to heal our bodies in partnership, and to come to greater health, relationality, self-love, and empowered womanhood.

Dealing with the instability of such a complex health issue is not a picnic.  I have written extensively on the broken trust and frustration that almost inevitably accompany chronic health problems.  But that doesn’t matter.  Most of life isn’t a picnic.  None of it is about how easy it is.  Nothing worthwhile is free.   We have to dig our heels in and push most of the time, and even harder for the things that count the most.

“Life is a journey,” they say, and much as I wish this were bullshit, it’s not.  PCOS, HA, endometriosis, PMS, PMDD, acne, infertility, miscarriages… these are steps along your journey to greater health, vibrancy, and intimacy with your body.  They teach us how to have patience, teach us how to heal, and teach us how to grow.  They teach us how to be strong, how to persevere, how to trust our bodies even while our trust has been challenged, and teach us how to love and accept and forgive ourselves above all other things.

I hate my crappy ovaries, but I love them, too, so much.  They have taught me how to forgive my body.  They have taught me to have sympathy for and forgive my body.  They have taught me how to be patient with myself, how to walk gently with my body and with my femininity, and how to accept the things I cannot change.  More than anything, too, they have given me the strength and the pride and the allegiance I need to stand up to contemporary body image norms.  They have given me a powerful and defiant relationship with my body, and they have put me firmly on the side of love, rather than that of objectification and war.

Sometimes I hate my broken ovaries, but I am so grateful for them, too.

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Managing director of Paleo for Women and author of Sexy by Nature.

15 Comments

  1. Pingback: Why PCOS is good for you | Paleo Digest

  2. thank you!

  3. I was thinking about this the other day. I said to my husband, “I wish I had a medical condition that forced me to eat healthy all the time” meaning celiac disease, or lactose intolerance, or any kind of allergy. Then I realized that, wait, I do have a medical reason, I’m hypothyroid and overweight. I’ve done 2 Whole30’s and do paleo eating on and off, but I can’t seem to get committed again and I keep coming back to junk food. And I think it’s because since I don’t have serious allergic reactions to crappy foods, I trick myself into thinking I can still eat them. It’s kind of scary to think, how sick do I need to get before I feel like I *have* to eat healthy? Glad you posted this because I’m mulling over it even more now.

  4. Ohhhhhh Stefani. You never cease to hit that nail on the head. You are such a dose of sanity for us woman fighting the hormonal battle. If it wasn’t for my acne, my eating disorder, my Ammenorhea, My pcos, I wouldn’t be on the glorious path that I stand on today. Hind site IS 20/20, but I think being open to the clues, opportunities and guidance that the universe provides, when we just choose to accept ourselves and our life, those struggles can become gifts. Well said my friend.

  5. I needed to hear this more than you know and I hope that you understand the weight that this article will have on any woman struggling with these issues that reads it. Thank you so much for putting a little perspective on an otherwise crappy ovary situation :)

  6. When I look at this post in the RSS feed, the first paragraph is some nasty porn links. Has the site been compromised?

    • yep! working on it.

  7. Ahhh SO glad you wrote this! I feel exactly the same about my PCOS – it forced me into action as I worked to discover what was wrong – I totally changed my entire nutrition, training and general lifestyle too. Love/hate relationship for sure ;)

  8. I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. It’s funny though – every time I read something along the lines of “life is a journey” I feel tremendous resistance to it. But it’s true, whether I like it or not.

  9. Couldn’t have said it better myself! While hormone balance for fertility was my biggest goal, my overall health changed so much. I had no idea I even had other things “wrong” with me, I thought it was all just a normal part of life!

    I was just thinking this morning that if someone offered me a little red pill that would take away the last 8 years of hormone struggles, years of infertility, and loss, that it would be tempting. Really tempting. But I’ve also learned so much about myself, my body, my faith….I also don’t want to give that up.

  10. Honestly, as weird as it sounds, being diagnosised with PCOS was really one of the best things that could’ve happened to me – it was a wacky blessing . It started me on such an amazing journey and I have learned so much and changed so many of the things that I thought about health/wellness/diet/etc and for once actually listened to my body. Had I not been diagnosed, I don’t think my life would be as wonderful as it is now (don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all warm and fuzzy times), but I too came out of it better than I was. I’m grateful that I was able to overcome my PCOS, but I’m even more grateful for the lessons that I learned along the way.

    • Ah, yes! Glad to know I am not the only one. :) Congratulations, Kristin

  11. My doctor said he wanted to test me for pcos and that was all I needed, started paleo the next day. Its a month later now, I have lost almost 20lbs, feel better and even stopped drinking caffeine completely. My results for pcos were negative thank goodness but if he didn’t test I wouldn’t have changed my diet that has now changed my life, so I completely agree!

  12. Thank you so much for this post. It’s exactly what I needed to hear right now in my struggle with severe endometriosis. Your perspective is an inspiration and this website provides the tools to help me adopt it myself.

    • :) I believe in you! Post back with questions if you got em!

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