Lean women can get PCOS

lean and obese pcos

With my previous posts about exercise, I thought it would be best for me to clarify that I am lean and I have PCOS.  I’m not trying to lose weight.  I just want to be more toned and be healthier in general.

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This is me today.  I am 168cm tall and weigh 58kg, BMI is 20 (that is 5ft6 and 128 pounds, I think).  When I was diagnosed about 2 years ago, I weighed between 60-63kg (BMI 22).  5 years ago, I was 56kg (BMI 19).  According to the BMI (body mass index) scale, my healthy weight range is 52-70kg.  So I have always been a really good weight.

This post has taken me a while to write, because PCOS is so poorly understood.  It gets even more confusing when you look at lean women with PCOS.  Most things you will read on the internet will say that being overweight is a major factor linked to PCOS.  Approximately 80% of women with PCOS are overweight, this is often linked with insulin resistance and so most treatment/advice is targeted at weight loss and increasing insulin sensitivity.

Now, for women like me who have “lean PCOS” and are not insulin resistant this advise seems to say “you are fine”.  This is what my doctor told me when I was diagnosed, basically “don’t put on weight”.  But we still get symptoms, so what is the go?!?

The main thing that stood out in my research was that even “normal” levels of insulin in lean women with PCOS, without insulin resistance, will lead to higher androgen levels.  There is some indication that there is increased sensitivity of the “androgenic insulin path-way”.  So, basically insulin causes more androgen to be produced in lean women with PCOS than in lean women that don’t have PCOS, even if you have what is considered to be normal levels of insulin.

There was also a bit of discussion on BPA (bisphenol a) causing increased androgen production.  There are studies to say that women with PCOS have significantly higher levels of BPA in their system than women without PCOS.  I know I’m guilty of having a lot of plastic microwave meals.  However, PCOS has been around for long time and I’m wouldn’t think that BPA has really been a contributing factor in the past.

After reading through different studies, I think there needs to be a lot more study done into the cause/causes of PCOS, rather than just focusing on the treatment of symptoms (this is important but does nothing to fix the problem).  It looks like we just have to figure out what works for us.  I really would like to cut out as much processed or unnatural substances in my body.  And then just eat and live healthy.

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Exercise up date

So I’ve been going strong with my exercise plans for just over a week now.  I’m loving the morning bike rides to work.  The fresh air and sunlight (fingers crossed it doesn’t rain) is beautiful.  I’m so unfit, my legs ache! it is pretty much flat along my route and I don’t go really fast so I don’t arrive at work too sweaty.  I don’t mind a good post exercise ache.

The Blogilates is great!  I love that you can feel your butt burning away lol.  I struggle with abs but I think I feel taller because working on the abs gives me better posture.

I am really tired at night though.  Last night, I was ready to fall into bed at 7pm.  I’m not usually a night person but 7pm is too early.  But I’m sure this will get better as my body gets used to it.

About 3 weeks now til I go off the pill 🙂 My exercise should be habit by then!

23 1/2 Hours

I tend to go on exercise fads… like joining the gym and going for a couple of months as often as I can and then dropping it. Or trying the Couch to 5km programs to get me jogging and I get to week 3 and drop it. We all know how important exercise is for general health but there are specific benefits for PCOS.

I read a literature review on different studies that looked at the effects of exercise on PCOS. These are the benefits:

  • Lower insulin resistance
  • Weight loss – decrease waist to hip ratio
  • Improved ovulation and menstrual frequency (some indication that exercise helps more than diet control)
  • Better insulin sensitivity leads to decreased androgens (which should help acne and hair excess)

(This is the literature review: Exercise therapy in polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review by Cheryce L. Harrison , Catherine B. Lombard, Lisa J. Moran, and Helena J. Teede)

The minimum recommended exercise for anyone is 150 minutes/week (you can break this up to 30 minutes 5 times/week). I was at a professional development meeting based around exercise a couple of weeks ago and they showed us this clip.

It was interesting in the clip how that even if you don’t lose weight the exercise will benefit your health.  The Jean Hailes website on PCOS backs this up by saying that reduction in a insulin resistance will occur whether or not you lose weight (http://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-professionals/medical-observer/1308-exercise-for-pcos-7-november-2011).

So My Plan is to get my 30 minutes of exercise a day.

  • Riding my bike to work as much as possible – This takes me about 15-20 minutes one way (about 4km) so I will be getting 30-40 minutes moderate cardio each day I do it.
  • Do pilates —  I have tried pilates in the past and love the burn it gives you. I have an old “Aerobics Oz Style” pilates DVD and I’ve tried to do it in the past. But I got bored with doing the same thing all the time, plus the lady presenting looks like she has had work done on her face and can’t change her facial expressions (so annoying). I found this blog (http://www.blogilates.com) the other day and am going to try it out. If you subscribe you get a month’s beginner’s workout calendar and you can do all the workouts along with a YouTube video. Then each month you will get a monthly workout. I’m going to try do the first month maybe twice through.

I really hope I can keep it up this time.  All the studies showed that the longer an exercise program lasted the better the benefits. I often get sick about 3-4 weeks into my exercise fads. I think I just don’t have enough nutrients and wear myself out. Does anyone else have this problem?

My best ever acne!

I thought I should take some photos (they are down the bottom of the post) now before I stop taking the pill.  As I said in my first post I’m waiting to stop the pill until after my friend’s wedding.  I think my acne is about as good as it has ever been since … probably since I started getting acne as a 13yr old.  So, it is pretty awesome (at least I think so) at the moment.

When I started the pill 5 years ago, I started on Levlen ED and stayed on that for 2 years then I asked to be put on a lower dose pill (Loette) which I was on for roughly 2 years then I changed back to Levlen ED.  I don’t remember my acne being as good as it is now in the first 2 years I was on Levlen ED.  It certainly got gradually worse on Loette.

I went off the pill for a couple of months at the start of this year, because I was having my hormone levels tested and it was soooooo bad.  I had it coming up on my chest, shoulders and back, and my face was just plain awful.  It  will probably be one of the most challenging things for me when I go off the pill again (at least with hairs you can pluck it and their gone).  My hubby is awesome, very encouraging and will accept my spotty pus filled face, which is great.  I will be the one that has more trouble accepting it.

Having said this, I hardly ever wear make-up to cover it all up.  Mainly because most make-ups I have tried tend to leave me with a break-out the next day.  If I were to try wearing make-up every day to work I would end up with more to cover than when I started.  I’m also lazy and don’t like the time it takes to get good coverage.  I have been using Natio make-up lately which doesn’t seem to set off my skin as much as others which is fantastic.

I have tried multiple products to clear up the acne but they just tend to burn my skin with all the acid and peroxide.  They are so expensive as well and on top of the burnt skin most of them don’t work.  I’ve pretty much given up on facial products other than moisturiser in winter.  The humidity in summer (like now) makes my skin so oily there isn’t much need for moisturiser.

Two of my sisters have had bad acne as well but my older sister’s cleared up when she was in her early 20’s.  The younger sister still has it but she is still a teenager. My other sister hardly had any pimples and was always the one to complain most if she did get one.  I get so annoyed with her and other girls that complain to you about their “one” pimple that they have had months apart from the last one.   Do they not see you are scarred for life from yours and you have multiple pimples at the time????  I always say, “let’s do a trade.  We can swap skin because your skin is clearly UNBEARABLE!”  (RANT OVER)

Anyways… that is my acne story.  Hopefully, eating cleaner, drinking more water and more exercise will help.

P_20131124_075928  Right side of face – tinted my eyelashes the other day 🙂

P_20131124_075942  Left side of my face – my fine facial hair is really bad in this photo 😦 at least it isn’t that noticeable in real life

P_20131124_075956 Forehead