In October 2017, tired of counting calories and never seeing the scale move, I decided to try the latest fad diet: Keto.
I lost almost 40 pounds in half the time it had taken to lose 20. I had lost nearly 10 inches from waist and hips. I went from a size 18 to a size 12.
Getting into ketosis was hard, but once I was there, I felt incredible: better mental clarity and focus, astronomical amounts of energy, regular body functions. Don't get me wrong, this diet is hard. No carbs, no colorful vegetables, no pasta. The struggle was real. But what it was doing for my body was worth it.
Except for one little thing: my periods had lost their minds. I'm talking bleeding for three weeks straight, no break. Coming and going in particular pattern, sometimes twice a month. Side note: this is not normal. In the world of Keto, it's supposed to help exponentially with fertility and hormone balances; people use this diet as a way to reverse hormone imbalances, PCOS, and infertility. This was virtually unheard of in all of my support groups.
Months and months go by with no relief. My doctor can't figure out why everything is so wonky. She takes me off the pill and things get better - slightly. Any improvement at this point was a victory.
She finally gets my ultrasounds back and she says "Well that's a surprise!" Cue my questioning look of confusion. "Umm care to share?" "Your ovaries have the characteristic look of PCOS. But you don't have any of the usual symptoms. I'm guessing the Keto diet was helping in it's own way. I recommend staying on the diet, let nature re-regulate your natural hormones, and we will re-evaluate in a few months."
I was frustrated, but this was totally do-able. I had been living this lifestyle for months, so I didn't foresee it as an issue. But then my kidneys starting reacting to the diet, and that doctor recommended I come off it. Obviously I wasn't going to jeopardize my health, so I started a low carb version of the Mediterranean diet.
I went in fully expecting to gain some weight back, because I was reintroducing carbs when I had gone largely without them for over a year. I knew that this would happen, and I didn't let myself get discouraged when the scale started going forward.
What I did not expect was to have my PCOS start running lose with my entire life and sanity.
Don't get me wrong — my periods were normal again, but everything else went AWOL. My hormones were going up and down of their own volition, we are talking sobbing hysterically over a butterfly commercial one minute and then fuming with anger over a car ad the next.
I started experiencing pelvic pain that feels like cramps only not all the time and without rhyme or reason.
My hair became uncontrollably oily to the point where I had to wash it everyday like clockwork; it started to thin and fall out.
I also started getting darker hair everywhere. I'm naturally an incredibly fair-skinned person so having black hair anywhere stands out like a sore thumb.
I felt like I wasn't in control of anything going on with my body. I felt like a hairy, unattractive monster. Everything that made me feel attractive and desirable was slowly being taken away from me piece by piece.
I had been living with PCOS for nearly six months, but I hadn't realized what it was like to actually live with it. I thought it was just irregular periods, but it is so much more than just a weird period.
I went back to the doctor, and she explained to me again how PCOS works, and how she didn't think traditional treatment options were the best thing for me. "Go back on the Keto diet. You were having incredible success with managing your symptoms. Go back to that."
Going back has not been easy. When I first started Keto, it wasn't easy, but I got into it quickly. I've been trying since January 12th to get back into it, and it hasn't worked.
I'm now in a place where I need to do it — for my health, for my sanity, for my self-esteem — and I physically can't. I do exactly everything the same as before, and it's not working. I'm trying to move away from the mentality of doing it for weight loss, and move toward positive thinking about how it's what's best for my body and my health.
My PCOS has forced me to have militant control over everything I eat. I can't simply enjoy food anymore. Everything that I chose to eat directly relates back to my PCOS and what that particular food can do for me. I think about everything that I put into my body, and the potential it has for either healing my body or harming it.
I see a piece of cake and I smell it, and picture in my mind what it tastes like. But I know that if I eat that piece of cake, I will bloat, get a stomach ache, and have to start back from square one the next day.
I cut out the carbs. I say no to cake. No potatoes. No pasta. I eat only green vegetables. I drink coffee that has nothing but heavy cream. I try to do intermittent fasting for 15 hours a day.
And I hope that it works. I hope that today will be the day I can get my life back on track. That today will be the day Keto works its magic.