Thursday, 7 April 2011

My Fitness Story... - Lauren

It's Thursday again so it's time for another guest post from someone taking part in the My Fitness Story... series. Today's guest poster is Lauren, who blogs at You Big Eejit. Lauren suffers from a condition that affects many women, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This has recently affected her health and fitness. She decided to share her story to raise awareness of the condition, which may affect as many as 10% of women of reproductive age. Time for Lauren to take up the tale...

I have always been fortunate with my weight, hovering somewhere between 10 and 10 and a half stone, size 10-12, 14 on a bad day. I have never been a fan of dieting, and was always quite laid back about my weight. While I could never just eat what I wanted, I was fortunate in being able to regulate it quite well.

I wanted to share my fitness story because I have just come out of a difficult weight and health experience where all of that changed. Everything I knew about my body was flipped upside down, and while everyone is different, I wanted to encourage any of you who are, or suspect you may be, going through the same thing.

In October 2009, I decided that after 8 years of being on the Pill for acne, at the age of 29 I should be over it by now and came off it. It also coincided with a decline in my running regime, so I assumed that the weight that had begun to creep on was down to that. By April, my spots were back, worse than before, and my weight wasn’t shifting, if anything it was going up even more, but I still just put it down to eating too much and exercising too little. It was at this time that my periods – which had been normal since coming off the Pill – stopped entirely. Again, I made excuses and put it down to travelling, work stress, and the excitement of a new relationship but after 3 months, I decided to see my GP. He was brilliant – he took blood tests, arranged scans… in short he took me seriously, which is what I so desperately needed.

By this stage, I had put on a stone and a half in the space of 6 months and mentally was at rock bottom. I had just got engaged and should have been at my happiest – instead I was so low and unhappy. I joined a Rosemary Conley class and began a strict exercise and weight loss regime, but still the weight stayed on. My tummy was big and swollen and I could no longer fit in my clothes. I think what troubled me most was the lack of control I seemed to have over my body. If I was just putting on weight because I was eating too much, then there was something I could do about it. But I felt like my body had a mind of its own, putting on weight no matter what I did, and that scared me.

I went back to my GP, who told me that scans and blood tests showed nothing sinister, but booked a gynaecologist appointment for my own peace of mind. Also, because my acne was bad again, he put me back on the Pill. He also said this may kick start my cycle again. The subsequent change in my body, and my mentality, from that moment was unbelievable. I must emphasise that the Pill did not make me lose weight, but because my hormones were back to normal and I was having regular “periods”, the exercise and dieting I was doing was finally making a difference. The weight began to fall off – slowly but surely, and my confidence began to soar. The swelling in my hips and stomach went down, and my clothes began to fit again. 

Although my periods came back and things were back to “normal”, I still went to my gynaecologist appointment, and it was there that I was finally diagnosed with having Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. I must stress here that I was told I have an atypical version of it. I do not have excess hair, and my scans did not show cysts on my ovaries. However, my LH and FSH hormone levels were consistent with women who have PCOS and the gynae suggested that being on the Pill for so many years had probably masked it. It was such a relief to be given this diagnosis, albeit an unconfirmed one. It just all made sense, especially since I had seen such a difference in my weight and body shape since I started the Pill again.

I remain on the Pill, and I am still continuing with my diet and weight loss programme. To date, I have lost 1 stone 2lb, with only 4lb left to lose before I am back to where I was. There is no further treatment for PCOS, only that I am now more aware of my body than before. I realise that this is something I will have to battle with, and it is difficult. I’m afraid I can’t sit here and say that everything is ok now because even with a positive ending to the experience, it has still left me with worries, paranoia and fears. I worry that because I associate being on the Pill with being able to regulate my weight, I am scared to come off it. With the joys of losing a huge amount of weight comes the paranoia that I’ll put it all back on. Any time my stomach feels bloated, I panic that the PCOS is flaring up. I do not like the idea of being out of control of my body again. 

The support I am receiving is helping me battle these feelings. My fiancĂ© has been an incredible strength to me, loving me on my fat and skinny days; encouraging me, sometimes infuriating me, with his desire for me to stick to my regime and feel good about myself. In addition to this, my Rosemary Conley instructor, who is now running her own weight loss and exercise classes called “Healthy Visions”, has encouraged me on every step of my journey. Whether the scales go up or down, she is full of praise and support for my efforts, and leads us through challenging and fun aerobics sessions every week.

It has been a long, difficult journey for me, but I would encourage anyone for whom my story has rung a bell to take action now. Listen to your body and see your GP. There are ways to deal with PCOS and you can live a normal, happy, healthy and fit life!

I'm really grateful to Lauren for telling her story. I'm pleased that she has managed to overcome the problems that she has had and I wish her the very best in losing those last few pounds. PCOS is often difficult to diagnose and women may not even know they have it. If you do recognise any of the symptoms, a visit to your GP cannot hurt. If you want more information about PCOS, have a look at the Verity website.

If you suffer from PCOS, please share your experience in the comments below. Alternatively, if you have a fitness story to tell, then get in touch with me on Twitter or via the email address on the About me page. I will link back to any blog you write if you wish, or you can remain either partly or fully anonymous.

There'll be another fitness story here next week. Please don't forget that you can find all the posts from the My Fitness Story... series easily by visiting this page
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