At Fertility Chef, we are well aware that PCOS is a syndrome that spans from adolescence through menopause and can touch on many different areas of a woman’s life. Emotional, physical, and social aspects of dealing with PCOS are just a few of the things that make this such a challenging journey. We love to hear from women who are tackling this disease one day at a time while learning to love their bodies and their life. There is nothing more awesome than a girl kicking butt. If you would like to share your PCOS journey with our readers please get in touch with us here: http://www.fertilitychef.com/contact/
Tell us about yourself
My name is Erica DePascale. I am a 23 year old on-air radio host from Philadelphia, PA. I am releasing an E-book coming out in June 2014 called PCOS Outta Here: The Completely Simplified Guide to a Knockout. In my free time, I run an socail media accounts where I create low carb, grain free and dairy free delicious recipes that are very simple and PCOS friendly. I also inspire young women to embrace their PCOS, be extremely confident in their beauty, begin a life of fitness and speak out about PCOS. I love to box, take Zumba classes and to travel everywhere. My goal is to raise enough money to be able to tour around the country and do community meet-up ‘Inspire’ sessions for women in different cities with PCOS!
How long did you deal with PCOS symptoms before being diagnosed? What was the trigger for pursuing a diagnosis?
I’ve had symptoms my entire life. When I was just one year old, my mother and my doctors couldn’t figure out why I was eating so much and always wanting more. I was always overweight but never ate unhealthy. When puberty came around at age 13, I lost about 50% of my thick, long hair. I had my endocrine system checked, various blood tests but nothing was wrong. I always had a normal period cycle as well. By 18, I had an annoying amount of facial hair, a weight problem I worked extremely hard to overcome and chronic urinary tract infections. My weight shot up to 251 pounds during college. This past September 2013, my hair started falling out like crazy. I didn’t have much to begin with. It took a scalp biopsy and a good dermatologist to determine my hair loss was hormonal. From there, I followed up with a reproductive endocrinologist who finally got me on the right path.
What did you know about PCOS before being diagnosed?
Very little. I have a cousin who always mentioned having it because of her irregular periods. She used to tell me other symptoms and I used to always think ‘boy, does that sound like me’. Yet, I never had irregular periods and that’s what every doctor needed to diagnose me. It led me to constantly focus on other syndromes for a diagnosis.
How has PCOS affected your relationship with your significant other? How can we increase awareness / sensitivity towards PCOS among men?
It’s more of an emotional struggle if anything. My hair falling out to the point it has made me extremely upset, depressed and not wanting to even go to work. I was not a pleasant person to be around and I didn’t feel beautiful or sexy. I felt as if I was pushing my boyfriend away because I didn’t feel like a woman. At my worst, the facial hair was thick and growing fast, my weight was spiraling out of control and the last thing I wanted was a man to come near me. PCOS affects so many women. I think the basis of getting men to be sensitive and aware of it is to inform them. It’s not just physical facial hair, irregular periods; it comes with big hormonal changes and lots of anxiety because of that. If men understood how and why PCOS develops, I know even more progress can be made in helping women overcome PCOS with extra support.
What lifestyle or diet changes have you had to make and which ones have worked best for you?
There have been so many! I’ve always been on Weight Watchers and an exercise enthusiast. Yet, it took me months upon months to lose just 10 pounds. After being diagnosed and learning the root causes of PCOS, I’ve adapted an extremely low carb and dairy free diet. I eat only about 50 carbs a day, and I find those carbs solely in fruits, veggies, nuts, and certain grains. For the most part, my diet is grain free. I do enjoy steel cut oats or quinoa once a week. Most women don’t know that, although dairy has very little to no carbohydrates, a natural hormone called igf-1 causes a huge insulin release in the body, which is the root cause for PCOS. I’ve found great vegan cheese and yogurt alternatives and really enjoy my almond and coconut milks! These two changes alone, along with drinking about 3 liters of water per day, have worked extremely well for me. I’ve lost 53 pounds and 7 inches in my waste alone. The beginning was tough, but it’s gotten so much easier. It’s unbelievable.
Are there any special challenges you have faced treating PCOS?
Losing my hair has been the biggest challenge. I’ve been on treatment (200mg/day of Spironolactone and 1500 mg/day of Metformin, Orthotricyclin-Lo Birth Control) only for a handful of months now and with all the new diet, medication and hormonal corrections in my body my hair began falling out even more. It was hard not to quit taking these medications. Now, my family and friends say my hair has looked healthier and more filled-in then it has in a year. My scalp is still extremely sensitive and I can never do anything but pull my hair up anymore. I’ve had doctors tell me it could be a full year before hair responds to treatment, so I am keeping my hopes in these changes, but it has been a very rough road. Everything else responded very quickly and nicely in my body, but my hair is another story.
For women interested in trying lifestyle and diet changes as part of their PCOS management, how would you recommend they start?
[Tweet “Most women with PCOS have an extremely hard time cutting out bread.”]
The easiest way is to mentally commit yourself to it and jump right in. The most important part is keeping your insulin resistance at a minimum, which means eating every three hours to keep a stable blood sugar and to cut out foods that cause a huge release of insulin. The first thing I tell women that reach out to me about making a change is to first go out and make an investment in all the staple foods. This includes buying almond, coconut and tapioca flour, almond and coconut milks, coconut oil, lots of eggs, a stash of all different nuts, and lots of frozen or fresh veggies. Create your own drawer, shelf or pantry away from your family’s so you aren’t tempted as often. I always say a six-week carb cleanse is what will put you on track for success. That means eating 50 grams or less of carbohydrates per day, for six weeks, adding high healthy fats like nuts, eggs and avocados. After that six weeks, you can maintain at 50-100 grams per day and still be successful. Cooking needs to become a huge part of your life. Before being diagnosed, I didn’t know a thing about cooking. However, I’ve been able to experiment and create recipes I share with other people looking to follow this type of diet but eat things that actually taste good! I love to create and share recipes for things like no-grain, dairy-free pastas, waffles, cake pops, doughnuts and fries. The amount of healthy and good food you can create is amazing!
What is your favourite PCOS fighting recipe?
My Almond Butter Bread is my favourite PCOS recipe. Most women with PCOS have an extremely hard time cutting out bread. I’ve created a bread that can be used for everything; sandwiches, french toast, garlic bread, croutons and more. What’s great about this bread is that it is grain free, dairy free and extremely low carb-perfect for a PCOS diet!
- Almond Butter
- Raw Honey
- Coconut Oil
- Ground Flax Seed
- Almond Flour
- Coconut Flour
- Baking Soda
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer to mix: 3/4 cup almond butter, 6 eggs, 2 tbsp raw honey, 1/4 cup melted coconut oil. After well blended, add in: 1/4 cup ground flax seed, 1/4 cup almond flour, 2 tbsp coconut flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt. And mix with the electric mixer again until smooth. Grease a bread loaf pan and pour batter in evenly. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown (should be firm to press on). Let cool completely before you slice! Slices can be kept for about 7 days, sometimes 9 if you refrigerate them.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? Any other signs and symptoms, methods for successful weight loss, fertility treatments and outcomes, etc.?
The last thing to add to your lifestyle is weight resistance training. Cardio itself is good for your health, but isn’t doing much for your insulin resistance and PCOS. Building lean muscle is the key to keeping IR under control. I do about 3 days a week of strictly weight training now and it’s helped in so many ways. I’ve had women come back to me saying that just starting to weight train has brought back a regular period. The same goes with a dairy-free lifestyle. I can’t tell you how many women have cut out dairy for just one month, and their cycle came back regularly after being irregular for years and years. Remember, just because you don’t have the ‘main’ symptom doctors focus on (irregular period or ovarian cysts), doesn’t mean you don’t have PCOS. It’s important to be an advocate for yourself if you have any signs of PCOS and get the right type of doctor. A reproductive endocrinologist is who finally was able to sit down and help me the most. I also like to remind women that even if they are prescribed Metformin, that alone will do nothing but make you nauseous if you don’t change your diet. No medicine will cure, it will only help boost the great changes you are making to your body by changing your lifestyle.
What’s the one message that you think our readers should take-away if they are diagnosed with PCOS?
Don’t be afraid to embrace it everyday! So many women fall into a dark hole, only focusing on the hardships of weight loss we face, not being able to conceive, and dealing with self-esteem issues because of the physical appearance downfalls. Keep a positive attitude towards your PCOS because unlike so many other ailments, YOU have the ability to change and control it. Embrace the fact that we are the healthiest group of women, the strongest group of women, the most humble group of women because we appreciate every aspect of what being a woman means. Once you have that taken away from you and begin to get it back, it is the best feeling in the world. Have hope, even when you are experiencing a bad symptom. I never believed it before, but it’s all I believe in now. Change is so possible!!!
To learn more about Erica check out her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pcosouttahere, follow her on Twitter here: https://www.twitter.com/pcosouttahere and check out her Instagram photos here: http://instagram.com/pcosouttahere