23 Jan PCOS: How to cope with these crazy AF cravings (and what might be causing them).
It’s 1030am and everyone in the work kitchen knows all too well to back up their trucks: around about this time every morning you come in like a wrecking ball. Forget the blue, fluffy, goggley-eyed muppet (and Miley) – you’re the new Cookie Monster, known for inhaling 5 biscuits in 2 minutes and 32 seconds flat (yes, you’ve been timed)… Cravings hey – enough to drive anyone cray cray.
You’ve recently been diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), but since before you can remember, you’ve been snacking on the sweet stuff. You genuinely feel as though there’s a ferocious beast marching around inside you, chanting: “FEED ME NOW!” And once that last crumb has been consumed? You crawl back to your desk, hoping that you’ll be able to cope with the guilt, shame and self-sabotage that you know will follow.
Before you begin by lambasting yourself for a lack of will power and self control, let’s begin with some loving because girl, there could be more going on.
Something that I’ve spoken about at length with my badass babes struggling with PCOS. Essentially when we eat food, particularly carbohydrate-rich food, it gets broken down into glucose. Glucose needs to get from our blood to our cells so that it can make energy (allowing all processes in our bodies to be carried out). Thing is, glucose needs a ‘key’ to get from the blood to the cells. Insulin, a hormone (or chemical compound), is this ‘key’.
All sounds pretty simple ‘ey? Until we keep knocking back foods that require heaps of insulin to be released… Eventually, this leads to our cells no longer responding that magnificently to insulin (known as insulin resistance) which means glucose can’t get from the blood to the cells that efficiently, which means that whole process of making energy? Yes: it’s pretty defunct.
That ferocious inner beast then goes on a rampage, and before you know it, a bag of skittles, a couple of Krispy Kremes and one great big dollop of Dulce De Leche Häagen Dazs ice cream have made their merry way down your gullet.
Cravings & IR: what can be done?
Replace the refined
We’re talking out with the highly processed foods (breads, pasta, white rice, biscuits, sweets) and in with whole, single-ingredient, nutritious, unrefined alternatives.
Eat little & often
Never skip a meal, especially breakfast. This helps to keep blood sugar from plummeting.
This helps to keep glucose entering your blood more smoothly: think of protein as making the process more James Bond-y. Options include: nuts, nut butters, eggs, humous, quinoa.
High intensity, weight-bearing exercise is most beneficial for insulin resistance (and PCOS). It’d be wise to contact a PT so you don’t do damage. (more on exercise).
Even if you’re eating the most nutritiously perfect diet, stress can be one of the main causes of insulin resistance.
If you’re struggling with PCOS & insulin resistance, inositol helps to make you more insulin sensitive and has been reported to help curb cravings.
Gauge your Gut Health
Your gut is teaming with life. That’s right: it’s home to over 100 trillion bacteria, viruses & fungi, known as your micro-biome. And we’re all about them. More & more research demonstrates that when they’re in balance, they play a critical role in optimising digestion, immunity, metabolism, vitamin & hormone synthesis and mood regulation. The composition of your micro-biome is hugely influenced by your diet, hygiene & exposure to medications, chemicals & toxins.
But what does this have to do with your cravings?
Well, evidence suggests that when your micro-biome is out of whack (also known as dysbiosis), certain microbes can be manipulating menaces and create cravings for certain foods that they thrive on.
So what causes dysbiosis?
The overuse of antibiotics, consuming a highly processed diet lacking in nutrients, chronic stress or exposure to environmental toxins can all negatively impact your micro-biome. So, if coupled with those cravings, you’re experiencing any digestive systems such as bloating, belching, burning, cramping, fatigue, indigestion, diarrhoea, constipation or undigested food in your poop, have a chat with your health care provider (or me!). The appropriate clinical testing can help you get to the cause of your concern (and maybe even those cravings).
When shit hits the fan, and we use food as our primary coping mechanism, then we need to take a step back. And tune in. Because research shows that when people can’t identify with their emotions, and lack alternative methods to address these, then they’re more prone to binge eating. And we’ve all been there: used food as an emotional crutch in some or other way either by over or under eating. But “you were made for the stars dear girl, so stop settling for the dust they leave behind” (Yes please Daniel Walsh).
What to do?
Even though it feels as those these craving are all-consuming, they’re not. That ferocious beast will usually settle in about ten minutes. So, instead of saying “I can’t” instead say “Hang 10”. And then go for a walk (no, not to the bakery!), meditate, breathe deeply, colour in (my fave) and try to establish what you’re feeling: sad, angry, lonely, frustrated or bored? And then notice if your desire to eat is still there ten minutes later. If it is? Have some sensible snacks on hand because a soggy piece of lettuce or celery stick AIN’T going to be in the least bit satisfying (we’re talking nuts, Coyo yoghurt, berries).
Start from the top of your head and work your way down: how are those emotions being experienced physically? Does your chest tighten, your jaw clench or your heart race? And how does this link with your cravings? You might find keeping a food, symptoms & emotions diary a really helpful way to track what’s going on.
Are your emotions speaking of a much greater yearning: a craving that goes far beyond food? One that’s to do with dissatisfaction with work, relationships or life in general? If you dig a bit deeper to address these, what would that mean for your relationship with food?
So there’s hope?
Darling, there’s always hope. And if you want to join other beautiful badass babes breaking their chains with all the joys (did someone say nipple hair?!) of PCOS , including those cray cravings, my door is open. Let’s chat.
PS. What’s with the self-sabotage? An all-or-nothing approach is nonsense and won’t get you anywhere in the long run. So be gentle with yourself as you attempt to figure out what’s going on.