58: Changing your diet for your PCOS + dealing with judgement from others about your lifestyle changes

What happens if you have gone vegan or vegetarian for lots of different reasons – a lot of it being ethical reasons – and then you find out that it’s not really working for your health and maintaining that way of eating along with making sure your health is in check is making your diet feel very restrictive? So you’re having this kind of internal dilemma because you feel so strongly about the reasons why you chose to remove animal products (partially or all together). 

Everyone knows you’re plant based, considering you’ve been eating this way for a while and many of your friends eat this way too. So how do you just, not? How do you suddenly become not vegan or vegetarian? How do you manage that judgement about reincorporating foods that many of those around you either are against eating OR they know that you very firmly have been against eating?

Nutrition has become a hugely controversial topic now. Everyone eats, so everyone has an opinion on what diet is ‘best’, even if they have no tertiary level nutrition education whatsoever. So when we decide to make a change to the way we eat, it becomes a hotly debated topic of conversation. And because there’s a lot of misinformation floating around now – especially around what way of eating is best for PCOS – it can become a bit of a minefield to navigate.

Everything I’ve described above is what today’s podcast guest, the lovely Francesca who I got to know in The PCOS Protocol, was dealing with. She was a devout vegan – for ethical, environmental and health reasons for a good few years and many of her friends also were vegan. Since she had become so much a part of the vegan community, being plant based really became a part of who she was. When she joined the Protocol, her main issue was infertility. All she wanted was to be a mum but it was a massive uphill battle trying to reach that goal when her PCOS was making her body go haywire. Her hormones were way out of whack, so getting pregnant was her body’s last priority.

During the time I was working with her, we found that her insulin wasn’t functioning properly – it was way too high and she couldn’t tolerate a lot of carbohydrates. If you know plant based diets, you’ll know that they’re very carb heavy, so suddenly her diet became very restrictive. She found that a lot of what she had been eating up until this point was not actually what her body physiologically functioned well off, so she had to cut back the carbohydrates a fair bit as well as cutting all animal products. What that left her with was not a lot of variety and the window of what she could eat that managed her insulin and took into account her plant based lifestyle was very, very small. 

The only answer was to expand her diet and she started reintroducing some free range eggs. Now eating eggs again may seem like nothing to you but this is such a hard thing when it’s not just about ‘eating eggs’ again. When you identify yourself with a way of eating, it often becomes your whole way of looking at the world, ethics and morals – it essentially becomes an extension of your identity. So when that has to shift, it becomes a very hard thing to manage. And that’s not just with moving away from a plant based diet, for you it may be that your a devout follower of keto but you actually need some carbohydrates in order to get your period back or it could be finding out you’re coeliac and you’re Italian so you’re thinking “how the heck do I explain to my nonna that her lasagne is going to actually make me very ill?”

Everyone talks about going keto, vegan, vegetarian, paleo and so on but no one is really talking about becoming un-vegan, un-keto etc. I’m not saying that with PCOS everyone has to do a complete 360 overhaul of their diet because that’s definitely not the case but if you do have to change your diet away from something you’ve been doing for so long, how would you go about that process?

This is why I really wanted to share Francesca’s story with you all on the podcast – so you can hear someone who’s done the hard yards and can give you some advice on how she approached this process. Whatever the dietary change is whether it’s deciding whether or not to be plant based or it’s gluten free or dairy free or keto – how do you manage these conversations with the people in your life to make sure that you get the best for you but you also don’t feel awkward about asking for what you need? 

If you’re thinking “Wow, that’s me. Every time I talk about dietary changes it turns into a fiasco of unsolicited opinions and stress”  – then you need to hear this episode.

This episode is for you if:

  • You’re vegan or vegetarian
  • You are a devout follower of a specific way of eating (whether that’s plant based, keto, paleo – whatever it is!)
  • You’re struggling to choose between your ethics/morals and your health when it comes to food
  • You have been diagnosed or think you may have insulin resistance
  • Your PCOS symptoms aren’t improving much with the way you’re living and eating currently
  • Fertility is one of your goals
  • TTC has been difficult for you
  • You don’t seem to be making any progress with symptoms even though you’re eating “healthy”
  • You’ve been told IVF is pretty much your only option when it comes to conceiving and that you won’t likely be able to do so naturally
  • Talking about your diet with anyone seems very stressful or causes lots of opinions and unsolicited advice

Some things we cover in this episode:

  • Dealing with people’s opinions on how you choose to eat or changing the way your eating
  • How diet can affect our PCOS, our cycles and ultimately our fertility
  • Getting pregnant with PCOS
  • How to figure out the best way to find balance between eating in a way that you believe in as well as eating in a way that’s physiologically best for YOU
  • Changing your eating habits
  • The stigma around being vegan or not being vegan
  • How to approach conversations full of unsolicited diet advice (ugh)
  • When a way of eating becomes your identity
  • How to figure out what diet is best for you and your PCOS

Resources and References: