The Holidays – a time for family, friends, gifts, and love. But also a time of stress, work, little time to workout, crazy schedules, and lots of food. It’s like everything you’ve been trying to avoid all year is jammed into one month. It is a time that can be hard on anyone’s body! Who hasn’t complained at least once about the pounds gained for Christmas or Thanksgiving? Or about the burnout that comes from trying to do it all – job, shopping, cooking, cleaning, visiting relatives – some you love, some you don’t? Do you know what can feel ever harder? Surviving the holidays with PCOS! So how can you manage it? How can you enjoy the holidays without messing up all the good progress you’ve made all year? And how to not have your worse cycle ever, with the worst PMS and cramps after the holidays? Here are some of the things that helped me.
Be the one to cook/Bring food with you
If you are on a PCOS diet, especially one that you know will be hard to adhere to with the foods others cook, the best solution is to either be the cook or bring food with you. If the host is not the type to have people bring food with them, try and make it clear before that you will be bringing your own. To make things easier, try and offer it up as a challenge. Convince others to do the same. That way, you’ll have a bigger variety on the table and the burden of cooking won’t fall on just one person.
If someone tries to blackmail you into eating their food (“I cooked it with love”, “I thought of you when I made it” etc) politely explain you have a medical condition and you’ll be sick if you eat that type of food. If they push forward with knowing what condition and you don’t want to explain, you could simply say something like “let’s not turn this into a conversation about diseases. We are here to enjoy each other’s company, food is just a tool, and mine happens to be delicious”. Improvise and adapt according to the people you’re with. With some, you might need to be super polite. With others, you might just be able to tell them it is none of their business. Because honestly, it isn’t!
When you can’t bring your food
Let’s face it, sometimes it happens! And sometimes it’s easier to not have to do the work. Here’s what you can do to still eat for your PCOS rather than against it:
- stock your plate with veggies – as many as possible, all colors, raw, sauteed, even fried if no other options are available.
- protein – if you are not doing a high-fat diet, like keto, then go for lean meat, like chicken or turkey. If you are on a high-fat diet, stock up on heavier meats, avocados, hummus, nuts & seeds. Those ingredients will be good for anyone unless you have a medical condition that requires you to limit fat. We need to forget about the idea that you “wear” the fat you eat. Healthy fats are great for hormonal health and fertility, so don’t be afraid of them!
- choose fruit for dessert or, if available, raw vegan treats. These treats will be, by their nature gluten and dairy-free. Most of them are sweetened with fruit, honey or coconut sugar, which are again a lot healthier than conventional sugar. Yes, fruit and some raw vegan desserts are higher in carbs, but they are good healthy carbs. If you want to make an exception from your low-carb diet, fruit is definitely the healthiest way to do it.
Avoiding alcohol is something that will be very helpful in surviving the holidays with PCOS. Furthermore, alcohol can increase estrogen levels and throw off your overall hormonal balance. However, don’t worry too much if you want to have a glass of champagne at midnight or a small glass of wine at Christmas. But it is best to stop there.
A guide about surviving the holidays with PCOS needs to include exercise! I know it’s tempting to just get lazy and enjoy a movie on the couch with loved ones. But you can enjoy time with your family just as well by going for a brisk walk outside. Too cold/icy for walks? Go to a gym or put on some video workouts and exercise at home. Dancing can be just as helpful in melting those extra calories. If you have a workout plan you’re following, try not to beat yourself up if you can’t keep up with it. Maybe the gym will be closed, or you won’t be at home with your usual equipment.
Hear me out: moving your body is what matters in this period! How you do it – that’s just details. You might be too stressed, too busy, running around, shopping, visiting friends and family. This is going to put stress on your body. If you feel like hard exercises like HIIT or strength training are too much – they probably are. Scale back and do something like restorative or yin yoga. Something that gently stretches your muscles and your joints, without putting more pressure. If on the contrary, you have a day where you sit and eat all day, you know that’s when you can go strong with the workouts. Remember: balance is key to everything! To get you started here’s my favorite short yoga video for the holidays.
So many of us overlook the importance of rest when it comes to PCOS and health in general. Listen to me: you can eat the most perfect diet, stick to a professionally created exercise routine and take all the supplements. If you don’t rest, you don’t get enough sleep, you are sabotaging your health. Furthermore, fatigue is a common symptom in PCOS. So don’t make yourself even more tired by not sleeping enough. Late nights may happen this season, but that doesn’t mean you cannot rest enough during the next day.
Remember to enjoy life
So much talk about surviving the holidays with PCOS and making sure you do not lose all the progress made during the year can really take away the joy from life. This season should be about being thankful, happy, giving and receiving. Remember to put that first. And if this means you eat a cookie that goes against your diet, so be it. Enjoy it, accept it and move on. One cookie will not destroy an entire year’s progress. This is not an invitation to binge eat all throughout December. It is an invitation to truly learn moderation. A constant mentality of lack will not be beneficial in the long run, even if you eat the most perfect diet.
You are more than your diagnosis, so remember to enjoy your life!