Finding Balance: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

In my time working as a private practice dietitian, I’ve had the chance to work with a wide variety of clients. From women and men who are seeking weight loss, those in recovery from eating disorder treatment facilities, seniors seeking more energy and weight management, those with Type 2 Diabetes who want to manage their blood sugar, and more. Of those clients, a lot the women I work with live with a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which can often leaving them wondering, why me? They often struggle with the inability to manage weight, feelings of anxiety, depression (which often leads to disordered eating habits), little energy to get through the day, and even Type 2 Diabetes. First, in case you’ve never heard of PCOS before or are interested in learning more, here are some facts about the condition:


The biggest reality that stands out to me is that the condition is so “new” in the medical world. The criteria for diagnosing PCOS has only been around since 1935! There’s also often an unclear understanding of the symptoms, and even the lack of symptoms can be tricky for determining diagnosis which is why 70% of women with PCOS often go undiagnosed for years. If you feel you may have PCOS, your doctor will perform a series of tests including a physical exam, pelvic exam, blood panels to measure blood lipids and hormones, and an ultrasound to take a look at the uterus and the ovaries.

In an effort to raise awareness to PCOS, and because I believe in the power of storytelling, I’m sharing with you, my good friend, Ashley’s powerful and eye-opening diagnosis story. Ashley works in the school nutrition field but specifically with local farmers, and other companies/organizations in promoting and building the supply chain to get fresh, locally grown food in the schools. Ashley is also passionate about women’s health and using nutrition and lifestyle changes as treatment for PCOS. Here’s her story:


Ashley making pumpkin seed dip as part of a Mesoamerican diet session at the 2016 Food Farm Finance Forum.

“I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 25. I waited until then to go to my first well woman visit. I’ve always thought something was “wrong” with me because unlike my two sisters, my first cycle came years after theirs (age 15) and has always been inconsistent. There were so many embarrassing moments during that time period since I had no way to “prepare”- it was basically like getting your period for the first time…every time.

For some family background, my mom is not a huge fan of going to the doctor. Go figure. In my adolescence, she told me that I would grow into a regular cycle and that the abnormalities that I was experiencing were normal for my age.

This can be true (for some), but I never acquired such normalcy. I had no other symptoms that would otherwise be indicative of PCOS. In fact, you can have PCOS and remain asymptomatic, which means you may have no way of knowing until you try to get pregnant. This is when most people find out and are diagnosed.

I decided to see a naturopath who specialized in infertility issues. I had no desire to get pregnant. I was in my  early twenties, working full-time, unattached, but I wanted to make sure things were in place for when the time came that I wanted children. I went to Dr. Grobe (in Mesa, AZ) based off a referral from a mommy-friend because she practiced both conventional and natural medicine. As a nutrition-focused lady, I wanted to survey a wide range of options in any treatment I might need. I made the decision to see a doctor before I knew that I had PCOS. It was in my first well woman check that the doctor and I discussed my abnormal cycle and she tested for thyroid and infertility issues.

My results showed that my thyroid was clean. The issue was that my sex hormones were all out of wack. Think, estrogen and those androgens. The doctor recommended that I try natural therapies to resolve what she and other naturopathic doctors believe is the underlying cause for PCOS – insulin resistance. They suggest focusing on diet and exercise to help manage. That freaked me out! Diabetes is now on the table. *Serious SAD face*

It is important to point out that I am a short, curvy pear-shaped lady with no previous history of diabetes in my family. My health indicators at the time were normal: blood pressure, waist- hip ratio, blood- lipid panel, blood sugars all “normal.” All of these indicators would point to no risk of developing diabetes except that I later found out…my mom also has PCOS and there’s a large connection to the genetic component to the condition.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll focus on the management and nutrition therapy for managing PCOS.


Office on Women’s Health, U.S Department of Health and Human Services –

PCOS Foundation –

PCOS Nutrition Center and fellow dietitian, Angela Grassi –

Healthy (and Positive) at Any Size

A few weeks back, my podcast, The Table Chat Show, had an episode where we explored the topic of Health At Any Size (listen here). We discussed what the term means to us as dietitians and health professionals, as well as providing some myth busting on common misconceptions of the term. I’ve been thinking about what we discussed ever since because I definitely had a lot more to say. At the end of the episode, we mentioned a few people we looked up to or followed on social media for inspiration. I mentioned Crystal Renn (pictured below) because she was one of the first women out there, besides my mom, whose messaging really hit home with me.

My parents divorced when I was 10 years old which seemed to be the icing on the cake of the most hormonal part of life, puberty. Suddenly, on top of the swarm of emotions I felt, I became acutely aware that all of my friends and other girls at schools were smaller than me. They could wear certain clothes that I could never fit into. Their hips didn’t seem to jut out as much as mind did. I seemed to take up much more space. Oh, the thoughts! My mother, who was also a curvy woman, knew the struggle I felt and would always help me find stylish clothes that fit me well. I couldn’t shop at American Eagle, but we would scour TJ Maxx, the Misses department of Kohl’s, Lane Bryant, and the newest Torrid that opened in my local mall. Also around this time, I started playing tennis which helped me become more active. I started eating more vegetables and less Cosmic Brownies, and developed more muscle tone. I had a bit more confidence, yet, I was still considered a “plus-size” by teenage standards and overweight according to my BMI. That bothered me.

Most nights after school, if I wasn’t playing tennis, I’d come home, grab a snack and zone out with one of the many, many magazines I received in the mail. Oh, the days before smartphones. Despite my constant struggle with finding clothes that I liked and that fit well, I was obsessed with fashion and magazines, specifically the newly released Teen Vogue (circa 2003-ish). One afternoon, I noticed my mom had earmarked a page in the latest edition, and attached a post-it note saying, “Read this, honey.”

I know that models shouldn’t be looked at as something to aspire to, re: Photoshop, makeup, angles, lighting, clothing, etc, but at the time, Crystal Renn became my new hero. She was featured in a story surrounding her journey to being a plus size model and body positive advocate. Crystal talked about her love of living a healthy lifestyle, being a plus size model in a world of straight size, but also discussed how much compassion she focused on showing her body and her mind, after years of being told she needed to lose weight. I remember thinking that this seemed like the perfect mindset to have! How freeing of a concept. Since then, Crystal has actually been the target of criticism because she’s lost weight over the years. Apparently you’re not supposed to be the ruler of your own body. Since her time though, there are now even more “plus” models who share similar sentiments, like Ashley Graham, Iskra Lawrence, Robyn Lawley, and more.

As years went on, my weight fluctuated, and I landed in the nutrition and healthcare field, I discovered that most of my colleagues don’t discuss this dichotomy of health and being a larger or smaller size than the “norm.” They’re afraid to, I think. Just like the fashion industry! We’re set on establishing this ideal health model, yet ideal health is going to look a hell of a lot different for everyone. Aka, the non-academic world. Yes, there’s a time and place for weight loss or weight gain, when a person is uncomfortable, there’s inherent health risk, or they want to establish a new routine, but that’s not the only answer. I landed in the field of nutrition, not just to help others make better food choices, but to focus more on finding that sweet spot where healthy habits and compassion exist, like Crystal’s article I read over 13 years ago. It wasn’t a research study, but it’s a mantra I’ve learned how to practice in my own life and help others do the same. I’m also still considered overweight according to my BMI, but that doesn’t bother me anymore.

Like we mentioned in our episode, you CAN be a larger or smaller size and still be healthy. There’s no  type of “real” woman. Hell, we’re all real and full of different shapes. Health is multidimensional and not solely focused on weight or physical activity. There’s no one-size-fits all, perfection way to live and be a healthy human being. You can focus on a variety of habits to perhaps bring you to that more comfortable weight (wanna chat?), but don’t feel like you should live your life always thinking you NEED to lose or gain weight. Look beyond that. There’s much more to life than restriction and being obsessed with food. The love you share for yourself, in this very moment, and not when you get to a certain weight, is what matters in the long-run.


What are your thoughts on health at every size? Let me know in the comments below!

Confessions of a Low-Maintenance Cook, Pt. 1

Otherwise titled as “Why I Don’t Post A Lot of Recipes.”

I’ll be the first to admit that most nights, I’m not exactly living it up in the kitchen. Most people I meet are a bit dumbfounded by this. You’re a dietitian though! Don’t you have your own vegetable garden (maybe someday), can your own salsa (nope), and make your own yogurt? (nope, but always wanted to try!) I consider myself a bit more “semi-homemade.” Not the Sandra Lee “Cocktail time!” and Kwanzaa Cake kind of Semi-Homemade, but more like meals that include various convenience ingredients and can be made in under 30 minutes. So maybe the good parts of Sandra Lee with a dash of Rachael Ray. I can almost hear Anthony Bourdain crying right now…

Working with my clients, I’ve learned that many feel the same way. While most more or less know what to do in terms of nutrition and have every intention of incorporating healthier routines into their lives, they’re just not doing it. Then we start to work on the why. Most of the time, it boils down to one simple reason: life gets in the way. There’s a lot of stuff to do and not enough time to do it. There’s work, school, children, animals, the list goes on and on, and what ends up happening is that the day gets away from us and we wind up over-eating or making poor choices mainly out of exhaustion, stress, or the dreaded “hanger.”


One thing we focus on is letting go of the guilt of not having enough time in the day. Seriously. This is often the hardest part! Then, learn to embrace a simpler approach, and focus on being honest with yourself about what’s reasonable and what’s not. This is the hardest part! Take a good hard look at your goals, and your daily life, and figure out how to make it fit. It’s ok if your meals aren’t 100% from scratch. This dietitian won’t haunt your dreams if you buy a pre-made chicken, or *gasp* go through the drive-through. Let’s look at some of my go-to combinations:

Microwaveable brown rice + Rotisserie chicken + Frozen vegetables + lemon juice + pumpkin seeds

Whole wheat pasta + garbanzo beans + frozen spinach + jarred marinara sauce

Boxed, low-sodium chicken broth + Pre-cut mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) + (more) rotisserie chicken + diced, red potatoes

Brown rice noodles + frozen shrimp + pre-cut or frozen vegetable blend + Soy Vay Teriyaki sauce + chopped cashews 

Frozen turkey burgers + pre-washed mixed greens + sliced avocado + diced tomatoes + diced cucumber + balsamic vinaigrette

Pre-made pizza dough + jarred marinara sauce + diced low-sodium turkey breast + pre-chopped peppers + jarred olives + pre-washed spinach + pre-diced onion

For Part 2, I’ll share with you my favorite go-to brands and products (like those above) that have great nutritional stats, and also fit your budget. In the meantime, let me know some of your go-to, simple meals that keep you from turning in the Hanger Beast!

P.S My sister sent me this picture a while back on Snapchat (add me: eceegee). Sums up my approach quite nicely.