A PCOS sufferer's guide to eating well at Uni
Finding out you have PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can be a bit of a shock to the system, even though it's so common that up to 1 in 5 people with ovaries have it. For so many people, their PCOS goes undiagnosed, so if any of these signs and symptoms sound familiar, I recommended checking with your GP. Symptoms include irregular periods (or none at all), a difficulty with fertility, excessive hair growth, weight gain, hair loss, and acne. To combat these symptoms, a change in diet often really helps. This predominantly involves cutting carbs and embracing health-foods, which isn't easy when you're a student.
I found out I had PCOS in the second year of Uni, and after doing some research on food and such, I said, "UGH, but all I eat at Uni is pasta!" and changed basically nothing about my lifestyle. I stayed lazy and kept chowing down on carbs, and ended up regretting it, but this summer I decided to change it up when I was back home. This was good timing for me, because being at home allowed me to built up a routine and come back to Uni with a game plan.
First, a warning: eating healthily, specifically a low carb, high protein diet, can get a bit pricey, but I'm telling you it's worth every penny. Since starting this diet, I have a million times more energy and feel fuller throughout the day.
I'm not suuuper strict on being carb-free in the sense that I allow myself some of the higher in carb fruits and such, but I have almost completely cut out bread and pasta, switching these out for small amounts of healthier grains like quinoa and bulgar wheat. Also, buy lots of greens as these are what you really need (if you just groaned to yourself, trust me, I understand). Try to freeze as many things as you can, particularly meat because, as every student knows, things seem to go off more quickly at Uni than they do at home.
I also take a bunch of different nuts for snacks (whole almonds, cashews, pistachios etc.), as well as Greek yoghurt, Arla protein yoghurt-y things, and fruit and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, and chia. I also recommend getting canned beans like chickpeas and red kidney beans for additional protein and fibre. Eggs are also a great staple.
PCOS doesn't mean you have to eat super low-fat foods, so don't hesitate when buying cheese - feta is a fave of mine. However, keep in mind that if high-testosterone levels are what causes a lot of problems for you, keep your dairy intake to a minimum.
If you're anything like me, this list isn't anything like what you used to grab (I'm looking at you, frozen garlic bread...). But now that you've got your shopping list, how do you actually make this tasty and friendly to your busy Uni schedule?
Making it easy
To counteract all the unhealthy options out there, I have created a mini salad bar in my fridge to make these healthy options more accessible than anything else. I usually make a decent size portion of grains or some baked sweet potatoes, and then throw it in the fridge to have around for quick meals to not allow my blood sugar to fall and make me reach for a tasty-looking cookie. I tend to throw together some baby leaf salad, a bit of bulgar (this is a carb, so it's best not to overdo this), tzatziki, feta, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, cherry tomatoes. This way I have food quicker than I did last year when I thought it was just easier to make a sandwich.
I also make a lot of slow-cooked meat, which is really easy to make - the smell will make all of your housemates jealous and is a great addition to your salads. I also recommend experimenting with omelettes for dinner - spinach, chorizo and mozzarella work beautifully for this.
For sweet snacks or breakfasts, experiment with throwing things into Greek yoghurt - you can be adventurous and throw in some Nesquik and nuts, or go with some classic honey and fruit (I recommend frozen raspberries). Consider including some seeds in everything you eat as they add just a touch more protein and make an excellent addition to any meal.
Living in student housing with a bunch of other people means you'll have limited space for all of these bits and bobs, so storage is key. When it comes to freezing, stock up on freezer bags and condense everything you buy. You'll fit a lot more in your drawer this way, trust me.
When it comes to storing grains and such, the reseal tabs on packets often fail and trust me you don't want a million chia seeds spilling everywhere. I've packed most of my grains into Ziploc bags and cut out the cooking instructions, and then taped them on for future reference. I then store all of these in a drawer from Ikea, which ensures I won't have to rummage through a messy cupboard.
Changing your diet is never easy and having PCOS makes it a million times harder, but it has genuinely changed my life to start eating this way. I know it seems super difficult, but I promise you it gets easier with routine and you'll perfect your own methods with time.
Feel free to message me in a 1-2-1 chat if you have any private questions or concerns, or leave a comment here!
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