Today’s prompt is forbidden. The very first thing that popped into my head was “forbidden foods”, and that may be because I’m craving a certain sweet treat that shall not be named!
One of the worst part about a Polycystic Ovary Syndrome diagnosis is that you are suddenly introduced to the idea of forbidden foods. A PCOS diet is not like any other diet; if you fall off the bandwagon here, there could be some pretty nasty consequences. Depending on the severity of your condition, you could be wrestling with keeping your insulin well-managed, as well as some other symptoms that are exacerbated by eating certain foods. All of those little indulgences that you were used to sneaking in once in awhile are suddenly off limits, which can increase the cravings all the more.
I really struggled with this when I was first diagnosed. My practitioner was helpful enough to give me a nutrition guideline along with my information pamphlets, and as I dismally sat on the bus home reading through the list, I was gutted to see just how many things I truly enjoyed I was no longer allowed to have. No more pop (also known as soda). No more refined sugars. No more pre-made cakes, desserts, or fast food. Being that I was a normal college kid whose diet consisted of pizza, Coca Cola, and Twinkies, this was a huge change to wrap my brain around.
In the beginning, it was so hard. I bought cookbooks, overhauled my kitchen pantry, and learned how to use the cookware my parents had bought me when I first moved out. I had no idea what I was doing. Most of the food I made was complete rubbish, and I was completely discouraged. I knew I had to make this choice and stick with it so that I could get back to health, but it felt like nothing was working. It felt like all the “simple” recipes were still really difficult, and the prep time in the book was always half the time it ended up taking me. I was getting home from work at 7pm, but I wasn’t eating until almost 9pm each night.
There were times where I did want to just throw up my hands and test fate. There were times where I did sneak out to Subway for a six-inch sub, and then paid for it later when I felt woozy and my fingertips were numb. There were more times than I could count where I tearfully had to refuse to go out to the pub with friends because I didn’t trust myself to order something healthy instead of my usual cheese fries.
As I gradually kept at it (and with the support of a lovely Facebook group) I got better and better. I became more adept at using my skillet. I tried out some new recipes. The old ones – which had given me so much grief and had taken so much time – were now old hat to me, and the prep times in the book reflected the amount of time it really did take to cook. My self-confidence increased, and it became easier and easier to walk past the dessert aisle at the grocer’s. My food was appetizing and filling, and my cravings for sugary junk foods decreased.
It takes time. Like all things, it seems like such a daunting obstacle in the beginning. We are already feeling awful about the diagnosis, and now we are having things that are comforting to us ripped out from under our feet. It’s hard in the beginning, but it does pass. As we continue to prioritize our health, home cooking all of our meals and taking our exercise, the cravings and the frustrations gradually decrease. There are still times where I would give anything to pop into Dairy Queen for an Oreo Blizzard, but instead I’ll train my thoughts elsewhere, or I’ll drink a glass of water to help me feel full until it’s time for dinner. I still occasionally have sweet treats, but I bake them myself, so I have control over the amount of sweeteners that go into it (and even then, I’m more apt to make up some kind of fruit salad).
While healthy eating doesn’t come as naturally as it used to in the past, it is doable, and learning how to cook opens up a whole world of experiences. There are so many ways to experience food that we aren’t even aware of. Sometimes, a bad thing can lead to a very good thing, indeed.