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Life with PCOS

As told to Malkie Schulman

On the outside, I looked like a typical obese woman — someone who people assumed just couldn’t control herself. Whenever I ventured out to run errands with my toddler, I could feel judgmental eyes darting in my direction. Inside, I was a woman struggling with an incurable disorder and infertility. And while it was true I was overeating, nobody knew about my out-of-whack endocrine system and how it was creating chaos in my body.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I grew up with a health-conscious mom who was a registered nurse, and a dangerously overweight dad. As a child and into my early teens, I was quite hefty; at one point, I weighed 145 pounds at five feet tall. I was one of the heaviest children in my class and I remember feeling freakish about it. I didn’t have many friends, and although my mother tried to teach me healthy eating habits and even brought me to nutritionists, nothing worked until she hit upon the idea to pay me a dollar for every pound I lost. I made a nice chunk of money that year and, thankfully, by ninth grade my weight was healthy. I married in my junior year of college and had a baby around a year later, with zero complications. But not long after birth, I became depressed. I had stopped school, so I had nothing to keep me in a healthy routine. And we didn’t live in a Jewish neighborhood at the time, so I had no friends nearby. Because I was home all day, I was around food constantly. In college, I had no time to eat, but now I found myself making hourly trips to the fridge. At the supermarket, I’d see my favorite candy bar and it would be like, “Oh, it’s on sale! Good!” And I’d stock up. I just kept on buying and bringing stuff into my house and eating it. I would think, ‘I’ll just have a little something in the morning, then a little nosh in the afternoon.’ But at a certain point, I lost control. I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes. I had to go out and purchase everything in size extra large. The more weight I gained, the more depressed I got, which made me want to eat more — it was a vicious cycle. Even when I got a job as a guidance counselor, I continued to turn to food: If I was stressed, the food would relax me. Though eating a candy bar would make me feel better in the moment, my reliance on food — and all the weight I was gaining — made my low self-esteem plummet even lower. When I eventually ballooned to 190 pounds (normal weight for me is 100 to 110), I felt so worthless that I threw out many of my old clothes believing I would never fit into them again. The weird thing is, I didn’t realize how incredibly overweight I really was until I didn’t recognize myself in a picture. I put myself on a regimen, but to my dismay, after months of strict dieting, I found I’d only lost two pounds. It was also around this time that I began to notice I was growing body and facial hair that was coarse and stiff, similar to a man’s. All I could think was, “I’m fat, hairy — what else is going to go wrong with me?”

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