The holidays are coming.
Shopping, parties, and deserts. Oh, my!
What is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year can be an outright battleground if you suffer from PCOS.
Whether you tend to gain extra weight by merely breathing (you can breathe chocolate, right?), or you experience PCOS symptoms like lasting, painful bloating, navigating the holidays with PCOS can feel like walking through a minefield.
You’re not alone, my PCOS sisters.
Here is my guide to making it through the holidays with your health intact:
Create a Routine
Do the holidays ever make you feel like everything is spiraling out of control? Like you have no time to enjoy the season?
It turns out, not having a solid routine could be the cause of this chaos.
Listen up: in case you haven’t heard, a routine is essential.
Not only can a routine help you manage your time better (y’ know, so you can fit all the parties and shopping into your schedule), but it can also help you manage your stress levels and eating habits.
So, how does having a routine help if you have PCOS?
If you have PCOS, you could be 27% to 50% more likely to experience stress, depression, and anxiety.
In PCOS sufferers, all that built up stress leads to bloating, inflammation, and high cortisol levels — which can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Having a routine can reduce stress and give you a sense of control, so…
If you already have a routine, stick to it.
If you don’t have a routine, now is the best time to build one — before all the holiday chaos truly begins.
The great thing about a routine is that not only can you customize it for your lifestyle, but you can also have what I like to call “micro routines” that you use alongside your main, daily routine.
You can have a micro routine for getting up, weekly meal prep, and one for the dog — Coco’s routine is almost as important as your own.
If nothing else, I absolutely recommend you have a specific micro routine for bedtime.
With just a little bit of trial and error, you’ll soon be living your best life with your newfound routine.
Get Enough Sleep
I don’t have to tell you. You already know just how important sleep is.
But, did you know that women with PCOS are more likely to have or develop sleep disorders?
That means getting enough good quality sleep is even more critical for you than it is for your non-PCOS counterparts.
But, with all of the holiday to-do’s going on, how are you supposed to get enough Z’s to really make a difference?
It turns out there’s some truth to the old custom of drinking a glass of milk before bed. Milk contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that can convert into melatonin, helping you get to sleep faster and sleep longer. (Try even soy milk if you’re sensitive to lactose — you’ll get the same benefits.)
If guzzling a glass of milk before bed isn’t your thing, here are a few other things to try:
- Eat foods rich in tryptophan, melatonin, and magnesium.
- Limit your caffeine intake
- Avoid alcohol too close to bedtime — that wine might make you drowsy now, but it could disrupt your sleep later
- Establish a bedtime routine
- Wake up at a set time each morning
- Turn off devices that emit blue light
- Give yourself a wind-down period after you’ve turned the TV off or put your phone on the charger
- Read a book
With all the other stress-causing activities going on during the holidays, sleep is one thing you absolutely cannot afford to miss.
Not only will a lack of good, restful sleep make you crabby like Scrooge — but it could also make you forgetful and prone to accidents.
While nothing quite says “Happy Holidays” like a trip to the emergency room, I’d be willing to bet you’d be okay with skipping that part of the festivities.
So, turn off the TV, set your phone to silent, and slip under the covers.
Santa and his elves will understand.
And while we’re at it…
Make Self-Care a Priority
Louder for the people in the back!
Did you know that you’re more likely to feel stressed around the holidays?
You might be thinking, “Obviously! But, it’s nothing I can’t handle. I do this every year.”
But, you might be getting a little more stressed than you think. According to a 2006 study, your stress levels could increase up to 50% during the holidays.
Now add a dash of the already increased stress levels because of PCOS and…
Well, you get the idea.
Worrying about getting enough time off work, being responsible for holiday feasts, and getting the shopping done on time… stress is all around.
Like swirling snowflakes of fatigue and sleepless nights.
Women are 44% more likely to experience more stress during the holidays.
If you’re that lucky 1 in 10 women with PCOS, guess what?
There’s a good chance holiday stress is hitting you, too.
At this time of year, self-care isn’t an indulgence. It’s essential.
Here are a few fun self-care ideas:
- Treat yourself to a holiday mani-pedi
- Indulge in a luxurious bath
- Watch a few episodes of your favorite TV show — guilt need not apply
- Get a massage
- Get your sweat on at the gym or take that yoga class you’ve been dying to try
Making yourself a priority during the holidays might seem selfish at first.
But, if you’re honoring your mental and physical limits, you’ll be able to give as much as you want to others, be fully present, and still feel like there’s some leftover for you when the New Year finally rolls around.
Be a Picky Eater
From familial pressure to the temptation to overindulge at parties, holiday food can be PCOS public enemy no. 1.
Candy, cookies, cranberry sauce, and — my personal favorite — cheesecake. Oh my.
The harsh reality is that so many — fine, almost all — of our favorite holiday meals and snacks are not PCOS friendly.
All that bread, cake, ice cream, and sweet potato pie are full of processed sugars, which can increase your insulin and hormone levels.
Which could make your beard as full as Father Christmas’.
So, when Grandma starts insisting that you eat some more, dear…
Remember that those tempting sweets could be a recipe for insulin resistance disaster.
So, how can you enjoy holiday meals without totally blowing your carefully monitored eating habits?
- Stick to your limits and don’t be afraid to say no — Grandma will understand
- Ask for your desert to-go
- Bring PCOS-friendly dishes to potlucks
- Make you hostess or family aware of your eating concerns in advance
- Enlist your spouse, favorite cousin, or bestie to help keep you accountable at family dinners and parties
Family dinners and holiday parties can strike fear in the heart of the strongest PCOS warrior. But, you don’t have to be afraid.
If you have a firm strategy, you may just come out on the other side with your dignity and your waistline intact.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Having a disorder that makes it hard to maintain a healthy weight, causes painful bloating, and digestive discomfort can make the holidays feel like a losing battle.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
You deserve to have a holly jolly whatever just as much as anyone else does.
Assign tasks to other people.
Ask your guests to bring a dish or a bottle of wine.
Someone asked if you need help? Take them up on that offer.
There’s no sense in working yourself into a do-it-all-yourself frenzy.
I know. It can be hard to let go and let other people help. After all, the results are not guaranteed.
But, letting go and delegating tasks to others will free up your time and allow you to enjoy the holidays without aggravating your PCOS symptoms.
And mean it.
Let’s be real: most of us suffer from “chronic ‘yes’ syndrome” anyway.
But, if you say ‘yes’ to every request, soon you’ll wonder where all your time went and why you feel like a Scrooge all of a sudden.
Avoid the over-commitment, unnecessary stress, and resentment and just say, “no.”
If you’re fearful of confrontation, try phrases like, “I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t fit into my schedule,” or “Sorry, but that’s just not something I’m interested in/or can see myself doing.”
Soon, you’ll be a “no” champion.
With 1 in 10 women suffering from PCOS, chances are you know a gal or two who has it, too.
Make a plan to touch base with each other — get coffee or just text — once a week or so and talk about how your holidays are going, how you’re handling your PCOS symptoms, or just how you’re feeling.
What you talk about is up to you, but teaming up with another PCOS warrior can make your holiday season a lot brighter.
Maybe even merry.
And definitely a lot more bearable.