Herbie of the Week: Michelle G (She's Managing Her PCOS Symptoms with a Plant-Based Diet!)

Meet our Herbie of the Week: Michelle G!

Michelle never had to worry about her weight until she was in her 30s. She went to an expensive weight-loss center, lost weight, and then gained most of it back when she stopped going due to the high cost.

The struggle continued into her 40s, so she started going to Weight Watchers. She lost 30lbs, stopped smoking and finally felt great. Then Michelle watched "Forks Over Knives" and went vegetarian, only to put on some of the weight she previously lost.

Michelle also suffered from PCOS, and after reading how a plant-based diet could help, she made the leap from vegetarian to full on herbie! Today she's managing her symptoms, lost 15lbs (and counting!), no longer get breakouts and feels healthier than ever!

Hello everyone! My name is Michelle and I am honored to share my journey and be the Herbie of the Week! My story is not as dramatic as some that I have read, but I feel it is my duty to share if I can help other women out there with PCOS. More on that later.

I never really had much of a weight problem when I was a teenager and young woman in my twenties. I was only 98 pounds when I got pregnant at 22, and lost the 30 pounds I gained after giving birth easily. I was always active and exercised and never really had an eating problem. But I was also a party girl. I worked in bars waitressing and tending bar for twenty years. By the time I hit thirty-something, I was 178 pounds! At 4'11" that's A LOT of weight! All of that bar food, fun and drinking caught up with me. I didn't see it coming until it was too late. I remember one of my bar customers telling me "that my belly was sticking out more than my boobs". Somebody else had told me my "rear was spreading". And one of my good friends just flat out told me "Damn, you've put on weight!". Well!

You ignore it as much as you can until one day you see a picture of yourself and it really hits you. POW right in the face and your heart just sinks. And you say to yourself "How did this happen? When did this happen? How did I let myself get this far???" And the sad thing is you really don't know! It sneaks right up on you.

I struggled with my weight since then. As you can see from my pictures, it’s been up and down. I got out of the bar business and got a delivery driving job. I had to wear a uniform and get measured for it. That wasn't fun! I noticed one of the girls on my route had lost a lot of weight and found out she went to a medical weight-loss center. So I did too and spent A LOT of money. You get evaluated by the doctor, and by evaluated I mean they get your weight and give you an EKG and take your blood pressure. They hook you up with some killer prescription diet pills called Phentermine (I imagine that's what the EKG is for!) and give you vitamin B-12 shots which make you feel like Superwoman. They give you a pamphlet with healthy food choices and portion control advice. You have to go every week to get the shots and keep up with your prescription, which I did, and I lost 30 or 40 pounds. But I stopped going after a while because those diet pills are expensive.

Once you stop going to the medical center you have to start all over again, which is even more expensive! So of course I thought “Well now I'm armed with the tools to stay slim and healthy! I can do this by myself!!” That only works for a minute. Needless to say I gained most of the weight back. I just couldn't understand why I was struggling with my weight. I had a job that required a lot of lifting and hard work and I still exercised off and on. I tried to watch what I eat, but I was still struggling.

Now here I was in my 40s. I got a new job opportunity in an office (where I am still working to this day). I decided I needed to do something. I was tired of being uncomfortable and heavy. I joined Weight Watchers and lost 30 pounds. I was happy with that and felt great! I also quit smoking after 30 years, and hadn’t been drinking like I used to, so I am pretty proud of myself. Eventually I quit Weight Watchers but I managed to keep most of the weight off.

Michelle in 2012 (left), Michelle in 2015 (right)

One day my husband came home from work all excited about a customer who had told him about how he’s changed his health and lost a lot of weight with juicing. This gentleman had watched a documentary called "Forks Over Knives" and he said everyone should watch it! It changed his life. One day I decided to watch this documentary for myself, it changed my life too. I went vegetarian after seeing it, which wasn't that difficult since I have been vegetarian on and off during my life. However, even being a vegetarian, you still have to watch what you eat and how much! I started seeing some of that weight I had lost with Weight Watchers come back on.

At some point in my 40s I figured out I have PCOS. I had all these weird things going on and when I punched in the symptoms, low and behold there was an actual name for them! Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It is a hormone imbalance in women. According to WebMD:

"Researchers also think insulin may be linked to PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy for the body to use or store. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies because they have problems using it. Excess insulin appears to increase production of androgen. High androgen levels can lead to: acne, excessive hair growth, weight gain, problems with ovulation."

I have 3 out of the four symptoms above; the acne, weight gain and hair growth. It’s different for every woman.

Since becoming vegetarian I have been following The Happy Herbivore on Facebook, and in one of her posts I read that going plant-based can help with PCOS. That was the kick in the rear I needed to jump from vegetarian to a fully plant-based diet. I haven’t looked back since. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Like most people I thought I would never be able to live without cheese! Trust me, you can!

Eating healthier, home-cooked plant-based meals instead of bar or processed food has made a huge difference in my health. The first thing I noticed was my skin cleared up! I do not have the horrendous break-outs like I used to, nor do I have acne on the back of my arms. I lost 15 lbs and counting, and my blood sugar has gone from 120 to 92. I do not get tired at around 2:30-3:00 PM at the office anymore. I feel great, I feel healthy. Everything they say about going plant-based is true! I know I’m not “super skinny”, but I am a work in progress. So for anybody out there considering a plant-based diet, go for it! Especially if you are a woman who is looking to manage her PCOS symptoms! Trust me, it helped me out and I couldn’t be happier or feel healthier!

Thank you Michelle for sharing your story with us!