Living with PCOS pushed me to be my healthiest self
Zalak Modi, a fitness enthusiast shares her story
“I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) at 16. My hormones were completely out of whack and as a result, my weight would fluctuate–gaining up to 5kgs within a month was the norm. So right from my teens, I have been very conscious of the effects of food and exercise on my overall health.
I’ve always loved playing sports so following a basic fitness routine wasn’t too tough for me. But as a foodie, I realised that I would have to practice some level of self-control to keep the PCOS in check. Though I would never give up on chocolates, I started eating in moderation and practiced portion control. It wasn’t easy and it took a lot of time to set up this routine, but I still didn’t feel my healthiest. I was far from my ideal body weight, and I would often feel lethargic. I knew I could do better, so in 2018 after much contemplation, I decided to amp up my fitness levels.
Instead of going on a crash diet to shed the extra pounds, I get on the keto diet. After getting the go-ahead from my doctors, I reached out to Dr Siddhant Bhargava at Food Darzee, a keto food delivery service. All my meals were tailored to my requirements, I was even allowed to get the occasional alcoholic drink, but the lack of whole fruits and carbs in my regime really tested my self-control. The first week of keto was probably my lowest point, I felt fatigued all the time and was ready to give up, but Dr Bhargava suggested I give one myself one small cheat. He said, “You can eat one strawberry!” Man, how I savoured that one fruit that day. Besides that first week, I’m glad I stayed on keto because it really helped regulate my hormone levels which led to some healthy weight loss. After a month of following a strict diet, I switched over to a maintenance plan that included all the macro and micronutrients I should be eating as part of a regular diet.
After keto, I started exercising more regularly, I even got my brother to be my fitness buddy so that I wouldn’t waiver off track. I would alternate between running and strength training, and the latter definitely came to me more easily. On day one, I remember being ecstatic and sharing screenshots of my run statistics with my friends, because I couldn’t believe I ran two kilometres without any breaks. After that, I slowly started pushing my limits—running a little faster and pushing myself to do an extra rep at the gym. Having a workout buddy, especially someone who is very passionate about training, really helped me stay focussed on the days I got lazy, and slowly it became a habit. I’d make sure I squeezed in a workout every day.
Over the last two years, I have slowly shed the extra weight, but I’m proud of my resolve to stick with my good habits. This journey has helped me evaluate my relationship with food too, for example, I know a piece of Lindt feels really good and I wouldn’t deny myself that pleasure. But I also know that dairy doesn’t work for my body and I’ve had to learn to avoid it. It’s been encouraging to know that no one starts their fitness evolution as the fastest or strongest, it takes small steps to reach seemingly simple goals, like running my first 5 kilometre marathon in 2018.
From the very beginning, I was quite clear that I was doing this for myself and that was the only thought that kept motivating me. Trust me, no one can inspire you to take of yourself unless you want to do it.
Today, staying healthy has become a lifestyle for me. I’ve recently completed an online course on nutrition from Emory University and I can’t wait to apply everything I’ve learnt to my own life.”
As told to Drishti Kapadia
Photograph: Zalak Modi (banner image), Pexels