Women are more likely than men to have their symptoms dismissed or downplayed by medical professionals. When they get a diagnosis, they often face stigma and judgment. In light of this, WH created the “Owning It” package—which spotlights various women with complicated and often difficult-to-diagnose conditions who decided to take a stand for their health. Our hope is that their stories help empower women everywhere to advocate for themselves and get the care and attention they deserve.
I’d experienced irregular periods, rapid weight gain for no apparent reason, and extreme difficulty losing weight since I was a teenager. But I didn’t see a doctor about these issues for years. I’d had a lot of negative encounters with providers who said things like they wouldn’t take me as a patient since I was above their weight threshold. I didn’t think it was worth the time or trauma to try.
When I finally sought medical help about two and a half years ago because I couldn’t ignore my symptoms anymore, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in which an imbalance of reproductive hormones causes ovarian cysts, irregular periods, body hair growth, and more.
The doctor said something like, “You should try to lose some weight,” and sent me on my way. Even though weight loss doesn’t resolve PCOS—there is no cure—I’ve spoken with a lot of other people who, unfortunately, say they’ve had experiences similar to mine.
As a result, social media posts about the condition often focus on dieting. But as someone who is in recovery for binge eating disorder, that type of messaging was triggering for me. So I started talking about PCOS online to change the conversation.
After my diagnosis, I began posting videos on YouTube about what I go through with PCOS, and also using PCOS-related hashtags on Instagram to start a community that doesn’t push weight loss and body shaming. And since I’m a yoga teacher and body-liberation coach, something I’ve been doing for about five years, I posted a video on YouTube about yoga specifically for people with PCOS, and I plan to add guided meditations.
I try to talk candidly about how the condition impacts my life so other people can be open and honest too. My one little voice is not going to make this entire world less fat-phobic—hopefully, we’ll get there in time—but I hope it can convince someone to see a professional sooner. I’m definitely glad I finally chose to go to a doctor, even if it wasn’t a perfect experience: Now I have an actual diagnosis, medication, and someone to help me figure out how to care for my body.
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Women’s Health.
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