The one person that stuck in my head from when I went to Be:FIT last month was Clare Goodwin aka the PCOS Nutritionist. Out of every expert I listened to that day, she was the one who felt most real, who told her story in such a heartfelt, natural way and it made me question my own weightloss and fitness struggles.
Do hormones play a bigger role in women’s lives than we perhaps give credit?
So grab yourself a cuppa, go put your feet up and join me as I welcome Clare Goodwin to my Q & A hot seat and discover whether you should be taking hormonal health more seriously.
What’s your PCOS story?
“I had always been very active. Well, not just active: I was a competitive runner and triathlete, competing at a World Championship level. I was training up to 25 hours a week, and recording the calories of every single little morsel that entered my body. Yet, I was always heavier than all the girls I competed against and, even though I was constantly in calorie deficit, my weight was gradually increasing.
I became fascinated with nutrition, and completed my double degree with honours in Exercise Science and Human Nutrition. However, five years of study had led me no closer to an answer. The consensus was that the calorie equation was still all that mattered with weight gain. However, I knew from my own experience that it couldn’t be the only answer.
When I was finally diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS, a condition that affects 10-20% of women) many years later, I remember feeling relieved. I finally had an answer and it wasn’t my fault. However, this sense of relief was quickly followed by desperation when the doctor just told me to go away and lose weight.
It wasn’t until I found a group of Functional Medicine experts talking about curing chronic health conditions like Diabetes, Obesity, and PCOS by treating the root cause of the illness, not the symptoms, that it finally clicked for me.
I set about learning everything I could about the potential underlying causes of PCOS. I enrolled in Functional Medicine training and learned about hormones, gut health, inflammation and food intolerances. Using this knowledge I reversed my PCOS, and now I help other women do the same.”
What’s your mission?
“My mission is to help a million women with PCOS this year, by providing them good quality, evidenced based information to actually help them reverse their PCOS.”
Can you take a one size fits all approach when it comes to treating PCOS, or is every single case different?
“There isn’t just one PCOS, there are at least 5 different causes or types, each with a different treatment.
Insulin resistance and inflammation is the most common cause, but many women can have many different causes. For example, mine was a combination of poor gut health that lead to insulin resistance, inflammation from a dairy and gluten intolerance, hypothyroidism, and high stress.”
Can we do anything to help ourselves?
“The best thing you can do is to find out what is causing your PCOS. When you know what’s causing it, then you can find a treatment to suit.
The most common question I get asked is, ‘what is the best diet for PCOS’ or ‘what supplements should I take for PCOS?’. While this is completely natural, it’s kind of like asking, ‘What type of fuel should I put in my car.’ The answer is, ‘Well, this depends what type of car you have?’, the answer for PCOS is similar: it depends what type of PCOS you have, or more accurately what’s causing your PCOS.
For example, 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, so they might do really well with a low carb, ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting. However, if I give that solution to a woman without insulin resistance, who has adrenal or stress based PCOS, then I am likely to make her symptoms much worse.
However, one thing I think all women can benefit form, no matter what their PCOS cause, is more sleep!”
Are there any foods that can help rebalance hormones?
“One of the best foods for rebalancing hormones is Omega 3 fats. Omega 3s are those found in fatty fish and they reduce inflammation. Conversely, eating food that we’re intolerant to or food that’s been processed in a way that we can’t consume worsens hormone imbalances, and can make problems like PCOS worse.
The foods that are processed in a way that cause inflammation are soy, industrial seed oils, and high fructose corn syrup.
The most common foods that we are intolerant to are grains and A1 dairy. While I don’t think that everyone is intolerant to these foods, it does seem that a high percentage of women with hormonal conditions are.”
What food can’t you live without and why?
“Salmon: it’s absolutely delicious and also such a good source of Omega 3.”
Who would be your top 3 dinner party guests and why?
“Richard Branson: because he’s a bad-ass businessman and kitesurfer (and I’d like an invite to Necker Island ;))
Grandma: because she is the toughest woman I know and would give Branson a run for his money
Rod Stewart: So he can play Rhythm of My Heart and Richard, Grandma, and I can sing along and dance on the tables.”
What meal would you serve them?
“A rack of New Zealand lamb (grown on my farm of course), with crispy roast potatoes, green salad and a minty salsa verde.”
What exercise do you enjoy doing?
“I’ve always been a runner and I used to compete internationally for my home country New Zealand. However, after reading the research, I found out that endurance running was actually making my insulin resistance worse, so I switched to lifting heavy weights and sprinting. To begin with I found this really difficult and craved that runner’s high, but now I love the feeling of utter exhaustion after lifting heavier than I ever have and I love feeling so much more toned.”
How do you chill out?
“I’m an outdoor adventure seeker. On weekends you’ll find me at the beach kitesurfing, or out hiking. Even better if it’s with a bunch of friends.”
You were a key speaker at Be:FIT recently, what did you make of the festival?
“Be:FIT was fantastic, I was really humbled by the great response I got from my talk and enjoyed talking with so many women who had questions. I also loved going to listen to lots of the other talks, and meet the other speakers.”
What do you think of the current women’s health and fitness industry?
“I think it’s great that gut health and food intolerances are getting more attention and it’s brilliant that fermented foods are now in vogue.
However, I still think that there is too much emphasis on calories. We need to educate women that it’s hormones that are the main controller of weight. While there are a large portion of the population that don’t eat well or exercise, they are not the people that are interested in the fitness industry. My concern is that I see more women every day who are really hammering their bodies with exercise, eating very little, and then chastising themselves when they don’t see the scales going down. Instead of fighting this for years, I want them to be empowered to seek help to look deeper at what else might be going on in their bodies.”
What plans do you have for the future?
“In the next three months I’m going to be launching a podcast for women with PCOS and also a program to help them reverse their PCOS.
On the podcast front, I personally have very little time for reading, so I use podcasts so that I’m constantly learning. I know that a lot of women are the same, so I want to give them the opportunity to learn about their PCOS and how to reverse it while on their commute to work.
In regard to the program, reversing PCOS is a long term project. It takes a long time and for many women they need to make many changes. This isn’t something that I can achieve with them in a 1 hour consult. I’ve been trialling a programme method with some of my patients and they are having fantastic results, so I can’t wait to make it available to more women.”
And finally, what’s the best inspirational quote you’ve heard?
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.- Maya Angelou”
You can find out more about Clare and the services she offers to women who have PCOS, or are experiencing symptoms of PCOS by heading to the PCOS Nutritionist website.
Do you have PCOS?
Are you affected by any of the issues raised in this article?
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