How An Olympic Athlete Beat PCOS

Like most with PCOS it took many years before I was diagnosed. It wasn’t until my husband and I tried to start a family. After 8 months of no success we found out we were pregnant. At 12 weeks I went in for our first ultrasound and was devastated to find out there was no heartbeat and the baby was not much bigger than 9-10 weeks. I was completely heartbroken and crushed. I couldn’t figure out why it had happened. I asked myself did I cause this? What did I do wrong?

After the miscarriage I did 9 very long months of Clomid (yes…9 months….). If you’ve ever been on Clomid, you understand the Clomid fog and all the other things that come with taking the medication, this is why I say it was 9 very long months.

My OBGYN referred me to Colorado Center of Reproductive Medicine (CCRM), in Denver, Colorado. It was a 62 mile door to door drive that I would become very familiar with over the next several years. My first appointment was with Dr. Eric Surrey to go over my blood work and discuss options. It was at that meeting I was officially diagnosed with PCOS. I could have done cartwheels out of the office, someone was finally able to tell me why I had hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, anovulation, and hypoglycemia.

I have omitted my background until now…I am a 2008 Olympian in the Sport of Weightlifting. I tell you this now to show you that PCOS comes to those in all shapes and sizes. When someone says they have PCOS don’t be quick to judge a book by its cover. At the time of my miscarriage I was 12% body fat, 138lbs at 5ft 1in. After being diagnosed with PCOS, with the care of CCRM I have had two successful pregnancies and am the proud mother to a daughter, Camille, and son, Alexander.


The most challenging part of PCOS for me is being insulin resistant. As an Olympic athlete, I was training 2-3 times a day for 2-3 hours at a time 5 days a week. I could eat anything; I mean ANYTHING I wanted. We’re talking 5-6 slices of pizza at a time, with chicken wings and a Coke (my coach would certainly have disapproved!). Looking back, I wonder how the negative effects of my blood sugar being like a roller coaster played a part in my career as an athlete.

Once I was diagnosed with PCOS I learned that the food you put into your body is critical to managing it. I learned that I needed to follow a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. I dislike calling it a diet, because for those with PCOS, it has to be a lifestyle and it is absolutely necessary if you want to managed your PCOS. I have been following a high protein, low carbohydrate way of eating since 2012 and can tell you that it is instrumental for someone with PCOS to get their diet in check. I no longer get the shakes from insulin spikes and plummets (which would sometimes leave me in an anxious/panic attack state). I also wouldn’t have to eat every hour and a half because my body literally felt like it was starving. It also helped minimize or eliminate some of those nasty side effects of PCOS that we’re all so familiar with having.

I have come to accept that I will always have PCOS. This is who I am, this is how my body works, I just need to figure out the best way to work with it so I can feel the best that I can. I would love to be able to sit and eat an entire box of cheesy bread, but I know that it’s not what my body needs and my blood sugar will be sky high in about 10 minutes and I’d need a nap. I am thankful for Pinterest and Google as I have found many recipes that have been altered so I can indulge in the foods I loved prior to being diagnosed with PCOS. I won’t lie, I do fall off the wagon every now and then but I am human!

I encourage you to take a strong look at your diet. Track your meals so you can see exactly what you’re fueling your body with. I guarantee you’ll be surprised. I was eating high amounts  of carbohydrates when I did my tracking. My rule of thumb is whatever I eat, there must always be more protein than carbs. My cholesterol, triglycerides, A1C, and body weight have all come down following this lifestyle change. In addition, I walk several times a week 20-30 minutes at a time and do body weight circuits and dumbbell exercises. I am not working out nearly the way that I was 8 years ago, I promise you that (especially not with two kids and working full time!).

Know that you’re not the only one with PCOS, you’re not alone. There are great resources available that can assist you in this journey!

Carissa Gump is an American weightlifter. She is a multiple-time American record holder, a five-time consecutive American Open champion, and she competed in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.


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Comments (2)
  • Linda jo belsito

    October 6, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Great information for females whether you are an athlete or not. So many women struggle with issues that the medical teams blow off as hormones, female issues, and I for one applause all who are willing to share their history and possibly help others. We need to do more of this. As a master female athlete, RN, I look to learn as much as I can to help my athletes, clients, and public about being as healthy as you can be. At times it takes an event as mentioned above to get to the next level of exam and diagnosis, but I was told for years my issues were just I was doing to much, lifting weights is not for girls, and found out that my thyroid was reeling and levels were through the roof. Finally a friend who worked for the Endocrine specialist showed him my labs and he said you need to come in right away. I did and have been on synthroid ever since. I felt much better, lost weight, but it’s important to speak up and demand follow up. Thank you Carissa, I had no idea, you suffered a loss of a child. I admire you for being who you are. LJ

  • Facebook Newsfeed

    October 25, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Hi Carissa,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is important to share this so that couples and others in your situation understand they are no the only ones. This is something that should be on facebook newsfeeds not just blog posts.


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