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Karen Christensen

I’m Karen Christensen!

I’ve spent the last several years of my life creating low-GI recipes that keep blood sugar in check and working with fitness pros to craft workouts, all to help women with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and insulin resistance achieve their most audacious fitness goals. I’m not here to claim to know everything. Even our doctors and scientists don’t. But like many other who’ve struggled with this condition, I have a heart for women with PCOS and insulin resistance. I’m here to help, to give back, and to encourage.

My story

In 1990 when I was 16, I noticed that my period didn’t show up sometimes for up to 6-9 months. I also noticed that my belly wasn’t flat like so many of my classmates and there began my early morning jogging life. It didn’t occur to me that these might be connected. The OBGYN diagnosis was endometriosis. The solution was the pill. I remember the doctor telling me, ‘You are going to have a really hard time getting pregnant.’ 

Turns out I didn’t have endometriosis. And in 1996,  at 21 years old, I also found I certainly could get pregnant. Just miss 2 pills and surprise! It’s a girl. I was a gym rat around this time, employed and working out in a fitness center 5-6 days per week and eating like a health nut. I still didn’t realize that my propensity to gain weight had anything to do with my ovaries or hormones. As I moved into my mid and upper 20s I began to really struggle with my weight. I was eating what most would consider healthy and was exercising all the time. But it began to creep on.

When I was 32 in 2006, I was finally diagnosed with PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome) in San Francisco by a friendly lady gynecologist that showed me the ‘string of pearls’ stretching across my ovaries on an ultrasound. I couldn’t believe it. The solution? Still the pill.

Spring forward 3 or 4 years. I’m living and working in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. I’m enjoying a lazy Saturday at Kinokuniya, Dubai Mall’s largest bookstore. (AKA: heaven)  I’m in my favorite section — healthy cookbooks / diet. What to my wondering eyes should appear but a recipe book for women with PCOS. What?!? I stood there completely confused. What do my ovaries have to do with what I’m eating? I began reading. Then I began cursing under my breath. Why had no one told me about insulin resistance? Why had no one told me about all the side effects this hormonal issue could have — like the little annoying whiskers I’d pluck from my chin, or the mass shedding of hair that would happen whenever I passed shoulder length. But most importantly, why I struggled like fire with my weight when I was eating better and exercising more than anyone I knew! I was both angry and excited to potentially be holding some answers. I bought the book. And several books on insulin resistance.

This was when my life changed for the better. The first thing I did was devour the books and adjust my diet to match a low-GI (glycemic index) plan as the books recommended. I began losing weight. 

I had more than a decade of gym life and healthy eating under my belt, so while I knew I was eliminating all the ‘fast’ sugar foods from my diet, I could plainly see that the recommendations in these books were for people who aren’t used to eating particularly healthy. They were full of fatty meats, butter, high-caloric ingredients and not the kind of food that typically leads to fitness. So, once I got the hang of eating low-GI foods and eliminating all the crappy white carbs, I put my own spin on the plan tweaking it to be low-GI + high protein, with healthy fats, and calorie control. Boom! The fat began falling at a steady rate of 10lbs per month. 1.5 years after I found that book at the mall, I had lost 40 lbs, was right around 129 with body fat of 15%. As a reward for my hard work, I had a photoshoot. Man, am I so very glad I did that. Because the years that would follow would be a rollercoaster and it would be important for me to be able to look back at these pictures and remember what success can come from a focused approach.

Almost immediately after my photoshoot, I moved back to the US and little by little, year after year, the weight crept back on. I was advancing in my career and my responsibilities were growing. So with my attention on work, my nutrition and fitness life came second. I gained 10-15 lbs in just a couple years landing at 140-145. I moved to Germany and with all the schnitzel, beer, and pommes frites with mayo, I was up 10 lbs to 155 in no time. So, back went the nose to the grindstone and down the rollercoaster I went — at least to the extent that all my levels were in the ‘normal’ zone, somewhere around 140. I was living and loving my healthy eating, low-GI gym life. THEN I met my future husband.

The thing about new love is that you want to spend all your time together, drinking wine, eating late-night chocolate, you know, living. But PCOS is unforgiving, so I gained 10 lbs back in no time to hit 150. Once I recognized what was happening, I thought I have to do something about this. So I ate healthy Monday through Friday, and only had wine and treats on the weekend. Did the roller coaster go down? Nope. Weekend cheating is not forgivable with PCOS. I gained 10 more pounds to hit 160.  Then we got engaged. I fought like mad to lose weight before my wedding, but since I was still ‘enjoying life’ with my fiance on the weekends, I only lost about 5 lbs to marry at 155 lbs. I wasn’t thrilled with the results of my efforts, but I was very happy in life.

After my intensive pre-wedding  workout efforts, I got really tired of it all. Tired of working so hard in the gym. Tired of eating so healthy and having the weekend cancel out every last effort. Tired of trying. Tired of it being unfair. Just plain tired. So I sat on the couch for about a year. I don’t need to tell you that this was not a good solution. But I was completely depleted of motivation and commitment. Of course I gained. To the tune of about 23 lbs to put me at my highest weight of 178 lbs.

One day I wore a bra I hadn’t worn in a long time and it cut into my sides so bad, my skin ached for days. That was my wake-up call. It was enough. And it wasn’t like I didn’t know what I needed to do. I had to stop eating crap, start exercising regularly, and stop my silly weekend nutrition sabotage. So, I started a 6-day resistance training program with daily cardio and got my calories and food choices in check. My ‘free eating’ weekends became one, singular treat meal per week, and like magic, once again, the fat began to melt. 3.5 months into the plan, I’d dropped 19 lbs. My commitment was back. My focus was back. And I decided I wanted to take my approach, which has worked for me time and time again when I apply it, and help other women get off the PCOS roller coaster.  ‘We the PCOS’ was born.

Losing fat with PCOS is so much about the decision to do it and commitment to seeing it through. Motivation is a fleeting mistress. That said, there is a LOT more information out there for women than there was when I was diagnosed in 2006. Some of it good. A lot of it, complete garbage. I have strong feelings about the stuff out there designed to prey on women’s misery and make unethical people rich. So, I will be a voice of personal experience and no BS, because that’s what I have to give — my experiences over the past 20+ years. I’m not new to this condition. I had to find my own way. I’m more determined than the average bear, but PCOS has bested me many a time. On the other hand, I’ve also triumphed over PCOS my fair share. It’s a war, not a battle.

To be very clear, I believe there are many ‘right ways’ to deal with PCOS. There is more than one approach out there that will work for you. My dearest wish is that you will find one you like and can stick with. I didn’t cook my plan up in the kitchen myself. It is the synthesis of advice and recommendations from dieticians, trainers, athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness specialists I have learned from along the way and new professionals I’m consulting with as we go.

I hope I can help you to focus, do the work it takes, love the process, and let your self-love light shine, as you achieve your most audacious fitness goals.


Karen Christensen