We’re thrilled you’ve found us. Perhaps you’re here because you, like many of our clients, feel that the support and recommendations you’re getting don’t sit quite right.
Perhaps you’ve experienced discrimination in the health care system, and are tired of getting the same generic cookie-cutter recommendations to manage your PCOS symptoms and balance your hormones. Perhaps you’re here because you don’t feel like you fit the mold of the “typical” person with PCOS, whether that’s related to your age, gender identity, cultural background, or body size.
Or perhaps you’re here as a fellow health professional, looking to learn more or connect with us about how to be sure you’re providing inclusive care to your own patients.
Regardless of your reason for stumbling upon our page, we want this website, blog, and our social media to feel like a safe space for everyone with PCOS. Our ultimate goal is to provide better, more inclusive care as health professionals!
We wanted to use this very first blog post to introduce ourselves and to highlight how we’re planning to help the Canadian PCOS community in ways that the current landscape is lacking.
Before we dive in, it may be helpful for some to understand: What is PCOS? Then we’ll give you a sense of who we are, and why this work is so meaningful to us. There’s a ton of info out there on PCOS already. Why do we feel there’s a need for this website, and for more inclusive messaging and support for those with PCOS?
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is a common endocrine disorder affecting people with uteruses. (Women, yes. And also folks who have uteruses and don’t identify as female.) The endocrine system is a complex network of glands and organs in your body that uses hormones to control metabolism, fertility, stress and injury response, mood, and more.
Those with PCOS experience hormone changes that can have an effect on many other areas of health and wellbeing, such as fertility, diabetes risk, cardiovascular health, risk for disordered eating, mental health, and more.
With PCOS, you might experience long cycles or missing periods, the development of tiny follicles surrounding the ovaries, facial hair, acne, hair loss on your head, fertility challenges, and signs of insulin resistance such as weight gain or dark leathery patches of skin on your elbows, knees, or at the creases of your neck.
Not everyone with PCOS has all of these symptoms. Some people have symptoms that are mild, while others have symptoms that are more noticeable. People with PCOS are also more likely to experience binge eating, anxiety, depression, and have higher risk factors for heart disease. There’s a lot to unpack here, and because everyone with PCOS is unique, a personalized approach to healthcare is so important!
As two Registered Dietitians with a combined 16 years of experience working in PCOS care, we have seen worrying trends and recommendations for folks with PCOS. We’ve also seen many people who fall through the cracks, who don’t receive the health guidance to help manage their symptoms and long-term risk factors related to being diagnosed with PCOS.
There are several different areas in which the typical healthcare that’s offered doesn’t fully meet the needs of people with PCOS, as a result of lack of inclusivity for: age, culture, gender, and size.
We offer support and resources for PCOS beyond the reproductive years (age-inclusive); support for non-Western culturally-appropriate nutrition recommendations (culturally-inclusive); support for those with PCOS who do not identify as female (gender-inclusive); and last but not least, anti-diet support for those in larger bodies that is not rooted in weight stigma and, when safe/appropriate, may provide gentle nutrition support for managing PCOS (size-inclusive, Health At Every Size®-friendly care).
In short, we’re on a mission to change how PCOS support is provided to Canadians, because most of the resources and content to help those with PCOS are NOT:
That’s why we created inclusivepcos.ca – to provide supportive, evidence-based information, resources, content, and professional health care to all Canadians with PCOS. Inclusivity matters, and representation matters. Why Canada? While lots of our content will be relevant for folks across the globe, there are specifics about accessing medical care, allied health professionals, and even things like food and supplement availability that may be region-specific. Since we’re from Canada, our focus will be to support Canadians.
Before we dive into what we’re working on, you might be curious to know a little more about who we are! The co-creators behind the scenes of InclusivePCOS.ca are Noura Sheikhalzoor and Sarah O’Hara.
Noura Sheikhalzoor, MSc, RD, CDE (she/her) is based in Ontario, Canada. Noura has been a registered dietitian since 2013 and has experience working in an endocrinology clinic, which ignited her passion for supporting patients with PCOS. She’s taken her clinical experience to the next level as an entrepreneur, running a private practice focusing on a non-diet, weight-inclusive approach to PCOS management. Noura believes that food and lifestyle are to be enjoyed including cultural foods and practices.
Sarah O’Hara (she/her) is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in New Brunswick, Canada, and has 11 years of professional and personal experience with PCOS. While working as a public health dietitian in reproductive health in 2011, she was recruited to conduct a research study on the effects of nutrition care on PCOS outcomes in a fertility clinic. The same year, she was personally diagnosed with PCOS after experiencing some fertility hurdles of her own. The typical recommendations for PCOS nutrition management were frustrating, with a strong focus on intentional weight loss as the “solution” to managing symptoms. After discovering the benefits of the Health At Every Size® approach and shifting her definition of PCOS success away from weight loss, she became renewed in her passion to provide support to those with PCOS by using a weight-inclusive and anti-diet approach. She has been running a private practice since 2017, with expertise and experience in helping clients manage PCOS across the lifespan (adolescence through menopause and beyond).
We connected online as like-minded professionals who feel that standard care and the level of support for PCOS in Canada could use a boost. After chatting about some of the ways that existing resources are lacking, we decided to join forces! Our goal is to create a safe and supportive online resource for Canadians with PCOS, focusing on a more inclusive model of care. And so, inclusivePCOS.ca was born! We’re excited to be starting from scratch to develop and grow a wide variety of resources and offerings.
While we fully recognize that our profession itself suffers from a lack of adequate diversity, we are committed to ensuring that the dietitians and other health professionals featured in our professional directory, providing content for our resources and social media represent as much diversity, knowledge, and passion as we’re able to find. Diverse experience and perspectives, both personally and professionally, are so valuable. In the coming weeks, we’ll be collaborating with some amazing healthcare providers and putting together more blog posts, resources, and social content to help support Canadians with PCOS in navigating this common but complex diagnosis.
You can expect some great content coming at you through our website and social media in the coming weeks:
- A professional directory to help you find a PCOS dietitian or other healthcare professional who practices in your province/city.
- Blog posts discussing:
- PCOS across the lifespan;
- Benefits of Intuitive Eating and Gentle Nutrition for PCOS;
- Food/recipe ideas with cultural diversity;
- Real-life stories from folks with PCOS who have experienced ageism, racism, weight discrimination, or gender exclusion in their healthcare and what these experiences can teach us about equity in care and the importance of inclusivity in healthcare.
- Free printable resources for managing PCOS from adolescence through menopause, navigating supplements, snack ideas, self-advocacy in a healthcare setting, and more!
- Sharing of inclusive content related to PCOS support and wellness on social media.
- All providers involved in this project are committed to an anti-diet and Health At Every Size-friendly approach to PCOS management and are invested in advocacy, inclusivity, diversity, and an enhanced level of care.
Please help us to spread the word by sharing our website and social media pages to anyone that you feel might benefit from knowing we’re here. Our professional directory will be up and running soon to help Canadians with PCOS find their “right fit” healthcare provider committed to a more inclusive landscape for helping you to manage PCOS and live your healthiest life both physically and emotionally.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for us, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org