An estimated 5 million women are affected by polycystic ovarian syndrome, also known as PCOS, and one of them is using her star power to open the conversation wide open. Enter, Andrea Lewis. The Canadian-born actress and filmmaker, best known for her roles on Degrassi: The Next Generation (2001), Black Actress (2013) and Cadet Kelly (2002), is an open book with her fans and followers. According to Lewis, “it's important for me to talk about PCOS because it is challenging and requires a lot of trial and error before you figure out what works for you. There's a community of women out there who are all trying to figure it out and we need each other.”
Read on for our candid conversation about what’s worked—and what hasn’t—for Lewis as she navigated the landscape of PCOS.
Perelel: What symptoms led you to discover you have PCOS?
Andrea Lewis: I had irregular periods, which is what led me to going to see my family doctor. And in general, my body felt like I gained weight just by looking at food. I started to feel really sad and filled with anxiety.
P: When you were given this diagnosis, did you feel like you had a clear understanding of what the syndrome is and how to manage it?
AL: When I was first diagnosed it was 2012, everything about it was super confusing. The doctors that I spoke with at the time basically told me I'd have a hard time having kids and not to wait too long before trying—and that was pretty much it. It was very frustrating and scary. I remember at the time when I would look it up online there were lots of forums of women all asking questions and trying to figure it out.
P: If a friend comes to you with a new PCOS diagnosis, what are the first lifestyle tweaks you suggest she make?
AL: Whether it's a friend or someone who stops me in the street, if we're talking about PCOS, I immediately suggest that they start taking Ovasitol, magnesium, Zinc, B-12 and vitamin D. Also, try slower workouts like weight training and long walks.
P: What rituals help you the most in maintaining your balance with PCOS?
AL: Taking my supplements regularly and being patient with myself has helped me the most. Sometimes I have everything under control and sometimes I don't, but stressing about it doesn't help. So just be patient. It's a long journey.
P: What type of exercise has been most helpful for you in hormone and blood sugar balancing?
AL: Long walks have been my best friend. I try to get as many steps in as possible within my day.
P: Have you tried anything to help your PCOS symptoms that has definitely *not* worked for you, your body, and your mind?
AL: In the beginning I tried high-intensity workouts and that didn't work at all—it actually made my body blow up instead. The more stress I put on my body the worse it gets.
P: Has managing PCOS gotten easier with time? What words of encouragement could you offer to other women?
AL: It's definitely gotten better for me over the years because I understand my body more and I can tell when something is off. But I'm constantly learning about different ways to manage my PCOS and to feel better about my body.
Written by Jessica Lopez. Jessica Lopez is a freelance writer, digital content creator, and new mother. She has covered all lifestyle topics ranging from bridal to beauty for publications including Brides Magazine, Byrdie, THE/THIRTY, and more. Walking wide-eyed into motherhood has inspired her to connect with other parents through her writing and shared experience. You can follow more of her journey @Jessica.H.Lopez.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.