Spring Cleaning: Flea Market Edition

I’ve been going to flea markets my whole life. It’s probably part of the life of a second-generation immigrant child. My mom would be so proud showcasing her haul to me that she haggled down to the lowest low, all with the thought that they would fit me perfectly.

I still like going to flea markets myself, looking for books, clothes and most recently, vinyls. I live close to Nowkoelln Flowmarkt here in Berlin that runs every other Sunday during the warm season and it’s by far my favourite in the city for it’s trendy and hip and it’s small enough that it’s not too overwhelming, but also big enough to always find something to bring home.

It wasn’t until recently, though, that I was able to sell some stuff myself. I have been trying to declutter for years and I’ve even collected sacks full of clothing that I’ve decided to let go of, not to mention some decor and knick-knacks that I know I’ll never miss.

How to join:

We got in by registering two weeks before our preferred day. Registration starts at 7 AM and we got there at 6:30 AM just to be sure we get in only to be surprised by an already long queue by the registration booth. We got in line and waited. Around 7 AM they started handing out registration forms so everyone can start filling them up to just submit them at your turn. For this part, it’s smart to bring your own pen but also be nice enough to lend yours to the people before and behind you. When it was finally our turn, we were given a number for our stand and we paid 30 € registration fee (plus 12 € will be collected on the day itself). A good two hours since we got there, we were finally done.

What to sell:

  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Toys, board games
  • DVD’s + Video Games
  • Electronics
  • Books

Two full weeks to go before the big day, we had plenty of time to collect the things we want to sell. Most of them, as I have mentioned, are already in sacks from years ago. But I decided to sort through them again and found some old clothes that I thought I’d rather donate, send home, or maybe even wear again. Then I made my way to my closet and found more stuff. The most challenging part, I guess, is letting go. I have found plenty of dresses that I’ve only worn once but never found the right occasion to wear again. They’re in excellent condition but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sell them at a price that I’d like to think it’s worth because no one would touch them at that price. I just had to accept the fact that they will be gone forever but at least it will make someone very happy not just wearing them but also knowing that they got them for close to nothing (about the same rush I get whenever I get a good deal as a thrifter myself).

I am a huge collector of sunglasses and believe to have had like about 50 pairs of them before I sold half of them at the flea market. I never really got any expensive or branded ones for myself over the years and that’s why it was easier for me to let go of them. My style has also pretty much changed a couple of times in the span of 10 years so most of them I haven’t really worn in a while. The wife had the brilliant idea of hanging them on a string like a party banner above our heads so everyone who comes by can see them.

What I have also found lying around the house are board games that we don’t ever really get to play anymore. These have been a hit with the kids and it was a shame we did not have more to sell. Children tend to point at things in big boxes and that’s how we sold our old bingo set and other games. I was surprised in a really positive way to find that kids still get excited about games that don’t involve staring down at their parent’s smartphones for hours on end.

I also had a box full of English books that I was hoping to sell but I was surprised to find that people are not really interested anymore. I know that when I go to flea markets I tend to look for these boxes and have brought a couple of books home myself but clearly I’m alone in this because people barely even checked that box I laid open for them. For some reason I thought Neukölln was the right place to sell English books but I only ended up being rid of one book.

Overall it was a good experience. It’s normal to feel too optimistic with the money you’re hoping to make before you start because your goal really is to sell everything. We went home still with a big box full of clothes (I probably only sold half of them), some DVDs and video games, and a handful of sunglasses. It’s funny, though, how the day went by so quickly. There were moments where we did not sell anything for a full hour, then at some point we sell items again by the minute. It’s not eventful throughout but it’s fulfilling enough to carry on. Before noon we already got the 42 € fee back and even if business was slow after that, we knew we were in the black.

Fighting PCOS on Ketogenic Diet

I recently started a Ketogenic diet. It’s an ultra low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet which also means using all the fat as fuel for my body instead of what it was used to – carbs. It’s the start of my fifth week today and it has been quite a journey so far.

Why Ketogenic?

My previous post is a recall of the time I discovered that I have PCOS. I was advised to follow a low-carb diet but I never got around to trying an extreme low-carb diet like Keto. I have been cautious about my carb intake (though not strict) since the diagnosis and I wanted to try something with what seemed like a positive outcome – being full of energy without the sugar!

The idea came after our recent trip to Venice last February. We stayed there for six days and it was too much. In my post, I talked about how we felt like we spent way too much time on that group of islands but another reason for my agony were the food options. It was exciting at first to know you don’t have much of a choice but to eat either pizza or pasta until exactly this became the problem. Somewhere in between I would have a serving of carpaccio just to even the score but I still felt like I was stuck with an uncomfortable amount of carbs and I was pretty sure I will not touch pizza or pasta again for the next couple of months. It was the perfect time to start a low-carb lifestyle!

After that holiday, I did some research on low-carb diets and found a couple of articles that were associated with reversing PCOS. It felt like there was hope for finally fixing some issues with my health and I grew more and more excited each day. I had to ask my wife if she would at least support me if she wouldn’t join me but she did her own research and felt like it was also the right diet for her. We did not start right away and dropped the carbs cold turkey, but we took our time to read a bit more about it and to eliminate some food from our pantry that we know we won’t be needing during this process and to make space for all the new food that is coming. It wasn’t until two weeks later when we finally started. We just got home from a weekend at my mom’s where we also went to a birthday party and that’s why we set that deadline so we don’t get distracted when we finally begin.

Goals:

  • Reduce the symptoms of my PCOS. I measure through frequency of my menstrual flow.
  • Have lots of energy. I want to be able to do many things without getting tired easily.
  • Get a jumpstart on a low-carb lifestyle. Starting Keto is like ditching carbs cold turkey which I believe can help with starting to get used to it. Once I’m done with Keto, I am planning to continue eating low-carb to keep my PCOS on track.

Additions to our pantry:

  • Almond flour / Coconut flour
  • Erythritol and other low-carb sweeteners
  • Avocados
  • Fresh leafy greens
  • Zucchini (for Zoodles)
  • Shirataki noodles
  • Cauliflower (for cauliflower rice!)
  • Cheese
  • Even more grass-fed Irish butter (we’ve been consuming this for years now)
  • Coconut and olive oils

Some of these foods we already had but since we would be consuming these on the regular, we had to stash some more.

How we got started:

In Keto, it is important to stick to your daily macronutrient allowance so we got started by getting to know this. There are apps that can help you calculate and keep track of your macronutrient intake. My app of choice is Lifesum. My diet consists of 6% carbs (20g), 14% protein (51g), and 80% fat (116g). Obviously, this is a huge difference compared to, say, when I used to have a breakfast roll in the morning which now would already exceed my present carb allowance.

Benefits of Ketogenic Diet in my experience:

  • One week into Ketogenic, I was surprised by already getting my period. The flow was pretty weak and it felt like it had been forced out sooner than my body had intended to. But that’s already one goal off the list!
  • I remember working the night shift during my first week. I am usually very tired the first night with serious brain-fog due to lack of sleep but I was surprised to have been able to fully concentrate and only felt the need for some shut-eye once I was laying comfortably in my bed at home.
  • You get introduced to lots of new food. Or even old ones that you have been taught to avoid all your life because of its high fat content.
  • It saved us a lot of money. Back when we were eating mostly anything, we wouldn’t even think twice to go out to eat because it seemed more convenient than grocery shopping and then cooking. Now we know we can’t just go out and expect people to serve us Keto food so we have to make our own every time we eat and it helps us becoming more aware of our intake.

Downsides of Ketogenic Diet:

Of course, it has some downsides too. But this is where you really decide whether this is for you or not.

  • In the first week, I have experienced pain in my limbs. At some point they were so extreme I could barely walk. It is a side-effect of Keto during the early stages and it was gone after a few days.
  • People will ask why you are not eating. They see you with a bowl of salad with avocados, some cheese cuts and olives, and a cup of tea and they will ask why you are not eating. You might be surrounded by people that don’t consider what you eat as food. But you have to be strong and remember your goal! During the first and second week there had been a farewell and a birthday party at the office and there was enough cake for everyone to get two servings. I am proud to say that I did not touch any of it.
  • Some people experience the so-called Keto Flu in the early stages of Keto. This is where one can experience flu-like symptoms while adjusting to the low-carb lifestyle.
  • My face is pretty clear most of the time but at some point in our fourth week, my skin started breaking out and I had to go out with two huge pimples on my face. They’re long gone now but I only ever experienced this back in high school and now on Keto. It might be all hormonal or a combination of some other things like working the night shift and stress.
  • The hardest part of Keto for me is constipation (no pun intended, so sorry about that). It did not get better until we integrated some psyllium husk into our diet which is rich in fibre and works greatly in some Keto bread recipes.
  • Anyone who wants to start Keto should get ready to have to explain to their friends why they won’t be joining them for drinks or dinner. Sure, there are foods that you can eat at a restaurant but it’s easy to get tempted to eat past your macros when you’re in a group.

I haven’t really decided yet for how long I will be doing this diet. I was hoping maybe about 3-4 months but I am actually afraid of eating carbohydrates again because of the temptation of having too much. It’s hard to have to adjust again to a new eating habit. Right now I am perfectly satisfied with restricting myself because I know that if I cheat once I may have to start all over again. But I also don’t believe that Keto is forever and it’s only there to help me get used to a low-carb life.

Now that I just started my fifth week of Keto, I surely have been noticing a few more physical changes. For one, I don’t feel bloated anymore. I am not sure what exactly made me feel that way before but eliminating it has surely helped. I try not to focus too much on my weight while on this diet because some of it will be gained back anyway once I start reintroducing carbs back into my diet, but I did lose up to 3.2kg as of today which is reasonable for the first month.

Another change that took me completely by surprise right now is that I just got my period again. This one, though, seems more like a real one unlike the brief and spotty one from last month. But, hey, these are just reminders that I might actually be on the right track to taking my health back. 🙂

My experience with PCOS

In 2011 I stopped having my regular periods. It would take about three months for a new cycle, at one point I had even gone up to six months without a drop of blood. I had never been one of those women who expected their periods every 28-30 days, sometimes it came earlier but most of the time up to a week later. Still, it wasn’t until that year that my cycle has changed dramatically.

That time I thought it may not be so bad to miss my period from time to time. I eliminated the chance of pregnancy immediately (for obvious reasons), so I asked myself, what do I need my period for anyway? For one, it saved me money for not having to fill up my tampon stash for months at a time and, honestly? I don’t know of a single woman who enjoys being on her period.

But I also remember that year to be the start of the darkest and most painful time in my life and it went on for up to three more years. I was a mess.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I sought the opinion of a doctor – my first time ever to meet with a gynaecologist. I did not know what to expect. It wasn’t because I was uncomfortable talking about my female problems that I waited this long to go, but another symptom of depression is procrastination and for that reason I never really found the energy to go until that year.

My gynaecologist that time was a sympathetic woman who made sure I was comfortable. She ran some tests, including an ultrasound that gave me the chance to also see what the inside of my uterus and ovaries looked like. When we were done with the ultrasound, we were at her desk again and she grabbed a book to explain to me what was really going on. She showed me a photo of ovaries which resembled what I saw in the ultrasound. Then she showed me another one that suggested what they were supposed to look like. She explained to me that this was the reason for my irregular cycles and gave me a name for it: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

She asked me about all the other changes I’ve noticed in the past three years. I told her that it was the time when I started gaining weight (10kg in a matter of months!), and that I had been depressed – all of which, she explained, are symptoms of but may or may not be caused by PCOS (the weight issue, though, was likely caused by PCOS because of its drastic gain and the inability to lose weight despite of my humble attempts at dieting and exercise).

At this point I was worried about what this really means for me. Will I have to take pills? Change my lifestyle? Can this lead to other, scarier illnesses or diseases? No, yes, yes.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 17.15.53
Forgive me for not finding the real source of this image but I really do think it’s the best visual representation I’ve come across so far.

Because I said right on that my plans for the future do not include bearing a child, she said there was no need to try to correct this with the use of pills and regular monitoring. What I could do, was try to eat less carbohydrates just to help reduce the symptoms because my body can’t handle high levels of sugar. Exercising, she said, is of course always recommended but I should manage my expectations because it will be much harder for me to actually reach a physically fit status than it is for others. The risk of diabetes is very high, also considering the fact that both my parents have it.

She couldn’t give an explanation as to why I have PCOS. She said that about 20% of women have it and there is no actual cause, it just happens. It was frustrating, of course, it still is, because it’s not exactly satisfying to hear from a doctor that there is no cure for what I have. It felt like I had lost total control of my body and and it’s hard when you can’t blame it on anyone or anything, not even yourself.

It’s been years now since that first visit at the doctor’s. Since that time I have had some semi-regular periods for months at a time (about every 30-40 days) but every now and again I still have to wait up to 4 months for the next flow. Exercising, as I have been warned, has been extra exhausting given that I don’t get the results I am aiming for at an average pace but I try not to put too much pressure on myself when it comes to that. Dieting, on the other hand, has been the trickiest part. I was confused by how I was supposed to lessen my carbohydrate/sugar intake when I was pretty sure I was consuming much less than the average person. You will not find sugar in my coffee or tea and I drink soda only on rare occasions. I would only ever use sugar in baking but when do I ever have the time to bake? And unlike most Filipinos, I never felt the need to have rice with my food every time I eat and I can go months without a serving of rice. Same with potatoes, pasta, and other high-carb staples and I’ve always preferred dark bread over white which I believed at that time to be a better alternative. It was so confusing and I did not know what to eliminate from my daily intake when I know most people feel fine eating all this food and more. But I am not like most people. Not anymore after hearing the truth.

Right now I have finally come to a stage where I have accepted my fate and decided to take back control over my body. I understand the risks of PCOS for my health while I age and the best I can do now is to become aware of these and try my hardest to prevent them from happening. My primary goal right now is to get my period every month as a proof that I have been doing all the right things. I am fully focusing on my nutrition now more than ever and I am excited for the results!

I will be creating a separate post soon to elaborate more on my trials and errors in having PCOS focusing on diet and nutrition. As I am writing this, I have been on a low-carb high-fat diet for four weeks which I intend to keep up for a couple of months before reintroducing some good carbohydrates into my body.

Although PCOS is common, I don’t get to talk to a lot of people who also have it so I’d love for you to share your experiences with me and maybe we can get through this together! 🙂