For many women, a big component of living with PCOS is getting extra well-acquainted with your body and what it’s telling you: what helps it? What does it need? What can it do with less of? For Samah Dada, getting creative with delicious, healthy ingredients - and putting new spins on old favorites (such as haldi-roasted honey mustard brussels sprouts and sweet potato brownies!) - was and still is a way she combats PCOS symptoms daily.
We sat down with Samah, as a new advisor to Allara, to talk about women’s health, community, and nutrition as a tool on her PCOS journey.
We’re so excited you’re an Allara advisor! Give everyone some background on you.
I am so excited - it truly feels meant to be! Hi everyone, my name is Samah, and I’m a best-selling cookbook author, TV host, on-air contributor, plant-based recipe developer, and food blogger. I’m the host of #cooking, my cooking show for the TODAY Show’s streaming channel and Peacock TV. I’m a first generation daugher of Indian immigrants, having been born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from India when they were in high school. I was raised between Southern California and London, England (talk about a culture shock) and currently live in Brooklyn, New York.
I am extremely passionate about sharing healthy, accessible, and simple plant-forward recipes for everyone at your table. I know that cooking can often be intimidating for many, so my goal has always been to empower people to cook, inspiring them with recipes they know they “can” make, instead of what they wish they “could” make. I also enjoy infusing Indian flavors into my food, bringing a modern take to the recipes that I saw on my own dinner table growing up.
When were you first diagnosed with PCOS?
I was diagnosed with PCOS in the fall of 2019. At the appointment, my doctor located cysts on my ovaries, and having also noted the acne on my cheeks, they prescribed me birth control and asked me to try exercising and eating healthy.
Before that point, I had known something was wrong. Acne had bloomed on my skin, seemingly out of nowhere. My clothes hugged my body in a way that was not loving, but instead uncomfortable and constricting. Pre and post-diagnosis I felt ashamed. I was constantly blaming and gaslighting myself for not being “healthy enough,” since I was only 24 years old. I felt like my body was working against me in ways I was unable to control.
What do you wish you had known back then?
At the time of my diagnosis, I blamed myself (fortunately, now I know that it was simply not my fault, of course, and there are so many important factors to consider when talking about a PCOS diagnosis and managing symptoms). At the time I was diagnosed, though, that doctor’s appointment was the first time I even heard the term ‘PCOS.’ I wish that someone had explained to me in a holistic, relatable, and understandable way what this condition entailed, and how I could mitigate my symptoms.
You share your PCOS journey on social media. What has that been like for you?
I have never received more messages than when I opened up about my PCOS diagnosis on social media! The overwhelming isolation I had felt upon receiving my diagnosis was something that, when I spoke out about it, other women could strongly relate to, which made it all the more apparent to me why I believe SO strongly that we must work to de-stigmatize this condition. Unfortunately there is still a stigma around conversations about women’s health conditions and frankly, women’s health in general, so I know that the more we talk about it, and the more aware people become, the less alone women who have PCOS will feel.
Why did you want to become an advisor for Allara? Congrats, by the way!
I love everything that Allara stands for, and I was so thrilled when I first discovered it. A platform dedicated to helping women feel back in control of their bodies and their diagnosis? Sign me up! This is something we have desperately needed for a long, long time.
For me, Allara isn’t just about tackling physical symptoms - it’s also about not having to face your PCOS alone. I feel really honored to be even a small part of women's journeys who join this platform and be part of the movement to change the conversation around women’s health and PCOS.
What change do you most want to see in the PCOS space going forward?
As we all know, there is still definitely a stigma around speaking about women’s health conditions. There is an expectation that we should be silent, especially when it comes to reproductive conditions, but I want to break that silence. Conversations about women’s health shouldn’t be niche: we are 50% of the population, and we deserve a healthy, safe space to feel heard and to have our medical, emotional, and psychological needs met.
What advice do you have for someone with PCOS?
Above all, do NOT blame yourself. This is not your fault at all.
I blamed myself for years, even though I rationally knew that this condition was outside of my control. For anyone who has PCOS or suspects they have PCOS, I recommend focusing on what is IN your control: things like taking care of your mental health, treating yourself with kindness, nourishing your body, and making connections with others who understand what you’re going through. You are not alone. You have a community you can reach out to who will welcome you with open arms.