Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS for short) is one of the leading hormonal disorders amongst women of childbearing age. Characterized by symptoms such as irregular periods, pelvic pain, hair loss and mood swings, PCOS can cause weight gain or make it difficult to lose existing weight, often resulting in excess fat around the middle.

Frustratingly, one of the risk factors and side-effects of PCOS is weight gain. For women with PCOS, fighting weight gain can become a constant and frustrating struggle, leading to stress, low self-esteem and stubborn fat, all of which can also worsen symptoms creating a vicious cycle.

Why is weight loss difficult for women with PCOS?

Persistent weight gain and difficulty losing weight is common in women with PCOS because the condition causes insulin resistance – or reduced sensitivity to insulin. Insulin helps to convert sugars and starches into energy – but when a person is insulin resistant, insulin and sugar build up in the blood stream. This triggers a spike in androgens (male hormones), which are behind many troubling PCOS symptoms including irregular periods, acne and excess body hair. Weight gain with PCOS tends to be around the abdomen, increasing the risk of a number of life-threatening illnesses including cardiovascular disease and stroke. Many women with PCOS are overweight or obese, even though they try hard to do the ‘right things’, such as watching what they eat and exercising regularly. This is why dedicated support and a tailored weight loss plan is key.

Why is weight loss with PCOS important?

A struggle with weight management and PCOS can create something of a vicious cycle. Studies show that being overweight significantly worsens symptoms of PCOS – whilst some specialists believe that obesity is a risk factor for developing it. Women who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and some cancers – so beyond the physical and emotional benefits, tackling weight gain is also a priority from a health perspective.

In one study, just 5-10% weight loss resulted in a remarkable improvement in the severity of the condition – so there’s a lot to gain even with a little to lose.

Why weight loss tips for PCOS look different

Approaching weight loss when you have PCOS starts with addressing the hormone imbalances within your body which can influence muscle growth, fat deposits and water retention. It’s also important to focus on remedying high blood sugar and insulin level in the blood, to help the body to more effectively refuel and prevent fat storage due to dietary choices.

These weight loss tips can apply to everyone – but they’re also designed with hormone balancing in mind.

1/ Up your fiber and protein intake

Fiber and protein both have vital roles to play when it comes to weight management. Fiber helps to rebalance through aiding the detoxification of excess hormones, whilst lean protein helps you to feel fuller for longer and aids healthy muscle growth.

2/ Introduce regular movement

Exercise is vital not only for weight reduction but also to help manage the symptoms of PCOS – but pain and discomfort can have a negative impact on your motivation. Try exercising little and often – listening to your body and taking care to rest when needed. You should find that over time, regular exercise helps to increase your energy levels, too. Walking or jogging for 30 minutes a day or taking a class a few times a week could help to combat PCOS-related weight gain.

In dedicated studies, women with PCOS who exercised three times per week for 45-60 minutes lost 2.3% body fat. Weight training has also been shown to beneficial for women with PCOS – in a study of 45 women with PCOS, those who did weight training three times weekly lost belly fat and gained lean body mass after four months. Testosterone and blood sugar levels had also reduced.

3/ Cut down on refined carbs and sugars

Refined carbohydrates and sugars react with the body, raising blood sugar levels and worsening insulin resistance. Studies show that women with PCOS process sugars differently to those without, experiencing higher spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels after consuming sugary foods or refined carbs. Refined sugar consumption also causes inflammation, another trigger for PCOS symptoms.

Removing or limiting processed foods high in sugars and refined carbs such as cakes, cookies, candy and fast food is a highly effective way to improve your overall health, lose weight and improve symptoms of PCOS.

4/ Try smart supplements

Taking supportive supplements to help your body to shed those excess pounds can be a turning point for many women with PCOS.

New Improved HORMONE HELPER - Supports healthy hormone balance to look and feel your best.Belly Fix features Coconut MCT and L-Glutamine alongside fermented super-greens to help reset the digestive system, restoring healthy levels of gut bacteria to aid a healthy metabolism and nutrient absorption.

Our Hormone Helper blend contains Maca and Myo-Inositol, both designed to work in harmony with the body to create better balance and level out fluctuations, helping to reduce the severity of PCOS symptoms.

Sleeping well can also help to keep weight gain at bay through better controlling cortisol and ghrelin, two hormones responsible for appetite. Try Sleep Savior to ease anxiety and insomnia for a sounder night’s sleep.

5/ Manage stress

Stress is a risk factor for weight gain for a number of reasons. On one hand, stress affects the body on a chemical and physiological level – but when we’re not feeling mentally well, we’re also more prone to emotional eating or choosing unhealthy, processed foods. Stress management looks different for everyone – so you might need to try a few different methods to see what works best for you. Meditation, breathwork, yoga and journaling are all popular ways to ease day-to-day stress, although if your stress is chronic or caused by one of more traumatic life experiences, talking therapy may also be required.

Find more expert tips on hormone health here on the blog – or head over to EWW founder Dr Taz and download your FREE hormone guide.