PCOS affects more than 5 million women in America with many more suffering without a diagnosis – and experts agree that weight loss is one of the most effective ways to control symptoms. But frustratingly, PCOS itself can cause stubborn weight gain that’s hard to lose.
This vicious cycle can become frustrating and severely affect quality of life, self-esteem and emotional wellbeing – but fortunately there are things you can do to lose weight if you have PCOS.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome PCOS is a condition which affects the functions of the ovaries and natural balance of hormones in the body. Despite the name, PCOS doesn’t always involve cysts on the ovaries, but all patiets experience imbalanced levels of hormones, particularly androgens such as testosterone. Until recently, PCOS was widely misunderstood and many women are still victims of medical gaslighting, waiting on average 5 years to receive a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Oftentimes, PCOS symptoms are masked from teenage years with contraceptives which can make it harder to treat later down the line – but symptoms generally begin during your late teens or early twenties.
Common symptoms of PCOS include:
*Irregular periods or having no periods at all
*Irregular or no ovulation (leading to difficulty getting pregnant)
*Thinning hair or hair loss
*Excessive hair growth on the face and body
*Oilier skin and acne
Weight is often an incredibly difficult issue for women with PCOS – more than half of people diagnosed with PCOS are overweight.
Why does PCOS cause weight gain?
Weight loss with PCOS is difficult for a number of reasons. Many of the causes of weight gain are linked with the hormone imbalances which drive PCOS, including higher levels of insulin, androgens and cortisol. Causes of weight gain in PCOS include:
*Insulin levels and insulin resistance: PCOS is characterized by high insulin levels and insulin resistance – two factors that affect weight gain in a number of ways. Insulin resistance can result in intense food cravings, as well as promoting fat storage.
*Impaired appetite: PCOS disrupts the normal levels of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones responsible for the regulation of appetite and feelings of fullness. This can make it difficult for women with PCOS to know when they are full and stop eating, on top of being more hungry on a daily basis.
*Increased fat storage: Issues with insulin also affect the way the body stores fat. Higher levels of insulin and impaired glucose management cause more fat deposits, especially around the midsection.
*Issues with blood sugar: Even if you’ve been watching what you eat, your diet may be contributing to weight gain with PCOS if it’s high-GI. Several studies have shown that those eating a low-GI diet with PCOS lose three times more weight than those eating a high-GI diet, even with the same amount of calories and macronutrients consumed per day.
*Trouble sleeping: Poor sleep has been consistently linked to obesity and contributes to insulin resistance – so it’s no surprise that it has an influence on PCOS-related weight gain. Obstructive sleep apnea can often accompany PCOS, making good quality and restful sleep challenging.
Why is weight loss important when you have PCOS?
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for many reasons – but it’s incredibly important when it comes to managing symptoms of PCOS. Through losing weight, many women find that their symptoms such as acne and hair loss reduce, and their periods become more regular and less heavy and painful.
This is why sticking with a weight loss plan and working hard to shed those extra pounds is crucial when you have PCOS, as it can significantly improve your quality of life and help to ease many of the most painful and distressing daily symptoms that often come with the condition.
How can I lose weight with PCOS?
Losing weight with PCOS requires a multi-faceted and consistent approach over a period of time. It’s really important to lose the weight in a controlled and measured way, rather than going on crash diets or severely limiting food intake which can cause weight to pile back on, and make symptoms worse. Guidance to help you lose weight with PCOS includes:
*Managing and stabilizing blood sugar levels: Eat regular and balanced meals and snacks to help stabilize blood sugar – as skipping meals or overindulging can cause levels to spike, affecting insulin. Adopt a low-GI diet with wholefoods to help keep blood sugar peaks and crashes at bay.
*Eating more vegetables and fruits: Load up on vegetables and fruits, increasing fiber and nutrient intake. Choose low-sugar, low-GI fruits such as berries and melon and leafy greens to help with hormone balance.
*Staying active: Incorporate exercise into your routine at least 3 times per week. All physical activity is useful, but weight training and HIIT in particular have been shown to be helpful when shedding belly fat. If you’re struggling with pain, listen to your body and adapt with more gentle movement.
*Addressing stress: Stress triggers the release of cortisol on the body, in turn influencing fat deposits around the middle. Find strategies that work for you to reduce stress, such as nature walks, journaling, meditation and therapy.
*Sleep well: Focus on good sleep hygiene – such as avoiding blue light before bed, diffusing lavender essential oil, switching to softer light sources and investing in a more comfortable sleeping environment. Our Sleep Savior blend can support a more restful night’s sleep.
Support better hormone balance with Hormone Helper