PCOS is a common hormonal condition that affects millions of American women. Weight gain is one of the common symptoms of PCOS, and weight gain can exacerbate other associated symptoms. Losing weight with PCOS can be tricky, but it is not impossible. Luckily, there are steps you can take to support PCOS weight loss and the reversal of uncomfortable symptoms. Managing your symptoms is possible and you can lead a healthy, happy life with PCOS.
Here we go through everything you need to know about the PCOS diet for weight loss.
Before we jump into how to lose weight with PCOS, let’s first discuss what PCOS is. PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome and is characterized by hormonal imbalances that affect women specifically. Women of childbearing age tend to be most affected by PCOS. Women with PCOS are impacted by high levels of male hormones called androgens, and imbalanced levels of the female sex hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. Because the condition affects reproductive hormones, getting pregnant with PCOS can be challenging.
PCOS symptoms can be painful and debilitating. PCOS symptoms include:
- Ovarian cysts
- High levels of androgens
- Weight gain or obesity
- Abnormal or excessive hair growth
- Lack of ovulation
- Irregular periods
PCOS and Metabolic Dysfunction Are Connected
PCOS is also connected to metabolic dysfunction. Many women with PCOS have high cortisol levels, high cholesterol, high blood sugar levels, high insulin levels, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease.
Both PCOS and associated metabolic conditions are extremely responsive to lifestyle changes and diet adjustments. PCOS exacerbates metabolic conditions, and metabolic conditions worsen PCOS, making hormonal balance a vicious cycle that can be hard to break. However, it’s not impossible, and the first step to balancing hormones is weight loss.
Let’s get into how you can support weight loss with PCOS.
5 Tips for Losing Weight with PCOS
Weight loss is hugely helpful in managing hormone imbalance and alleviating other symptoms associated with PCOS. Here are the top 5 tips for facilitating weight loss and achieving a healthy body mass index (BMI) when you have PCOS.
1. Eat Only Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are the best kind of carbohydrates to consume because they do not spike blood sugar. Consuming complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables provides a steady supply of energy, without causing blood sugar levels to sore.
Another way to think of carbohydrates is in terms of glycemic index. Low-glycemic foods are those that don’t spike blood sugar such as quinoa, apples, oranges, cucumber, broccoli, whole oats, and whole-grain bread.
High-glycemic foods are simple carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar. Women with PCOS should avoid high-glycemic foods like soda, candy, white bread, white rice, white pasta, and pastries. Eating an abundance of high-glycemic foods also leads to an increased risk of being insulin resistant and experiencing hormonal imbalances.
You may also find that a low-carb diet is helpful for encouraging weight loss, getting rid of belly fat, and balancing blood sugar levels.
2. Consume Plenty of Healthy Fats
Healthy fats encourage hormonal balance, healthy metabolic function, and a healthy body weight. Healthy fats include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Certain polyunsaturated fats called omega-3 fatty acids have particularly beneficial impacts on hormone levels, inflammation, and metabolic function. You can get lots of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
Other healthy fats are present in foods like pecans, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, avocado, and olive oil.
At the same time, it’s also important to steer clear of unhealthy fats like saturated fat, which is found in fatty meat and dairy products. Avoiding saturated fat can help improve cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
3. Eat Plenty of Protein
Protein is a crucial part of an anti-inflammatory diet and encourages weight loss, supports hormonal balance, and fights against metabolic syndrome. Dietary protein with optimal ratios of essential amino acids is especially important for supporting the synthesis of hormones, muscle tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes.
Optimal ratios of essential amino acids are present in animal proteins. Lean meats, nonfat dairy, and egg whites are excellent sources of essential amino acids. To obtain ideal ratios of essential amino acids from vegetable sources, it’s important to combine several different veggie proteins throughout the day.
4. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies are a vital part of a healthy PCOS diet. Fresh produce is packed with dietary fiber and antioxidants that have potent anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis can help support metabolic functioning and hormonal balance, helping you lose weight more readily.
5. Exercise Regularly
Exercising regularly can help you burn extra calories while building muscle tissue and improving cardiovascular function. Incorporating exercise into your lifestyle can also fight inflammation and help your body transform food into energy more efficiently.
Things to Keep in Mind
It’s a good idea to talk to your physician and a registered dietitian or nutritionist about diet changes and any new supplements, to ensure you’re taking all of the steps to support hormonal balance and metabolic functioning.
Your physician may also prescribe medications to help manage PCOS, like metformin and birth control, which may also aid weight loss. Metformin is often used to manage metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes by reducing inflammation and supporting insulin sensitivity. Metformin for PCOS is also a common treatment method, helping to balance hormone levels. Birth control can help improve the balance of estrogen and progesterone in the body. However, as with all medications, metformin and birth control can have undesirable side effects. Talk to your doctor about whether metformin and birth control are good choices for your health conditions.
Conclusion: Losing Weight with PCOS
Reaching a healthy weight can help mitigate PCOS symptoms and support balanced hormone levels. Following a healthy diet based on whole foods can help manage symptoms and treat metabolic conditions. Ultimately, managing and controlling PCOS can improve your health and wellness and improve your quality of life.