Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can present numerous women’s health problems. One of the most frustrating symptoms is uncontrollable weight gain and the associated health risks that come with that, such as heart disease and insulin resistance.
If you’re struggling to lose weight or have gained weight rapidly over the past few months or years, I’m here to tell you it’s not your fault! It can be so frustrating and baffling to gain weight while working out twice a day and cutting calories.
I’ve been there, Cyster. I was attending kickboxing classes twice a day and eating half of what I should have been eating…and yet I was still piling on the pounds!
The cherry on top is the advice to “eat less and move more” by many doctors. *Eye roll*
The truth of the matter is that PCOS is a metabolic disorder and there are hormonal reasons why it’s more difficult to lose weight. A woman without PCOS could do exactly what you’re doing and lose weight with ease, while you’re wondering what you’re doing wrong.
The good news is that treating the root cause of your symptoms will help you heal your metabolism, lose weight, and manage PCOS in the long term.
Tips to Lose Weight With PCOS
I’m sharing with you some of my tips for losing weight with PCOS. It is up to you to decide which ones sit well with your soul, won’t trigger you, and what you can feasibly incorporate into your lifestyle.
Let’s break them down!
Please note this blog post is not a substitute for official medical advice and is for informational purposes only. If you are concerned about your PCOS symptoms, suspect you have an underlying health condition, or wish to make dietary/lifestyle changes, please consult your doctor first who will be able to advise you on appropriate treatment options.
1 – Try going gluten and dairy free
Both gluten and dairy can trigger high insulin and inflammation; two common symptoms of PCOS. Cutting them out for at least one month can help you understand if they’re triggering symptoms, such as increased cravings, weight gain, fatigue, and acne. If you see any positive results after cutting out gluten and dairy and you feel like this is a sustainable change for you, stick to it! We’re here for you in The Cysterhood, a membership for Cysters to treat the root causes of their PCOS and learn how to follow our gluten and dairy-free PCOS weight loss method.
2 – Stay off the restriction rollercoaster
I wanted to lose weight so badly. I would have eaten salad drizzled with olive oil all day, every day if that was the answer – but it wasn’t a sustainable or healthy course of action. If your main focus is to heal your metabolic dysfunction, then restricting calories and cutting out all your carbs is likely going to throw your metabolism out of kilter even more.
If what you’re doing is making you feel restricted, hungry, and miserable, then it’s not the right approach for you. Carbs aren’t forbidden – just make sure you’re balancing them in meals with protein, fats, and fiber to slow down how quickly the carbs raise your blood sugar levels.
A PCOS-friendly diet should be varied and tailored to your nutritional needs so you feel satisfied after eating without aggravating your symptoms.
3 – Tune out the noise
One of the first things we do in The Cysterhood is talk about all the ways you can manage your PCOS symptoms. If you change your lifestyle overnight by cutting out foods you enjoy and imposing strict restrictions on yourself, it won’t be long before you feel upset and overwhelmed. Before restricting anything, start with a great self-care routine to get your mind into a body-positive headspace. Lifestyle changes should be incremental and sustainable; lasting habits don’t fall into place immediately.
4 – Don’t compare yourself to others
Everyone’s PCOS journey and symptoms are so different. Just because someone else was able to lose 20 lbs of body weight in 2 months doesn’t mean that your milestones should be dismissed. Maybe you haven’t lost weight, but your anxiety levels have dropped significantly and you feel fitter and more energized. Celebrate every positive step, no matter what. That way, you keep up what works and keep heading in the right direction.
5 – Don’t beat yourself up
It took me a whole year to adapt to the gluten and dairy-free lifestyle! I knew it was working for me, yet it took me a whole year to follow it consistently and get used to it. There were lots of ups and downs, moments when I accidentally ate gluten or I just felt like it. Nevertheless, it’s part of the journey and it’s important to avoid perfect standards when it comes to adopting a new lifestyle.
6 – Treat your insulin resistance
If you have insulin resistance, which 70% of women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome do, it’s important to treat it in order to lose weight. Sometimes this requires a lower carb diet, and sometimes that isn’t enough. You can start adding components, such as consistent slow, weighted workouts, which can help build muscle and improve insulin sensitivity. Going gluten and dairy-free can also prevent large insulin spikes. Take a look at your sugar intake and see if you’re consuming too many processed foods with added sugar, or even too much fruit. These are key factors in managing insulin resistance, especially if you have severe insulin resistance.
7 – Meditation
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your stress hormones stable and low. If your stress goes unmanaged and your cortisol levels are high all the time, then it can lead to weight gain in the abdomen. A meditation practice can reduce stress significantly. Try doing 10 minutes in the morning or even before bed.
8 – Get 8 hours of sleep
Getting enough sleep is especially important for insulin resistance. Lack of sleep can lead to a 30% increase in insulin resistance, which leads to more cravings and poor food choices. Getting enough sleep will also help with managing stress hormones.
9 – Turn off your screens at night
What if you can’t get enough sleep? Try reading a book instead of scrolling through your phone a couple of hours before bed. The blue light from your cellphone stimulates cortisol and suppresses melatonin, which keeps you awake longer. A consistent nightly wind-down routine is ideal to help you get enough sleep and feel refreshed rather than fatigued the next day.
10 – Plan out your meals
I like to plan my dinner while I’m making breakfast. I also like to have the same lunch almost every day that week, just to avoid decision fatigue. Whatever works for you, try to plan your meals in advance and follow scheduled meal times so you don’t skip meals.
11 – Watch your calories
I don’t mean strict calorie counting; I mean being aware of eating too few calories at this can actually slow down your metabolism. Women without PCOS are urged to follow a simple calorie deficit to achieve weight loss, but it’s not that simple for people with PCOS. PCOS weight loss is less about the calories and more about what you’re doing and eating to heal the hormones that affect your metabolism, like insulin and cortisol.
12 – Practice self-love
I know it can be hard because you really want to lose weight but weight gain doesn’t make you any less of a person. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. The weight also isn’t the reason you have PCOS, it is a result of the hormonal imbalance that we’re trying to figure out. I know you want to feel like yourself again, but you gotta spend time learning to love your body no matter what. Be patient and hopeful as you reverse your PCOS, and realize that this will be reversed and this whole process is a growing experience.