PCOS and weight gain contribute towards the worsening of each other. If you start gaining a lot of weight, you increase your chances of getting PCOS. At the same time, if you have PCOS, you increase the likelihood of gaining a lot of weight very fast. It’s a vicious cycle.
Most women suffering from PCOS find it difficult to manage their weight. If you’re one of them, it’s crucial that you take weight control very seriously. Here are some ways in which it can affect you:
Type 2 Diabetes :
40% of the women suffering from PCOS develop either Prediabetes or Diabetes by the time they reach the age of 40. If you’re gaining weight rapidly and suffering from PCOS, you could be one of them.
High Cholesterol and Blood Pressure :
Gaining sudden weight with PCOS could put you at high risk for heart diseases. Obesity causes hypertension which increases your chances of getting cardiovascular diseases or stroke.
Sleep Apnea :
Excessive weight gain due to PCOS can lead to a condition called Sleep Apnea. This condition causes you to stop breathing while sleeping and increases heart risks.
Being overweight can cause a lot of problems if you’re trying to or planning to conceive in the near future. If you gain weight beyond control, PCOS can also make you infertile.
But what is it about PCOS that makes you gain so much weight? And more importantly, why does it make it harder for you to lose weight? Let’s find out.
Is it hard to lose weight with PCOS?
As you know, weight gain is both a cause and side effect of PCOS. So yes, losing weight with PCOS will definitely be tougher for you than for women who don’t have this condition.
That being said, the effects of PCOS are not the same in all women. Your body type and the extent of your PCOS have a huge role to play in the amount of weight PCOS can make you gain.
Let’s now find out what is it that actually makes losing weight with PCOS so hard for you:
1) Insulin Resistance :
Insulin is the hormone that controls blood sugar levels in your body. Being insulin resistant means that your blood sugar levels are high and out of control. Overproduction of insulin leads to storage of that excess sugar into fat cells. Over time, more and more fat gets stored in your body unless insulin levels are controlled. And once the fat is stored, it takes quite a lot of time and effort to reduce it. This, in turn, increases the chances of pre diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
Fat storage isn’t the only reason to blame insulin. High levels of insulin also make you more hungry and increase your cravings. It makes you habitual to mindless snacking and an excessive calorie intake; which are very difficult to control after a point of time. In such cases, always make sure to only have PCOS friendly snacks which help you stay full for long and minimize cravings.
2) Damaged Metabolism :
Metabolism is the process that leads your food intake to convert to energy. You consume calories with almost everything you eat or drink. And when you consume more calories than you’re burning, it leads to weight gain. A damaged metabolism slows down the burning of calories while working out or even at rest.
Also, certain hormones like ghrelin, cholecystokinin and leptin turn dysfunctional in your body due to PCOS. These are hunger regulating hormones which make it difficult for you to manage your appetite. and control your food, hence calorie intake.
Conditions like hypothyroidism are a common byproduct of suffering from PCOS. The thyroid hormones help your body burn fat, as a result of which it affects your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). When the thyroid gland is not functioning well, it lowers your BMR. This damages your body’s metabolism and makes it extremely hard for you to lose weight with PCOS.
3) Mental and Psychological Factors :
When you’re suffering from PCOS, your mental state gets severely affected. Increased stress levels, depression and anxiety are the main side effects due to PCOS.
These common side effects escalate due to hirsutism, acne problems, and fertility issues. As a result of this, you’re more prone to get into bad eating habits. Your body also releases hormones that promote binge eating. Thus, if your mental state is out of balance, weight loss becomes much harder with PCOS.
So these are the 3 distinct issues that are the BIGGEST BARRIERS in your weight loss journey with PCOS.
Now, it might not be possible to get rid of all these contributing factors at once! These are all very diverse problems that need to be dealt with ONE by ONE.
What you need is a set of targeted, streamlined measures to combat these problems at the root level. And all you need to do is pick the approach that suits you the most and deals with the biggest reason for YOUR weight gain with PCOS. That way, your efforts can make the greatest impact.
So what are these 3 approaches to lose weight with PCOS? Let’s find out!
The 3 Distinct Approaches to Lose weight with PCOS
Losing weight with PCOS is hard and there is no cookie-cutter “works for all” mechanism that can help you do it. What you need is to find the best way to lose weight with PCOS for YOU!
In this section, you’ll be looking at 3 different approaches that help you lose weight with PCOS by targeting ONE SPECIFIC major underlying problem.
APPROACH #1 : Increasing Insulin Sensitivity
One of the main causes as well as side effects of PCOS is that it can make your body resistant to the hormone - insulin.
It’s not only dangerous in itself but is the root cause of a lot of problems that arise in your body due to PCOS. As a result, your body becomes susceptible to weight gain. This is because an increase in insulin facilitates more fat storage in your body.
With insulin resistance, more insulin is produced to transport glucose to your cells. This leads to an overproduction of insulin in the body which causes Type 2 diabetes. And it makes weight gain one of the biggest side effects of diabetes and thus, PCOS.
Insulin resistance makes your body deaf to leptin (a hormone that regulates appetite and fat storage). This makes your body unable to get the signs of satiety. It also immobilizes fat storage. Further, it acts as a hurdle in effective use of glucose and fat for energy purposes.
Insulin sensitivity refers to how well the cells of your body react to the effects of insulin. If your body is insulin sensitive, less insulin is needed to transport glucose to your cells. So, one of the main approaches to lose weight with PCOS, is to focus on developing insulin sensitivity.
Let’s look at some of the specific steps you can take to lose weight with PCOS through increasing insulin sensitivity in your body.
- Low Glycemic Index Diet : Food items that have a high glycemic index can raise insulin levels in your body. These high glycemic foods increase blood sugar levels in your body. It’s important that you avoid high GI foods like white rice, cereal, potato fries, cakes and white bread.
Instead, opt for low GI foods like raw carrots, green vegetables, beans, soy products, low carb fruits and vegetables, lentils and chickpeas. This will help in controlling insulin and regulating your blood sugar levels. You can also try the Keto Diet which shifts the body’s metabolism from using glucose to using fat for energy. This has a dual benefit. There is a better use of body fat and it helps improve insulin sensitivity as well. Just make sure you’re aware of the side effects of keto before you decide to go that way.
The best way to go about this is to create your very own PCOS diet plan. With this guide on PCOS Meal Planning: 7 Easy Steps to Make Your Own PCOS Meal Plan, you can easily curate a customized meal plan that caters to your specific requirements.
- Protein Intake : Protein is digested slowly compared to carbs. This leads to a low impact on your blood sugar, hence improving your insulin sensitivity. It is also a great source of fulfilling your appetite and helps reduce cravings. Thus, consuming lean protein has several benefits in your body while you’re dealing with PCOS. Make sure to add a good serving of protein in your meals
- Intermittent Fasting :
Intermittent Fasting improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar.
The food that you eat is broken down into glucose which affects blood sugar levels. With Intermittent Fasting, the insulin levels in your body get a chance to stabilize. Since you don’t eat anything during the fasting period, insulin levels go down. This is because it doesn’t have to constantly transport glucose to the cells of your body. As a result, your body is a lot more sensitive to the use and effect of insulin when you do eat a meal.
16/8 Intermittent Fasting is the most recommended type for you to follow. But, feel free to explore the other types as well and choose the one that is easy for you to follow for best results.
- Strength Training : Regular strength and weight training exercises are amongst the best exercises for PCOS.
Resistance training helps improve the insulin sensitivity of your body.
It improves your cell’s response to insulin, allowing glucose to be used more efficiently. Strength training helps expand the capacity of sugar storage in your muscles. Hence, helping better usage of excess blood glucose. As a result, it prevents the blood sugar in your body from rising too much and controls weight gain with PCOS.
You should start strength training and incorporate it in your workout routine ASAP. You can use resistance bands, lift weights in the form of dumbbells or use your own body weight to practice strength training. Try to incorporate at least 3 days of strength training in your schedule for best results.
If you’re looking for an easy to follow yet super effective strength training program to help you lose weight with PCOS, click here.
- Inositol and Xenical : Inositol is a natural supplement that helps women with PCOS to lose weight. It also increases the chances of pregnancy by improving fertility and egg quality. Xenical, also available as Orlistat, reduces the absorption of fat in your body, preventing further weight gain.
It sensitizes your body to insulin and increases its efficacy. Inositol facilitates quicker weight loss and is a great supplement. It works best when combined with dietary control and workout.
- Metformin(Glucophage) : Metformin is a pharmaceutical drug which helps your body to make efficient use of insulin. It also regulates your androgen levels in your body and reduces inflammation in your abdomen. Metformin is amongst the most widely prescribed medicines to deal with PCOS.
Use medication to lose weight with PCOS only after exploring all natural measures. And don’t forget to consult with your doctor, since it’s a pharmaceutical drug.
Metformin is usually prescribed when other measures show a slow effect on your body. It can help boost up the weight loss process by reducing your body’s resistance to insulin.
Adopting these specific measures can help you deal with the first contributing factor that acts as a hurdle in your weight loss journey with PCOS. If the blood sugar levels in your body are way beyond normal, then this should be your primary approach.
However, there are 2 other factors that could be the primary cause of your weight gain. So let’s have a look at them.
APPROACH #2 : Regulating Metabolism
While you’re suffering from PCOS, your body also develops some metabolic comorbidities. Metabolic syndrome affects as many as 33% of women with PCOS. It can get elevated as a result of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), Type 2 diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea and psychological problems. All these are side effects of PCOS. They further increase the chances of metabolic disorder and hence, weight gain.
The major cause of metabolic syndrome is excessive androgen production in your body, which leads to gain in weight. Thus, regulating your body’s metabolism is a great way to begin your weight loss journey with PCOS. Let’s look at some definitive measures that can help you lose weight with PCOS under this approach:
- Regulating Calorie Intake : Each and everything you eat throughout the day contains calories. Based on your current Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), there is a minimum calorie intake that you have to fulfill for your body to function properly. But, you might often exceed the requisite calorie count. This could be due to consumption of foods that have excessive oil, carbs or sugar content.
Thus, along with what you’re eating, how much you’re eating is also important. To get to know how much you need to eat in a day, enter your details in the calculator below. It will help you find out your daily calorie needs. And this makes it easier for you to plan your meals for the day.
Whenever you plan your meals for the day, check the amount of calories that add up. Then, compare it with your daily calorie requirement. This will help you in losing weight fast and sustain it as your body adapts to the right amount of calorie intake.
- Protein rich food : Consuming lean protein helps you to to lose weight with PCOS. It helps boost your metabolism as lean protein has a thermic effect of 15-30%. At the same time, carbs have a thermic effect of 5-10% and fats have 0-3%.
Lean Protein sources include salmon, greek yogurt, low fat milk, frozen shrimp, chicken and other poultry items. Lean protein helps fulfill your caloric requirements with minimal risk of gaining fat. Hence, switching to protein rich food will help you shed the extra weight fast. Get a better understanding of what to include in your meals by referring to the List of foods for PCOS: 8 Best food items for Everyday PCOS meals!
- Strength Training : Strength Training not only helps you build muscle, but also helps boost your metabolism. While performing strength and resistance training, you burn more calories while working out. Apart from that, after engaging in this form of exercise, your body has to work harder to recover in the following hours to repair your muscle tissues. As a result of this, you burn even more calories.
It helps to increase your metabolism as it helps increase your lean body mass. Your muscles are highly metabolically active which essentially means that it requires calories to be maintained, hence helping your body recover from metabolic issues. Therefore, strength training is an extremely effective way under this approach to lose weight with PCOS.
- High-Intensity Interval Training(HIIT) : HIIT includes short bursts of high intensity movements over a short duration paired with longer breaks in between. The primary reason why HIIT can help you deal with metabolic syndrome better is because of EPOC.
Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) helps your body heal post workout. This results in more consumption of calories in that period. Now, HIIT is an intense form of workout and requires a long recovery period. HIIT shifts your body’s source of utilizing energy to fat. Due to which, it helps improve metabolic syndrome.
To follow HIIT, you can include high energy exercises like push ups, jumping jacks, burpees, squat variations and lunges. Make sure that you do not overexert yourself at any point of time. Thus, start with smaller sets of these exercises. As you get into the routine, increase the frequency of the sets. This will help ensure that you're losing weight quickly.
WARNING: HIIT involves extreme body movement and is not suitable for everyone. So if you’ve just recently started working out or are excessively overweight, you should prepare your body first with other forms of physical activity, to be ready for HIIT.
- Drink lots of water : You should drink at least 12 cups of water a day. It’ll help you temporarily improve your metabolism. Studies suggest that drinking 2 liters of water daily helps boost your resting metabolism by 10-20% in just an hour.
Drinking just half a liter of water before your meals can help you lose weight with PCOS by more than 44% as compared to having your meals directly. It also makes your stomach feel full and hence, reduces your overall calorie intake. This further helps weight loss.
- Don’t sit in one place for too long : As you know, you won’t burn any calories until there’s some physical activity. This means that your metabolism will also not function efficiently as long as you’re sitting in one place.
Even simple tasks like doing your regular chores, getting up from your seat and taking a short walk or stretching your arms and legs are counted as movement. They all contribute to Non Exercise Associated Thermogenesis (N.E.A.T).
So make sure that you make some movement periodically to keep yourself active.
- Eat more spices and Drink more Green Tea/Coffee : Just like water, consuming spices also speeds up your metabolic activity temporarily. Beyond that, it helps regulate your metabolism while resting. They also fill up your stomach faster as they're heavier.
Include cayenne pepper, turmeric, ginger, mustard and cumin seeds in your diet losing weight under this approach.
Similarly, drinking more green tea and coffee also boosts your metabolism.
- Get enough sleep : Getting insufficient and bad quality of sleep can not only make you tired and less productive throughout the day but also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome. Not getting enough sleep can also reduce your performance while working out. It also makes you eat more food and increases cravings. Thus, make sure that you get sufficient sleep, i.e. at least 7-8 hours daily to successfully lose weight with PCOS.
APPROACH #3 : Controlling Mental & Psychological Triggers
One of the major side effects of dealing with PCOS is that it can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Although these are conditions that primarily affect your mental well being, they have a rather major impact on your physical body as well.
Anxiety and increased stress levels often result in a sudden gain of weight. This is because of hormonal imbalances in your body. Stress and poor mood also affects the quality of your sleep which directly and indirectly causes weight gain.
While you’re under stress, a hormone called cortisol is released in your body. As a result of this, your body becomes prone to snacking and overeating, turning it into a habit. Thus, to keep your weight in check with PCOS, follow these measures:
- Meditation : Meditation can be a great addition to your daily routine. It helps in calming your mind and inspiring you more towards losing weight with PCOS. Meditation will help you spiritually, mentally and emotionally. It has a positive impact on your body, physically as well. It is one of the most important lifestyle changes for PCOS.
It’s important for you to know that in isolation, meditation alone may not have a huge impact on your journey towards losing weight with PCOS. But, combining it with other measures helps speed up the process massively.
- Sleep : A regular and consistent sleep cycle helps your body recover. It provides the requisite physical and mental rest to your body. Insufficient sleep affects your body’s condition and makes it difficult for you to lose weight with PCOS.
It hampers your physical activity as fatigue takes over your body whenever there is lack of rest. This further makes it difficult for you to workout. It also increases stress levels in your body and hampers your mental well being. Thus, it increases the chances of cardiovascular diseases and strokes.
When the quantity and quality of your sleep is poor, it’s harder for you to lose weight smoothly. This is because sleep has a significant role to play in the regulation of neurohormones. Poor sleep increases the chance of obesity and insulin resistance in your body. These are amongst the key contributors of PCOS. Hence, improving the quality of your sleep can be an important lifestyle change that can help you lose weight with PCOS.
You can do this through magnesium supplementation. One of the biggest benefits of magnesium supplements is that it helps improve your sleep quality and quantity. Magnesium Breakthrough, which is one of the best magnesium supplements out there promotes a more restful sleep and provides all natural forms of magnesium to your body.
- Mind body exercises : Mind body exercises may not be extremely effective in facilitating weight loss by themselves. However, combining them with other forms of exercise can make them very fruitful. These exercise forms show slightly slower but effective results on the body as well as the mind. They calm your mind along with showing positive results towards your weight loss.
This form includes Pilates, Yoga and Tai chi. They’re aimed at relaxing your mind and bringing a sense of calm. They also gently encourage movement of the body. Mind body exercises are gaining popularity as they cause less stress on the body. Also, they’re relatively much easier to perform.
- Anti Inflammatory Foods : Addition of certain food items in your daily diet will help you to reduce inflammation in your body. These items include tomatoes, kale, spinach, walnuts, olive oil and fruits like strawberries and blueberries. These items are definite must haves in the best diet to lose weight with PCOS for you.
Mental and psychological disorders cause inflammation in your body. So when you add these items to your diet, it helps in reducing inflammation and speeds up your weight loss.
Wrapping it Up
And that wraps up the 3 Best Approaches to Lose Weight with PCOS. To win the war against PCOS, you’ll eventually have to tackle each of these 3 problems. BUT, wars aren’t won overnight. So for now, focus on one battle at a time.
Pick any one approach and get started with it TODAY. Focus on that one battle until you start seeing results. More importantly, those changes become a natural part of your daily life where it doesn’t take effort to do them.
When that happens, pick the next approach and repeat the process. Win these battles one by one and eventually you WILL win the war against PCOS!