How can you lose weight if you have been diagnosed with PCOS?
What makes weight loss with PCOS different?
So many articles with conflicting evidence – where should you turn for expert advice?
Don’t worry, I have you covered.
Let’s simplify PCOS and weight loss…
How Does PCOS Effect Your Weight?
As an Obesity Medicine certified Family Physician, I find PCOS is a confusing disease for patients to begin with. And that’s not just in regards to weight. PCOS stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome – cysts on the ovary, right? Shouldn’t that be clear? Not really.
PCOS is about MUCH more than cysts on your ovaries and a simple sonogram to confirm that. In fact, many patients won’t have active cysts on the ovaries when an ultrasound is done to begin with. So, what exactly is PCOS?
PCOS is a conglomerate of symptoms that are hormonal in origin:
- Amenorrhea – lack of regular periods. For most patients, that means infrequent and irregular periods. Periods can be very heavy when they do come.
- Hirsutism – male pattern hair growth. Hair grows on the chin, chest, around the belly button, etc. Acne can develop as well secondary to high testosterone levels.
- Cysts on the ovaries – as described above. An ultrasound may be helpful in diagnosing but lack of cysts does not exclude PCOS.
- Insulin Resistance – this increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease. Especially if you are overweight or obese.
- If you are questioning PCOS to start with, check out this article from Mayo Clinic – it is both succinct and helpful on a relatively complex medical diagnosis: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439 For the purposes of sticking to weight loss, I won’t go too in depth with diagnosis and work-up of PCOS here. Just know that it is a constellation of symptoms and there is no one test to diagnose it.
Does Weight Loss Matter with PCOS?
The important points to recognize from a weight loss standpoint with PCOS include:
- Weight loss matters for PCOS patients – Not only does weight loss decrease your risk of diabetes and heart disease, it can also induce ovulation and help with fertility for women who want to get pregnant.
- Symptoms of PCOS can improve with weight loss – PCOS is frequently associated with infertility, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, and depression. Weight loss can improve all of these diseases.
Which Diet is Best for PCOS?
This is where the scientific evidence becomes vague. And there are tons of “experts” out there who will tell you they have THE best option. Be wary. Here’s why: the exact cause of PCOS is NOT KNOWN. How can you claim to have all of the answers to a disease that we don’t know the exact cause of? Enough said.
What We KNOW About PCOS and Diet
- Insulin resistance comes from too much insulin – decreasing insulin levels through a diet low in carbohydrates will help that.
- Inflammation in the body is likely increased in PCOS patients – the importance of diet in regard to inflammation and which diet is best to decrease inflammation in the body is under debate, though.
This leaves us with a few questions in regard to PCOS and diet. Studies are mixed on how much carbohydrate restriction is ideal for weight loss and health in PCOS patients. Studies are also mixed on which diet is best to decrease inflammation in PCOS patients. For example, all of my medically approved diets have been shown in different studies to decrease inflammation. And they are vastly different diets.
My Experience in Treating and Coaching Women with PCOS to Weight Loss
After years of treating women with PCOS for weight loss, my opinion may surprise you. Let’s start by looking at the 3 areas involved in “benefits of weight loss” for PCOS patients.
In terms of insulin resistance, cutting back on carbohydrates is key. As I stated above, just how much carbohydrate restriction is still under debate. And any of my recommended diets will cut back on carbs compared to the American diet. Period. Check out my post on How to Find Your Best Diet for more info on my medically-supported diets.
When considering inflammation, the debate gets even greater. Studies would support both the Mediterranean (Mediterranean Diet for Busy Moms) and plant-based diets (The Best Diets to Lose Weight for Women: Plant-Based Diet) for decreased inflammation. But, proponents of the Paleo diet (The Best Diets To Lose Weight for Women: The Paleo Diet) and low-carbohydrate diet Low Carb Diet for Busy Moms) say the same. There is no overwhelming “best” diet to decrease inflammation – other than to stay away from the typical American diet.
So, it comes down to weight loss itself in my book. And the weight loss across most diets remains about the same. Trust me, I tried them. Thus, my recommendation for PCOS and weight loss is this:
Find a medically relevant diet that you can stick with for life.
And stick with it. Know that these are ALL better than the typical American diet for insulin resistance, inflammation, and weight loss. Make it work for you. And quit worrying about the rest.
To get started on your best diet, join my free How to Lose 5 lbs in 7 Days Challenge – even with PCOS. Sign up below!