Losing weight is difficult for most people; unlike gaining weight, which is super expeditious by contrast. Specific disorders, like those of the endocrine system, can add another degree of difficulty. PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is one such disorder.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a condition wherein it’s difficult for the body to use the hormone insulin, “which normally helps convert sugars and starches from foods into energy.” Also called insulin resistance, the stunting of insulin production causes a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream. When this happens, fat from the foods we eat stores in our cells easier.
The onset of PCOS highly correlates with pregnancy, with about 10% of childbearing-age women developing the condition. Usually starting after puberty, “some of its effects seem to have little to do with fertility.”
The symptoms of PCOS tend to vary. “People can get multiple symptoms for multiple reasons,” explains Dr. Karen Carlson, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “PCOS is a syndrome with a spectrum of symptoms that you can get, but not everybody gets everything.”
The three main symptoms of PCOS include: high levels of androgen, irregular periods, and multiple cysts. To be diagnosed with PCOS, a patient must display two of the three symptoms.
Additional PCOS symptoms include:
– Excessive hair growth in the face, chest, or buttocks
– Oily skin
– Thinning hair and hair loss
Losing Weight With PCOS
While hormone abnormalities related to PCOS make losing weight very challenging, it is possible with a disciplined, logical approach.
Here are 6 ways to lose weight if you have PCOS:
1. Eat a high-fiber, low-sugar diet.
A good portion of your diet should consist of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It is crucial to keep processed food to a minimum – doing so will help stabilize your blood sugar levels. Fatty foods should also be strictly monitored, as these also tend to destabilize blood sugar as well.
Consuming dietary fiber is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight and encourage weight loss. It promotes a healthy digestive system, a feeling of fullness, and blood sugar regularity.
2. Eat regularly throughout the day.
Per WebMD: “After about 3 hours without food, blood sugar begins to fall. And after 4 hours, your body has already digested whatever you sent down earlier. Once you’ve crossed the 5-hour mark, your blood sugar begins to plummet, and you grab whatever you can to refuel.”
Bear in mind that your meals needn’t be large or filling. Use your intuition and eat to a point where you will feel comfortable doing so again in 4 to 5 hours. (You may need to experiment a bit here.)
3. Don’t eliminate carbs.
Dr. Angela Grassi, the founder of the PCOS Nutrition Center in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, says “Eat balanced meals with a little bit of carbs like whole grains.” Grassi, who has PCOS herself, advises abstaining from high glycemic-index carbs (anything with a high level of artificial sugars.)
Excellent sources of healthy carbohydrates include: all vegetables, whole fruits, legumes (peas, kidney beans, lentils), nuts, and seeds.
4. Get to the gym.
For people with medical conditions, including PCOS, exercise should be a non-negotiable activity. But, just because there is no substitute for exercise doesn’t mean it has to be boring!
This writer always tells someone who wants to workout: “Everyday, do something fun for 30 minutes that happens to break a sweat.” Ideas: basketball, tennis, yoga, badminton, ultimate frisbee, or racquetball.
5. Manage stress
Women diagnosed with PCOS tend to have higher than normal levels of anxiety. Anxiety, while okay (even healthy) to some extent, produces an exacerbated stress response if left unchecked. Under stress, the body releases a flood of hormones that hasten weight gain.
Consider taking up mindfulness meditation, yoga, or some other form of regimented breathing routine. Exercise is another fantastic stress-buster!
6. Practice good sleep hygiene
Research shows that people who chronically undersleep are more likely to be overweight or obese. Additionally, poor sleep is associated with insulin resistance, the main problem that affects PCOS patients.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the U.S.’s preeminent sleep science and research organization, provides the following tips:
– Develop a sleep schedule and wake up at the same time every day: “This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.”
– Incorporate a relaxing bedtime routine: “(A nightly routine) helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety.”
– Avoid long naps: Try limiting daytime naps to 30-45 minutes.