You go to the doctor to find some help and answers about your PCOS. But then all they say is to return when you have lost weight. It can make you feel exhausted and completely defeated, especially when PCOS makes it near impossible for your weight to budge. Despite your best efforts and doing everything you were told to do, the weight just won’t come off.
Today we’ll talk about why it’s hard to lose weight with PCOS, but more importantly, HOW. We’ll provide some tried and true, easy steps to achieving PCOS weight loss. Let’s get started.
Does My Weight Cause PCOS or Does PCOS Cause Weight Gain?
Many women have heard from their doctors that they have PCOS because of their weight or that if they lose some, their PCOS will go away. But is that true? Unfortunately, it isn’t as straightforward.
Metabolic disorders such as this run in a vicious cycle. Weight can exacerbate high androgens and insulin resistance, but insulin resistance and high androgens can also cause you to gain weight.
However, genetic and metabolic factors likely precede weight gain in PCOS. It often starts at puberty, though some can develop it later in life. Some scientists believe PCOS can form in the womb.
No matter when or where PCOS comes from, the imbalances of hormonal and metabolic functions create an environment that stores weight and makes it difficult to lose.
Why Is It So Hard to Lose Weight With PCOS?
So why is it so hard to lose weight with PCOS? The main factor of stubborn pounds comes down to insulin resistance. Insulin allows your cells to receive and use glucose for energy. When your cells become resistant to insulin, they can’t get enough glucose.
Then the higher level of those sugars in your blood means your body will store it in the form of body fat. But that body fat then stimulates androgen production making insulin resistance worse.
Additionally, when your cells don’t get enough energy, they signal to the brain that they need more. You get that energy from food. Thus, many women may experience cravings and increased hunger as a way their bodies compensate for insulin resistance.
But then, the more you eat, the more insulin your body needs to produce to shuttle the glucose into the cells. And then the cycle repeats.
Why Is It So Hard To Lose Weight With PCOS?
Does PCOS Go Away With Weight Loss?
Is weight loss the main solution to managing PCOS? No, you have many options, from medications and supplements aimed at improving hormone levels, to diet and lifestyle changes.
However, losing weight can significantly improve your PCOS symptoms. It can improve menstrual cycle regularity, ovulation, fertility, and insulin resistance. Additionally, weight loss can significantly reduce your risk for serious health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, endometrial cancer, and more.
Even if you manage to resolve all aspects of your PCOS, you still have the disposition of those returning in the future. There is no cure, but the improving research and attention give us hope in better understanding and treating PCOS.
Does Stress Cause Weight Gain?
Stress can cause weight gain in many ways. First, chronic stress can raise the hormone cortisol, raising appetite and stimulating fat and carbohydrate processes.
“Second, stress can affect behavior by inducing overeating and consumption of foods that are high in calories, fat, or sugar; by decreasing physical activity; and by shortening sleep,” one study claims.
Stress can also stimulate the production of hormones and peptides. So in biochemical, physical, and psychological ways, stress can cause you to gain weight and make it harder to lose.
How Can I Lose Weight in the Stomach Area?
Many women with PCOS may experience “PCOS belly.” Due to high androgen levels and imbalanced hormones, women with PCOS gain more weight in the abdominal region.
According to a study, patients’ abdominal fat mass correlated with “circulating androgen, fasting insulin, triglyceride, and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.”
So to lose weight in the stomach area, you can start by targeting those underlying causes – androgens, insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol. You can also do certain exercises focusing on your core and strength training which can improve hormonal balance and insulin resistance.
Take a look at our article on PCOS belly fat for more information. Now, let’s look at specific things you can do to lose weight with PCOS.
Are There Medications for PCOS Weight Loss?
Is there any quick-fix way of losing weight? There are no natural and healthy quick weight loss options. Bariatric surgery and liposuction are expensive and risky. However, some prescription medications have led to weight loss. The most common ones target diabetes and insulin resistance.
PCOS Weight Loss Medications
Ozempic and Wegovy have the active ingredient semaglutide. They are not approved for weight loss, though it is a common side effect. These injectable medications tell your pancreas to make more insulin which helps lower blood sugar levels.
It can also help slow digestion and tell your body when you’re full. For some of these reasons, it can help people lose weight. However, it also has serious side effects, from nausea to gall bladder problems or thyroid cancer. It can also be expensive, especially since you need to take the injections long-term.
Furthermore, scientists say that after a certain point, your weight will plateau, and when you stop taking it, you can easily gain the weight back. Finally, many doctors won’t prescribe it for your PCOS unless you also have type 2 diabetes.
Metformin targets insulin receptivity and helps your body process blood sugar.
One study found that it helped patients lose 5 to 7 kilograms or 11 to 15 pounds over 6 months, especially among those with insulin resistance.
Metformin can help women with PCOS lose weight, achieve regular menstrual cycles, and improve ovulation. But side effects include stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea, and loss of appetite.
Duromine is prescribed for obese individuals with a BMI over 30kg/m2. It works to suppress your appetite so that you eat less. It also releases throughout the day for longer effects.
Some studies say it can help individuals lose 10% of their body weight in a 12-week period. However, it has many side effects, such as depression, restlessness, tremor, difficulty sleeping, stomach upset, high blood pressure, and difficulty urinating.
While it can work for some women with PCOS, it may not benefit all patients significantly.
The Best Easy Exercise Tips for PCOS Weight Loss
The best way to lose weight with PCOS is to target root causes and make sustainable lifestyle changes. One of the best ways to do this is to incorporate an exercise routine into your daily life.
Now these don’t need to be difficult, intense, or expensive. So, here are the best exercises for PCOS based on scientific studies.
Best Types Of Exercise For PCOS
Sometimes women with PCOS feel that only intense cardio workouts daily will help them lose weight. But in fact, it can actually hinder your weight loss results.
Too many high-intensity workouts can increase your stress response and put your body in survival mode. Meaning if your body thinks your dying, it will conserve energy and fat for later.
Walking daily is one of the best things you can do to lose weight with PCOS. Going outside for a morning walk also helps you get vitamin D and improve your mental health. But you can go any time of the day.
A 30-minute walk can also help reduce cravings and blood sugar, which, in turn, can improve weight loss results.
Additionally, walking is one of the easiest exercise options as it doesn’t require gym memberships, equipment, or too much physical strain.
Resistance training or strength training means building strength and muscle. You can do this by lifting weights or using your own body weight.
One meta-analysis showed that resistance training had many benefits for women with PCOS, such as improving body composition, ovulation, FSH and SHBG hormones, testosterone levels, and insulin resistance. However, a balanced and nutritious diet also impacts these results.
But all studies the in the review showed significant fat mass weight loss results. With already high testosterone levels, weight training can help use that supply for good and burn calories while building muscle. Muscle can also help you burn calories.
The studies also recommend doing this training two to three days a week on non-consecutive days and targeting all major muscle groups. You can also gradually build how much you can do over time.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has incredible benefits for women with PCOS. Many studies and trials found that it can lower BMI and reduce androgens. It also improves menstrual regularity, insulin sensitivity, and sex-hormone binding globulin.
Doing HIIT for 10 to 30 minutes also helps improve mood and mental health. Doing so three times a week can help lead to weight loss results and other improvements in your PCOS.
The Best Easy Diet Tips for PCOS Weight Loss
In addition to an exercise routine, a healthy and nutritious diet is essential for PCOS. If you exercise all the time but don’t eat well, you won’t see the same weight loss results. When we say diet, we don’t mean a strict or restrictive meal plan.
These fad and extreme diet trends can be detrimental too. Not getting enough carbs or calories is dangerous and not sustainable. So what should you do instead?
Eat a Protein-Packed Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, it is if you do it right. Don’t skip breakfast but also avoid loading up on sugary foods.
Avoid cereal, bagels, and bacon. Ideally, you want to focus on having a protein-packed breakfast with fiber. This will jump-start your metabolism and help your body have the energy and nutrients it needs for the day.
Recipe: Easy PCOS Pancakes For Two
Try to have 25 grams of protein in the morning. This can help keep your blood sugars low longer and keep you fuller and satisfied. Refined carbs and sugars can make you crash and have cravings.
A simple breakfast may look like eggs on whole wheat toast with an avocado. But if you love something sweet in the morning, try Greek yogurt with honey and fruit.
Dieting doesn’t mean you have to cut out everything you enjoy. But you do need to find balance among what you consume.
If you go to a birthday party and want to have cake, eat a meal high in fiber first. Fiber helps improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
Additionally, you can find healthy swaps for things you enjoy. For example, you can trade white carbs for brown carbs, such as white bread for whole wheat or white rice for brown rice.
Or have grilled chicken instead of fried chicken and sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. If you have a chocolate craving, try dark chocolate instead of milk.
Healthy Carb Swaps For PCOS
These can be simple ways to get protein, fiber, and healthy carbs. You can also have the foods you enjoy occasionally, but be disciplined in your portion sizes and how often you eat them.
Eat for Your Hormones
As we know, one of the best ways to lose weight with PCOS is to target the hormones driving it. Eating foods for your hormones can help reduce BMI and other PCOS symptoms such as hirsutism, cravings, and fatigue.
Many foods have anti-androgenic or insulin-sensitizing effects. Others can help target inflammation, blood sugar, and feelings of fullness. Incorporating some of these into your diet can help you feel better and have more energy too.
A few examples include apples and berries, which help blood sugar and insulin levels. Flaxseed and walnuts can have natural anti-androgen effects. Avocado can help reduce inflammation, and sweet potato can help keep you full.
Furthermore, green tea has also had great results for weight loss for PCOS. Cinnamon can also help decrease testosterone and increase progesterone production in women.
Grab these free weekly PCOS meal plans backed by science. They include free-choice meals so you can still eat the foods you enjoy. They also don’t use health-crazed ingredients or unappetizing recipes.
Don’t Lose Hope: Losing Weight With PCOS Is Possible
At Health and Balance Vitamins, balance is in the name. Having a good balance between diet, exercise, and sleep routines can lead to greater weight loss results. And while it is difficult, it’s not impossible. With the right plans and support, you can start to lose weight with PCOS.
However, if you still find it hard to drop the pounds despite doing all these things, smart supplementation can also help. Check out our article on the best supplements for PCOS.
You may also talk to your doctor about other weight loss options, such as prescription medications or surgery.
Additionally, losing weight with PCOS is a long-term battle. And once you stop the healthy habits and return to an old lifestyle, you may find the weight comes right back.
That’s why we advocate for simple and sustainable changes that, over time, can make a big difference. It may take a year to start seeing real results as those stubborn hormones begin to change.
What have you found helpful in your PCOS weight loss journey?