How To Lose Weight with PCOS?

Losing weight with PCOS can seem difficult if you don't know where to start. In overweight women with PCOS, losing even 5% to 10% of bodyweight can improve symptoms. But how do you do it?

Posted on April 20, 2022 ·

BY Team Veera

Medically Reviewed

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If you’re diagnosed with PCOS – the one common suggestion you might’ve heard, is to lose weight. But how do you actually do it?

Women find it difficult to lose weight with PCOS because generic weight loss plans don’t work and PCOS diet is so much more than eat less and move more. Also, there is very little to no attention paid to the woman or the requirements of her body and symptoms in order to lose weight.

Before we actually understand what can help you lose weight, it is important to know why it is required at all in a condition like PCOS. 

PCOS has a variety of causes but insulin resistance is one of the most common one. Because of the imbalance in insulin and hormone levels, women also experience weight gain which can, in turn, worsen the insulin resistance and PCOS condition. That is why when most women visit their doctors, they are advised to lose weight, so that the insulin resistance can be controlled. When PCOS and weight is poorly managed, it can become a long-term complication for women in their 30s and 40s.

Although in overweight women with PCOS, losing even 5% to 10% of bodyweight is great place to start – only weight loss is not enough to reverse PCOS, your body needs a lifestyle reset.

Follow a balanced diet

Because women with PCOS deal with insulin resistance, it is advised to make changes in their diet so that they can prevent diabetes or prediabetes. Consuming more low GI foods, including sources of protein, complex carbs along with some healthy fats can help you maintain your sugar levels. When you eat a balanced diet, you not only maintain stable blood sugar levels, you also prevent cravings. Every food group is important when it comes to having a balanced diet – restricting a food group or following fad diets often don’t work for PCOS. Your diet needs to be sustainable, easy to follow and you can make healthier choices by choosing carbs that have more dietary fibres and nutrients, such as whole wheat options. 

A lot of women with PCOS face mood swings and intense food cravings. It may feel very difficult to control these cravings but healthier snacking options can always be your saviour. You may also talk to your therapist or doctor to try and understand why and how these cravings come up so that you can deal with them better.

Regular physical activity

There is no specific type of exercise that is recommended for PCOS – so depending on what you enjoy doing and most importantly sustain that activity, any type of physical activity is beneficial. Some overweight women with PCOS may find it difficult to perform moderate to high intensity workouts, so it’s important to start slow and as your fitness level  increases, you can progress gradually. Due to the weight gain experienced by women with PCOS, it can be difficult for them to practice high intensity workout routines. So, it is important to maintain an overall increase in physical activity and gradually go for exercises that you are comfortable with. Weight loss in PCOS can be slower, but it is healthy for you to be physically active or exercise because it can relieve a lot of symptoms in PCOS and is rewarding to the body in general too. 

Try to focus on exercises that you like to do. It could be a solo or group routine, according to your preference and idea of enjoyment. When these activities become a part of your routine with some flexibility, it becomes easier to carry them out. Focusing on the activity when you are stress-free and while you are having fun – you never know when time flies! And remember, every small activity you do – counts. And it is always better to do something rather than nothing. In case you are too occupied with work and do not have dedicated time to give to the activity, a quick brisk walk can do wonders too! 

Lose weight the right way

In this day and age of technology, you may come across plans and fads that promise “fast weight-loss” or “quick inch loss” to you. But, as good as it sounds, extreme workouts or diets can put you in a health risk that might be harmful later on. Diets that cut down too many calories or starve your body are not healthy for your body and you may experience nutritional deficiencies because of them. It is also possible and mostly observed that women with PCOS who follow these diets can gain back all the weight they had lost. So, a diet that gives you all the nutrients in moderation according to your body type is the best for you to lose weight.

Also, exercising in the intensity that your body is not used to or comfortable with can have bad effects. It can lead to a physical injury or cause a halt in the weight loss journey because your body is not responsive to the exercises that you are doing. Physical activity and exercise routines need to be regular, but should be steady enough to be sustainable with long-lasting effects.

Stay consistent

It can be difficult to lose weight with PCOS, but it is certainly not impossible. Women with PCOS may feel demotivated when they see that their peers can lose weight easier than they can, but the slow progress that you make is also important. It might make you feel discouraged sometimes, but the healthy lifestyle has advantages that are noticeable in the long run. Even when you are not losing a lot of weight, you are putting the long-term complications of PCOS at bay and improving symptoms such as irregular periods, acne or the ability to conceive.

PCOS can be confusing and difficult on most days. So, do not hesitate to put yourself first and consult a doctor with the symptoms that you are experiencing. Personalised care and nutrition can help you lose weight faster than following generic diet plans that do not cater to your body. Seek help from a mental health expert on all those days that you feel low, anxious or depressed. 

Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician

Verified by Dr. Iris Lee

Fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Lee is a fellow in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed medical school and residency training at the University of Pennsylvania as well. Her work focuses primarily on PCOS, particularly the metabolic and mental health implications. Outside of work, she enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with her husband and two puppies.

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