As if PCOS wasn’t distressing enough on its own, it usually comes with extremely stubborn weight gain as well. Weight gain may be caused by a variety of factors and losing it is a tough task in PCOS. “How to lose weight with PCOS?” must be a common question on Google everyday. Read more to know how to manage weight in PCOS.Contents:
PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a lifelong condition that comes with a variety of troubling symptoms and weight gain is just one of them. For most women, weight loss with PCOS can be a constant struggle.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are considered to be major contributory factors. In insulin resistance, your body finds it difficult to use the hormone called insulin. Insulin is responsible for the uptake of glucose (from the food you eat) by your cells, where the glucose is converted into energy.
When your cells become resistant to insulin and cannot take up glucose from the blood, your blood glucose levels increase. This, in turn, triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin to stabilise the blood glucose (sugar) levels.
High insulin levels increase the production of the male hormones, androgens, which further lead to symptoms such as excessive body hair, acne, irregular periods, and most importantly, weight gain. As androgens trigger the weight gain in PCOS, it is mainly focused around the abdomen, where men tend to carry their weight.
It is true that women with PCOS find it difficult to lose weight. This is due to the following reasons:
The hormonal imbalance, insulin resistance, and other symptoms of PCOS make it difficult for you to lose weight. Some tips that can help you in effective weight loss in PCOS include:
Lowering the consumption of carbs may help manage PCOS better as carbs can impact the levels of insulin in your blood. A diet made of foods that are low in the glycaemic index may be a better choice for women with PCOS as it will cause fewer spikes in blood sugar levels.
Lower blood sugar levels can further reduce the production of androgens and therefore promote weight loss.
Processed foods and foods with added sugars may raise your blood sugar levels and increase insulin resistance, leading to an increased risk of weight gain. Research suggests that women with PCOS experience larger spikes in their blood sugar levels after consuming processed foods, as compared to women without the condition.
Processed foods include breakfast cereals, meat products, cookies, cakes, candies, chocolates, and fast food.
A meal rich in fibre and protein can make your stomach feel satiated for longer, preventing any sudden cravings and overeating. Foods high in fibre such as oats, green leafy vegetables, etc. may help reduce insulin resistance and body fat and further help in managing weight.
Meanwhile, foods rich in protein such as eggs, nuts and meats (preferably seafood) may help you burn more calories and manage hunger hormone levels, thus stabilising your blood sugar levels.
Women with PCOS may end up trying various kinds of diets to find what suits them the best. Mindful eating refers to being attentive while eating food as women with PCOS are more prone to developing eating disorders such as emotional eating and binge eating.
Studies suggest being aware of what and how much you eat while eating may help you get better attuned to your body’s signs, manage your hunger better, and thus promote weight loss.
Inflammation can be defined as your body’s response to an infection or an injury. However, in PCOS, chronic inflammation or an immune response that lasts long after infection or injury is a common symptom. Sugary and processed foods may increase inflammation in the body and also raise your blood sugar levels.
Opting for a diet that is higher in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which have anti-inflammatory properties, may protect your body against inflammation and diabetic complications.
Restricting your calorie intake for a long period of time can slow down your metabolism. Although calorie restriction may help you lose weight, over time the body may adapt to this restriction by reducing the number of calories it burns. This can eventually lead to weight gain.
Eating fewer calories may also cause a negative impact on your hunger hormones (such as leptin and ghrelin). Instead of restricting your calorie intake, it will be better to focus on listening to your body’s cues, eating more whole and fresh foods, and avoiding eating processed food.
Exercise is the most widely taken and effective path to achieving a healthy weight. Women with PCOS may find it difficult to lose weight even with regular exercise. However, studies suggest that there can be a significant decrease in belly fat and improvement in insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS by doing about 45 to 60 minutes of cardio 3 times per week.
Weight training may also help reduce the belly fat caused by the rise in androgen levels in PCOS. Thus, exercise is irreplaceable if you want to lose weight in PCOS.
Getting enough sleep is extremely important for your body’s overall health. PCOS may disturb your sleeping patterns causing increased daytime sleepiness, sleep apnoea, and even insomnia.
Lack of sleep is also known to hike the activity of hunger hormones such as ghrelin and cortisol (stress hormone), which may make you want to eat more throughout the day. Also, insufficient sleep is associated with a higher risk of developing obesity. Studies suggest that increasing your sleeping time may reduce body fat and promote weight loss.
Stress is a major risk factor for weight gain and thus it is important to manage your stress levels to keep your weight in a healthy range. The more the stress, the more the levels of stress hormone cortisol. In the long-term, high cortisol levels can lead to insulin resistance and cause further weight gain.
To manage stress better, you should indulge in regular mind-calming practices such as meditation and yoga as these can help lower your cortisol levels, further reducing stress and weight gain.
In PCOS, several supplements can help manage your body weight and other symptoms. Myo-inositol and carnitine are two supplements that can be taken. Myo-inositol is a specific form of inositol (a compound related to vitamin B) that can help improve your body’s insulin sensitivity.
Meanwhile, carnitine, an amino acid often found in meat, may also aid in weight loss. Studies suggest that the cellular mechanism of carnitine, by which it moves more fatty acids into your cells to be burned for energy, may increase your ability to burn fat and lose weight.
However, it is important to consult a doctor or healthcare professional before adding supplements to your routine.
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