A Guide: Tips To Help You Slim Down Even If You Have PCOS

Weight loss can be incredibly challenging for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) since the numbers on the scale don't budge even when they follow best practices. PCOS affects between 4 to 20% of women of childbearing age. Patients with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) frequently find it considerably more challenging to lose weight than those without PCOS, and it is much easier to gain weight accidentally.¹

The article will provide tips to help you lose weight if you have PCOS.

Curious about clinical trials for Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

Researchers are studying thousands of new treatments and you could be a part of finding a cure while accessing the newest treatments for Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

What is PCOS?

A hormonal disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) manifests itself in the form of numerous fluid-filled sacs on the ovary's follicle. However, this is not sufficient as a sole finding to diagnose PCOS. 

The exact cause and pathophysiology underlying PCOS is unknown. PCOS is marked by cysts, absent or irregular menstruation, and the failure of the ovaries to release the mature egg, preventing conception.

Why does PCOS make it difficult to lose weight?

Hormonal imbalance hallmarks polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine condition. Metabolically, there is insulin resistance thought to be due to defects in insulin sensitivity, independent of obesity, and about half of patients with PCOS are found to be obese.

Scientists are currently investigating PCOS's origins and the most effective treatments. However, it has been proven that even a little weight loss can alleviate symptoms.

Obesity in the context of PCOS worsens insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and the severity of ovulatory and menstrual issues. It is also associated with CV risk factors and sleep apnea. However, albeit the risk of PCOS increases to a small degree with obesity, it is unknown whether obesity is causative or if this association is confounded, as the high rate of obesity reported in PCOS may be secondary to referral bias in populations studied. 

To further demonstrate this, a recent study reported the prevalence rates of PCOS in underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese women as 8.2, 9.8, 9.9, and 9.0%, respectively.²

The onset of menstruation often coincides with the onset of PCOS symptoms in many people. In other cases, PCOS doesn't appear until after the patient tries to conceive.

Benefits of weight loss on PCOS

Maintaining a healthy weight throughout the childbearing years can enhance reproductive health and lessen the severity of PCOS symptoms. Women with PCOS may struggle to lose weight because of insulin resistance. When you have insulin resistance, you produce more insulin, which can lead to an increased conversion of sugar to fat. 

Losing weight might help alleviate PCOS symptoms if you are overweight. Even a modest weight loss of about 5% has been shown to restore normal menses as well as improve pregnancy rates.³

A decrease in body weight can affect polycystic ovary syndrome by:

  • Enhancing insulin sensitivity

  • Facilitating regular menstruation and bringing it back to normal

Weight loss can also decrease serum androgen concentration and thus improve hirsutism.

Weight loss medications for Polycystic ovarian syndrome

While PCOS is currently incurable, treatments are available to alleviate its symptoms. In addition, your doctor can advise you to consult a therapist if your PCOS or excess weight is making you feel depressed or anxious. Mental health treatment, such as therapy or antidepressants, may not result in weight reduction but may enhance the quality of life and resilience to stress.

Medications are most effective when combined with healthy lifestyle choices like regular exercise and a nutritious diet. The following are examples of commonly prescribed drugs:

1. Oral contraceptives

Hormone-balancing oral contraceptive tablets may regulate menses and combat hirsutism. The correct birth control pill may be a practical element of a therapy strategy for PCOS, but it will not produce weight reduction on its own.

2. Medication for weight management

Numerous medications the FDA has licensed aid in weight loss for use with a proper diet. If diet and exercise haven't helped you lose weight, your doctor can suggest medication.

3. Medication for blood sugar regulation

Your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce insulin resistance if you have high blood sugar. Prediabetes, which can progress to type 2 diabetes if untreated, is common among PCOS patients. The most often used drug for this purpose is metformin.

How to lose weight when you have PCOS?

In humans, PCOS is an endocrine condition that causes hormone production and regulation abnormalities. Hormones regulate all bodily processes, including feeding and satiety. Here are some ways to improve your health.

1. Engaging in regular exercise

According to the CDC, the health benefits of exercise and the ability to control one's weight are maximized when it is practiced for around 150 minutes weekly. Though PCOS makes weight reduction challenging, it significantly influences many PCOS symptoms.⁴

It's preferable to do something active, even for 5–10 minutes, than to do nothing. Even if you don't have time for the suggested 30 minutes of exercise daily, a few minutes of walking or yoga is better than doing nothing. Take advantage of every time you have to do some exercise.

Exercise provides tremendous, all-body benefits and may improve many PCOS symptoms alongside gradual weight reduction.

Adults are encouraged to exercise at least 150 minutes weekly, which breaks down to around 30 minutes daily. Maintaining a healthy weight and overall wellness requires regular physical exercise.

There is no optimum workout, and working out shouldn't seem like a burden. Instead, devote your time to things that bring you joy, such as participating in a team sport, running while listening to an audiobook, or going on a weekend hike with friends.

Making exercise a regular part of your schedule will help you see it more as a pleasure than a burden. Keep in mind that it is unnecessary to do the same task every day for the same amount of time. The monotony may be avoided by allowing for some deviation from the norm.

2. Exercising some patience

In other words, you shouldn't give up hope since even incremental improvements may improve your reproductive and general health.

In addition to medicine, a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can help alleviate some of the most frequent symptoms of PCOS, including excessive hair growth, acne, heavy periods, and infertility. You can minimize your chance of getting diabetes and heart disease with a nutritious diet and regular exercise, even if you don't lose much weight.

3. Eating a balanced diet

Patients with PCOS often have insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels. Adjusting their diet can lessen their likelihood of getting type 2 diabetes. 

There’s no good scientific evidence that a particular type of diet is more beneficial to those with PCOS than other diets. Although low-carb diets have become a fad, there’s no evidence that they’re better when compared with high-protein diets.

Those who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome often struggle with binge eating and extreme food cravings. However difficult cravings may seem, there are techniques to lessen them. You and your doctor or therapist may work together to identify the causes of your food cravings and develop strategies for managing them.

Working out won't help you much if you have poor dietary habits. Insulin resistance and increased blood sugar levels are common in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. That's why combining healthy eating with regular exercise is essential for those with PCOS.

4. Avoid over-restricting calories/fad diets

Although a change in diet and increased physical activity may help you lose weight, it's best to take it slow and steady to obtain the best benefits. 

Inadequate nourishment may have adverse effects on your body as a whole, so be careful about reducing your caloric intake too much. According to studies, most individuals who try to lose weight by drastically reducing their caloric intake end up putting on weight again.⁵

Exercise has been shown to be beneficial in a dose-response relationship in obese women, particularly in the long-term management of weight loss. This means that you should try to build endurance as you start exercising and not just call it quits 15 minutes into the exercise routine.

However, as with any physical activity, pushing oneself too far during exercise without an appropriate buildup increases the likelihood of suffering some type of injury. Remember, no one can run a marathon without building up to it.

If you're disappointed with your weight reduction progress, you may be tempted to try some extreme measures. However, these strategies to lose weight quickly often do more damage than good.

The lowdown

In women of childbearing age, PCOS is a prevalent hormonal disorder. If PCOS is diagnosed and treated promptly, symptoms may be reduced or eliminated. Preventing future problems and improving quality of life are two additional benefits of early diagnosis and treatment.

Complex and variable in its effects, PCOS is a complicated disorder to understand. If PCOS is present and weight gain or other symptoms are causing you distress, it is essential to see a doctor.

Inflammatory foods, such as refined carbohydrates and highly processed meals, should be limited, while whole foods, proteins, healthy fats, and fiber should be prioritized. Stress reduction, regular exercise, and sufficient rest are crucial to successful weight loss and should also be a priority.

  1. The prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome: A brief systematic review (2020)

  2. Impact of obesity on the risk for polycystic ovary syndrome (2008)

  3. Lifestyle changes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (2011)

  4. How much physical activity do adults need? | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  5. Want to lose weight quickly? Here are 7 reasons why crash diets probably won’t work | Penn Medicine

Other sources:

Curious about clinical trials for Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?

Researchers are studying thousands of new treatments and you could be a part of finding a cure while accessing the newest treatments for Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Discover which clinical trials you are eligible for

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Have you taken medication for Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)?
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