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How to Lose Weight with PCOS

Updated: Sep 23, 2023


If you've been diagnosed with PCOS then chances are you've been told to lose weight or have read about the 'so called' benefits of weight loss for PCOS.

Female measuring weight loss

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal disorder with metabolic consequences which affect many aspects of a woman's health, including weight. One of the most common and frustrating symptoms of PCOS is weight gain or difficulty in losing weight. It’s no surprise that eating disorders and disordered eating are incredibly common in those with PCOS.


Whilst, as a dietitian who specialises in PCOS, I never focus on weight or use it as a benchmark of success, I completely understand how the pursuit of weight loss is important to many of the women I work with. You’re allowed to want to feel comfortable in your own skin and there’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you’re putting all the effort in but seeing no results.


I want to reassure you that it is possible to manage your weight effectively, even with PCOS. In this blog we'll explore practical tips on how to focus on balancing your hormones which may then help your weight stabilise.


Understanding PCOS and Weight Gain


Before we dive into how weight loss with PCOS is possible, it's essential to understand how PCOS can affect your weight. PCOS is often associated with insulin resistance, which can lead to increased levels of insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels and can contribute to weight gain when present in excess. Additionally, PCOS can disrupt hormones that control appetite and metabolism, making it challenging to maintain a healthy weight.


  • Moving your body means that your muscles are working. When our muscles work they use more glucose and make your body more efficient at utilising glucose. This helps improve insulin sensitivity. Don’t feel that this requires hours at the gym throwing around big, heavy weights. Simply going for a walk or doing 10-15 minutes of Pilates / Yoga at home are also effective forms of movement.


  • Have protein with your meals and snacks. Protein slows down the release of glucose present in your meals which helps reduce the amount of glucose, and therefore insulin, released at one time. Good sources of protein include Greek yoghurt, chicken, fish, eggs, lentils, beans and tofu.


  • Take an inositol supplement every day. Inositol is an insulin sensitizer; it improves how our bodies respond to insulin. Research has shown that inositol is an effective way to help reduce testosterone levels and regulate ovulation in those with PCOS.


Those with PCOS tend to have higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels and are more sensitive to stress, therefore managing stress and reducing cortisol levels are important steps in balancing hormones.


  • Avoid having too much caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant which means that having too much can accelerate the nervous system and increase cortisol levels. If you do need a morning brew to get you going, try to have breakfast first as caffeine also acts as an appetite suppressant and curbing your appetite may result in skipping breakfast which can have a detrimental effect on glucose and insulin levels later in the day.


  • Practice stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, writing in a daily journal and mindfulness techniques to help manage stress levels daily.


PCOS is associated with low grade chronic inflammation, this constant inflammation can leave you feeling permanently exhausted which doesn’t exactly lend itself to getting up and exercising or preparing healthy meals from scratch.


  • Omega 3 has been shown to reduce inflammation. Food sources of Omega 3 include oily fish such as salmon, nuts and seeds. Try to include these as part of your daily intake. You could also include an Omega 3 supplement which contains 500mg of DHA.


  • Eat the rainbow - colourful fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants which help reduce inflammation. Aim to have a minimum of five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, having as many different types as possible.


Losing weight with PCOS can be challenging, but it's achievable with a combination of lifestyle changes, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and support from healthcare professionals.


Remember that the goal is not just weight loss but overall health improvement. Be patient and persistent and consult with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized plan that suits your needs.


Take a look at my PCOS ReBalance programme to find out how you can work with me to create your personalised PCOS plan.


With dedication and the right strategies, you can manage your weight effectively and lead a healthier life despite PCOS (but remember weight loss does not automatically equal health).


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