Weight loss with PCOS: Why eat less, move more doesn't work (& what does)
One of the biggest challenges PCOS women struggle with is weight gain and difficulty losing weight. I know it can feel so frustrating and disheartening when you're trying so hard to lose weight and feel like nothing is changing.
There are multiple factors that cause PCOS weight gain and weight gain is a symptom of PCOS, not a cause. You did not cause your PCOS.
But simply eating less and moving more doesn't work for PCOS weight loss.
Unfortunately diet culture (and fitness influencers) will tell you *all* you need to do is be in a calorie deficit, to just keep cutting calories, to just eat low carb or cut out x food group. But this is incredibly over-simplifying weight loss and not having an understanding of the complex hormones and factors that are stopping us from losing weight.
What I often see is clients unfortunately eating so little calories that they aren't even providing their body enough nutrients to function, meaning thyroid and metabolism slows down, making it harder to lose weight. And whilst yes a calorie deficit is required to lose weight, getting into a calorie deficit doesn't necessarily mean eating less and less.
Don't let this dishearten you, because having PCOS doesn't mean you will always struggle with weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
It just means we need to take a different more holistic approach. And I'm here to provide you with solutions. We need to target the root causes of PCOS weight gain and the factors that are stopping us from being able to lose weight. My favourite saying I tell a lot of my clients is,
"Sometimes change doesn’t require more horsepower. Sometimes we just need to unlock the parking brake." — Jonah Berger, in his book Catalyst.
The key root causes we need to target to enable weight loss are:
Elevated androgens: high DHEAs, androstenedione and testosterone contribute to fat gain, particularly around the middle. We can reduce androgens with nutrition, lifestyle and supplementation.
- Tests to ask your Doctor for: DHEAs, Free Androgen Index (FAI), Free & Total Testosterone
Insulin resistance: 80% of PCOS women have IR which causes weight gain, inability to lose weight, intense cravings, poor energy, and inability to tolerate carbs. Eating for blood sugar balance, adequate protein intake, movement and supplements that reverse IR are vital to improve insulin sensitivity so you can enjoy more carbs again. Sometimes this requires starting with a lower or moderated carb intake to suit your unique carb tolerance (which I teach in Heal Your PCOS) to reverse IR, followed by a reintroduction of more carbs (hell yes to eating more!).
- Tests to ask your Doctor for: Fasting Insulin, Fasting Glucose, HbA1c (optimal is <5.1)
High cortisol: high stress hormones cause the body to hold on to fat storage and make it difficult to lose weight. Eating for blood sugar balance, lifestyle practices and supportive supplements help to bring cortisol down.
- Tests to ask your Doctor for: DHEAs. The best test for high cortisol is a functional test I order through Nutripath called the Cortisol Awakening Response (Doctors can't order this test). This test tells us what your cortisol pattern is doing throughout the day as optimal cortisol levels naturally are higher in the morning and lower in the evening. Often I see this dysregulated in PCOS women.
Inflammation: this lowers insulin sensitivity and contributes to insulin resistance, causing weight gain. Anti-inflammatory diet, reduction of inflammatory foods, and supplements like fish oil and turmeric help to reduce inflammation to enable weight loss. One of the biggest sources of inflammation come from the gut, which means healing and restoring digestive function and restoring the gut microbiome has to be a priority for PCOS women.
- Tests to ask you Doctor for: hs-CRP (high sensitive C-Reactive Protein), ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate)
Weight loss (or more specifically, fat loss) IS possible for PCOS women.
I want to simplify it for you and keep you accountable and supported for long term results. I also want to be realistic and say that healthy weight loss is <500g weekly and weight loss is never linear. So please don't buy into promises of quick fixes or rapid weight loss because the multi billion dollar diet industry is failing us.
Let's Heal Your PCOS
In my 1:1 nutrition coaching program, Heal Your PCOS, you will take action on the essential strategies you need to lose weight AND keep it off, target the root causes of your PCOS, reverse your PCOS symptoms, and step into the best version of yourself.
I've got 5 spots available to start in April and would love to help you beat your PCOS. Apply here before 31st March for early bird pricing (get started for only $249) and let's get you off the diets and reaching your goal weight.
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