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Navigating Weight Loss with PCOS

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

A couple weeks ago, I talked to Jewel Edmonds, FNP, and learned so much from her. This week, I wanted to do a brief recap of one thing we talked about: PCOS and how it can affect women’s weight.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder that affects many aspects of a woman’s health, including ability to manage weight effectively. Weight loss can be particularly challenging for women with PCOS due to a variety of factors such as hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and metabolic issues.

Understanding PCOS and Its Impact on Weight

PCOS affects up to 10% of women of reproductive age and is characterized by a range of symptoms including irregular menstrual cycles, excess androgen levels, and polycystic ovaries. One of the most common and concerning aspects of PCOS is weight gain and the difficulty many women face in losing weight. Here’s why PCOS makes weight management so challenging:

  1. Insulin Resistance: A significant number of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, a condition where the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin. This leads to higher levels of insulin in the blood, which can promote fat storage and make weight loss more difficult. High insulin levels are also linked to increased hunger and cravings, particularly for carbohydrates.
  2. Hormonal Imbalances: Women with PCOS often have elevated levels of androgens (male hormones) like testosterone. These hormonal imbalances can lead to weight gain, especially around the abdomen, and make it harder to lose weight. Hormones play a crucial role in regulating metabolism and appetite, and any imbalance can disrupt these processes.
  3. Metabolic Issues: PCOS is associated with a slower metabolic rate, meaning that women with the condition may burn fewer calories at rest compared to women without PCOS. This can make it more difficult to achieve a calorie deficit necessary for weight loss.
  4. Emotional and Psychological Factors: The symptoms of PCOS, such as weight gain, acne, and excess hair growth, can lead to low self-esteem and depression. Emotional eating and stress-related eating behaviors are common among women with PCOS, further complicating weight management efforts.

Challenges in Losing Weight with PCOS

Given the unique challenges posed by PCOS, weight loss can feel like an uphill battle. Some of the specific challenges include:

  1. Inconsistent Results: Many women with PCOS find that traditional diet and exercise plans do not yield the same results as they do for women without the condition. This can be frustrating and discouraging.
  2. Plateaus and Slow Progress: Due to the metabolic and hormonal issues associated with PCOS, weight loss progress can be slow and characterized by frequent plateaus. This requires a great deal of patience and persistence.
  3. Cravings and Hunger: Insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances can lead to increased hunger and cravings, particularly for sugary and high-carbohydrate foods. This makes sticking to a healthy eating plan more challenging.

Effective Strategies for Weight Loss with PCOS

Despite the challenges, weight loss with PCOS is possible with a tailored approach that addresses the specific needs of the condition. Here are some strategies:

  1. Low-Glycemic Diet: Adopting a low-glycemic diet can help manage insulin levels and reduce cravings. Focus on whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid refined sugars and highly processed foods that can spike insulin levels.
  2. Regular Physical Activity: Exercise is crucial for managing PCOS. Incorporate a mix of aerobic exercises (like walking, jogging, or swimming) and strength training. Strength training is particularly beneficial as it helps build muscle, which can increase metabolic rate and improve insulin sensitivity.
  3. Mindful Eating: Mindful eating practices can help manage emotional eating and improve your relationship with food. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues, eat slowly, and savor each bite. This can prevent overeating and help you make healthier food choices.
  4. Small, Frequent Meals: Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce hunger. Avoid long gaps between meals to prevent blood sugar dips that can lead to overeating.
  5. Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate PCOS symptoms and lead to emotional eating. Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your routine, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or hobbies you enjoy.
  6. Sleep Hygiene: Poor sleep can worsen insulin resistance and increase cravings. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Establish a regular sleep routine and create a restful sleeping environment.
  7. Medical Support: Consult with a healthcare provider or a specialist in PCOS. They can offer personalized advice and may prescribe medications such as metformin to improve insulin sensitivity or hormonal treatments to regulate menstrual cycles.

Where to Learn More and Find Support

  1. Educational Resources: Websites like the PCOS Awareness Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine provide comprehensive information on PCOS and weight management strategies.
  2. Support Groups and Forums: Joining support groups or online communities can provide emotional support and practical advice. Websites like PCOSDiva and forums such as Reddit’s r/PCOS offer platforms for sharing experiences and tips.
  3. Healthcare Providers: Regular consultations with healthcare providers, including endocrinologists, dietitians, and mental health professionals, can provide tailored support and guidance.
  4. Books and Publications: Numerous books offer in-depth advice on managing PCOS. Titles like “PCOS SOS” by Dr. Felice Gersh and “The PCOS Diet Plan” by Hillary Wright are well-reviewed resources.


Weight loss with PCOS is challenging, but achievable. By understanding the unique aspects of PCOS and adopting a holistic approach that includes diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications, women with PCOS can improve their health and achieve their weight loss goals. Remember, persistence and patience are key, and if you’re seeking support, book a session with me today.

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Czarina Enriquez