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How to lose weight if you have PCOS

Of the over 10% of women who have PCOS, being overweight or obese is present in over 90% of you at some point in your life. How to control the weight, which is so entangled with the degree of active PCOS, has been a subject of much debate.

So, first, here's what you need to know as to WHY you have to lose weight.

1. PCOS has unique physical and menstrual findings. If your signs or symptoms of your PCOS are worsening, weight loss efforts will not be as effective. In particular watch for worsening of unwanted hair growth, acne, alopecia (or hair loss), skin pigment changes, and enlarging or darkening skin tags. Appropriate evaluation of PCOS can help you have the best overall health, as well as help you better control your symptoms. At Women’s Health Practice we advocate an ongoing assessment for our patients for the hormone concerns, as we have discussed in other blog posts, (

2. PCOS affects the weight of women all ages, from the teen years through menopause. Be vigilant. No letting down.

3. Medical management of PCOS is as critical as medical management of your diet and nutrition. Treatment options include: birth control pills, blood sugar and insulin control, and ovulation control when necessary.

4. Weight loss is not just about losing weight, it's about preventing long term disease. PCOS manage their symptoms, as well as decrease the risk of developing other serious conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and uterine cancer). But, how should you lose the weight? Where do you get started?

5. PCOS women specifically carry weight in their waist, for many it's deep fat around your organs. This is the most dangerous weight to have. You may love your body, you cannot love deep organ fat, that has to go.

So, let’s discuss some important points about what will work best to help women with PCOS lose weight:

[if !supportLists]- [endif]Protein! – A study published in 2011 showed that women with PCOS who have higher protein to carbohydrate ration in their diets have greater weight loss success than women who eat a standard diet. These same women also had smaller waist circumferences. Plant based protein is very important as you need to avoid any possible extra exposure to hormones.

[if !supportLists]- [endif]Stop Liquid Calories! – Although this might seem pretty obvious, the question is: How much less? The less obvious answer, is that calorie restriction has some specific effects on those with PCOS. Low calorie diets helped with insulin control, and actually improved the effectiveness of exercise in those with PCOS. Caloric intake for those with PCOS depends upon your current weight,metabolism, your muscle mass, your medications,your cardiovascular fitness and your and your activity levels. Adjust adjust adjust. As you change medicines, get fit, lose fat, lose you need to adjust your calories, and keep the ratio. It is critical to lose that fat, especially deep gut fat and keep your muscle mass. All of these things are taken into consideration when deciding what your daily caloric intake should be in order to lose weight. Here at Women’s Health Practice, we offer DXA scans ( where we can determine all of these things and more!

[if !supportLists]- [endif]Liquid Calories! – Sugar is much more addicting and damaging to those with PCOS. Continuing the calorie section above, it’s important to be aware of high-calorie beverages that can be ultimately less satisfying than solid food meals. Many women with PCOS have increased desire for sugary foods due to the resistance to insulin, some of their genetic propensity, and possibly secondary to chronic dieting. Drinks such as soda, alcohol, fruit juice, commercially prepared smoothies and protein shakes, and specialty coffee drinks all can be not only high in calories and low in nutrition, but generate more cravings for those with PCOS, making the journey to weight loss even harder. It’s better to stick to water, herbal teas, some green tea, and some coffee.

[if !supportLists]- [endif]Aerobic Exercise! – Consistent exercise can be immensely beneficial to manage PCOS and its symptoms. In a recent study by Department of Physical Education, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Brazil it was shown that overall quality of life is better in women with PCOS if they specifically get aerobic exercise. What's your heart rate, well with aerobics it should go up! Try to sneak some extra fast walking into your day. For you with PCOS, it's not about the steps it's about the pace of the steps. Many of us spend 40 hours a week sitting at a desk, which can be very detrimental to your health. The American Cancer Society found that people who sat for more than 6 hours per day had an increased risk of health problems over the next 15 years by 40 percent compared to those who sat for less than 3 hours per day. Women with PCOS are already at greater risk for uterine cancer, and thus skimping on aerobic exercise is not an option.

[if !supportLists]- [endif]Squats! – The squat is a staple of most exercise programs, and for a good reason! The squat works the biggest muscle groups in your body (quads, glutes, back, and core), which are essential for everyday function. You use the squatting motion to sit, stand up, and pick things up. You can’t avoid it, so might as well get good at it! (If you don’t know proper squatting techniques, try looking up tutorials or asking someone at your local gym to show you. It’s best to squat with correct form so as to avoid injuries).

[if !supportLists]- [endif]Push-Ups! – The push-up should also be a staple in your exercise routine. Push-ups do an excellent job with strengthening your upper body while also working your core, glutes and leg muscles. They build strength and burn calories! Many women believe that they can’t do push-ups, but they are wrong 99% of the time! You just might start with your knees on the floor and then work your way up. Similarly to the squat, it’s also a good idea to look up proper push-up technique to avoid injuries.

[if !supportLists]- [endif]Sleep! – PCOS women are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. Get tested. The compound effects of PCOS and obstructive sleep disorders will make weight loss almost impossible. Sleep deprivation in those with PCOS can affect the hormones that control your hunger levels and increase risk for gaining, even when you are trying to lose weight. It’s a good idea to schedule enough time to get a full 8 hours of sleep, which might mean turning the lights off 8.5-9 hours before you have to wake up. Try to keep to a consistent schedule as it will make things easier in the long run.

[if !supportLists]- [endif]Get Support! – Making any kind of lifestyle changes can be difficult and it’s often best to be surrounded with support to make the journey easier. Friends and family can be great, but one person who you might not think of as a supportive person is your doctor. Make regular appointments with your doctor and be transparent with your weight loss journey, as well as how it is affecting your PCOS. Your doctor can give great advice and prescribe medication if necessary.

If you would like to read more about PCOS on my blog, here ( is a link all my articles tagged with PCOS.

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