I get asked frequently about my weight loss tips for women struggling with PCOS. I have a particularly nasty case of it. After being diagnosed 8 years ago, I immediately started putting on weight. It was really unpleasant. I craved carbs 24/7 and indulged that craving pretty much every day. Breakfast would be something like two bagels with fat-free cream cheese. I’d eat a Subway sandwich, Chipotle, or 2 hot dogs for lunch. An afternoon snack would often be something like 1/2 a pound of chocolate covered peanuts. Dinner would be two lean cuisines (ha!) followed by half a bottle of wine and extra dessert.
One would have thought that I was allergic to vegetables or anything that didn’t come from a box.
I’ve written this before, but — before I lost the weight, I had a rash on my neck and underarms from insulin resistance/pre-diabetes. My neck looked dirty all the time from skin discoloration.
A digression: I will never forget getting ready to go to a wedding 5 weeks after my son was born. I was 240 pounds and my stomach was still soft and large from pregnancy. I had bought a cotton dress from Target to wear, but even that wasn’t enough to hold back the sweat in the 90 degree heat.
I got out of the shower that afternoon and saw that my neck still looked like it wasn’t clean. I stood in front of the mirror, scrubbing away with a washcloth and soap… it wasn’t dirt. It was the byproduct of high insulin levels…. terrifying.
Losing weight with PCOS is often a little more complicated. I’ve read so many blogs by women whose doctors told them it was “basically impossible.” How I wish medical professionals wouldn’t say that – it’s not true! Yes, you have somewhat different concerns, but it’s completely possible.
After I lost weight… my cycles are still messed up, but the physical pain and discomforts are GONE.
I don’t have the terrible abdominal bloating anymore.
I no longer have the incredible pelvic pain that kept me from wearing pants.
I don’t have terrible cramping in my upper abdomen at the end of the day.
My blood sugars have normalized, although I still get low blood sugar from time to time.
It is pretty awesome.
So that said, here’s my advice…
1. The most difficult time for me was the first two weeks. IT WILL SUCK. There is no getting around it. It feels like a detox. Your carb cravings will be insane. Don’t give in. After the first two or three weeks, it will start to feel much easier.
2. Simple carbs are evil. Sugar isn’t great for anyone, but if you have PCOS, it will mess you the heck up. Eating sugar feeds the carb cravings that can get so bad. If you’re looking for recipes, avoid those that focus on chemical, sugar-packed substitutes for real foods. I have found that “low fat” products are usually fine, and non-fat plain Greek yogurt is great. But the “fat free” stuff is usually packed with sugar. Don’t go for the non-fat stuff because it has fewer calories.
If you do go for simple carbs, try to avoid having them at breakfast. That’s when your blood sugar will take the biggest hit.
3. Exercise is so important. Do what you can. If this is walking outside on flat ground for five or ten minutes after a meal, that’s awesome. Slow walking after meals is probably the best thing you can do to help your pancreas process sugar. I noticed a huge drop in my blood sugar numbers when I started walking after dinner.
4. If you need medication support, by all means, take advantage of it. I used Metformin to help with my blood sugar levels until I was about 155 pounds. If the Metformin upsets your stomach, see if you can take 1/2 your dose (or the entire dose) right before bed with a snack.
5. Recognize that the scale might fluctuate a bit as you get started. It can be really discouraging when you start working out and eating well and the scale goes UP. Everyone will tell you it’s because your gaining muscle. This isn’t quite true – what’s probably happening is that your muscles are gaining glycogen storage. Every time I take a break from exercising, I drop 2 pounds overnight from loss of glycogen. And then when I start back up, I gain the weight right back. If you go up more than a few pounds, re-examine your calories. But don’t worry about weight gain at the start – it’s likely temporary.
6. TRACK AND MEASURE. This is critical for most folks when they start a “diet” or “healthy lifestyle” or whatever you want to call it. For PCOS women, it’s even more important. Portion control is probably my #1 challenge, still, now that I’m maintaining. You can get a cheap set of measuring cups and a little digital food scale at Target for under $15 total.
Do you have PCOS? What advice would you give to PCOS ladies on how to manage the condition?