Women who have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome may experience some very noticeable changes to their outward physical appearance. These can range from acne, to excess hair growth, to perhaps the most troublesome of all – weight gain. Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill to cure PCOS so instead, women living with this diagnosis may have to make certain lifestyle changes to help combat the symptoms.
But when you have PCOS, losing that excess weight will likely be more difficult for you than it would be for someone without the same condition. Here are some challenges you need to be aware of so that you can better adjust your routine, and get back on the road to weight loss.
Simply put, insulin is responsible for converting glucose into energy, or storing it as fat. Women with PCOS, however, have more of this hormone in their systems, meaning that glucose is more likely to be stored as fat than used up as energy.
Insulin resistance can lead to a downward spiral in your health. The higher your insulin resistance, the worse the symptoms of your PCOS – and the worse your PCOS, the higher your insulin resistance.
One of the most direct ways to combat this situation is to change your diet. Avoid refined carbs and sugars as well as overly processed foods. These contain an excessive amount of glucose which your body will immediately try to store as fat, rather than burn off as energy. Make healthier choices such as protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to allow your system a chance to even itself out. If you’re not overtaxing your system with too much glucose, your insulin levels will begin to drop down into a more normal range.
Insulin resistance is not the only symptom conspiring against you. Women with PCOS tend to have slower metabolisms. This means that your body is slower to burn off the excess fat stores that are being created by your insulin resistance. So not only is your body storing too much fat, but the fat that is stored is more difficult to burn off.
One way to combat a slow metabolism is to practice mindfulness in your eating. Try not to eat while you are distracted by the TV, by driving, or any other activity that demands too much of your attention. While you’re eating, try to put your fork down between each bite, and take frequent sips of water. This way, you may find that you feel full long before your plate is empty.
Just by taking these measures to listen to your system, you can accommodate your slower metabolism by not taking in too many excess calories.
This is another area where mindful eating can really help. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome do tend to struggle more with appetite control than others. If you find yourself stashing granola bars or other snacks into your purse because you feel you need to eat more frequently than others, this may be a sign that you’re having trouble feeling satiated after meals.
One thing you can do to help fight off these feelings of hunger is to make meals more enjoyable experiences. Salads with lots of crunchy raw vegetables can help satisfy that need to sink your teeth into something, while adding extra spices will take care of your brain’s desire for flavorful food.
It’s true that you may need to eat more frequently than other women, but if you can choose healthy and satisfying snacks, you’re less likely to gain weight as a result.
More Frequent Workouts
You may see all of your friends scheduling rest days into their workout routines, but unfortunately that is a luxury women with PCOS can’t afford. This is not to say that you should risk injury or burnout by going full tilt at the gym all the time. Instead, what you should do is switch off-days between gentle low-intensity workouts such as yoga or walking, and higher intensity workouts such as weight lifting, biking, swimming, etc.
Being sedentary can increase both your feelings of hunger and your insulin resistance, which can lead to even more excess weight gain. You don’t need to run a marathon every day, but you do have to outsmart your PCOS by staying on your toes.
There are thousands of women living with PCOS right now, and each one of you is experiencing your symptoms in a different way. But we hope it helps you to know that you are not alone. It’s true that it will be a bit more difficult for you to lose weight than it is for other women, but it’s by no means impossible. Speak to your doctor, watch what you eat, keep moving, and practice mindfulness whenever you can, and you will begin to get a foothold on overcoming your weight gain.