I recently announced that I suffer from PCOS and Hemorrhagic Cysts. I knew I had Hemorrhagic Cysts since I was 17 years old. I do know that since the age of 10 years old I have always suffered with Chronic Migraine and excruciating menstrual cramps Outside of growing up with a severe allergy to anything with preservatives, I've always been underweight and have had a restricted diet until I hit my 30's. I put on 30 pounds on and gained it back once again, and was diagnosed with PCOS.
During my health care journey I have been fortunate enough to meet women that also share this condition and have been incredibly supportive as I work on getting my body back and my health back on track. Below is a great article I read in women's health magazine that really helps people understand what this condition is.
According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 20 percent of women in the U.S. have PCOS, a condition characterized by an imbalance of reproductive hormones—too many androgens, or "male hormones" in particular.
In addition to creating problems in a woman's ovaries (like issues with egg development and release), the higher levels of androgens also up the odds of weight gain around the waist—launching a vicious cycle. Abdominal fat decreases responsiveness to insulin, a hormone that helps your body process sugar, making you likely to gain even more weight.
“Some people with PCOS complain they have a hard time losing weight no matter what they do,” says Daniel Dumesic, M.D., division chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at UCLA, who also specializes in PCOS.
Oh, and it gets worse: When the average woman wakes up in the morning, she immediately starts burning fat for energy until she eats again. Women with PCOS, however, don't burn fat first thing because they're programmed to save it instead, says Dumesic. (Those pesky androgens are linked to insulin resistance, which can cause you to store more fat instead of burning it.)
So, yes, shedding any extra pounds is especially tricky when you have PCOS, but it isn’t impossible—as long as you arm yourself with the right info. Here are a few ways to make weight loss with PCOS a little less soul-crushing.
Try a low-carb diet on for size
It should be said that no one diet is the magic fix for women with PCOS—and that the type of diet you choose is less important than whether you're able to stick with it long-term. “There’s no evidence that one diet is better than another, so compliance is critical,” says Dumesic.
That said low-carb diets tend to work well for women with PCOS, because they tend to be insulin-resistant. “Lowering carb content lowers insulin levels, which can help with weight loss,” says Caroline Apovian, M.D., an endocrinologist, weight-loss researcher, and director of the Center for Nutrition and Weight Management at Boston Medical Center.
At the beginning, Apovian suggests eliminating grains entirely. If you need carbs to keep up your diet, you can add back up to two servings a day (one slice of whole grain bread, one cup of oats, one cup of brown rice, one cup of whole-wheat pasta, etc.).
If you still have trouble losing or at least maintaining weight following a low-carb diet, you may need to work with a doctor to adjust your calorie intake, says Lori B. Sweeney, M.D., an endocrinologist and associate professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System.
"Women with PCOS need an average of 400 fewer calories a day than women who don't have PCOS—and any excess calories go to fat storage," she previously told Women's Health. But that's not free range to start slashing cals—a doctor can help you figure out how to cut back in a healthy way.
Exercise first, eat later
Exercising right before a meal can help rev your metabolism so you end up storing more carbs as energy than fat, according to Sweeney. And exercising on the regular trains your body to use up extra glucose stores in your body, which can help keep your insulin levels down, says Maria Horstmann, a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified trainer who specializes in working with women who have PCOS.
Horstmann previously told Women's Health that women with PCOS should focus on high-intensity interval training, which utilizes short, intense bursts of energy, while Apovian and Dumesic both recommend any type of cardio that gets your heart rate up.