Do you have PCOS? You’re not alone! If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, it’s important to know that you’re not alone, cyster! Cyster is a term we like to call ourselves with PCOS, it’s a combination of the word cyst and sister. I say it proudly, because in my day to day lifestyle, I’m always looking out for my PCOS and I know I’m not the only one… there’s a Cysterhood of women doing it too!
Written by Guest Blogger: Tallene Hacatoryan, a PCOS Weight Loss registered dietitian.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that affects up to one in ten women, and can often be managed through long term diet and lifestyle changes. A common medical recommendation for women with PCOS is to “just lose weight and it’ll resolve itself,” however, the result of this advice typically flings women into low calorie, restrictive diets. The diet industry is buzzing with “quick fixes” that don’t actually heal the underlying metabolic problems that are happening with PCOS.
What causes PCOS?
The truth is that what’s driving the weight gain in many women are an array of possible triggers, such as chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, adrenal fatigue or a thyroid condition. These possible root causes of PCOS trigger higher than normal amounts of male hormones, called androgens. This leads to a myriad of symptoms including weight gain, hair loss, facial hair, moodiness, irregular periods and difficulty getting pregnant. Fortunately, it is possible to put PCOS into complete remission once you’ve targeted both diet and lifestyle changes that treat the root cause.
How is PCOS treated?
However, the most common form of treatment for PCOS after diagnosis is suppressing our hormonal rhythms with birth control until the decision to get pregnant is made. At that point, it can be time consuming and even more frustrating to reverse symptoms naturally. Women with PCOS are often given the option for fertility treatments instead.
Often, we are told by our doctor to lose weight in order to increase the chances of fertility and treating PCOS. Although weight loss may be helpful, once again, it is often extremely difficult when the root causes of PCOS are not addressed. You could be trying as hard as possible to eat less and still not lose any weight. Weight gain with PCOS is not simply an issue of eating too many calories, rather, it is often an issue of metabolic dysfunction caused by root problems such as insulin resistance. As a Registered Dietitian, I encourage women with PCOS to consider making long lasting lifestyle changes, rather than resorting to short term restrictive dieting and overexercising. It is not uncommon to feel triggered into doing so when there is so much pressure put on losing weight. However, when approaching PCOS with the right
mindset, you will be able to treat the root problems and eventually do more than lose weight, you could also reverse PCOS and improve your fertility..
6 Tips for reversing the metabolic dysfunction & losing weight with PCOS:
- Stay off the restriction rollercoaster. I know I wanted to lose weight so badly, I would have eaten salad all day if that was the answer- but it wasn’t. If your main focus is to heal your metabolic dysfunction, then restricting calories and cutting out all your carbs is likely going to further fling your metabolism off the deep end. Although cutting out carbs completely can help some women, it is often not the answer for most women with PCOS,
a slight reduction in carbohydrate intake could be enough. If what you’re doing is making you feel restricted, hungry and miserable, then perhaps it’s not right for you.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone’s PCOS journey and symptoms are so different. Just because someone was able to lose 20 lbs in 2 months doesn’t mean that you’re significantly decreased anxiety but no weight loss should be dismissed. Celebrate every positive step, no matter what. That way, you keep up what works and keep heading in the right direction.
- Treat your insulin resistance. If you have insulin resistance, which 80% of cysters do, it’s important to treat it in order to lose weight with PCOS. This often requires a lower carb diet, but that doesn’t mean you need to cut out all your carbs. So you can also start adding an exercise component to your lifestyle, for example consistently doing slow, weighted workouts can help build muscle and improve insulin sensitivity. Going gluten and dairy free can prevent large insulin spikes. Taking a look at your sugar intake and seeing if you’re having excess sugar or even artificial sweeteners. These all influence the way you’re managing insulin resistance.
- Meditation. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your stress hormones nice and low. Around 50% of women with PCOS struggle with stress hormone dysregulation, which can trigger symptoms including weight gain and trouble with fertility. A meditation practice, acupuncture, supplements and therapy can reduce stress levels significantly. Cutting calories, restrictive dieting and over exercising can trigger stress hormones.
- Get 8 hours of sleep. Getting enough sleep is especially important for insulin resistance. Lack of sleep can lead to a 30% increase in insulin resistance, which leads to more cravings and poor food choices. Getting enough sleep will also help with managing stress hormones, and as a result, PCOS symptoms.
- Removing gluten and dairy has made a remarkable improvement for many
women with PCOS to help relieve symptoms such as cystic acne, sugar cravings, anxiousness, inflammation, low energy levels and uncontrollable weight gain. Cutting these foods out for at least one month can help you understand if they are triggering your symptoms. Because PCOS is linked to insulin resistance, chronic
inflammation, and metabolic syndrome, eliminating gluten and dairy gives you an edge in fighting all of those because they can be inflammatory and hormone disrupting.
Tallene is a PCOS Weight Loss registered dietitian and a strong believer that you don’t just have to just live with PCOS, you can thrive with PCOS. She and her husband, Sirak, a PCOS Personal Trainer, help women with PCOS learn how to reverse their symptoms and lose weight through their gluten and dairy free lifestyle method.