lose weight with PCOS – Excess middle body weight, facial hair, unwanted muscle gain, hair loss, ovarian cysts, absence of periods or menstrual irregularity and insulin resistance are pieces of evidence that a grown woman has the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
This condition can indeed be frustrating as several fun activities will be forgone. It can also ruin efforts targeted at conception. As a matter of fact, the symptoms of this condition seem to run in circles thereby making it more difficult to manage.
The outcomes of PCOS and Insulin resistance are very similar, the major being difficulty in weight loss.
In this article, we will learn how a person with PCOS and Insulin Resistance can lose the desired weight. As a way to start, let us understand what PCOS and Insulin Resistance mean and how they originate.
What is PCOS and how does it relate to Insulin Resistance?
PCOS that is, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a health condition characterized by the presence of cysts in the ovaries of a woman. You can deduce this from the name, polycystic – many cysts. Ovarian cysts are small fluid-filled sacs formed in or around the ovaries during ovulation. They are harmless.
Below are facts about PCOS that you should know:
- It is a hormonal disorder
- It results in irregular periods
- It makes it difficult to shed weight
- It shows that androgens (male hormones) are in excess in your body
- It affects women of childbearing age and it can lead to infertility
- It is common in women who are overweight or obese
- It can cause excessive hairiness and male pattern baldness
- It makes your body less sensitive to insulin
- It places you at a high risk of endometrial cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea.
There is really no root cause of PCOS though certain persons believe that eating more than the body needs is a driver of the syndrome.
The four major features of this syndrome are irregular menstrual periods, excess androgen levels, numerous collections of cysts and failure to release eggs. Other symptoms of PCOS are linked directly or indirectly to these four.
Though there is no cure for PCOS, it is not a hopeless situation irrespective of how scary it appears. There are certain lifestyles that you can adopt to improve your condition. Some effective medications are also available.
Most importantly, PCOS can be managed through adequate weight loss.
About Insulin Resistance (IR)…
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. The function of insulin is the conversion of glucose into energy. Whenever a person’s blood sugar is high, the insulin is involved in either of two ways.
It could be that the pancreas is not producing enough insulin or the insulin produced is not doing its work. It is the latter case that is insulin resistance. This means that your body is not sensitive to insulin or you can say that it is insulin-resistant.
The role of insulin in the body cannot be underestimated.
Its ability to breakdown glucose into energy helps to regulate the blood sugar level. Insulin also helps in the metabolism of fats and proteins.
So when the body is insulin resistant, most food compounds are left unattended to. And coupled with the fact that insulin resistance mounts pressure on the pancreas to produce more insulin (which may not be used and end up lying around too); there will be an increase in body weight.
Linking the Two: PCOS and IR…
Insulin resistance is very common in women with PCOS. While it is a symptom; it also fuels the condition. High insulin levels in the body can limit ovulation. It can also increase the production of excess testosterone (a male hormone) by the ovaries.
These testosterones facilitate male features in the woman including an increase in belly fat; a sign very common in women with PCOS.
Now with ovulation impaired due to high insulin, cysts form in the ovaries. Multiplication of these cysts, in and around the ovaries results in the syndrome – PCOS. Additionally, these cysts can also fuel the production of androgens. With more androgens than normal in a woman’s body, the more irregular her menstrual cycle; another event that is also driven by high insulin. That is why I told you in the beginning that the symptoms of PCOS and IR seem to run in circles.
Frankly, it does not end there. PCOS and IR place their victims at the risk of heart diseases. Excess weight gain is no longer the only worry with insulin resistance and PCOS. There is also a high risk of High Blood Pressure, heart disease, and Type II diabetes.
All the same, weight loss no matter how little at a time will help reduce the risk of the above listed diseases. Losing weight will also help improve your body’s sensitivity to Insulin. Making healthy lifestyle choices will help women with PCOS and IR lose weight and improve their condition. Let us now take a look at such lifestyles.
Losing weight with PCOS and IR – myth or possibility?
With everything that has been said so far, it may seem impossible to lose weight if you have PCOS and IR but I want to you to think differently and be positive. I have categorized the actions you can take to lose weight with PCOS and IR into two: ‘what to eat’ and ‘what to do.’
What to Eat?
Ignore that story being spread about low-calorie diet as the best approach to weight loss. There are more beneficial options on the table.
Although focusing on a low-calorie diet may lead to short-term weight loss, over time, the body adapts to it by reducing the number of overall calories it burns, thus leading to weight re-gain. You will be surprised at how much a low-calorie diet can prevent your long term weight loss goals.
Let us now explore better feeding options:
1. Low-carb diet
Limiting your intake of foods high in carbohydrates will go a long way to cut down your high insulin levels. If you fail to watch your carb intake; your body will continue to produce insulin at high rates. With a reduction in carb consumption is reduction in insulin levels which will eventually lead to weight loss.
Additionally, stay away from foods high in added sugar and refined carbs such as cakes, cookies, candy, and fast food. They can increase blood sugar levels, and eventually lead to weight gain. A high intake of sugar in any form will increase insulin levels and perpetuate insulin resistance.
Plus, limiting intake of sugars (especially glucose and fructose) can help fight off inflammation which is common in women with PCOS. And as such preventing inflammation will improve their condition.
Inflammation is how your body responds naturally to injury or infection. So avoid sweetened juice, soda and candy. Also, eating a diet high in whole foods (especially fruits and vegetables) will also help protect you against inflammation.
Below is a sample of a one-week low-carb diet plan that you can use for a start:
Breakfast – Eggs and vegetables fried in coconut oil
Lunch – Shrimp salad with olive oil
Dinner – Grilled chicken with vegetables
Breakfast – Omelet fried in butter with various vegetables
Lunch – Smoothie with protein powder, berries,
coconut milk and almonds
Dinner – Steak and veggies
Breakfast – Bacon and eggs
Lunch – Chicken salad with olive oil
Dinner – Pork chops with vegetables
Breakfast – Omelet fried in butter with various vegetables
Lunch – Grass-fed yogurt with blueberries and
Dinner – Bunless cheeseburger with vegetables and
Breakfast – Bacon and eggs
Lunch – Bunless cheeseburger with vegetables and
Dinner – Salmon with butter and vegetables
Breakfast – Omelet fried with different veggies
Lunch – Grass-fed yogurt with berries, coconut flakes
Dinner – Grilled chicken wings with some raw spinach
on the side
Breakfast – Bacon and eggs
Lunch – Smoothie with coconut milk, a dash of heavy
cream, chocolate-flavored protein powder
Dinner – Meatballs with vegetables
The above meal plan is simply a guide; you are free to replace any group with other healthy meal choices of your taste. You will also find other healthy foods as you continue in this article.
2. Green tea
Green tea contains high amounts of Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG). EGCG is an antioxidant that helps fight insulin resistance. Therefore, green tea is a healthy beverage that you can include in your diet.
3. A diet high in fiber
Taking foods high in fiber will help you get full fast.
When you feel full, you will not feel the need to take junks, and you know those things can make you add weight like crazy.
Foods high in fiber help to reduce insulin resistance, body weight and excess body fat. You will consume a good amount of fiber from whole foods example: wholegrain breakfast cereals, whole-wheat pasta, barley and rye, carrots and sweet corn, etc.
There is more! Eating whole foods and cutting out unhealthy products will help preserve useful hormones unlike the case with low calorie dieting. Focusing on low calorie diet can negatively impact hormones that control appetite.
Hormones like leptin, peptide YY, cholecystokinin, insulin, and ghrelin, can be modified due to low calorie dieting. This will led to increased appetite and weight gain at the end of the day. You can prevent this from happening by consuming whole foods.
Also, we have what is called Soluble Fiber. There are foods that contain soluble fiber and consuming them will help increase insulin sensitivity and lower insulin levels.
“How?” You may ask.
When you consume such foods, they absorb water (because they are soluble) and form a gel. This gel hangs around for a while; thereby limiting the movement of food in the digestive tract at the moment.
The desired outcome is that the blood sugar level and insulin level will not rise immediately after you have eaten. This process results in weight loss.
Soluble fiber also helps to feed the friendly gut bacteria living in the colon. These bacteria help in proper digestion of food and reduction of insulin level.
By feeding them, you are energizing them to work. Foods that contain soluble fiber include oat bran, barley, nuts, lentils, and peas.
Taking cinnamon can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce insulin levels. You can add 1 – 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon in your rice pudding for a start.
Adding cinnamon to your meals will lead to lower levels of insulin over time.
This is an additional benefit to the already known benefits of cinnamon; a delicious spice that is full of healthy antioxidants.
5. High protein-diet
Just like fiber, protein makes you feel full after a meal. It also helps to stabilize your blood sugar. Consuming high protein diets will help balance your hunger hormones, curb your cravings and burn calories.
All these processes will facilitate weight loss.
Another helpful tip is to take your protein diet as breakfast. By doing this, you will find out that you will not have to eat much at lunch.
It is important to note that plenty of protein can trigger insulin production (which is what you trying to avoid). Do not make a face yet; this is the deal – you only need to consume an adequate amount of proteins to be up and going. Remember, you will feel full so you do not need too much.
Examples of high protein foods you can include in your diet are eggs, almonds, chicken breast, oats, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, milk, broccoli, lean beef, Tuna, Quinoa, peanuts, Brussels sprouts, and shrimp.
There are also high protein snacks that you can have on the go. They include veggies and yogurt dip, peanut butter celery sticks, no-bake energy bites, cheese slices, roasted chickpeas, Turkey roll-ups, trail mix, and jerky.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Take 1 or 2 tbs of Apple cider vinegar after eating can prevent insulin and blood sugar spikes. You will also experience feelings of fullness 30minutes later.
This is possible because vinegar can delay stomach emptying. This delay will help the bloodstream to absorb sugar more slowly.
7. Healthy fats
You are probably surprised to see fats included in the list, let me quickly explain. Fats have similar health benefits like proteins. In fact, combing a healthy fat and an adequate protein meal is a great choice.
Consuming healthy fats will help you to lose weight by cutting down hunger. They are very satisfying and after one meal, you will not eat much for the rest of the day.
Believe it or not, healthy fats intake can lead to weight loss over time and also cause a reduction in belly fat. Look at it this way, feeding on healthy fats makes you consume less of other foods. Your body is forced to work with what you have provided; in the end, the bulk of the fats you have consumed will be put to use. Nothing is left as excess body fat.
Good healthy fats sources are olive oil, nut butters, coconut oil and avocado pears.
8. Foods high in Probiotics
As I mentioned earlier, there are gut bacteria that aid in digestion and eating foods that will increase their number will help reduce insulin levels.
Apart from meals that are high in fiber, other meals that can serve the same purpose are meals that are high in probiotics. Examples of such meals are kefir and sauerkraut.
It may interest you to know that women with PCOS run low on healthy gut bacteria. It then follows that the metabolic roles and eventually weight loss abilities of these bacteria are limited in the lives of these women. So consuming foods high in probiotics will do you a lot of good.
9. Low glycemic-diet foods
After given it a long thought, I came to conclude that a low-glycemic diet may benefit women with PCOS. There is something called the glycemic index (GI). It is a measurement of how quickly a particular food raises blood sugar.
A low-glycemic diet is a diet that will not raise your blood sugar quickly. Consuming low-glycemic diets will also improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin hence, facilitating weight loss.
Diets with lower glycemic load which you can eat include whole grains, nuts and legumes.
10. Mindful eating
Binge eating and emotional eating can make you overeat and add unexpected weight. This attitude is common in women with PCOS. You can prevent that from happening through mindful eating.
Mindful eating demands that you check the food you eat, the time you eat it and how your body reacts to it. Simply stated, mindful eating means being conscious of what you eat and when.
Such that you will not eat what will worsen your condition and you will not eat much when you ought to eat less. This way, you can better manage hunger and fullness.
Mindful eating can aid in weight loss. You should subscribe to mindful eating especially since women with PCOS have been found to likely have eating disorders.
Conclusively on improved feeding choices for women with PCOS and insulin resistance, a major breakthrough in improving your condition would be to focus on reducing your insulin levels. You can reduce your insulin levels by losing weight. You will lose weight faster if you watch what you eat. Eat more vegetables and whole foods. Reduce the consumption of processed foods, refined grains, and added sugars.
I also want you to note that it is better to eat heavy earlier in the day when you still have a lot of work waiting to be done. Please take your time and plan your meals. Using the meals suggested above, design a balanced diet plan for your every day feeding.
What to Do?
Having understood what you can eat to help you lose weight and eventually improve your condition, there are other useful steps you can also take. They are:
1. Exercise more!
In your attempts to lose weight, you cannot ignore exercises.
They will help decrease insulin resistance through the burning of calories and the building of muscle mass. Exercises will also help reduce testosterone levels. Also, fat metabolism is enhanced depending on the intensity of the exercise that you do.
It is also important that you exercise on an empty stomach so that you can achieve your aim.
Exercises to Do
For a start, you can do 45–60 minutes of cardio 3 times weekly. This will help you lose belly fat and improve insulin sensitivity. Some cardio exercises you can do are: swimming, jumping the rope and rolling.
Additionally, performing weight training 3 times weekly consistently for about 4 months will help you lose belly fat and gain lean body mass. At the same time, you will record a reduction in your testosterone and blood sugar levels. Plus, weight training will give you a better-toned body shape.
Aerobic Exercises and Resistance Training
Furthermore, sustained aerobic exercise and resistance training (best option for older people) can be effective at enhancing insulin sensitivity. Examples of resistance training are bicep curls, shoulder press, bench press, and bent over row. Some aerobic exercises you should try are: spinning, running, walking, aerobics classes, dancing, and kickboxing.
Strength-Training and Endurance Exercises
Also, combining strength-training and endurance exercises consistently can also have a positive impact on your insulin levels. Pushups, sit-ups, chin-ups, squat thrusts, lunges, and step-ups make up this category of exercises. They will also strengthen your body in the process.
And if the above-listed exercises seem like a lot of work to you and you cannot decide where to begin, I suggest you get some motivation. You could find friends who have similar goals and form a clique.
You can also watch exercise videos. Keep in mind that your health is of utmost priority and you must treat it as such so do not give up yet.
Begin with the easier exercises (like walking) and then make progress.
2. Hate your chair
If you must reduce your insulin levels and lose weight, you must cultivate an active lifestyle. In case you have not noticed, sitting too much is compounding your problems. If your daily routine requires you to sit a lot, please do something about it.
Include moderate activity into your routine, stand at intervals or even walk around in circles.
3. Sleep enough
Did you know? Insufficient sleep is associated with a high risk of being overweight or obese. This may surprise you but in the actual sense, quality sleep can make you lose fat. Please do not joke with your night rest.
If you stay up awake for more hours of the night; you will be activating the hormones responsible for hunger. If one is not careful, you will find yourself eating more than required.
Do your best to sleep at least 5 hours every night and as much as you can, get little sleep during the day.
I am not saying you should lie down all day; remember that you ought to maintain an active lifestyle. Quality sleep and active lifestyle work hand in glove.
4. Say no to stress
Reducing stress can help you lose weight since stress has a way of adding to your weight troubles. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland and it is can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain. Stress increases levels of cortisol.
Also, when you are under stress, you will experience an unwanted addition to your belly fat. Too much belly fat leads to inflammation which triggers more production of cortisol. You can manage stress through yoga meditation practices.
5. Check if you have a thyroid disorder and treat it
It is paramount that you treat any thyroid disorder you may have. Irregular periods, sudden weight gain, hair reduction, infertility, insomnia etc. could be as a result of thyroid disorders as well. It is good that you find out early if you have any thyroid disorder like hyperthyroidism and get treatment earlier. The presence of a thyroid disorder can ruin your efforts to lose weight if you are working with only PCOS and IR in mind.
These are the five steps that you can combine with the meal choices mentioned earlier to lose weight with PCOS and insulin resistance.
What medications can you take to improve your condition?
I enumerated at the beginning of the article that there are available medications for PCOS and IR. I must notify you that taking these medicines will not eradicate the illness but it will certainly control some symptoms.
Medications for PCOS include:
- Myo-inositol and carnitine supplements – can make you shed some weight.
- Clomiphene – helps to correct the irregularity of your menstrual cycle.
- Letrozole – helps to stimulate the ovaries.
Medications for insulin are:
Metformin, Biguanides and Thiazolidinediones. They have insulin-sensitizing and anti-hyperglycemic effects.
You can now agree with me that PCOS and Insulin resistance is not a hopeless situation. Different management steps have been discussed in this article that will help you lose weight. Losing weight will go a long way to improve your condition. So quit mourning and get to work!