Women with PCOS are told over and over to go on a diet and lose weight. At times they are told to lose weight first and only then, return to the doctor’s office to get additional treatment.
Telling a woman who has a genetic disorder and predisposed to gain weight is not a good advice and does not work.
Weight loss is a challenge for most people regardless. Women with PCOS have additional hormonal imbalances that make weight loss harder. These hormones are insulin, androgens like testosterone, and Cholecystokinin or CCK. Let’s talk about these three hormones for a minute.
Excess insulin causes the body to store more fat, especially in the abdominal area. It increases pro-inflammatory cytokine protein levels. And often when there is excess insulin in the body, cells will become insulin resistant. In that case, they body, especially our brains that consume 20% of glucose, will start screaming for food.
Excess insulin will stimulate the production of androgens. High levels of androgens cause acne, irregular periods, body hair growth, and weight gain, of course.
CCK is a gut hormone released after a meal, which helps digestion and reduces appetite. Research shows that “women with PCOS have reduced postprandial CCK secretion and deranged appetite regulation associated with increased levels of testosterone. Impaired CCK secretion may play a role in the greater frequency of binge eating and overweight in women with PCOS.”
In a nutshell, high levels of cravings aren’t only due to insulin sensitivity but also due to CCK imbalances. Sounds challenging or what?
Diets work for very few people but not the majority of people…whether the person has PCOS or not. I haven’t met a single woman with PCOS who hasn’t tried numerous diets. Some diets get them to lose weight but most gain the weight back.
Unfortunately, the yo-yo diet is not helping and causing the body to hold on to fat even more. Plus, research shows that yo-yo dieting may increase insulin resistance.
In addition, Research shows that dieting is a precursor to eating disorders. Between 20 and 25 percent of typical dieters will be diagnosed with an eating disorder. Another research indicated that the prevalence of bulimia is increased among women with PCOS compared to healthy women.
Holy cow, right?
You may be asking…Maria, can you give any good news? Anything strategy I can follow that will help?
Sure, I can. Let’s talk about an important diet component and cravings.
Diet vs. Nutrition Template
Instead of following a diet, work towards building your nutritional template. Assure that you are eating enough during your meals. Fill your plate with whole/real colorful foods so you get plenty of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Do your best to balance your macronutrients—they are your carbs, protein, and fats. By doing that, you will help reduce cravings as well. When it comes to foods and talk about carbs, I am referring to real/whole vegetables and fruits. Consider at least 50% of carbs being raw.
Low Glycemic Load Foods
Studies have shown that women with PCOS respond really well when consuming low glycemic load index carbohydrates. These types of carbs digest at a slower rate and cause a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin. The lower a food’s glycemic load (ideal of 10 or less), the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels.
Examples of carbs with low glycemic load are…
Amongst fruits: berries, peaches, plums, apples, tomatoes, and grapefruit juice. Beans and legumes like hummus, chickpeas, pinto, navy, and green beans are good choices. Amongst vegetables: all leafy greens, mushrooms, avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, celery, asparagus, summer squash, and zucchini. These foods aren’t only yummy but also filled with nutrients.
I must remind you that you are different than everyone else. And unless you measure your blood sugar, you will not know for sure whether the consumption of these foods, categorized as health and low glycemic, will or NOT spike. It’s less likely but it’s possible though.
Notice that I didn’t mention animal protein and fats. That’s because they contain little or no carbs. However, excess protein converts to sugar. Many nuts, like cashew and macadamia, contain a bit of carbs and may have a moderate impact on your blood sugar.
Check out the link to a large database you can learn about the glycemic index and load index of foods.
Recently, I came across some content on PCOS where many American women with PCOS claimed that when they lived abroad, they lost weight rapidly, with ease and many of their PCOS symptoms lowered. Upon returning to the US, they regained weight and symptoms fairly fast. Heck, I gained a lot of weight when I moved to the US. I did manage to lose weight. Yet, I don’t have PCOS to complicate.
Am I suggesting you to move to another country to improve PCOS? No, I am not. Although, if you can, why not, right?
What I am insinuating is that the quality of foods and how overly processed they are maybe part of the program. And that might be a reason you hear holistic health practitioners like me suggest organic as much as possible and eat whole/real foods.
If you know my story, you know I was a sugar addict, had insulin resistance and prediabetes, eating disorder, and other imbalances. I had cravings most of the day, from morning to bedtime.
Here are two important strategies to manage cravings:
- Assure you are well hydrated (I was not).
- Assure you are eating balanced meals as discussed earlier (I didn’t).
- Cravings are signals. The body is speaking to you. Listen carefully. Have a dialogue with it. Ask yourself:
- Am I hydrated?
- Did I eat enough and foods rich in nutrients?
- Did I sleep well?
- Did I eat late the night before?
- Did I drink alcohol?
- What’s my stress levels?
- Did I exercise? Or maybe I over-exercised and haven’t replenished my body?
- Did I take my supplements? Oh yeah, although, we didn’t talk about it today, there are some supplements that have shown a great deal of help.
Please take a step back and have this conversation. See what’s potentially missing. If you are not sure, do some research and/or seek help.
You can do this. It’s one step at a time. Be patient with yourself.
Believe in yourself. I believe in you!!!