Being diagnosed with PCOS for the first time can be a confusing experience. I know it was for me.
You might feel relieved to finally have a word that describes a number of health issues you’ve struggled with for years. PCOS may explain why:
- You have never had a regular period
- You put on weight far easier than your friends
- You struggle with anxiety or depression
- You have acne or eczema
- You have trouble with unwanted facial hair
You may also feel scared and nervous about the long term health risks of PCOS like developing insulin resistance even if you are thin or developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, kidney failure and more!
If you’re trying to conceive, finding out you have PCOS can also be a real freak out moment, when you’re told that not only are you going to find it difficult to get pregnant, but you’re also at an increased risk of complications during and after pregnancy.
LACK OF PCOS SUPPORT IN THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY
With such severe consequences what really frustrates me is the level of care women typically get from their doctor. It’s not uncommon to be restricted to a 5 minute conversation where you are told to lose weight, cut down on carbs, and exercise more. Or you may be given band-aid solutions to help with your symptoms like birth control, metformin and acne medications which completely ignore the underlying issues.
Due to this lack of support and all of the incorrect messages in the media, many women who have classical PCOS may turn to restriction dieting in order to lose weight on the understanding that this is their best option.
SCIENCE HAS SHOWN US THAT RESTRICTION DIETING DOESN’T WORK
While many women will have a determined crack at losing weight by reducing their calorie intake, the depressing facts of the matter are that most people can’t sustain a restriction diet over the long term. It’s one thing to lose weight when we’re motivated and really trying hard, but self-control and willpower can take us only so far, and that seldom stretches beyond a year or two when it comes to restriction dieting.
The failure of most people to sustain long term weight loss from restriction dieting is a scientifically proven phenomenon! (Mann and Tomiyama et. al 2007).
So why bother?
Don’t, if you ask me.
I can think of few other bad ideas that have persisted in our popular health culture longer than the concept of restriction dieting through reducing calorie intake for permanent weight loss. The concept of losing weight by limiting how much you eat has funded an entire weight loss industry and turned many well intentioned people, who just want to stay at their more healthy body weight, into failed professional dieters who still struggle to keep the extra pounds at bay despite trying everything.
So if you are not going to limit what you eat to lose weight then what SHOULD you do to help heal your PCOS?
CHANGE WHAT YOU EAT TO HEAL YOUR PCOS
If we eat the right mix of foods, then we can eat as much as we like, as often as we like and we’ll still lose weight and help our PCOS symptoms get better.
There have been so many fantastic studies done recently showing that our PCOS symptoms can be significantly improved if we keep our total energy intake the same i.e. we don’t RESTRICT our diet through reducing calories; but instead change the ratio of macronutrients by increasing the relative proportion of fat and protein, while reducing carbohydrates. The sort of symptoms I’m talking about here includes the reduction in fat from the stomach and thigh areas (Goss and Chandler-Laney et. al 2014).
Provided we eat fewer carbohydrates; we can eat more meat and fat and still lose weight!
This beats the pants off restriction dieting!
As I have written about previously, fat is great for women with PCOS when sourced from minimally processed, natural sources. It also helps you feel fuller for longer meaning we get less cravings and don’t get caught out at an inconvenient time feeling hungry when the only options available are ones we know won’t help us.
If we also eat plenty of unprocessed, free-range or grass fed meats, and fill up on non-starchy vegetables then, avoiding foods that exacerbate our PCOS such as sugar, high GI carbohydrates and inflammatory foods that affect PCOS also becomes a whole lot easier.
So there actually IS a way to lose weight, decrease your PCOS symptoms and stay that way over the long term without having to starve yourself!
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
That is what I try to teach during my live Free 30 PCOS Diet Day Challenge along with the exact foods you need to avoid and ones you need to eat more of.
If you have classical PCOS and suffer from weight gain, losing weight will definitely help in overcoming the symptoms of PCOS. But you don’t need to restrict your eating by “dieting” and decreasing your calories. You just need to change your approach to food so that you eat more of what helps you, and less of what makes you sick. But you should definitely never go hungry!