You’re part of the PCOS club, so you know how victim-blamey people can be about PCOS weight gain. From being told you just need to eat less and workout more to being questioned about whether you’re really following a healthy diet, most of us have experienced the confusion that comes with trying your hardest and making no progress.
OR, you’re eating like a normal person and gaining weight like you’re overeating!
I’ve dealt with this struggle all my life and know it well. This, in my opinion, is the reason so many of us with PCOS struggle with disordered eating tendencies.
When our body doesn’t follow the rules, we start to mistrust our own hunger.
So here are the deeper metabolic reasons why we struggle and a little info on what to do:
First, we are typically dealing with higher levels of insulin when eating (insulin resistance). This insulin functions as a “fat storage hormone”, meaning that the more insulin in your system, the more your body prefers to store your food as fat.
Since we tend to have higher insulin overall than the average, we are in fat storage mode more often, making weight gain faster and easier, weight loss more stubborn, and weight maintenance more difficult.
Insulin resistance can also drive something called leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that helps your brain know when you’re full and sends signals to stop eating.
With leptin resistance, we often struggle to know when we’ve had enough or too much. This can inadvertently lead to overeating when relying solely on hunger cues for information.
We also struggle with chronic inflammation and overactive stress hormones.
Stress hormones like cortisol can contribute to storing fat in the belly and can lead to blood sugar spikes that cause more insulin spikes and inflammation can lead to stubbornness with letting go of fat (fat is a survival mechanism for the body!)
Inflammation has a fun habit of making us more insulin resistant and more prone to stress hormone spikes as well!
The interesting thing about each of these issues is that they also represent the 3 major pillars of a PCOS friendly lifestyle: insulin friendly diet, anti-inflammatory diet, stress reduction and good sleep!
If we improve these issues, letting go of weight becomes much easier and follows the traditional calories in/out rules much better. When we haven’t addressed them, it can be anywhere from more difficult to impossible.
But the good news is that addressing these three issues won’t just help with weight loss but with ALL PCOS symptoms!
Basic tips for each issue:
For insulin resistance: more protein/fiber, low glycemic diet, balanced activity
For leptin resistance: sloooow down, chew your food well, don’t eat distracted, eat your protein and fiber first in the meal to fill you up faster
For inflammation: more baked/steamed stuff, less smoked/fried, more unprocessed whole foods, Mediterranean style diet, more fish
For stress hormones: more sleep, more rest, structured meal times and mindfulness
This is a tall order, I know! And it can be tough to know where to start.
For help with all of this and fitting it seamlessly into your life, my PCOS Foundations course is the best place to start! Here’s more on that.