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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Does being overweight contribute to PCOS?

    I am overweight and have PCOS, did PCOS develop as a result of me being overweight and inactive?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Mel Haynes

    Nutritionist

    Chef, Scientist and Nutritionist. I specialise culinary nutrition and disease prevention with plant based diets. www.culinetica.com.au View Profile

    Hi,

    This is very much a chicken and egg argument.  Scientists are still unsure as to how exactly the two interact.  

    However I do know that PCOS sufferers are often overweight and find it hard to shift and suffer hyperinulinemia (high insulin in the blood)

    Some dietary things you can do to help include:

    1. Fish oil
    2. Low GI diet
    3. Moderate carbohydrates, (3-4 serves) spread evenly thoughout the day
    4. Healthy fats and lean protein with meals keeps GI down
    5. Take a 20 minute walk after meals

    Also I know of some doctors presecribing an oral hypoglycemic tablet or a contreceptive which is supposed to help but you would need to seek medical advice for any medication which may be suitable for you.

  • Jean Hailes for Women’s Health is a leader in women’s health, supported by funding from the Australian Government. We provide trusted and easy-to-understand information to … View Profile

    The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but there seem to be connections with genetics, insulin resistance and lifestyle/environment: www.managingpcos.org.au/about-pcos/what-causes-pcos

    Being above your most healthy weight worsens insulin resistance and the existing symptoms of PCOS. Some women with PCOS report that when they are a normal weight they don't show symptoms such as menstrual irregularity or excessive hair growth and that these symptoms only appear once they gain weight.

    Losing excess weight reduces insulin resistance and can therefore improve PCOS symptoms that are associated with insulin resistance - high androgen levels, menstrual irregularity, lack of ovulation and risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

    For practical lifestyle changes that could help you to manage your weight and your PCOS symptoms, see www.managingpcos.org.au/lifestyle-and-pcos

  • Kate Marsh

    Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE), Diabetes Educator, Dietitian

    Kate works with clients with type 1 and gestational diabetes, PCOS, and those following a plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet. As a diabetes educator, she … View Profile

    PCOS results from a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors.  Gaining weight can worsen the insulin resistance underlying PCOS and tends to make the symptoms worse.  At the same time, many women with PCOS find that it is easier to gain weight and harder to lose.
    The good news is that even small amounts of weight loss can improve the symptoms of PCOS and reduce the risk of longer-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    PCOS does often come with being overweight -so whether weight is the cause or the complication from the PCOS is arguable. However if you do have PCOS losing weight does minimise the symptoms of insulin resistance, infertility, metabolic sydnrome, hair growth, irregular periods, diabetes, etc. Many women with PCOS have suffered the inability to lose weight - it's one of the signs of PCOS.It is possible to lose weight with PCOS! Thousands of women have done it. Being overweight is no fun - being overweight and powerless to lose weight is tragic.

    A huge effort is needed to lose the weight and keep it off!  Advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian is recommended.

    There's no getting away from it. A good diet will lead to weight loss with PCOS, but if you really want to control your life, if you really want to lose weight despite PCOS, you're going to have to exercise.

    As we get older, we move less. All movement is exercise. That means you're probably not exercising as much as you used to. It also means that any increase in movement will help make weight loss with PCOS possible.

    There is no ‘best exercise’ for losing weight with PCOS. The best exercise is the one you will do. That said, there are some better exercises than others. More is better than less, for one. But any is better than none. Commit yourself to getting ‘more exercise’. For weight loss purposes, exercise comes in two forms.

    • Exercise burns calories.
    • Exercise creates muscle which raises metabolism
    The second part is the one I'm going to focus on, because it nets long term weight loss with PCOS. Women with PCOS have a disrupted glucose/insulin system. Muscles stabilize glucose/insulin systems, making it easier to eat fewer calories, leading to better glucose levels, and muscles use more calories at rest. That means if you build a muscle, it helps you lose weight round the clock, not just while you're building it.

    There's a lot of flexibility in exercise for weight loss with PCOS. Walking is good, running, cycling, gym - whatever you enjoy is best!  Nearly every ‘type’ of exercise has been shown to lead to weight loss. Pilates, yoga, traditional weightlifting, running, walking, and even heavy lifting gardening will help women with PCOS lose weight. More is better, but any is good.
    Sleep affects your body. The amount you sleep matters. People who consistently lack sleep are fatter (and have more glucose/insulin problems) than people who get enough sleep. People who work the night shift are heavier than their day-working counterparts.

    Your body needs sleep, it needs it around the same time every day. Your glucose management system depends on it. One study showed that otherwise normal people who were deprived of just one night's sleep had impaired glucose/insulin systems. Imagine what our modern lifestyles of too little sleep, with too little regularity does to it!

    I know it's not easy, but so much of our health depends on regular, sufficient sleep. If you're having trouble losing weight with PCOS, your bad sleep could be the key. Make a health commitment to yourself that you will get enough sleep. Take it seriously, because it could be the difference between lifelong health or a shortened lifetime of malaise.

    If you snore or have apnea, as many people struggling with their weight do, the sleep you are getting is not good.  This is a catch-22: heavy people have a tendency to snore or have apnea, and people with apnea or a tendency to snore have trouble losing weight. Women with PCOS who want to lose weight must take this component of their health seriously.

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