Suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome? How to lose weight

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder of imbalance of female sex hormones and it affects premenopausal women.

It brings with it a lot of conditions, everything that a woman dreads – irregular menstruation, difficulty in getting pregnant, worsened acne, facial hair growth, dandruff, loss of hair on the head, anxiety, and increased body weight that is very difficult to control. Dealing with all these can be frustrating to the woman, lowering her self-esteem and wrecking the normalcy of daily comfortable living.

What causes the weight gain?

Most often weight increase in PCOS is due to insulin resistance and therefore hyperinsulinemia. This means body cells show resistance to the uptake of insulin leading to excessive insulin circulating in the blood.

Excessive circulating insulin leads to excessive androgen (male hormone found in fat cell) resulting in increased male-like hair growth and abdominal fat.

So you end up with a larger waistline, which, anyone who has been on a diet knows, is stubbornly difficult to lose. Proper dieting and continuing exercise plan may help counter PCOS along with the right medical management.

How can you reduce food cravings and weight?

Treating insulin resistance is the key to reducing food cravings and weight.

Although women with PCOS may follow the usual guidelines to reduce weight as others
without PCOS, a different approach and combo of macronutrients is needed to cause weight reduction.

All simple carbs like sugar, desserts and sweets, ice creams, juices, sugared beverages, foods made with refined flours like bread, cakes, biscuits etc are to be totally excluded.

Basically anything that has sugar in it or does not have fibre is a big NO.

Keep the carbohydrate level to not more than 50% of total calories. Choose only those ones that will give you high fibre content.

Stress on protein foods. Every meal and snack should have proteins in it.

Reduce oil in cooking, remove visible fats on meat before cooking and choose low fat
cooking techniques.
Eat at specifically spaced times. Stick to the timings and eat 5 times a day. This helps you
control craving for food. Do not starve or skip a meal.

Exercise! Exercise! Both aerobic and resistance exercises will help decrease insulin resistance and thereby assist you in sticking to your diet plan. You may need to exercise for at least 45 min daily, 5 times a week to get results.

Foods that will help you

Include foods like papaya, pineapple, dates, sesame seeds, in your diet. These are believed to induce menstruation.

Choose whole wheat atta and besan flour to make your rotis. Go for multi grain noodles and breads.

All legumes are good – include them. They can even replace part of your grains and cereals as legumes provide both protein and carbs. For this reason legume based snacks are better for you.

All kinds of Indian vegetables are good and should be part of each meal. Depend on them to satisfy your hunger.

Choose such fruits where you can eat the edible skins and seeds such as guava, orange, apple, pomegranate, pears etc. They add valuable fibre to your diet.

Depend on milk, cheese, paneer, nuts and legumes for your protein if you are a vegetarian. If you eat meat/fish/chicken, protein intake is easier.

Since your oil intake is restricted, use healthier oils like sesame, mustard, sunflower, olive, for cooking so that you may get essential fats as required.

Take a supplement that includes B vitamins. These are needed for proper carbohydrate metabolism.

Be positive, and keep eating correctly and working out. Any weight increase due to hormonal imbalances is not lost easily and you need to be very patient. Do not check the scales too often as the slow reduction may discourage you. Look at it this way – If you have been putting on weight, then maintaining that weight is a first step. If you had been on stand still weight, then even a little loss means you are going fine. Just give your body time to sort out its issues and reach its goal.

Parvathy R Krishnan

The author is a trained Nutrition & Dietetics expert with over 20 years’ of experience in hospitals like Vijaya Hospital in Chennai and the Armed Forces Hospital and New Mowasat Hospitals in Kuwait. Parvathy blogs at

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