16 Evidence Based Hacks For PCOS Weight Loss

Losing Weight Can Be One Of The Biggest Challenges For Women With PCOS.

So how can you balance your hormones and lose weight at the same time? 

PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder among women and can affect up to 7% of women. This condition can significantly impact a woman’s ability to lose weight.

In fact, some studies suggest that up to 80% of women with PCOS struggle with losing weight and may be stuck in what is known as “metabolic obesity”.

Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, are constantly being told that they need to lose weight. 

But what is the best diet for PCOS to lose weight? 

How hard is it to lose weight with PCOS? 

Can losing weight cure PCOS?

Evidence indicates
that diet and nutritional changes are one of the most effective ways to treat PCOS. 

As little as 5% of total body weight lost can have profound effects, including improving insulin levels, hormone balance, cycle quality and fertility in women with PCOS.

In this blog post, we will outline 16 evidence-based ways you can use your new knowledge about how difficult it is to lose weight with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in order to find a solution that works well for you.

Tip 1: Reduce carb intake

The best diet for PCOS is one that supports a healthy weight loss by reducing carbohydrate intake. 

A low-carbohydrate, high-fat and moderate protein diet can help to improve insulin resistance and has been shown to reverse insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

This is critical, as around 70% of women with PCOS suffer from insulin resistance.

In one study, insulin levels in women with PCOS dropped by as much as 30% in women who followed a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet. 

This is fascinating to me, as it continues to drive home the point (that I am constantly harping on about) that fat doesn't make you fat is actually an incredible way to balance your hormones naturally.

Tip 2: Eat low GI and remove refined carbohydrates


GI stands for glycaemic index, which is the speed at which your blood sugar levels rise after eating that food.

Low GI foods are important for weight loss because they release sugars slowly, which is better for the body. 

This proves that there is a strong correlation between eating healthy and losing weight, especially when it comes to PCOS.

This is closely related to the reduction of carbs, but it also indicates how critical it is that when eating carbs (in smaller amounts) you choose low GI options.

Some Examples Of Low GI Carbs Include:

  • Oatmeal

  • Steel Cut Oats

  • Brown Rice Pasta (In Moderation)

  • Sweet Potato

  • Quinoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat Or Millet.

Tip 3: Chew Your Food

Chew your food well. Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva and chewing, so you want to make sure that you have a good chew before swallowing!

It is important to chew your food thoroughly because it will help the body digest better.

When you chew more, it also slows down how quickly that food enters into your stomach so all of those nutrients have a better chance to be absorbed. 

Often people find that they feel fuller faster when chewing their food.

It is important to chew thoroughly because if the food is not chewed enough then as soon as it enters into our intestinal tract, bacteria start breaking down those particles of food. 

This can cause a number of health problems including a higher risk of getting ulcers and heartburn, to which many people with PCOS are already predisposed.

If you chew your food well enough then the particles will be broken down into smaller pieces that are less likely to irritate or inflame linings in your intestines.

What's more, focusing on chewing your food promotes mindful eating, which can in turn lead to weight loss. 

Some reputable studies suggest that practicing mindful eating may lead to weight loss.

Tip 4: Increase fiber intake

It is important to maintain a high-fiber diet while on PCOS and trying to lose weight

Fiber helps regulate your stomach’s production of ghrelin, the hormone that tells you when you are hungry or full.

 This means that fiber can help with hunger management. 

Fiber also prompts increased motility in your intestines, which can help you feel fuller for longer.

A well-balanced diet is key to this, but adding fiber sources like beans (which are high in soluble and insoluble fiber) may be helpful too - if it doesn't cause digestive issues that make things worse.

Some Other Excellent Sources Of Fibre Include:

  • Frozen Berries

  • Oatmeal

  • Brown Rice Pasta

  • Sweet Potato

  • Quinoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat Or Millet.
Be sure to drink lots of water and always eat your fiber with a healthy protein source - this will help increase the amount you absorb it.

One study indicates that a high fibre diet for women with PCOS can lead to lower insulin resistance and lower belly fat but does not have the same impact for women without PCOS. Fascinating, right?

Tip 5: Reduce processed foods

Processed foods are a major contributor to weight gain in those with PCOS, as well as those without.

Most processed food options contain high amounts of sugar and carbs which leads to these carbohydrates being stored rather than burned for energy.

Heavily processed foods and refined carbohydrates have the ability to increase insulin production in women with PCOS.

Scientists have identified that progesterone and insulin can work in opposition to each other.

Progesterone decreases insulin’s effect on glucose in women without PCOS.

However, in the presence of PCOS, progesterone promotes the effects of insulin on glucose levels.

Advanced Glycation End-products (AGE’s) may be increased with PCOS and exacerbate this problem. AGEs are created by a non-enzymatic reaction between proteins and sugars.

These AGEs accumulate over time and have been linked to inflammation, nerve damage, and other chronic health diseases like diabetes.

Equally, processed meats are something to stay away from as they increase inflammation in the body.

Inflammation is a major issue in women with PCOS as it inhibits the full effectiveness of insulin.

As mentioned earlier, insulin is what regulates glucose levels.

Insulin can also inhibit other effects of progesterone which can lead to more weight gain when one has PCOS.

People who eat more processed meats are at a higher risk of developing type-II diabetes and those who consume more sugar have an increased likelihood of gaining weight.

In summary, processed foods are one of THE biggest no-no's for women with PCOS.

Tip 6: Limit added sugars

Limiting added sugars is extremely critical in a similar way to reducing processed foods.

Added sugars are defined as any sugars or syrup that is added to a food product by the manufacturer, cook or consumer.

 Added sugars include corn syrup, raw sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners such as molasses, cane juice, agave nectar and honey.

A study found that women with PCOS have increased blood sugar levels after consuming an extra 20 grams of added sugars while those without PCOS did not experience this same increase.

The consumption of 20 grams of added sugars increases insulin production in women with PCOS but not those without it.

Refined sugars are insidious and can be found in a number of sneaky places.

Some Of The Key Places For Hidden Sugars Include:

  •     Soft Drinks, Energy Drinks And Fruit Juice.

  •     Baked Goods Like Cookies, Cakes, Brownies And Other Desserts (Including Sugar In Coffee)

  •     Condiments Like Mayonnaise, Ketchup, Salad Dressings, BBQ Sauce And All Sauces.

  •     Sauces Such As Teriyaki Sauce And Steak Sauce.

Tip 7: Remove unhealthy fats

Not all fat is bad fat!

As mentioned above, I am always going on about this one. 

When you're trying to lose weight with PCOS, or even simply manage most hormonal imbalances, you want to look at the naughty fats: hydrogenated or trans fats.

If you have PCOS, avoid foods with unhealthy fats such as hydrogenated or trans fat.

This helps to lower estrogen levels and can help your symptoms of the condition. 

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are better for managing hormone-sensitive conditions like PCOS because they don't elevate estrogen levels in women's bodies.

By eating foods that are high in bad fats you not only increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity -- but also have a higher chance of worsening your PCOS symptoms.

Trans fats are processed in order to enable them to be solid at room temperature. 

Trans fats are created when liquid vegetable or animal oils are . 

This process is called hydrogenation and while this sounds harmless enough, the trans fat that is created is the most dangerous type of fat for your health.

In Summary, Why Trans Fats Are Bad For Women With PCOS:

  •     Trans Fats Will Promote Inflammation

  •     They Affect Progesterone And Insulin Levels
Make sure you focus on eating whole foods instead of processed and oily takeaway and microwave meals. Start cooking, girl!

Tip 8: Eat healthy fats

On the other side of the coin, healthy fats will not make you fat. 

I can't stress this enough and it always comes as a surprise when I tell people about it in my 7 Day Hormone Reset Challenge.

Women with PCOS who are trying to lose weight should eat healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, olive oil and nuts.

 Eating these types of foods will help you feel more full and satisfied faster than if you were on a low-fat diet or the dreaded no fat diet.

I always recommend that my clients focus their fat intake on foods like wild salmon, nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut oil or olive oil.

Eating healthy fats is a critical part of feeling satiated after meals to avoid overeating during the day! 

The reason for this is that fat takes longer to digest than carbs which means you will feel fuller for longer.

This is backed up by the evidence as well. In one study of 30 women with PCOS, the women who had a higher fat diet were found to have lost more weight than the women with the lower fat diet. 

This is astounding, and some amazing further evidence that good fats are in fact good for you!

Tip 9: Eat plenty of protein

Protein is the building block of life. 

Protein is essential for a healthy diet because it provides all nine amino acids that are needed to build muscle and other tissues in our body.

Eating protein helps women with PCOS lose weight not only by providing more satiety but also from aiding fat burning.

 Eating high-protein foods such as eggs,  meat and fish is a great idea for those women with PCOS who are looking to lose weight.

There is a bit of a recurring theme here right? Feeling fuller for longer = more weight lost. Fat and protein are the keys here.

In a study of 57 women with PCOS, one group was given a high protein, high fat diet and the other was given a more standard diet (I would say probably slightly higher fat than a standard diet).

Guess which group lost more weight? You got it!

The group with the higher protein diet lost significantly more weight.

In my clinical experience, I would say that this diet (high (good) fat and high protein) is the number one diet for women with PCOS, both for losing weight and balancing their hormones.

Tip 10: Increase fermented food intake

Gut bacteria have been found to play a critical role in healthy metabolism and weight maintenance.

We now know that gut bacteria can be good for weight loss because they are involved in the production of nutrients such as short chain fatty acids and vitamins.

One way to increase your intake is to eat fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir or kimchi which all contain healthy probiotic microorganisms.

Women with PCOS who are trying to lose weight can also consider taking probiotics in supplement form (more on this later). Certain probiotic strains have been proven to have a positive impact on weight loss.

It is really important to note that gut bacteria will not only keep you healthy but it is also a key factor for losing weight with PCOS as well!

I would recommend taking one or two good quality probiotic supplements daily if possible and eating loads of fermented foods.

Tip 11: Start or increase exercise (consider weight training!)

It's probably not necessary to highlight that exercise is an important element when trying to lose weight (though nowhere near as important as diet in my personal opinion!).

Exercise is important for women who are trying to lose weight with PCOS for a number of reasons.

Exercise can increase your metabolism and help you lose weight more quickly which can be especially helpful for women who have difficulty losing weight due to PCOS.

It is important to note however that in order for it to be effective at helping you lose weight, the type of exercise should be vigorous, long duration and moderately high intensity.

The most unusual and important tip I can give is that you should consider weight training or at least some form of resistance exercise.

In studies, women who did progressive resistance exercises showed the highest body fat loss in a 12-week period (in comparison to other forms such as aerobic), while also improving cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity.

In a study specifically of women with PCOS, 4 months of 3 times weekly weight training resulted in reduced testosterone and improved blood sugar levels.

Tip 12: Increase sleep

Sleep is an important part of overall health and weight loss in women with PCOS. In fact, a huge reason for people's inability to lose weight comes from not getting enough sleep.

Losing just a couple hours per night can lead to significant fat gain as well as increased hunger which leads to eating more without realizing it. This is backed up by the evidence too.

In one study, adults who slept fewer than 6 hours per night had a 12% higher risk of increased belly fat than those that slept 6-8 hours.

Some ways to improve your sleep are to try: reducing caffeine intake (especially in the evening) and reading a book before bed instead of scrolling through social media or watching TV. 

Sleep is so important that I recommend you start sleeping earlier than usual if possible! 

For example, go to bed 1 hour earlier for two weeks straight and then try to go back to your usual bedtime. 

You'll notice the difference!

Tip 13: Reduce cortisol levels

Stress is a huge factor when it comes to weight gain and loss.

Cortisol is a hormone that everyone produces in response to stress. 

It's one of the many hormones involved in weight regulation, and chronic stress can lead to increased cortisol levels which will lead to fat storage rather than mobilization or breakdown. 

Chronically high cortisol levels are conclusively linked to belly fat and inflammation.

Don't we know all about why inflammation is bad for your PCOS (see above if not)

There Are Several Ways You Can Reduce Your Cortisol Levels:

  • Sleep Well On A Regular Basis (As Above). It Can Be SO Tempting To Sleep Less When You Are Stressed Because You Are Up Worrying About Things Or Doing Things. Don't Be That Person, It Is NOT Good For You.

  • Reduce Excess Stress In Your Life.

  • Consider Taking Supplements Such As Holy Basil Or Ashwagandha Which Have Been Shown To Help Reduce Cortisol Levels And Increase The Body's Natural Anti-Inflammatory Response.

  • Meditate Or Practice Yoga

Tip 14: Think about supplementation

Women with PCOS have a higher risk of micronutrient deficiencies and there are a number of supplements that can support in remedying this.

Some of the basics include fish oil and magnesium, which we go much deeper into in my free Heal Your PCOS Masterclass.


Critically, myo-inositol has been one of the supplements with the most evidence around it that can support PCOS.


In a study of 92 women, the group that was given the myo-inositol managed to lose weight while the control group (those that did not supplement) actually gained weight.


Wow!

Tip 15: Don't under eat

It can often be SO tempting to under eat when you are trying to lose weight.

This is a trap that so many women with PCOS can fall into time after time.


Eating too few calories can lead your body into a starvation mode, which will likely slow down the metabolism and increase cravings for unhealthy foods - it becomes an impossible cycle!


If you think you are overeating, it is more effective to gradually reduce calorie intake than just going straight in with a very low-cal diet.

It's much more important to be choosing the right foods (and avoiding certain foods with PCOS) than it is to reduce calories.

This is backed up by the evidence as well!

In a study of over 600 people, eating more veggies and whole foods was found to promote weight loss more than calorie reduction.


One recent study has found that big shifts in calorie intake can lead to drastic hormonal changes, which in turn led to increased appetite and weight gain.

Tip 16: Reduce alcohol intake

Alcohol is, sometimes surprisingly to some, super calorie dense - with up to 300 calories per drink - which means it can lead to weight gain.

It is important to remember that alcohol contains a lot of sugar, which will raise your blood glucose levels and affect insulin production.

This means you may experience more hunger pangs and cravings when drinking than when not.

Moreover, alcohol actually inhibits the body's ability to burn fat and increase weight loss - so be mindful that you are adding lots of calories into your diet!

To sum it all up:

Tired of the constant struggle to lose weight with PCOS?

Hopefully, this guide helped to break it all down and give some tips for how you can start reducing inflammation and losing weight with PCOS.

You may feel like there are such drastic changes that need to be made, but every little thing counts. You don't need to take on more than you can handle at a time.

It's important to understand what is actually causing your weight gain so that you can make the best decisions from there on out.

Women with PCOS have a higher risk of micronutrient deficiencies and there are a number of supplements that can support in remedying this.

Anything that impacts inflammation in your body or increases insulin levels is also bad for your PCOS weight loss journey.

And remember, it's all about holistic change. Sleep, stress and exercise are all critical parts of your PCOS weight loss journey.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

What Is The Best Diet For PCOS To Lose Weight?

There’s a large library of evidence to show that a high-protein, high-fat and low refined carbohydrate diet is clearly the best for all women with PCOS who are looking to lose weight and get their hormones back in balance.

This diet supports to balance hormones naturally, reduce inflammation and reduce hunger throughout the day.

However, when it comes to a diet for PCOS, the best one is always going to be the one that works with your body.

 There are some people who eat completely vegan and will see weight loss while others might need more protein or carbs in their diet for better energy levels - there is no 100% right answer here!

It's about finding out what works for your body and what you are happy with. However, following the evidence of a high protein, high fat diet should hold you in good stead.

How Hard Is It To Lose Weight With PCOS?

It can be really challenging, but not impossible! If the right steps are taken - such as reducing inflammation, avoiding certain foods and exercising regularly - then there will be a lot of great benefits that come from this.

Can Losing Weight Cure PCOS?

Evidence indicates that diet and nutritional changes are one of the most effective ways to treat PCOS.

As little as 5% of total body weight lost can have profound effects, including improving insulin levels, hormone balance, cycle quality and fertility in women with PCOS.

Is Keto Good For PCOS?

While the research is limited, there has been some evidence to show that a ketogenic diet can be beneficial for women who are suffering from PCOS.

One notable study showed that women had reduction body weight (-12%), testosterone (-22%), LH/FSH ratio (-36%), and fasting insulin (-54%).

Two of the women in the study also got pregnant despite previous infertility problems. Wow!

This is further evidence to indicate that a high protein, high fat, lower carbohydrate diet (or in this case no carbohydrate diet) is best for women with PCOS.

Having said this I wouldn't recommend for anyone to do a keto diet without consulting a medical professional first.

Keen to dig your teeth into even more hormone-loving content?

8 comments

You are so welcome Tessa! :)

Tamika Woods

Hi Lianne,

Yes, sweet potato is a fantastic alternative to white potato.

Tam

Tamika Woods

Would sweet potato be a good swap out for regular potato? My husband and I are both tying to improve our health, I like the idea of simple changes that we can maintain

Lianne

Hi Jenny,

Yes, brown rice is perfectly okay to have. Brown rice is considered a complex carbohydrate, which means that not only is it full of nutrients and fibre, it won’t cause your blood sugar or insulin levels to spike like white rice would.

Tam

Tamika Woods

You mention that brown rice pasta is ok to have – is actual brown rice good too? I eat a lot of veggie curries and stew, usually with white rice so would swapping that out for brown rice be a better option?

Jenny

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About The Author - Tamika Woods

Tamika Woods | PCOS Author | Nourished Natural Health
Tamika Woods, Clinical Nutritionist (B.HS; B.Ed), Bestselling Author

For a decade, Tamika battled chronic acne, irregular cycles, mood swings, hair loss, painful periods, severe digestive issues and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). You name it - she's been there!

Tam was finally able to clear her skin, regulate her cycle, be free of period pain and fall pregnant naturally with her daughter in 2020. It took Tam 10 years and tens of thousands of dollars in tertiary education to get the answers she needed to get better.

She didn’t want other women to suffer as long as she did which is why she has dedicated her life to helping women in the same position as she was.

Tam helps women interpret what their bodies are trying to communicate through frustrating symptoms, and then develop a step-by-step roadmap to find balance again. She's here to help you get on track!

Tamika Woods is the author of the Amazon best seller PCOS Repair Protocol. She holds a Bachelor of Health Science degree (Nutritional Medicine) as well as a Bachelor of Education, graduating with Honours in both.

She is a certified Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) Educator and a certified member of the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA).

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