If you’re like many women with this syndrome, PCOS weight loss diet and exercise questions are constant companions in your life…
What should you eat? Should you indefinitely remain on Keto or Paleo or 5-2 or some other trending diet? What kind of exercise is best? How much? How often?
While I have opinions on these topics, there is an important issue that is rarely addressed… The judgmental, dismissive and underhanded repetition of the mantra, “Just eat less and exercise more.”
If you have PCOS and are overweight, yes, weight loss will help. And in ways you may not expect: increased fertility, elevated pregnancy rates, reduced testosterone, diminished acanthosis nigricans, regulation of the menstrual cycle, acne reduction, a lowering of the risk of future diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. PCOS weight loss matters.
The calories in, calorie out mantra is flawed and dangerous
The number of women who’ve told me that they don’t eat much and do exercise and can’t shift unwanted fat is so common I’d say it’s the norm. It was my experience, too. Yet, often their health professionals, the very ones who are supposed to be in their corner, either don’t believe them or tell them to try harder; eat even less or exercise even more.
This advice ignores underlying factors that may contribute to PCOS weight gain like hypothyroidism, gut issues, and insulin resistance.
It also potentially sets up a horrible cycle of self-blame and an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. It encourages women to despair and grow angry at their incredible bodies. It doesn’t address set point… I could go on!
A study published in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine called The Effect of Exercise in PCOS Women Who Exercise Regularly provides insight into some of the challenges associated with PCOS weight loss diet and exercise approaches.
The study included 294 women between the ages of 20 and 45 who regularly exercised. Prevalence of PCOS was determined.
Those with hypothyroidism were excluded, although this condition is more common in PCOS because it can cause or exacerbate weight gain.
The range of time they spent exercising spanned one to seven hours per week, with an average of three. Participants had an exercise habit that stretched back for at least six months, with an average of 15.4 months. The “type of exercise was regular walking in 47.9% and other types of exercise such as swimming or aerobics in 52.1%.”
They found that in participants who were obese subjects, 16.6% had diagnosable PCOS.
Their insights into the effects of exercise in PCOS are both not surprising and yet unexpected by many. I’ll share more on this in a moment, but first, let’s take a look at another study…
Published in the International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, it noted that women with PCOS had a higher body mass index (BMI) than women without PCOS but…
– There were no differences, on average, in dietary intake between the two groups.
– Further analysis revealed that lean women with PCOS had significantly lower energy intakes than lean women without PCOS.
– The “differences in dietary intake and physical activity alone are not sufficient to explain differences in weight between women with and without PCOS.”
Back to the Sports Medicine article:
The researchers found that “Although the meantime of exercise did not differ significantly between PCOS and non-PCOS subgroups, frequency of obesity in women with PCOS was higher than non-PCOS subgroup of the same sample.”
In English, the average time spent exercising was no difference between women with and without PCOS, however, women with PCOS were more often obese.
This study concluded with a statement that may seem obvious… “Obese PCOS patients show more difficulty in losing weight…”
For women with obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, the usual ‘eat less and exercise mantra’ can be disheartening and inaccurate. When PCOS weight loss diet and exercise attempts are authentically reported, the distrust that comes from the sustained belief in this mantra’s accuracy can undermine, disempower and judge. It does not help!
There needs to be a massive change in the way the mainstream advises women with PCOS on how to achieve and sustain an ideal weight. We need to support, rather than spout flawed assumptions that can lead to harmful layers of complexity and self-loathing.
That’s why I’m creating the PCOS body beautiful program. With 17 core modules, it addresses the real causes of PCOS weight gain and provides an evidence-based path so you can achieve your ideal weight and learn to love your body again.
Come join us in our gorgeous Conquer Your PCOS Facebook group to hear updates and share your input. What would you love to learn?