“HEY Monique, I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) in my late teens and didn’t think much of it until a doctor’s appointment earlier this year, when I was told I was at high risk of getting type 2 diabetes and that I needed to lose weight and exercise. I went ahead and joined the gym and fitness boot camps, and went on a keto diet, even giving up sugar. And with doing all of that, I gained 20 pounds. I’m so frustrated and angry.”
Hello reader, to begin, I’d like to congratulate you on taking steps to improve your diet and lifestyle.
You took steps to do what you needed to do, so congratulate yourself on a job well done.
It’s important to remember, however, that weight loss for women with PCOS is a multi-pronged approach. This has nothing to do with calorie counting, skinny teas or waist trainers. The ability to see changes on the scale is influenced by a variety of factors, including blood sugar levels and gut health, but the most important is stress management and the impact of the stress hormone cortisol on other hormonal body functions.
As a woman with PCOS, your body produces more stress hormones and it takes longer for them to be cleared, causing you to stay in a stressed state for longer.
Stress causes sugar cravings
To begin, you mentioned that you struggled to control your sweet and starchy cravings. This has little to do with your willpower; instead, it’s because your body sends the signal to eat more sugary foods because it believes you’re being attacked and needs the energy to escape, triggering strong cravings.
Stress affects muscle mass and fat storage
When your body is under a lot of stress, it produces a lot of inflammatory by-products, which causes more fat to be deposited around your organs. It also decreases muscle mass, which has an effect on metabolism. Your metabolic function slows as your muscle mass decreases, and you burn fewer calories.
Stress has an impact on your mood, motivation, and thyroid health
Chronic cortisol can affect your brain, making you irritable and less likely to stick to your plan. Stress further decreases thyroid hormone function, resulting in an inability to regulate metabolism, low libido, and missed menstrual cycles in women with PCOS.
Stress management is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of weight loss for women with PCOS because if cortisol levels aren’t under control, you’ll have a hard time seeing the results you want on the scale.
Monique Allen, BSC, is a certified holistic nutritionist and PCOS educator. She runs a web-based practice through which she helps women with PCOS regain their bodies without dieting, attending the gym or taking pills. If you need additional resources or personal support, follow her on social media @themoniqueallen or e-mail email@example.com.