1. PCOS

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How to Lose Weight with PCOS: Physical Activity in PCOS and Healthy BMI

Many women with PCOS have difficulty losing weight and maintaining a healthy BMI. However, the most widely recommended treatment to reduce the symptoms of PCOS and reverse the condition is weight loss. Losing weight and improving your health is possible with PCOS — read on to discover some actionable ways that you can lose weight to relieve some of your symptoms.

The correlation between PCOS and obesity

Most doctors agree that losing weight is one of the best ways to reduce the severity of PCOS symptoms and even reverse the condition. The connection between PCOS and obesity is a little complicated; it's important to understand how excess weight affects this condition.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition that affects your reproductive system and creates multiple cysts (small fluid-filled sacs that can rupture) on the ovaries. These typically form when an egg doesn’t fully mature and leave the ovary and instead stays on the ovary and becomes an arrested follicle. 

PCOS is caused by hormonal imbalance, which occurs due to the high level of androgens.

When these hormones are out of balance, it leads to irregular ovulation and the development of other symptoms, including hirsutism, hair loss, acne, and infertility.

The connection between PCOS and obesity lies in the nature of adipose tissue (fat). Obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher (typically about 50 or more pounds above an ideal body weight for your height). Adipose isn’t just “there” on your body. Fat is a functioning organ, both as storage of extra energy and as a hormone producer. Excess fat results in higher levels of hormones in your body, which can aggravate PCOS. This is why many women find relief from some symptoms of PCOS by losing as little as 5% of their body weight.

Can weight loss help relieve certain PCOS symptoms?

Reducing the amount of hormone-secreting adipose tissue in your body can help balance the production of steroid hormones: testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Losing weight can also reverse the presentation of hirsutism, which is the growth of unwanted excess body hair in places like the face, back, and chest. PCOS can also cause androgenetic alopecia (thinning of the hair on the scalp) and hair loss. Losing weight won’t cause your scalp hair to regrow, but it will halt the thinning and create a healthier environment for hair regrowth treatment.

Reducing the amount of hormone-secreting adipose tissue in your body can help balance the production of steroid hormones: testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.

Many women have irregular periods due to irregular ovulation; some experience absence of menstruation for more than 3 months. Losing weight can restore normal ovulation and menstruation. This, in turn, can improve your fertility, which is important for people actively trying to conceive. For people who aren’t trying to become pregnant, a more predictable cycle may make certain measures for avoiding pregnancy more reliable.

What is a healthy BMI?

BMI, or body mass index, is calculated by this formula: Weight in kilograms divided by Height in meters squared. BMI gives you a broad range for a healthy weight — a BMI that’s between 18 and 24.9 is considered healthy, or normal. For most women, this is a range of about 30–40 pounds. The range for what’s classified as an overweight BMI is 25-29.9, which comprises another 30–40 pounds. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese, which is at least 60 pounds heavier than a healthy BMI for your height.

BMI, or body mass index, is calculated by this formula: Weight in kilograms divided by Height in meters squared. A BMI that’s between 18 and 24.9 is considered healthy, or normal.

It’s important to note that for some people, BMI may not be a reliable indicator of excess fat tissue. This includes heavy weightlifters or those with a significant amount of muscle. For women, it’s virtually impossible to become obese through bodybuilding unless you use steroids. For 99% of women, the BMI scale is a good standard of measure for weight.

Ways to lose weight with PCOS

PCOS may slow your metabolism and your ability to burn calories through exercise. In addition, PCOS may increase your appetite, which may make it harder to limit the amount of calories you eat. However, it’s not impossible for women with PCOS to lose weight, reverse their symptoms, and increase their fertility.

Maintain a healthy BMI

For women who have PCOS and are within a healthy BMI range, it may be easier to maintain their weight than for women who are trying to lose 30 or more pounds. There are a few tools you can use to determine the right weight range for you, such as a BMI calculator. You can also estimate your daily energy output and then track your calories using a food scale and a calorie tracker — there are several helpful apps that make this easier. If you’re in doubt, ask your doctor for recommendations.

Stick to a PCOS-friendly diet

Many women have found success in losing weight and managing their PCOS symptoms by following the keto eating plan. This is a diet that focuses on promoting satiety by eating healthy dietary fats, such as avocados, cheese, butter, and nuts, as well as healthy protein. Carbohydrates are kept to a minimum.

Another PCOS-friendly eating plan includes eliminating processed foods and refined sugar from your diet and focusing on whole foods. This plan balances lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains while eating at either a calorie deficit (to lose weight) or within your daily calorie requirements (to maintain your weight).

Many women have found success in losing weight and managing their PCOS symptoms by following the keto eating plan,which promotes eating healthy dietary fats, such as avocados, cheese, butter, and nuts, as well as healthy protein.

Many people with PCOS also have insulin resistance or may be pre-diabetic. Following a diet with foods that have a low glycemic index is important, as is eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as fatty fish, dark berries, dark leafy greens, and healthy dietary fats.

The hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS increases the risk of hypertension. Many doctors recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for people with hypertension. This diet consists of foods such as poultry and fish, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Coupled with reducing sodium intake, the DASH diet can help you safely lose weight and lower your blood pressure.

Start exercising regularly

The US Department of Health recommends that women get at least 150 minutes of strenuous cardiovascular exercise per week (such as cycling or running) or lower impact exercise (walking or water aerobics) per week. Exercise can also help mitigate some PCOS symptoms by boosting your mood while helping you burn calories.

 

Regular cardiovascular exercise can also help lower insulin resistance. In addition, getting your blood flowing can help improve circulation to your ovaries and the rest of your reproductive system. This can help prescription medications work better.

Quit smoking

While exercise helps increase your blood flow and naturally boosts your mood, cigarettes have the opposite effect. The chemicals and nicotine in cigarettes constrict your blood vessels, reducing the blood flow to your reproductive organs. This may actually cause more cysts to form on your ovaries because there isn’t enough healthy, oxygen-rich blood to nourish the eggs to full maturity.

Smoking can also increase your risk for metabolic syndrome, a catch-all condition that includes insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes. Studies show that smoking can also increase the androgen hormones in your body, which can aggravate some PCOS symptoms, such as excess body hair and female pattern baldness.

Sleep well

Getting good sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. Consistent, healthy sleep hygiene can help your body heal, especially if you're increasing your activity levels and changing your diet. Eliminating processed foods and sugar can be a little taxing for your system, and if you choose to eat a keto diet, the first couple of weeks are stressful on your body. When you get 7–8 hours of sleep per night, your body has the chance to recover.

People who don’t get enough sleep have a more difficult time making healthy food choices and have a harder time burning fat, especially belly fat, which can have a negative effect on your hormone profile.

Inadequate sleep can increase insulin resistance. If you’re overtired, your body will crave simple carbs and unhealthy food. People who don’t get enough sleep have a more difficult time making healthy food choices and have a harder time burning fat, especially belly fat, which can have a negative effect on your hormone profile.

Manage stress

Stress increases the level of cortisol, also called the stress hormone, in your body. For women with PCOS, the addition of cortisol affects their body’s production of testosterone. This, in turn, has a negative effect on the health of your ovaries. Managing stress properly can help reduce some of the hormone fluctuations that happen with PCOS.

If you’re trying to lose weight to reduce the symptoms of PCOS, then managing stress is critical. Higher levels of cortisol can make it hard to resist cravings and lose stubborn belly fat.

Stress increases the level of cortisol, also called the stress hormone, in your body. For women with PCOS, the addition of cortisol affects their body’s production of testosterone. This, in turn, has a negative effect on the health of your ovaries.

Losing weight can be stressful. If you’re losing weight in a healthy way, you can expect to lose 1–2 pounds per week. This slow progress can increase your stress levels, so consider adding guided meditation or gentle yoga to your daily routine to counteract any stress that accompanies your weight loss efforts.

Consider taking supplements  

If you aren't taking a daily multivitamin, speak with your doctor or gynecologist about the best combination for you. There are a few other supplements that may improve the symptoms of PCOS. Adding zinc supplements to your diet can have many positive effects, including ovulation, acne, weight management, insulin sensitivity, and the regulation of blood glucose levels.

Fish oil, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, is another supplement that can help treat depression and improve your mood. It’s also recommended for people who have an elevated risk of heart disease.

Finally, melatonin can help you regulate your sleep cycle and enjoy a healthier night’s sleep.

Adding zinc supplements to your diet can have many positive effects, including ovulation, acne, weight management, insulin sensitivity, and the regulation of blood glucose levels.

However, before starting any supplements, check with your doctor first to find the right kind and dosage, as well as for instructions about how to take them for maximum effectiveness.

Most doctors agree that losing weight is the most effective and least invasive way of managing PCOS. While many women may find weight loss to be a challenge, it's not impossible when you have PCOS, especially when you make healthy choices that last.

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