Let’s be honest, PCOS weight loss can seem like a contradiction in terms. Somedays it seems as if we’ve gained five pounds just for looking at the mirror wrong. If maintaining our weight is tough, losing weight can seem downright impossible. The reality is that PCOS and weight are more closely connected than we often imagine.
According to Dr. David Ludwig, author of Always Hungry. Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently:
“Every time we eat, hormones, not just insulin, but dozens of other hormones and related substances change in profoundly different ways. These hormones in turn alter our metabolism and literally the expression of our genes. Overeating doesn’t make you fat, at least over the long term. The process of getting fat makes you overeat.”
Successfully managing your weight is part of managing your symptoms, and it may be different than you think. A major part of managing your weight is about managing your diet. And when it comes to food, there is very little middle ground. Food is medicine, or food is poison.
Today we’ll look at three simple diet hacks to help us work towards a healthier, more balanced life with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
#1 Ditch the Dairy
Dairy may be the go-to choice for protein, calcium (or so we’re told), and just for the yum factor (who doesn’t love cheese?). For women with PCOS, however, it can be a recipe for irritable hormones and weight disaster.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to be confused about milk and the dairy products made from it. Experts are divided on the issue. Those in support of milk argue that it supports weight loss, strong bones, PMS relief, and even prevention of cancer. Those against milk argue that it contributes to many unhealthy conditions, including inflammation, obesity, allergies, calcium deficiency, heart disease and cancer.
In terms of PCOS, luckily the argument is much simpler. Milk contains over 60 different cow hormones, mostly male (androgens). If we consider that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome already suffer from high male hormone levels, drinking milk is almost guaranteed to produce an increase in PCOS symptoms, especially acne and weight gain (due to its impact on insulin).
Additionally, because milk also contains a hormone called insulin-growth factor, or IGF-1, milk encourages swings in our blood sugar. Over a long period of time, this imbalance can lead to inflammation, cravings, over-eating, and out-of-control blood sugar levels.
With so many milk and dairy alternatives available, including products made from almond, coconut and even hazelnut, ditching the dairy will be the best start we can make for a more PCOS-friendly diet.
#2 Kick Gluten to the Curb
If we’re talking hormone imbalance, then let’s talk about another hot topic, gluten. We women love our bread, crackers, baguettes, pastries, pasta – anything bread-y. Yes, we LOVE it. And that may be our first clue. When I cut wheat out of my diet my health changed in a very big way. And then the same thing happened with the thousands I have coached. Here’s why.
On the dietary side, gluten is simply an elastic two-protein combination found inside wheat grains, glutenins and gliadins. On the practical side, gluten has been called an ‘appetite stimulant’. According to Dr. William Davis, author of the landmark book, Wheat Belly, gluten triggers high levels of blood glucose, increased insulin, and growth of fat. And this definitely happens for me. When I indulge in a wheat “treat”, I crave more food of any kind for several days after.
The truth is, there is no end to how much bread and butter I can eat. I just can’t seem to feel satisfied or get enough. That’s a main reason I never invite the “enemy” to the table at a restaurant.
In a June 2013 study, the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reports that gluten-free diets reduce adiposity gain, inflammation and insulin resistance. Additionally, the consumption of wheat and gluten-containing products has been reported to be responsible for IgE-mediated allergic reactions (See The Dietary Intake of Wheat and Other Cereal Grains on Inflammation) an increase in inflammation, low grade infectious disorders, along with a compromised immune system and function. This can create a vicious cycle causing autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, asthma, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), ankylosing spondylitis, cancer and schizophrenia.
PCOS is associated with low-grade, systemic inflammation. In fact, women with PCOS have significant elevation of multiple markers of inflammation to include elevated oxidative stress (oh, we love that “stress” word) and dysfunction in the lining of our blood vessels. And insulin resistance, the underlying cause of PCOS, is inflammation! This combination will really pack on the pounds.
As if that weren’t enough, gluten is also a hormone disruptor. Hormone disruptors prevent your endocrine system from acting normally. Stress hormones trump sex hormones so if your body is stressed from eating gluten you’ll be making more cortisol – which is already happening in PCOS – and not making your sex hormones: DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
The good news is, it’s so easy to go gluten free. But you have to be careful. Gluten-free doesn’t mean healthy. Try Mary’s Gone Crackers for a delicious gluten-free cracker substitute, or delicious paleo options for breads, if you must have a treat. Coconut wraps are currently all the rage and may help you with a sandwich alternative.
#3 Cut Out Artificial Sweeteners
The use of artificial sweeteners has been linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome – all shared symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Additionally, it is becoming more generally accepted that synthetically engineered sweeteners damage the way our bodies process sugar and make us more likely to overeat.
Eliminating these artificial sweeteners could lower inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity, making it easier to release weight. The three big names to watch out for are sucralose, aspartame, and nutrasweet.
Instead, look for natural, PCOS-friendly ways to improve your diet. We prefer Stevia or xylitol from birch trees – in small quantities. The big idea here is to move away from sweet as it has the potential to raise our insulin levels.
Making it Work
Leading a fulfilling life in spite of your PCOS symptoms is completely possible when we realize that we have everything we need to heal inside ourselves. Keeping our bodies running well with food that is healing is a great start.
We believe there are actually 5 major elements to a healthy lifestyle, including PCOS weight loss. Nutraceutical solutions, food medicine, movement medicine, addiction awareness, and support transformation. These three tips can help you start off with 2-3 big wins.
Food as medicine.
The PCOS 5-Element System shows you how to do food – what to eat and what not to eat to have the outcome you desire. And sometimes it’s eating more than you think…and fat too!
Gluten and artificial sweetners have the addictive potential to overrun our best intentions. Being aware of their seductive power and the cravings they produce is the first step in overcoming them. Find natural substitutes and alternatives to help you move beyond these easy addictions.
Having a community to support you can make all the difference. Change can be hard. We can find ourselves in self-sabotaging patterns that make take a community to change. The PCOS 5-Element System will support you in making positive lifestyle changes now and forever.
PCOS Weight Loss
Best of all, ditching dairy, going gluten-free, and cutting out artificial sweeteners, isn’t just good for those of us with polycystic ovarian syndrome, it’s generally good for everyone. By following these 3 simple diet hacks, and encouraging your family or support team to try them with you, you’ll be on your way to a healthier life in no time at all.
If your goal is to lose weight, use these three diet hacks to help support and transform your life with PCOS weight loss.
3 Simple Diet Hacks to PCOS Weight Loss | PCOS Insulite Health – Support Blog
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