I remember trying all sorts of diets to manage my weight when I was younger.
I tried the cabbage soup diet, the eat-one-bagel-a-day diet, the diet soda, low-calorie diet and the overexercise-eat-nothing diet.
I’d lose weight for a day and then gain it all back.
That’s because I was doing it all wrong. I was getting constant feedback from my family when I was getting too fat, but I didn’t know how to manage it. I felt chunky all the time and was grasping at straws to figure out how to fix my body. There was no internet and we didn’t have junk food in the house, so how was I supposed to figure it out?
You may feel as frustrated as I did. I could gain five pounds in a day, no problem. How was this happening?
Here are some foods to absolutely avoid with PCOS and hormone imbalance symptoms to help you figure this out quicker than I did. While it’s better to have a list of what TO eat, this list may help you walk right past these items at the grocery store so you can focus on healthier, anti-inflammatory food choices.
These are foods found in a box, plastic container, can of some sort or other packaging. These are foods that have been processed. Many are full of chemicals like artificial food colorings, preservatives and flavors. The original food has oftentimes been stripped of most of its goodness like vitamins, minerals and fiber and then enriched. This means that the manufacturer then added back in a few vitamins to make it seem healthier. This category also includes deli meats (processed meats) because they contain dangerous preservatives like nitrates, and flavor enhancers like MSG (aka chemicals).
While we need sweet in our diet, foods and beverages with added sugar can send us into a an inflammatory tailspin, even fruit juices with no added sugar because the fiber has been removed. With PCOS, insulin sensitivity is already challenged and adding sugar to the diet outside of whole real foods will increase inflammation and quickly be stored as fat, causing severe mood swings, irritability, acne flare ups, facial hair and more. Sugar comes in many forms – you can learn about them here. Give stevia or Lakanto, these are safer “no sugar” sweet choices, and enjoy a whole piece of fruit if that seems to work OK for you.
Sunflower, Safflower, Corn, and Canola Oils
These are overly processed fat choices that often come in plastic bottles. The first three are high in omega 6 fats unbalancing your omega 3 anti-inflammatory fats, and they’re found in many processed foods so they’re easy to overeat. Corn oil is genetically modified and highly refined. Canola (stands for Canadian oil) oil was used to make the chemical war agent mustard gas and is a genetically modified food (GMO). It’s also partially hydrogenated to increase shelf life and help to preserve foods. It goes through a highly refining process that makes it unsuitable for consumption. Instead of these fats, focus on fats from whole, real, food sources like avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut, etc.
Also known as partially hydrogenated oils, most trans fats are created from vegetable oils through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. This type of fat was created to increase the shelf life of processed foods and many restaurants use it in their deep fryers because they don’t have to change it out as often as other oils. It is widely considered the worst type of fat you can eat as it causes heart disease. You can find this type of fat in many processed foods. Read labels.
These are saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose just to name a few. Think Nutrasweet, Splenda, and Sweetn’Low plus many others. Some are considered neurotoxins affecting brain function including headaches, while others completely disrupt your digestive function. They are chemicals that become addictive, and teach your body to associate sweet with no calories. In a multiethnic study diet drinks were associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes – exactly what you were hoping to avoid by drinking them. These sweeteners are found in low calorie products, “diet” sodas and diet products of all kinds.
Gluten – the protein in wheat. Flours in general are challenging for hormone balance because they are grains that have been processed into powder form that turns them into sugar very quickly in the digestive tract. But wheat (gluten) is special because it is also a very inflammatory food that has opioid affects on the brain – meaning it’s addictive. While my family does not have the celiac gene, wheat causes me to crave more food and gives me a pain or “stitch” in my side. Wheat can open the tight junctions in your gut lining that allows foods to pass through prematurely, potentially causing allergic reactions that can lead to autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. You’ll feel much better avoiding products containing wheat and gluten like breads, baked goods of all kinds, cereals, pasta, etc. You can make your own baked goods using other kinds of flours for an occasional treat.
Milk, cheese, and even certain types of yogurt can be problematic for hormone-based health challenges, but really for most it can cause health problems. It is an allergen for a lot of people. Dairy is considered an opioid-type food (addictive) and causes digestive upset. And it’s full of hormones. Constipation is common in women with PCOS and dairy can be constipating. Do you notice that for yourself? In addition a 2015 study uncovered a significant relationship between dairy consumption and reduced insulin sensitivity in middle-aged, nondiabetic women, suggesting that higher intakes of dairy products may be associated with greater insulin resistance.” Butter and ghee from 100% grass fed cows, goats, and sheep can be healing foods so don’t eliminate these from your diet unless you know they don’t work for you. Raw milk yogurt from 100% grass fed animals may be supportive as it has all the enzymes needed for healthy metabolism.
Alcohol for any woman is trouble because it raises estrogen and shuts down your metabolism, yikes! Women with PCOS are already struggling with an estrogen-dominant hormone profile so you’ll be making this worse by drinking alcohol.
Endometriosis, fibroids, irregular periods and more are estrogen-dominant conditions. And if you want to gain weight, alcohol is a great place to start. It also disrupts sleep which creates more inflammation and makes you crave carbs like crazy. Try mocktails instead. They are quick and easy to make and are so delicious.
You may be addicted to what Julia Ross calls techno carbs – highly processed foods that taste beyond delicious – but there is hope for you. Just start by adding in more whole, real, foods with plenty of healthy fats and protein and before you know it you won’t be craving them anymore.
Let me know how it goes for you!