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By: Tanya Rosen

Printed for BINA Magazine

After posting a question I got about PCOS and weight loss, I got many messages from people wondering if weight loss was even possible with PCOS.  Since I’ve successfully worked with many women with this condition and know for a fact they can do well, the short is answer is yes.  Let’s get into a little more detail.

Firstly, what is PCOS and how does it affect weight loss?

PCOS stands for Polysictic Ovary Syndrome which is a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges.   This means your ovaries are producing too much androgen.  If left untreated, it can cause insulin resistance and lead to type 2 diabetes.   This condition is very common and affects more than 200,000 people per year, specifically one out of ten women of childbearing age.  While there is no specific known cause, it is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.  Anyone as young as 6 can be diagnosed but the most common ages are 14-60.  Some of the symptoms include irregular monthly cycles, difficulty getting pregnant, excessive hair growth, weight gain (especially around the belly), thinning hair, and even oily skin or acne.


More than half of all women with PCOS are overweight.  One of the reasons is that the body is in fat storage mode.  Because too much insulin is being produced, this causes weight gain or fat storage.

Another reason is that those with PCOS are hungrier.  Insulin acts as an appetite stimulating hormone.  Those with PCOS also suffer from abnormality in the appetite regulating hormones.


Two of the ways that diet affects PCOS are weight management and insulin production and resistance.

What should you eat?

3 Types of diets recommended are:

  1. A low glycemic index diet. The body digests foods with a low GI more slowly, meaning they do not cause insulin levels to rise as much or as quickly as other foods, such as some carbohydrates.
  2. Anti Inflammatory diet

Anti inflammatory foods such as berries, fatty fish leafy greens, and extra virgin olive oil may reduce inflammation related symptoms, such as fatigue.

  1. The DASH (Dietary approached to stop hypertension) Diet. This is a diet rich in fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, whole grain, and low fat dairy produce. The diet discourages foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar.


  • High Fiber vegetables with every meal. Examples of these are broccoli, kale, and spinach.  These can help to combat insulin resistance and reduce inflammation.
  • Dark red fruits such as red grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and cherries.
  • Dried beans, lentils, and other legumes.
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts.
  • Spices such as turmeric and cinnamon.
  • The right amount of protein (consult your nutritionist to determine amounts)
  • Fatty fish such as salmon


  • Processed foods
  • Refined carbohydrates such as pastries and white bread
  • Fried foods
  • Sugary beverages such as sodas and energy drinks
  • Processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages
  • Solid fats such a margarine and shortening
  • Excess red meat such as hamburgers and steak.


Being at ideal weight helps women with PCOS, regardless of which specific diet they follow, according to all studies.


Studies have found that combining a PCOS diet with physical activity can lead to lower cholesterol levels in addition to managing the other PCOS symptoms.

Exercise has also been shown to help your body respond better to insulin, lowering your risk for diabetes and other complications.

Exercise releases endorphins, which are hormones that promote feeling good.  Since women with PCOS are more likely to have depression, this is helpful.


Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, avoiding over commitment, and making sure to relax, can also help a person manage PCOS.

While there is no cure for PCOS, making sure to incorporate the foods mentioned and avoid those I listed along with the other lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms.  So to answer what everyone wanted to know, YES! You CAN lose weight.