How to lose weight with PCOS? Tips From Nutrition Expert

by Somya Agrawal

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that is commonly experienced by women of reproductive age. It is characterized by a combination of symptoms and signs related to excess androgen (male hormone) levels, irregular menstrual cycles, and polycystic ovaries.

If you are someone who is struggling with PCOS, then this article is just for you as it will help you navigate the healthy diet choices that will ultimately help you lose weight and manage PCOS. 

Why does PCOS cause weight gain?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can cause weight gain due to a combination of hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and metabolic factors. Here’s how these factors contribute to weight gain in women with PCOS:

1) Insulin Resistance:

  • Mechanism: Many women with PCOS have insulin resistance, where the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin, leading to higher levels of insulin in the blood.
  • Impact on Weight: Elevated insulin levels can promote fat storage and weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. Losing weight can also be more difficult if you have insulin resistance.

2) Hormonal Imbalances:

  • Androgens: Women with PCOS often have elevated levels of androgens (male hormones). These hormones can cause weight gain and make it harder to lose weight.
  • Estrogen and Progesterone: Imbalances between estrogen and progesterone can also affect metabolism and fat storage, contributing to weight gain.

3) Metabolic Rate:

  • Slower Metabolism: PCOS can lead to a slower metabolic rate, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. A slower metabolism means the body burns fewer calories at rest and during activity.

4) Appetite Regulation:

  • Hormones Affecting Appetite: Hormonal imbalances in PCOS can affect the hormones that regulate appetite, such as ghrelin and leptin. This can lead to increased hunger and cravings, particularly for high-calorie, high-sugar foods.

5) Inflammation:

  • Chronic Inflammation: Women with PCOS often have higher levels of chronic inflammation, which can contribute to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.

6) Lifestyle Factors:

  • Diet and Exercise: Women with PCOS may experience increased cravings and fatigue, which can affect their diet and exercise habits. This can lead to a cycle of weight gain and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.

How to lose weight with PCOS?

Losing weight with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can be challenging due to hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance, but it is achievable with a comprehensive approach. Here are some effective strategies for weight loss in women with PCOS:

1) Balanced Diet:

  • Low Glycemic Index (GI) Foods: Focus on foods with a low GI to help control blood sugar levels. Legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are a few examples.
  • Lean Proteins: Incorporate lean proteins such as chicken, fish, tofu, and legumes to help maintain muscle mass and keep you full longer.
  • Good Fat: Add foods like avocados, almonds, seeds, and olive oil that are good sources of healthy fat.
  • Fiber-Rich Foods: High-fiber foods can improve digestion and help control appetite. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are a few examples.
  • Reduce Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates: Limit intake of sugary foods and drinks, white bread, pasta, and other refined carbohydrates.

2) Regular Exercise:

  • Aerobic Exercise: Engage in activities like walking, running, cycling, or swimming for at least 150 minutes per week.
  • Strength Training: Include resistance training exercises, such as weightlifting, at least two days per week to build muscle and improve metabolism.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Consider incorporating HIIT workouts, which can be particularly effective for improving insulin sensitivity and burning fat.

3) Lifestyle Modifications:

  • Stress Management: Practice stress-reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or hobbies that you enjoy.
  • Sleep: Ensure you get 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, as poor sleep can affect hormone levels and appetite.

4) Medical Interventions:

  • Medications: Consult with your healthcare provider about medications that can help manage PCOS symptoms and support weight loss. Metformin, for example, can improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Hormonal Treatments: Birth control pills or other hormonal treatments can help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce androgen levels.

5) Behavioral Strategies:

  • Mindful Eating: Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues, and practice mindful eating to avoid overeating.
  • Consistency: Aim for consistency rather than perfection. Small, sustainable changes over time are more effective than drastic, short-term diets.
  • Support: Seek support from healthcare professionals, such as dietitians, endocrinologists, or personal trainers. Joining support groups or working with a weight loss coach can also be beneficial.

6) Monitoring Progress:

  • Track Your Food Intake and Activity: Use apps or journals to track what you eat and your physical activity.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Set achievable, realistic weight loss goals and celebrate small milestones.

Foods to avoid in the PCOS diet

When managing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), certain foods can exacerbate symptoms and hinder weight loss efforts. Here are foods to avoid or limit for better management of PCOS:

1) Refined Carbohydrates:

  • White Bread and Pasta: High in refined flour, which can spike blood sugar levels.
  • Sugary Cereals: Often contain high amounts of added sugar and refined grains.
  • Pastries and Sweets: Include cakes, cookies, donuts, and other baked goods made with white flour and sugar.

2) Sugary Foods and Drinks:

  • Soda and Sweetened Beverages: High in added sugars and can lead to insulin spikes.
  • Candy and Chocolate: Especially those high in added sugars.
  • Fruit Juices: Even though they may seem healthy, they often contain high amounts of concentrated sugars without the fiber.

3) Processed and Fast Foods:

  • Fried Foods: High in unhealthy fats and calories, which can contribute to weight gain.
  • Processed Snacks: Chips, crackers, and other processed snacks often contain refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats.
  • Fast Food: Typically high in calories, unhealthy fats, and sugars.

4) Inflammatory Foods:

  • Red and Processed Meats: Such as sausages, bacon, and hot dogs, which can increase inflammation.
  • Trans Fats: Found in some margarines, packaged baked goods, and fast foods.

5) Dairy Products (for some individuals):

  • High-Fat Dairy: Full-fat milk, cheese, and cream can be problematic for some women with PCOS due to potential impacts on insulin levels and androgens.
  • Excessive Dairy: Even low-fat dairy can be an issue for some, so moderation is key.

6) Caffeine and Alcohol:

  • Caffeine: Excessive caffeine intake can affect hormone levels and stress responses.
  • Alcohol: High-calorie and can interfere with blood sugar levels and metabolism.

7) High Glycemic Index (GI) Foods:

  • White Rice: High GI, leading to rapid increases in blood sugar.
  • Instant Oatmeal: Processed and often has a higher GI than steel-cut oats.
  • Certain Fruits: Like watermelon and pineapple, have a higher GI compared to berries and apples.

8) Artificial Sweeteners and Additives:

  • Artificial Sweeteners: Can disrupt gut health and insulin response in some individuals.
  • Additives and Preservatives: Found in many packaged foods, which can contribute to inflammation and other health issues.

Five tips for PCOS management:

  • Prioritize your sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of sound sleep as good quality sleep is crucial for hormonal regulation 
  • Drink plenty of water as it helps to eliminate toxins from the body. 
  • Learn to de-stress yourself. Practice yoga, meditation, or any outdoor activity that helps you lower your stress levels. 
  • Cut on junk, sugar, and processed food at all costs. 
  • Eliminate intake of alcohol or tobacco, as it can worsen the condition. 


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a significant health issue in India, affecting a considerable portion of the female population. Various research studies prove that the prevalence of PCOS is higher in urban areas compared to rural areas, possibly due to lifestyle differences such as diet, physical activity, and stress levels. 

To lose weight with PCOS, focus on a balanced diet low in refined carbs and sugars, and high in fiber, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Include strength and cardio training in your daily workout regimen. Manage stress, ensure adequate sleep, and consider medical advice for medications. Remember, losing weight with PCOS is challenging but consistency is the key.