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Information About PCOS and Weight Gain

DrSugar Answers: Losing Weight With PCOS?

DrSugar is in the house! And she's answering your health-related questions.

Dear DrSugar,
I would love for you to discuss PCOS and weight loss. I am having such a hard time breaking a plateau despite counting calories and exercising daily. Any advice?
— Sick of the Plateau

This is a great topic to discuss, as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age and the most common cause of female infertility. Between one in 10 and one in 20 women of childbearing age has PCOS.

To learn more about PCOS and weight gain associated with it, continue reading.

The name polycystic ovarian syndrome comes from the appearance of the ovaries in most, but not all, women with the disorder. The ovaries appear enlarged and contain numerous small cysts located on the outer edge of the ovary. These small cysts represent egg follicles that never made it to full maturity and ovulation. For some women, PCOS starts soon after they first begin having their periods. In some cases, PCOS develops later on during the reproductive years and is diagnosed following weight gain, irregular menstruation, or difficulty becoming pregnant. Symptoms and signs of PCOS vary from woman to woman and include infertility due to no ovulation, infrequent/absent/irregular menstrual periods, hirsutism (increased hair growth on face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes), ovarian cysts, acne or oily skin, weight gain or obesity (with most of the weight gain around the waist), thinning hair, anxiety or depression, and pelvic pain.

The exact cause of PCOS is not known, but it is believed that the main cause is a hormonal imbalance. In women with PCOS, the ovaries make more androgens, male hormones that women also produce, than normal. High levels of these hormones affect the development and release of eggs during ovulation. Researchers also believe that insulin may be associated with PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that controls the change of sugars and starches into energy or storage in the body. Many women with PCOS have high levels of insulin in their bodies because they have problems using it. It is believed that the increased insulin leads to increased androgen production. There is also strong evidence to suggest that genetics could play a role in the development of PCOS.

It sounds like you've been doing your absolute best to lose weight as a way to control your PCOS by watching your caloric intake and exercising. The best diet includes limiting processed foods and foods with added sugars while adding more whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to your diet. If you are having trouble with continued weight loss, as you say you are, you should visit your primary care physician or gynecologist for further consultation. Your physician might recommend a consultation with a dietitian, further testing, or may decide to put you on additional medications to help with weight reduction. There are also support groups that you can participate in locally or on the Internet at Soulcysters.com, where you can get advice from other women with PCOS. I commend you on your lifestyle modifications thus far and hope that you can find support from groups and medical advice from your physician to help you reach your weight loss goals!

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DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

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