Polycystic Ovary Disease 101- A Guide to Understanding PCOS

how to lose weight with polycystic ovary disease

What Is Polycystic Ovary Disease?   


Polycystic ovary disease or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects the female reproductive system. PCOS comes with a host of negative symptoms, one of which being weight gain; begging the question – how to lose weight with polycystic ovary disease?

To be diagnosed with PCOS you usually have to demonstrate 2 out of the 3 telltale signs:  

  1. Irregular periods, meaning that you do not have a consistent 'time of the month' or miss ovulation completely.
  2. Increased levels of androgen, a male hormone that may present physical changes; for example increased body/facial hair.  
  3. Polycystic ovaries. This is when the ovaries become enlarged and surround eggs with fluid-filled sacs, called follicles  

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Despite the name; polycystic ovaries is not the result of cysts nor does it cause them to form.  


Research shows that PCOS is the result of both genetic and environmental factors. It is, however, unclear what exactly those factors are.  

Symptoms of Polycystic ovaries tend to run in families, so there is evidence to suggest that PCOS is hereditary. Family history may increase someone’s risk of developing the disease.  

Risk factors of polycystic ovary disease.  

  • Having a mother or sibling with PCOS greatly increases your chances of developing symptoms yourself.  
  • Showing signs of insulin resistance, which can cause imbalances in hormones and increase inflammation throughout the body. Woman with PCOS often show symptoms of low-grade inflammation.  
  • Being overweight can also nock insulin levels out of sync and lead to thyroid problems and diabetes; Both of which affect hormone levels. Having abnormally high levels of testosterone or androgen puts you at a significantly higher risk of developing symptoms of PCOS.  

Common Symptoms Of PCOS.  

Signs and symptoms of PCOS will usually present themselves between puberty and your early 20's. Some people can discover that that have PCOS far later in life, often a result of weight gain or when trying for children.

Polycystic ovary disease is the easiest infertility problem to resolve.

The main symptoms of polycystic ovary disease include:  

  • Irregular periods, or possibly none at all.  
  • Spontaneous weight gain, without any change in diet or lifestyle.
  • Difficulties falling pregnant.  
  • Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
  • Sleep apnea – A condition that affects your breathing whilst you sleep.
  • Thinning head hear/hair loss
  • Darkening or increase in body and facial hair.
  • Oily skin and acne.
  • Patches of dark skin around 'crease' areas, such as armpits and the groin.
  • Low libido, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes are also coherent with PCOS.  

Long-term health concerns.  

Whilst polycystic ovary disease can be managed, without treatment, it can lead to other more serious long term health concerns.  

Diabetes - Around 10%-20% of all woman with PCOS develop diabetes. The chances of developing diabetes is also increased when over 40, and there is a family history of the disease. 

High blood pressureDue to the affect PCOS has on hormonal levels and insulin resistance, sufferers can often develop high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. 

Cancer Over time the accumulation of infrequent periods can lead to thickening of the womb lining. The thicking can cause cellular mutations associated with cancerous development.  

Mental health issues - Troubles with mental health is a common long term health concern of sufferers of PCOS. As well as having hormonal balances, gaining weight, the risk of other diseases and questions about whether or not they will be able to have children, can all lead to feelings of chronic depression and anxiety.      

Why It Impacts Weight.  

How does the body manage weight?  

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The body manages its weight through many complicated bodily processes on a cellular level. Put simply weight management comes down to supply and demand; how many calories we consume, or supply the body with, and how many calories the body can use up, the amount it demands.  

Consuming too many calories than what the body can use up puts the body in a calorie surplus, which in turn leads to weight gain.  

PCOS effect on insulin.  

The main reason why PCOS leads to weight gain, its effect on insulin and insulin sensitivity.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels, by acting as a 'carrier', allowing glucose to be absorbed by cells and used as energy by the body.

If there is not enough insulin in the blood, or the body becomes less sensitive to its effects, blood sugar levels will increase. The only way the body can counteract the development of insulin resistance is too produce more and more insulin.    

Increase of male hormones.  

Having higher levels of insulin the blood can lead to the ovaries producing excess amounts of male hormones, such as androgen and testosterone. High levels of these hormones in a woman naturally lead to weight gain – because of these hormones being male, how the weight is gained is often characteristic of that of a man, usually around the mid-section, as opposed to the legs or bust.     

How To Manage Weight With PCOS.  

Weight-loss basics.  

The basics of managing weight and how to lose weight with polycystic ovary disease are the same – there are however some specifics to take into consideration.  

Suffering from PCOS or not, weight loss happens through the same process: Consuming less calories than what is burnt.

There doesn't have to be a healthy eating plan for PCOS; or specific healthy snacks for PCOS, what's important is the input (calories in) and the output (calories burnt).  

Suffering from PCOS leads to insulin resistance and in turn a low metabolism. Having a slow metabolism make it really difficult to burn off the calories you've consumed; So speeding up metabolism and increasing insulin sensitivity should be top priority for those wanting to learn how to lose weight with PCOS.

Easy ways to speed up your metabolism.  

  1. Eat plenty of protein.
  2. Drink lots of ice-cold water.
  3. Drink green tea.
  4. Eat spicy foods.
  5. Drink coffee.
  6. Consistently get 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep.
  7. Lift weights regularly 

Easy ways to increase insulin sensitivity.  

  1. Consistently get 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Reduce stress.
  4. Eat more soluble fibre
  5. Try adding cinnamon to your diet (Natural spice that increases insulin sensitivity) 
  6. 2 tbs of apple cider vinegar – daily.
  7. Avid foods with a high GI (glycemic index).

3 Great exercises To Try For PCOS.  

Exercise for PCOS weight loss is as important as diet, so a PCOS weight loss diet plan and exercise plan should always be implemented hand in hand.  

Here are my top 3 training methods for weight loss with PCOS


Cardio is any exercise the raises the heart rate for an extended period, this could include running, cycling, swimming, even walking.

Cardio is excellent for improving insulin sensitivity, boosting your mood, and increasing fertility.  

Adding 30 minutes of cardio into your daily routine can be as simple as cycling to work, or making evening walks a regular part of your wind-down routine.

how to manage weight with PCOS 

HIIT training.  

Whilst HIIT training is considered cardio, I always consider it to be in its own category because it is a very specific form of cardio. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and can be done with any exercise or collective of exercises.

A fantastic example of HIIT training is circuits – Perform a set number of exercises at maximum effort for approximately 45 seconds, rest for 30 between sets, and repeat 2-3 times.  

HIIT training is one of the most effective weight loss methods. Lower body weight = reduced PCOS symptoms.    

Core training.  

The core is at the centre of every movement that we make, without a strong core, everything else suffers. Having a strong core will help to stabilise the spine and make you stronger as a whole, resulting in better, more effective workouts, across the board.    

Healthy Eating Ideas For PCOS.  

Healthy eating is an absolute priority in regards to losing weight. When looking to lose weight with PCOS the basics are the same (healthy, nutritious, well balanced) but there are some other considerations to keep in mind.  

Instead of being so specific as to list specifics, such as "the best breakfast for PCOS weight loss", I would instead like to introduce you to the type of foods that out best to include in your diet whilst eating for PCOS weight loss.

Low GI foods.  

Low GI foods are foods that have little effect on blood sugar levels. This includes:

  • Lean meat
  • Fish
  • Green leafy vegetables 
  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Some fruits.  

Foods containing refined sugars should always be avoided. 

Anti-inflammatory foods.  

Because PCOS demonstrates an enlargement of the ovaries, consuming anti-inflammatory foods can help to improve the symptoms. Here are some examples:

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oily fish 

Natural whole foods.  

Natural whole food tends to be better for us than ones that have been processed and fortified. When looking to better your diet and improve the quality of the foods that you eat, picking natural whole foods will help your PCOS weight loss journey significantly.  

A note to leave with.  

Polycystic Ovary disease is a difficult condition to live with that affects so many women worldwide. Unfortunately, there is not a cure for PCOS, but there are ways that it can be managed and symptoms reduced to a bare minimum.

Through weight loss, sufferers of PCOS can see improvement in symptoms, reduce the risk of developing further long term health concerns, and improve overall health and well-being in the process.