Between 40%-80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. That is a HUGE number! And no surprise, because of this, weight loss with PCOS is a hot topic in my community.
Many women with PCOS have a hard time losing weight. I remember when I was first diagnosed, I had put on about 15lbs and was considered overweight. The usual stuff I’d done years ago like spin classes and cutting calories didn’t do a fucking thing. And it pissed me off.
Maybe you’re pissed off like me when your doctor says “PCOS causes weight gain” and then says “lose some weight” to get rid of your PCOS. Annoying.
Doctors may even prescribe some scary drugs to help with weight reduction and maintenance. A lot of the time, these drugs come with some hefty side effects, and many women don’t even lose weight on these drugs.
Today I want to answer the all important question: I have PCOS, How can I lose weight without drugs?
Before you can decide if taking a drug to lose weight is right for you, it’s important to understand what they do and why your doctor may recommend them. Then we can get into the juicy stuff- how to lose weight without drugs when you have PCOS.
And FYI- I never took a single drug to manage my PCOS or to lose weight. I used only natural methods including tweaking my diet, getting active and using targeted supplements. Now, all of my symptoms are either reversed or highly minimized.
It’s quite amazing what good old Mother Nature can do when you know exactly HOW to harness her power.
Now without further adieu. . .
Drugs Your Doctor May Prescribe for PCOS Weight Loss
This is probably the most popular drug for PCOS weight loss, at least in my clinical experience. It also has some incredibly nasty side effects.
Metformin is actually an oral diabetes drug that helps control blood sugar. Because blood sugar issues such as insulin resistance (and many times full-blown Type II Diabetes) are a BIG underlying contributor to PCOS, doctors may prescribe this drug to get blood sugar under control so you can release some weight.
Metformin works by lessening the release of glucose (sugar) from the liver, where some sugar is stored as glycogen. Additionally, Metformin increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin (our blood sugar regulating hormone) and decreasing the amount of glucose you absorb from the foods you eat.
Only a few of the MANY nasty side effects of this drug include:
- The Runs
- The Pukes
- The Toots
- Abdominal or stomach discomfort, cramping and pain
- Painful or difficult urination
- Lower back or side pain
- Muscle pain or cramping
- Fevers and chills
In my clinical experience I’ve never heard one women who used this drug that didn’t get some type of side effect from it.
Want something natural that research has shown works better than Metformin? Skip to the Inositol section below.
Orlistat aka Xenical
Different than Metformin, Orlistat is a straight-up weight loss drug. No implications for balancing blood sugar here. Simply put, Orlistat stops fat-digesting enzymes located in the stomach and intestines from working properly. This means that about 30%-40% less dietary fats will be taken up by the body, the excess simply passes through and out through your bowels.
In a study of 90 overweight and obese women with PCOS it was shown that Orlistat did improve weight loss efforts, and side effects were lower than with Metformin (although not totally absent).
My big concern with a drug like this is the long-term effects of blocking important digestive enzymes in the body. Most of us already don’t absorb and assimilate nutrients like we should.
Additionally, it’s important to note that the women in the above-mentioned study were also put on a special diet and exercise plan- it was not the drug alone that contributed to any weight loss in those women with PCOS.
A few of the side effects of this drug include:
- Oily or fatty stools
- Loose poops
- Stomach pain
- Rectal pain
- Problems with teeth or gums
- Fever, chills, flu-like symptoms
- Skin rash
- Back pain
Liraglutide aka Saxenda aka Victoza
Liraglutide is another drug often prescribed for people with diabetes, and research has begun to look at its effectiveness in women with PCOS.
In a study of 30 women with PCOS , liraglutide was administered for 12 weeks. What they found was weight did decrease and many women also endured some nasty side effects to get that weight loss.
The most common side effects included:
- Bladder pain
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Fever or chills
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
Raspberry Ketones + Other “Natural” Weight Loss Aids
Products for weight loss like raspberry ketones can seem really convincing- because who wouldn’t want to wake up pounds lighter?
The real truth is that although it sounds good because raspberries are healthy right… in the long-term, supplements like this can help you gain weight because (1) they aren’t actually made from raspberries, but rather in a lab; (2) they have never been tested on humans and side effects are largely unknown; and (3) many people gain weight when taking the supplement.
Other “natural” weight loss aids I would add to this list (to avoid) include:
- Green coffee bean extract
- African mango
- White kidney bean extract
- And any other carb- or fat-blocker promising weight loss results
How Women with PCOS Can Lose Weight Without Drugs
There are MANY different ways to release excess weight. There’s no one “perfect diet” and a nourishing diet and lifestyle look different for every woman. The strategies I’m outlining below have been researched to be helpful in women with PCOS, and many of my private clients and the women who use my PCOS Fat Loss Meal Plan see results using these methods.
An amazing nutrient for women with PCOS, inositol is a member of the B vitamin family. There are many different types of inositol, and it’s the myo- and d-chiro inositols that have shown promised for PCOS. The body has a natural ratio of these two inositols, which is 40:1, so it makes perfect sense to get both forms in this ratio for optimum results.
Specific benefits of inositol for PCOS include reduced insulin resistance, improvement in hormonal levels and regulated menstrual cycles. Blood fat (lipid) levels are also improved with inositol, as is egg quality (for my TTC Divas!).
Like many natural interventions, it’s important to remember that time is your friend. Typically it will take about 3 months to see much of the benefits described here.
So why inositol for PCOS weight loss? Because inositol helps reduce insulin resistance, there will be less fat storage (insulin is a fat storage hormone) and improved blood lipids both equal a better chance at healthy and sustainable weight loss.
Product Recommendation: Ovasitol by Theralogix, the only product on the market (at the time of writing) that combines BOTH forms of inositol in the 40:1 ratio our bodies need.
Dosage: 2 Ovasitol packets daily, or about 4000mg plain old myo-inositol.
Theralogix has been kind enough to extend a discount on Ovasitol for my community (YAY), which shows up at checkout. You can take advantage of that and grab some Ovasitol here.
If you’re still unsure, check out this chart comparing Ovasitol to other inositol supplements on the market.
High Fat, Moderate Carb
I see a lot of information out there about low-carb diets being beneficial for PCOS. The thought is by drastically reducing carbs, you can better balance blood sugar, reduce insulin resistance and then lose weight.
As someone who has tried super low-carb diets (such as Keto) and have worked with many PCOS cysters who have tried this, I can say it’s not my favourite for PCOS weight loss.
Women with PCOS often also have issues with their adrenal (stress) glands and thyroid. Cutting carbs down to barely nothing often stresses their bodies more, and their metabolism becomes slower, making them gain more weight than ever.
My approach is a little different. Yes, reducing certain types of carbs (I’m looking at you, white bread!) is absolutely helpful and necessary in any PCOS weight loss regime, in my opinion.
However, you can still enjoy blood-sugar balancing types of carbs (think high fibre), lose weight and not mess with your metabolism.
It’s also important to replace the carbs that have been taken out with more fats and a bit more protein.
You can find a One Day Meal Plan (with recipes!) of what this looks like in my free Ultimate PCOS Checklist, so don’t forget to grab that!
High Intensity Interval Training
In addition to a yoga practice, or for those who like a challenge, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is for you. HIIT combines bodyweight resistance and cardio exercises in short bursts over a short period of time for maximum impact. No more hour-long treadmill walks. Usually between 10 to 35 minutes, these workouts pack a powerful punch.
HIIT is a FREE and fun activity that is especially good for us ladies with PCOS because it reduces insulin problems and helps to decrease excess body fat. You’ll also be building lean, strong muscle during HIIT, and we all know that muscle burns more calories even at rest than fat does.
I did mention that HIIT was FUN, right? Getting your heart pumping just enough to get some sweat-on but not enough to make you flat out exhausted is always a good choice. Plus there’s the added benefit of happy-enducing chemicals like endorphins that rise and make us feel dynamic when we exercise.
Here are some great beginner HIIT workouts:
- 3 Quick HIIT Workouts for Beginners from Daily Burn
- 18-Minute HIIT from Women’s Running
- 3 Beginner HIIT Workouts from Get Healthy U
Morning Weight Loss Tonic Recipe
- 1 cup water or herbal tea, like PCOS Tea
- 1/2 - 1 tbsp organic virgin coconut oil
- 1 Ovasitol packet
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Make your tea or heat up your water.
- Add the coconut oil and allow to melt.
- Stir in lemon juice and Ovasitol. Yes, the coconut oil will stay on the top.
- If you want to blend it in for a more consistent texture as you drink, use a non-dairy milk instead of water or tea and blend once everything is melted until the coconut oil is emulsified and undetectable in your drink.
- Drink 20 minutes before breakfast for optimum results- it will curb your appetite, balance blood sugar and prevent cravings, binging and overeating later on.