Some sources say that about 50% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese. Usually, the biggest frustration in this area is BELLY FAT. The are of the body that’s the hardest to slim down for someone without PCOS, let alone with a metabolic and hormonal condition like PCOS.
When I first came off birth control, I gained 15-20lbs and would’ve been considered overweight. While I’ve never been extremely overweight or obese, I do know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in the shape of my body, and to loathe my stomach.
I used to wear loose tops all the time to try and hide my belly pooch, trying to fake a flat stomach.
Once I understood more about what PCOS actually is and how it contributes to weight gain, I was able to shed those extra pounds and have kept them off ever since.
My mission today is to help you understand the underlying root causes of PCOS weight gain, so you too can begin to lose fat in a sustainable way. You don’t have to suck it in your whole life! #truthbomb
3 Ways PCOS Causes Weight Gain
#1 Insulin Resistance
Before you scroll away because you’ve been told you don’t have blood sugar issues- read this. Even women with “normal” blood glucose and insulin levels can be insulin resistant. If you want to read more in depth about what insulin resistance is, go check this out.
Chronically high or imbalanced levels of blood sugar or “glucose” means your body needs more insulin to allow glucose to get into your cells. Tons of insulin and sugar floating around creates an environment where you body becomes desensitized to the signals of insulin, leaving you with high insulin and possible high blood glucose.
When insulin is high a lot, it turns into a storage hormone. You might be able to guess what it stores – FAT, on your body.
High Insulin = High Fat Storage
In women with PCOS, insulin resistance creates issues in the ovaries, and excessive amounts of androgen “male” hormones like testosterone are produced.
With high androgen levels, we will deposit fat in the area that men usually do – the BELLY.
To add insult to injury, high belly fat creates more insulin and hormonal issues, which creates more belly fat, which creates more insulin/hormone issues. . .and you can see where I’m going with this. A vicious cycle of weight gain.
The vicious cycle continues with the next causative factor in PCOS weight gain. . .
Happy Hormones Tip: Eat a High-Fat, Low-Carb breakfast daily to help reset insulin sensitivity and fat-burning.
Science has illuminated in the last several years that PCOS is not only a condition of weird hormones and insulin resistance, but also one of chronic, low-grade inflammation. Typically, this type of inflammation starts in the GUT, which is why we devote a whole week to learning about gut and inflammation in my PCOS Hormone Bootcamp program- it’s incredibly important!
Here’s the kicker: This inflammation creates more insulin resistance, and allows the ovaries to continue over-producing androgen hormones.
Specifically, the theca cells in the ovaries are the androgen-producers, and inflammation leads to the overproliferation of these theca cells, and therefore you get more androgens, more insulin resistance and more belly fat.
Happy Hormones Tip: Eat the rainbow daily. Each colour of fruits and vegetables contains different nutrients and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals to reduce inflammation and reset insulin sensitivity.
#3 Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen Dominance, or the excess of estrogen in relation to progesterone is a common part of PCOS as well. In fact- estrogen dominance (and the above factors) are what lead to ovarian cysts that are common in PCOS.
When in balance with progesterone, estrogen actually boosts metabolism. Things go awry when there’s too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. Then estrogen doesn’t have progesterone to keep her in check and make sure she doesn’t run wild.
Excess levels of estrogen can also be converted into more testosterone, not a great thing when it comes to PCOS, weight gain and belly fat.
Over time, this excess estrogen gets deposited in adipose (fat) tissue, specifically in the lower belly, hips and thighs. Eventually, fat tissue in these areas can begin to create its own estrogen, compounding the problem. More estrogen being stored, and more estrogen being produced.
This makes keeping weight stable difficult, especially with insulin resistance and inflammation also happening at the same time.
As you can see- all of these imbalances feed on each other. They make each other worse, and the vicious cycle continues. . .unless you break it. So go break the cycle!
Happy Hormones Tip: Eat 2-4 cups of cruciferous vegetables daily. These vegetables contain estrogen-detoxifying compounds. Examples include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, turnip + greens, etc. Check out a full list and examples of how to eat them over here.