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PCOS and Weight Loss -- Your Questions Answered

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If you’ve got PCOS—polycystic ovary syndrome—and you’re like most women who do, your first symptoms probably had to do with monthly cycles or problems getting pregnant, and that’s what many doctors treat first. What’s often left to patients, though, is how PCOS can impact your weight care journey in big ways. 

PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) is when your ovaries produce an excess amount of androgens—sex hormones that can be associated with metabolic disorders (3). Some studies show that among women with PCOS, the prevalence of overweight and obesity could be as high as 80%. 

What symptoms can PCOS cause?

The name “polycystic ovary syndrome” describes the numerous small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) that may form in the ovaries. But PCOS can present in different ways for different people. Common symptoms include: 

  • Irregular periods

  • Enlarged or “cystic” ovaries

  • Excess body hair, including on the face, chest, stomach, or back (hirsutism)

  • Acne or oily skin

  • Baldness or thinning hair

  • Infertility 

  • Skin tags (small pieces of excess skin on the neck or armpits)

  • Dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts

  • Weight gain, especially around the belly (4)

How PCOS impacts weight

If you have PCOS and are struggling to lose weight despite your best efforts, you’re not alone! Again, many women with PCOS are also overweight or obese (6)—and we know that many of our Found members report having the condition. Healthcare providers often say that losing weight will help. And it may. But it’s not always that simple. This is in part because weight gain can stem from the syndrome itself. 

While that’s a frustrating reality, understanding PCOS and what you can do to manage it can help you feel your best. I’m here to answer your top questions about the condition. Found’s team of providers can help you reach your weight care goals that may also manage your PCOS symptoms. We take a holistic approach to weight loss that addresses lifestyle and behavioral changes and your unique biology. 

1.) Does PCOS put your body into fat-storing mode?

Recent data suggests that often the underlying cause is insulin resistance. Extra insulin can lead to fat storage and weight gain. PCOS may also cause insulin resistance by impairing your body’s ability to produce and use insulin effectively (5). 

2.) How could PCOS boost hunger levels?

Along with storing fat, insulin acts as an appetite-stimulating hormone. As a result, it can make women with PCOS feel hungrier and experience frequent cravings that can impact weight. PCOS also impacts levels of the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, which may increase appetite and cause you to have a more difficult time feeling full and satisfied. (2)

3.) What’s the link between PCOS and mental health? (1)

Let’s face it: Taking the steps toward a healthier lifestyle requires time, focus, and commitment. This includes eating a balanced diet, moving your body, and getting plenty of sleep. But when your mental health is suffering, those necessary habits can, too. In obese and overweight women with PCOS, symptoms like body hair growth, irregular menstrual cycles, and fertility problems can exacerbate the complicated relationship between obesity and mental and emotional health. And unsurprisingly, women with PCOS are more susceptible to mental health problems. Found has a strong online community of people in the same situation who can be your sounding board and support system. 

How Found can help you manage PCOS through sustained weight loss

  • Work towards weight loss. Found can help you on a path to healthy weight loss, which could lower your insulin and androgen levels. It also may restore ovulation and menstrual regularity. Our program is tailored to your individual needs and may include medication in addition to lifestyle changes so you can reach your goals. On average, Found members lose 10% of their body weight by month 6.

  • Limit refined (fast) carbohydrates. Consuming too many fast carbs (think white bread, pasta, cookies, baked goods, etc.) can raise insulin levels. Instead, try to choose complex (slow) carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans to stabilize your blood sugar and insulin levels. Found has all sorts of tools, experts and resources that can help you make healthier food choices.

  • Get moving. Exercise helps to lower your blood sugar levels—and Found can create a plan of action for you! If you have PCOS, increasing your daily activity and regular movement may treat or even prevent insulin resistance. Being active can help you reach a healthy weight and is good for your mental health as well. Get outdoors for a walk in the sun for a quick mood boost!

Because insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes are on the same spectrum, weight loss, low-carb approaches, and some of the medications Found prescribes can help treat insulin resistance and resolve symptoms of PCOS. 

If you have PCOS and are struggling to lose weight, Found’s team of providers can find a plan that’s right for you. Take our 3-minute quiz today, so you can live your best life!

  • Barber, T. M., Hanson, P., Weickert, M. O., & Franks, S. (2019, January). Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Implications for Pathogenesis and Novel Management Strategies. Clinical Medicine Insights: Reproductive Health, 13, 117955811987404. https://doi.org/10.1177/1179558119874042
  • Houjeghani, S., Pourghassem Gargari, B., & Farzadi, L. (2012). Serum leptin and ghrelin levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: correlation with anthropometric, metabolic, and endocrine parameters. International journal of fertility & sterility, 6(2), 117–126.
  • Panico, A., Messina, G., Lupoli, G. A., Lupoli, R., Cacciapuoti, M., Moscatelli, F., Esposito, T., Villano, I., Valenzano, A., Monda, V., Messina, A., Precenzano, F., Cibelli, G., Monda, M., & Lupoli, G. (2017, March). Quality of life in overweight (obese) and normal-weight women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Patient Preference and Adherence, Volume 11, 423–429. https://doi.org/10.2147/ppa.s119180
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). (2022, February 28). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos
  • Rojas, J., Chávez, M., Olivar, L., Rojas, M., Morillo, J., Mejías, J., Calvo, M., & Bermúdez, V. (2014). Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Insulin Resistance, and Obesity: Navigating the Pathophysiologic Labyrinth. International Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 2014, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/719050
  • Sam, S. (2007, April). Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Obesity Management, 3(2), 69–73. https://doi.org/10.1089/obe.2007.0019

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