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Struggling with PCOS Belly fat? I understand. I REALLY understand. Let's talk about how to lose PCOS belly fat. If you're already familiar with PCOS you can skip the next paragraph. I just want to make clear what we're discussing before we get into the details.
PCOS, or Polycystic ovary syndrome, is a condition that impacts up to 7% of adult women. It can lead to various complications, such as irregular periods, hormonal imbalances, and the development of cysts in ovaries.
But even a slight weight loss can balance hormone levels, improve insulin resistance, and regulate menstrual cycles. That means losing weight can improve women's overall quality of life with PCOS.
What Leads to PCOS Belly Fat?
The body stores fat, especially around the abdomen, because of an excess of insulin brought on by insulin resistance.
Weight loss experts claim that the popular weight loss advice to ‘eat less and move more is often not beneficial for those with PCOS.
Restrictive eating and excessive exercise cause a blood sugar roller coaster when attempting to treat insulin resistance.
Inflammation also prevents us from losing belly fat. Besides PCOS, thyroid imbalances and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can also trigger inflammation.
Eating fewer processed foods and focusing on a nutrient-rich diet can help combat inflammation.
Otherwise, inflammation can worsen insulin resistance, supports weight gain, and make it harder to reduce belly fat.
Most women think ‘skipping meals’ or eating less is the solution to this problem. However, do not eat less, thinking it will help you lose belly fat.
Contrary to popular belief, continual calorie restriction may cause your metabolism to slow down. Although calorie restriction offers temporary weight reduction, the body eventually adjusts to the limitation by burning fewer calories overall, which might result in weight gain.
Eating too few calories may also impact hormones that regulate appetite.
Why Can’t Women with PCOS Lose Weight Easily?
PCOS prevents the body from using the hormone insulin, which is crucial in converting starches and sugars from foods into energy. The condition is called insulin resistance and can lead to the buildup of sugar and insulin in the bloodstream.
In addition, increased insulin levels boost the production of androgens or male hormones.
That’s why women with PCOS have symptoms like excessive body hair growth. Other outcomes of high androgens include irregular periods, acne, and weight gain.
Since male hormones trigger this weight gain, it is typically in the abdomen, the same as in men.
Hence, women with PCOS have an apple-shaped body instead of the more common pear-shaped one.
In addition, low-grade chronic inflammation tires you quickly, so you are less likely to exercise or spend time preparing healthy meals at home.
Women with PCOS must focus on healthy lifestyle changes to combat inflammation and insulin resistance to improve their quality of life. In addition, developing a healthy relationship with food and our bodies can help us lose weight naturally.
Risks of Abdominal Fat
Health practitioners and wellness experts believe that belly fat is the most dangerous type. That’s because it increases the risk of heart disease and leads to other complications.
How can you know if your abdominal fat is endangering your health? No unique blood examinations or scans are necessary to determine this. A tape measure is all you require. Your waistline speaks for itself.
The bigger the risk to your health posed by your stomach, the higher the number. So women should worry if their waist measures 35 inches or longer.
Whether your belly fat is due to PCOS, IBS, or lack of exercise, weight gain is detrimental to your health.
Many of the issues linked to insulin resistance and belly fat are more prevalent in PCOS women, including:
- Endometrial cancer
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
- Type 2 diabetes
Unfortunately, most of these conditions lead to heart disease. Some research also suggests that weight gain can trigger PCOS symptoms, such as acne and irregular menstrual cycles.
This guide will offer the best tips for women to lose belly fat if they are dealing with PCOS.
Tips for Women with PCOS to Reduce Belly Fat
As you may or may not know, I'm a huge fan of the keto diet and also eating dairy free. I really helps balance those nasty hormones that get out of wack for those of us with PCOS. I have a 7-day diet plan for PCOS and a 21-Day keto and dairy-free plan if you want more specific foods. I think it's important to understand WHY we're eating this way first so once you finish this article, you can go back and view these plans.
Utilize Complex Carbohydrates to Regulate your Blood Sugar
Complex carbohydrates are high in fiber and slowly release energy. They include bulgur wheat, cereals, pasta, unpeeled potatoes, and wholegrain bread.
White bread, spaghetti, and rice are simple or "quick" carbohydrates that release energy quickly. Our bodies produce more insulin when we eat sweet foods or these ‘quick’ carbs. Weight gain may result from this.
Eating ‘slow’ carbohydrates high in protein and healthy fats regulates blood sugar levels and lowers our insulin levels. Doing so can reduce cravings and overeating to prevent weight gain, especially around our bellies.
Here are some ‘quick’ carbs you should not eat if you are trying to lose weight:
Choose carbohydrates instead that require more energy to digest and take longer to enter the bloodstream.
Here are some examples of slow-digesting carbs:
- Brown rice
- Whole grains
Adding more slow-digesting carbs to your diet is a good idea because this healthy practice can assist in reversing insulin resistance. In addition, it can also lower the male hormones in the body by up to 20%.
This means you can consume less protein. Just try to include protein in most of your meals. Eggs, tofu, Greek yogurt, tofu, pork, fish, pork, and beans are excellent protein sources.
Protein promotes feelings of fullness and helps to balance blood sugar. It also encourages weight loss by lowering cravings, increasing calorie expenditure, and controlling hunger hormones.
In a study, 57 women with PCOS were randomly assigned to receive either a conventional diet with less than 15% protein and 30% fat or a high-protein diet with more than 40% calories from protein and 30% from protein fat.
Compared to the control group, the high-protein group's female participants shed an average of 9.7 pounds (4.4 kg) after six months.
You can choose high-protein snacks or add protein powders to your diet if you need more protein.
Add Healthy Fats
Avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish are healthy fats that lower inflammation and curb hunger. In addition, dietary experts recommend including chia seeds, nut butter, and almond milk in your breakfast. That will keep you full for longer hours.
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods speed up metabolism and support weight loss. However, women with PCOS have fewer beneficial gut bacteria than those without this condition. Consuming fermented foods and meals strong in probiotics can help the good bacteria in your gut grow.
Yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, pickles, and kimchi, along with several types of cheese, are natural sources of probiotics. Add these fermented foods to your diet to keep your gut healthy.
Cortisol, the infamous stress hormone, can override your exercise routine and weight loss diet. The adrenal gland produces this hormone which increases during stress.
When the body produces excess cortisol and insulin, they create LPL or lipoprotein lipase. The more fat-storing enzyme you have in your body, the more fat your belly will store. Since belly fat worsens inflammation, your body produces more cortisol, creating a vicious cycle.
Extreme levels of cortisol also cause damage to cells, lowering their insulin sensitivity. Exercise and meditation are effective methods for dealing with stress and reducing stress-induced belly fat.
Practice Mindful Eating
Increased awareness of your body, such as your cravings and inflammation triggers, can help you modify your diet. However, another practice makes eating more meaningful: mindfulness.
Mindful eating can be the most significant way to counter emotional eating. According to the American Psychological Association, 27% of individuals claim to use food as a coping mechanism for stress, and 34% of those who overeat or consume unhealthy foods because of stress claim this practice is habitual.
According to research, mindfulness is a Buddhist practice that allows us to view food as a pleasure instead of an escape. Practicing mindful eating is as simple as avoiding distractions and chewing food properly.
For instance, turn off all mobile and TV devices and focus on the aroma, taste, and texture of your food.
Take small bites, chew correctly, and pause to take breaks. You should also maintain a journal to record how your body responds to fullness and hunger so you can learn to understand your body better.
Consume a High-Fiber Diet
Everyone can benefit from the belly-flattening effects of consuming slow-digesting carbs by eating a high-fiber diet. But that’s an excellent tip for women struggling to lose weight because of PCOS.
Fiber, a form of carb, slows down digestion which means you stay fuller for a long. Additionally, fiber aids in the removal of extra testosterone from the body through excretion, lowering levels of male hormones.
Therefore, aim for a high fiber intake for PCOS and abdominal fat reduction and consume 40 gm of fiber daily.
Since only plant foods contain fiber, so make sure your diet includes the following:
- whole grains like rye, barley, whole oats, quinoa
Another great benefit of adding vegetables and fruits to your diet is that you get a rich source of minerals and vitamins. These essential nutrients help you lose weight and trim down belly fat.
For example, minerals like Zink regulate the male hormones in the female body. So it is in plant foods like green beans, spinach, seeds, and beans. Chromium is another beneficial mineral in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It improves insulin sensitivity.
Cut Down on Dairy and Processed Foods
We recommend avoiding dairy products like milk and cheese if you have PCOS and want to lose abdominal fat. You must also cut down on processed foods because most contain hidden sugar and salt content.
Balance Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Your body must balance Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to be healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, while Omega-6 fatty acids are inflammatory, to put it simply.
Maintaining this fatty acid balance is simple if you don’t consume processed meals. But because the Standard American Diet (SAD) includes so many processed foods high in Omega-6 Fatty Acids, our body tends to accumulate unhealthy fats.
Women who consume more Omega-6 than Omega-3 tend to have higher male hormone levels, which we know promote belly fat. Hence, you must avoid processed foods as much as possible and increase your Omega-3 intake to rebalance your fats.
All food items available in packages or as ready-made food come under processed foods. Never buy any packaged foods if their nutritional information includes hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and other toxic fats.
Here are some foods that are high in Omega-3 and help you lose belly fat.
- Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements
- Raw seeds and nuts (chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds)
- Fatty fish (sardines, herring, lake trout, mackerel, wild salmon)
Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Leafy green vegetables are among the top foods to include in your diet to reduce the effects of inflammation. In addition, leafy green veggies have an excellent cleansing effect on the body.
Some of these include:
- Bok choy
All these vegetables contain several phytochemicals, which are plant compounds that combat diseases. Also, berries such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries reduce the free radicals that come from the toxins in our environment.
Eat at least one serving of berries and one serving of green leafy vegetables daily.
Consuming wheat and other grain-rich items can negatively impact your health and prevent you from losing belly fat. It’s better to avoid foods that contain gluten, such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye.
Gluten can harm the digestive tract when you have a leaky gut, which means small holes in your intestine.
Once gluten enters the bloodstream, where it shouldn't be, our bodies may respond by mounting an immunological response. This may manifest as a thyroid disorder, IBS symptoms, or other inflammatory diseases.
If a PCOS woman wants to reduce her belly fat, she can improve her insulin resistance by doing low-intensity exercises like walking or yoga.
That’s because, sometimes, your body may interpret high-intensity exercises like sprints and HIIT as physical stress. So, naturally, that raises the cortisol level or the belly-fat-producing hormone, worsening your condition.
Lack of sleep increases insulin production and sugar cravings. Both may result in weight gain. A study indicates that getting a shuteye for five hours every night for a week may result in a 25% reduction in insulin sensitivity.
However, it's best to aim for eight to nine hours of sleep per night.
For losing PCOS weight gain, your doctor may prescribe a few authorized drugs. These include Glucophage or Metformin, anti-androgens, and birth control pills.
Anti-androgen medicines block the effects of male hormones, and metformin is a diabetes medication that facilitates the body's mechanism to utilize insulin. Research reveals that these medications are helpful for obese women who want to lose weight, especially belly fat.
Consult Your Doctor Before You Start Losing Your PCOS Belly Fat
With PCOS, losing weight may be difficult but not impossible. It’s just that you need more time to shed weight than someone who does not have any hormonal problems. Although making little progress can be depressing, leading a healthy lifestyle provides advantages you may not immediately see.
Losing weight not only reduces your risk for several diseases, but it also lifts your spirits. For example, if you have PCOS, even a 10% weight loss can restore normalcy to your cycle. It can also relieve other common symptoms of the polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Visit your doctor first to lose weight through dietary modifications and exercise. Then, the doctor will probably measure your BMI, waist measurement, and weight to determine how much weight or belly fat you need to lose.
Healthy food and regular exercise can lower your risk of developing long-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease if you have PCOS and are trying to lose weight. Along with medicine, a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can assist with typical PCOS symptoms like acne, heavy periods, hirsutism, infertility, and acne.