April 11, 2024

Answering Your Queries: The Comprehensive Guide to Losing Weight with PCOS

Dr Bosah Chike avatar
Dr Bosah Chike
Dr Victoria Abbey avatar
Medically reviewed BY
Dr Victoria Abbey
Weight Loss
Answering Your Queries: The Comprehensive Guide to Losing Weight with PCOS thumbnail

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a prevalent endocrine disorder, impacting 5% to 10% of women of reproductive age with symptoms like infertility, hormonal imbalances, and metabolic issues. This condition, which can affect up to 13% of women globally, is complex with no clear cause, though factors such as genetics, inflammation, and insulin resistance are believed to play significant roles. Managing PCOS effectively is integral for improving quality of life, with a focus on strategies for losing weight with PCOS being particularly paramount due to its connection to obesity and insulin resistance.

Addressing weight loss with PCOS involves a multifaceted approach, encompassing dietary changes, exercise, sleep improvements, and medical interventions like metformin. This guide explores how balancing hormones, optimizing diet, and incorporating regular exercise can contribute to a healthier weight and overall improved PCOS management. Furthermore, it delves into the significance of addressing insulin resistance and sleep issues such as insomnia, showcasing the comprehensive nature of tackling PCOS for sustainable weight management.

Understanding PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a multifaceted hormonal disorder affecting numerous aspects of a woman's health, primarily characterized by irregular menstrual cycles and elevated androgen levels. For effective management and treatment, understanding the symptoms and the underlying factors is crucial.

Key Symptoms of PCOS:

  • Menstrual Irregularities: Absent, irregular, or very light periods.
  • Excess Androgen: Increased levels of male hormones lead to physical signs such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), severe acne, and male-pattern baldness.
  • Polycystic Ovaries: Enlarged ovaries containing numerous small cysts can be detected via ultrasound.

Underlying Factors Contributing to PCOS:

  • Insulin Resistance: A significant number of women with PCOS also have insulin resistance, exacerbating weight gain and making weight loss challenging.
  • Inflammation: Women with PCOS often experience increased levels of inflammation in their bodies.
  • Heredity: The likelihood of developing PCOS may increase if it runs in the family.

Complications Arising from PCOS:

  • Infertility: PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility due to irregular ovulation.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: Increased risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Mental Health Issues: Higher prevalence of anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.

Managing these symptoms and risks involves a combination of lifestyle interventions, medical treatments, and, in some cases, surgical procedures. Early diagnosis and tailored treatment plans can help mitigate the impact of PCOS on a woman's life.

A lady experiencing complications from PCOS

Losing weight with PCOS presents unique challenges due to the complex interplay of hormonal imbalances and metabolic issues. Here’s how these factors connect:

Hormonal Imbalances and Insulin Resistance:
  • PCOS often leads to insulin resistance, where the body's cells do not respond normally to insulin. This causes higher insulin and glucose levels in the blood, promoting weight gain, especially around the abdomen.
  • High insulin levels further increase the production of androgens (male hormones), which not only contribute to weight gain but also cause other symptoms like acne, excess body hair, and irregular menstrual cycles.
Impact of Weight on PCOS Symptoms:
  • Even modest weight loss, around 5% to 10% of body weight, can significantly improve PCOS symptoms by enhancing insulin sensitivity. This weight reduction can help normalize menstrual cycles and reduce levels of androgens.
  • Obesity exacerbates insulin resistance and all associated symptoms, making weight management a critical component for controlling PCOS.
Consequences of PCOS-Related Weight Issues:
  • Women with PCOS are at a higher risk for several conditions linked to weight gain and insulin resistance, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
  • The typical weight gain pattern in PCOS is concentrated around the abdomen ('PCOS belly'), which is particularly associated with increased risks of heart disease and other metabolic disorders.

Understanding these links underscores the importance of targeted lifestyle interventions to manage weight effectively in PCOS, which can lead to significant improvements in both metabolic health and quality of life.

A Deeper Dive into How PCOS Affects Insulin

PCOS significantly impacts insulin function in the body, which plays a pivotal role in your overall health and ability to manage weight. Here’s a closer look at how PCOS affects insulin:

  • Insulin Resistance: A majority of women with PCOS experience insulin resistance. This condition occurs when the body's cells become less responsive to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. As a result, the pancreas produces more insulin to achieve the desired effect, leading to hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin levels).
  • Hyperinsulinemia and Hormonal Imbalance: Elevated insulin levels can exacerbate the production of androgens (male hormones), such as testosterone. This hormonal imbalance can lead to the worsening of PCOS symptoms, including weight gain, acne, and irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Compounding Weight Management Challenges: The relationship between insulin resistance and weight gain is cyclical. Insulin resistance promotes weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, which can further increase insulin levels. This cycle makes losing weight with PCOS particularly challenging but understanding and addressing insulin resistance is key to breaking this cycle.

By managing your insulin levels through dietary choices, exercise, and possibly medication like metformin, you can improve insulin sensitivity, thereby aiding in weight management and alleviating other PCOS symptoms.


How PCOS Affects Sleep

Sleep disturbances are notably more prevalent in women with PCOS compared to those without the condition, affecting their overall health and quality of life. Here are key insights into how PCOS impacts sleep:

  • Sleep Apnea and PCOS: Women with PCOS are significantly more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), with a risk of 5-to-10 times greater than women without PCOS. OSA is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, leading to disrupted sleep and increased daytime sleepiness, which can exacerbate weight gain and insulin resistance.
  • Melatonin and Sleep Quality: Research indicates that women with PCOS have lower melatonin levels, which can contribute to sleep disturbances. These disturbances include difficulty falling asleep (insomnia) and poor sleep quality, which can further lead to irregular menstrual cycles and fertility issues.
  • Managing Sleep Disturbances: To improve sleep quality, it is crucial for women with PCOS to establish a regular sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and manage stress. Limiting exposure to electronic devices before bedtime and ensuring a comfortable sleep environment can also help enhance sleep quality. For those suffering from sleep apnea, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is often recommended as an effective treatment.

Addressing these sleep issues is essential for managing PCOS effectively, as good sleep helps regulate hormones and maintain a healthy weight, thereby reducing the risk of associated health complications.

Dietary Approaches for Weight Loss with PCOS

When embarking on dietary changes to manage PCOS and promote weight loss, understanding the impact of different types of foods and their nutritional values is crucial. Here are some effective dietary approaches:

1. Focus on Low Glycemic Index Foods:

  • Opt for whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables that have a low glycemic index. These foods help in slow and steady insulin release, which is beneficial for managing insulin resistance—a common challenge in PCOS.

2. Incorporate Healthy Fats and Proteins:

  • Include sources of omega-3 fatty acids like fish and flaxseeds, which are anti-inflammatory.
  • Lean proteins from chicken, fish, and plant-based sources like beans and lentils can help manage hunger and stabilize blood sugar levels.

3. Reduce Intake of Processed Foods and Sugars:

  • Avoid high-sugar and high-fat foods such as cakes, cookies, and fast food, which can exacerbate insulin resistance.
  • Choose fiber-rich fruits and vegetables over sugary snacks.

4. Consider Anti-Inflammatory Foods:

  • Emphasize foods rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, such as berries, leafy greens, and nuts, to help combat inflammation associated with PCOS.

5. Hydration and Mindful Eating:

  • Drinking plenty of water and practicing mindful eating can enhance digestion and satiety, helping you avoid overeating.

By adopting these dietary strategies, you can better manage PCOS symptoms and embark on a path toward sustainable weight loss.

The Role of Exercise in Managing PCOS

Regular physical activity is crucial for managing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), particularly due to the increased risks of obesity and diabetes associated with the condition. Here’s a breakdown of effective exercise types that can help manage PCOS symptoms:

  • Cardiovascular Workouts: Engaging in steady-state cardio like walking, cycling, or swimming can help reduce insulin resistance and improve heart health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest periods can boost metabolism and burn fat efficiently, making HIIT an excellent option for weight management in PCOS.
  • Strength Training: Building muscle through weight training or bodyweight exercises helps burn more calories, even at rest, reduces body fat, and improves insulin sensitivity.

Incorporating mind-body exercises such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates can also be beneficial. These activities not only help in reducing stress but also improve the metabolic symptoms associated with PCOS. It's important to find a balance that avoids over-training, as excessive exercise can disrupt menstrual cycles. Therefore, integrating fun and enjoyable activities, along with sufficient rest days, is key to maintaining a sustainable exercise routine that supports the management of PCOS.

Medical Treatments and Supplements

In managing PCOS, combining medical treatments and supplements with lifestyle modifications can be highly effective. Here’s an overview of the options:


  • Blood Sugar Medications: Such as Metformin, which enhances insulin sensitivity, reduces insulin levels and aids in weight management.
  • Oral Contraceptives: Help regulate menstrual cycles and reduce androgen levels.
  • Weight Management Medications: Including GLP-1 medications like semaglutide, which mimic gut hormones to reduce appetite and are suitable for significant weight loss.
  • Ozempic: Notably reduces HbA1c levels and aids in weight loss while lowering the risk of cardiovascular events in individuals with type 2 diabetes.


  • Inositol: Particularly in a 40:1 ratio of myo- and d-chiro forms, to control insulin and lower testosterone levels.
  • Vitamin D and B Complex: Improve menstrual regularity and support mood regulation.
  • Omega-3s (Fish Oil): Beneficial for insulin resistance and cholesterol management.
  • Magnesium and Zinc: Essential for metabolic functions and improving insulin resistance.

Qilo’s Integrated Approach:

  • Personalized Medication Guidance: Tailored advice on safe medication practices to complement your PCOS management journey.
  • Comprehensive Support: Access to a dedicated care team including a doctor, personal coach, and care coordinator, enhancing your treatment plan.

This integrated approach ensures that you receive a holistic treatment plan that addresses the complexities of PCOS, enhancing your health and well-being.

Lifestyle Modifications for Sustainable Weight Loss

A lady feeling tired at home

Incorporating lifestyle modifications is essential for managing PCOS and achieving sustainable weight loss. Here are some effective strategies:

Exercise Regimens

  • Cardiovascular Activities: Engaging in activities like walking, cycling, or swimming can enhance cholesterol levels, improve brain function, regulate blood sugar, and boost mood and sleep quality.
  • Strength Training: Focus on exercises that improve blood pressure, enhance metabolic functions, and strengthen bones.
  • Yoga: This can be particularly beneficial in reducing free testosterone and DHEA levels, while also aiding in managing anxiety, enhancing mood, and regulating menstrual cycles.

Nutritional Adjustments

Understanding the impact of diet on PCOS is crucial. Here are some guidelines:

  • Low Glycemic Index Foods: Choose whole grains, legumes, and fruits that aid in steady insulin release.
  • Healthy Fats and Proteins: Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and lean proteins to manage hunger and stabilize blood sugar.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Opt for foods rich in antioxidants like berries and nuts to combat inflammation.

Stress and Emotional Health Management

  • Reducing Stress: Techniques such as yoga, meditation, and spending time outdoors can lower cortisol levels, which are linked to insulin resistance and abdominal fat.
  • Qilo’s Holistic Approach: Qilo supports managing PCOS with tools like personalized meal plans, workout routines, and a supportive community, focusing on emotional well-being to empower users on their weight loss journey.

These lifestyle changes, when combined with consistent medical treatment and support systems like Qilo, can significantly improve the management of PCOS, leading to better health outcomes and quality of life.

Get support from Qilo

Embarking on a journey to manage PCOS effectively can be challenging, but with Qilo, you're not alone. Qilo is a comprehensive, science-based weight care program designed to address metabolic conditions such as PCOS and obesity. Here’s how Qilo supports you in managing these conditions:

  • Personalized Clinical Care: Starting with a detailed assessment, Qilo tailors a plan that aligns with your unique needs and preferences. Whether you fall into the Wellness Program (recommended for individuals with a BMI below 30) or the Medical Program (for those with a BMI above 30), each plan is crafted to make weight loss both enjoyable and effective.
  • Structured Support System: Qilo doesn’t just offer plans; it provides a support system. You’ll gain access to personal coaches and a community that motivates and holds you accountable. This supportive network is not just about achieving weight loss but also about fostering lasting friendships and offering emotional support, crucial for mental health, which is often affected by PCOS.
  • Holistic and Compassionate Approach: Combining holistic care with compassion, Qilo helps you shed up to 10% of your current weight while developing healthy habits to maintain this weight loss. The program’s foundation is rooted in evidence-based methods, steering clear of the trial-and-error approach and focusing on sustainable, long-term health benefits.


Navigating the complexities of PCOS requires a holistic approach that addresses dietary changes, physical activity, sleep quality, and insulin resistance management. This guide has outlined critical strategies for managing PCOS symptoms, emphasizing the importance of adopting lifestyle modifications and considering medical treatments when necessary. By understanding the interconnectedness of these factors, individuals can take proactive steps toward improving their health and mitigating the impacts of PCOS on their lives.

Recognizing the challenges that come with managing PCOS, it's vital to seek support from medical professionals who can provide personalized care tailored to individual needs. Learn more from Qilo medical professionals to embark on a guided journey toward managing PCOS effectively. With the right support and resources, achieving sustainable weight loss and improving overall health is within reach, empowering those affected by PCOS to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.


What is the most effective method for weight loss in individuals with PCOS?

The most effective method for achieving significant weight loss in individuals with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is through Very Low Energy Diets (VLEDs). Studies have shown that VLEDs can result in a weight reduction of more than 15% over 12 weeks. Additionally, a specific study involving women with PCOS demonstrated that 9 out of 15 participants achieved ovulation after aiming for a 10% weight loss through VLEDs.

What are optimal dinner options for managing PCOS and promoting weight loss?

For dinner, individuals managing PCOS and aiming for weight loss might consider meals that are light yet nutritious. Recommended options include a bowl of lentils, a small bowl of soup, a salad, or a fruit bowl containing apples, oranges, kiwi, or berries. Other suitable choices are baked fish, stir-fried vegetables, a large bowl of soup, or a few eggs. These foods contribute to a balanced diet that supports weight loss in PCOS.

How does PCOS affect abdominal appearance?

The appearance of the abdomen in individuals with PCOS can vary, typically presenting as large and bloated but can also appear small and round, influenced by genetic and other factors. This condition is characterized by the accumulation of visceral fat in the lower abdomen, which often feels hard to the touch. Additionally, a PCOS-related belly usually exhibits a high waist-to-hip ratio, greater than 0.87, resembling an apple body shape.

Why is it challenging to lose weight for those with PCOS?

Losing weight can be particularly challenging for individuals with PCOS due to the body's increased resistance to insulin. This resistance prompts the pancreas to produce more insulin, which not only promotes fat storage but also elevates hunger levels. Furthermore, PCOS can disrupt other hormones that are crucial for regulating hunger and satiety, complicating efforts to manage weight effectively.

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