Meta Description: While many PCOS patients gain weight in the abdominal area, others do not. If you have excess weight around your midriff, there are some things you can do to try to lose it.
A lot of women with PCOS struggle with weight gain, especially around their abdomen. But does PCOS actually cause a big belly? Or is it something else entirely? Let's take a closer look.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is an acronym that stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal disorder that can affect women of reproductive age. It is one of the most common endocrine disorders, and it is estimated that 5–10% of women of childbearing age are affected by it.
The symptoms of PCOS vary from person to person, though the most common ones are irregular periods, excess facial hair, oily skin, acne, skin tags, scalp hair loss, sleep issues and weight gain. One of the most common questions asked about PCOS is whether or not it can cause weight gain in the abdominal area.
How can PCOS cause weight gain in the abdominal area?
While there is no definitive answer to this question, many health experts believe that PCOS can lead to increased body weight, usually in the form of visceral fat. This type of fat accumulates around the abdominal organs.
There is no definite explanation as to what causes this, but it is believed that PCOS increases the production of androgens. Fat storage in the abdominal area increases as androgen levels rise. This can lead to health problems like insulin resistance, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and uterine cancer.
Each person's experience is unique, so we're not saying that women of normal weight are at risk of weight gain if they develop PCOS. Some people with PCOS may be able to maintain a healthy weight despite their condition, while others may gain weight and struggle with weight loss.
Weight loss for women with PCOS
Losing weight not only reduces your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions, but it can also improve your mood and balance your hormones. When you have PCOS, losing just 5% of your body weight can improve your menstrual cycle and alleviate some of your symptoms.
Working closely with your healthcare provider if you have PCOS, or are at risk of developing it, will ensure proper management of your condition. Consultation with a dietitian and a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist who can prescribe the right diet and exercise plan is essential for regulating your insulin levels and preventing blood glucose levels from skyrocketing.
The best exercises for women with PCOS are ones that help to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the amount of fat stored in the body. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and strength training are great options. But remember, move in a way that feels good for you! It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise routine, as they can tailor a program to your specific needs, because you are beautifully unique.
In terms of diet, there is no standard diet that fits all women with PCOS. Incorporating high-fibre foods, lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates is a great place to start. Consuming foods like these will help to regulate your blood sugar levels and promote weight loss. You should also aim to reduce processed foods, sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates where possible. These foods can cause blood sugar spikes, making it difficult to lose weight.
Additionally, there are medications that can be taken to help control the symptoms of PCOS, such as metformin, birth control pills and anti-androgen medications. If this is something you’d like to explore, please speak with your GP.
If you are concerned about your weight or your overall health, it is critical that you consult with your healthcare provider, preferably one who specialises in lifestyle medicine (that’s our jam!). They will be able to provide you with additional information about PCOS and how to manage it. There are several PCOS treatments available, and you can find one that works best for you.