PCOS -What is it, and why weight loss SHOULDN’T be the main goal
Written by: Alicia
Published on: October 13, 2020

Image credits: https://lipstiq.com/news/162226/ladies-time-talk-polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common but complex hormonal condition that affects 1 in 5 girls and women in their productive years. 70% of women with PCOS remain undiagnosed.

People think just because someone has PCOS it only affects their fertility and stops them from conceiving; so they should just deal with it when they’re ready to have children. 

Wrong.

It presents with many cysts on the ovaries, it causes disruptions to the menstrual cycle and quite often, causes changes to the individual’s hair and skin due to increased production of male hormones from the ovaries; as well as an increase in weight and shift in body image. 


The change in body image is generally due to the change in metabolism, increase in inflammation, sleep disturbances and fatigue, a change in mental health, typically an increase in insulin resistance, and therefore an increased risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease. I like to call these factors above, ‘the big 6’… 

Image credits: https://naturalshaman.blogspot.com/2012/10/womb-symbolism-rams-head.html

The big 6 mean that sometimes, regardless of how healthy or unhealthy your diet is, you’re highly likely to put on weight due to the fact that your body isn’t metabolising, or breaking down the foods you eat.

Usually your pancreas will create a hormone called insulin, which is used to break down and reduce the high amounts of glucose (or sugar) in your body, but sometimes the insulin may be resistant, or puts up a wall which stops the breakdown of glucose. Therefore, increasing your blood glucose levels.

You may also feel down or uneasy about your new body image. You’re feeling sore, inflamed, exhausted and fatigued, which means you’re probably less likely to exercise, Correct? 

Or maybe you are exercising but you aren’t seeing any changes and everyone around you keeps saying you need to try harder to lose weight because it will help improve your symptoms?

Often enough I hear clients say things along the lines of: 

  • My health professionals are telling me I’m not losing weight as fast as others do
  • I’m trying to do all the right things, I try to eat healthy and exercise but I’m not losing as much as I want, or should be
  • Someone told me high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) is the best for weight loss, but I don’t feel comfortable, or even like doing it 
  • Sometimes I don’t know how hard I have to work to see changes in my weight
  • I’ve been told have to lose 5-10% of my current weight to start to feel better and have improvements in my symptoms
Image credits: https://top10supps.com/supplements-for-pcos/

But here’s some food for thought. What if the main goal to managing your PCOS isn’t always about losing weight? 

What about focusing on the big 6 instead? As they are what caused the increase in weight in the first place… And by managing them, will come weight loss.

Both diet and regular exercise will contribute to an improvement in metabolism, a positive shift towards managing fatigue and inflammation, an improvement in mental health, and an improvement in insulin sensitivity (or reduction in resistance).

Ideally, we recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes daily, or accumulating ~150minutes of moderate physical activity per week, to help reduce symptoms and prevent the conditions mentioned above. 


Regular physical activity or exercise, work on the big 6 and this is how: 

1. Reduces or mitigates inflammation 

-by reducing or suppressing the inflammatory markers in the blood and muscles by doing any type of movement 

2. Restores or improves hormone levels,

When you move or exercise, your muscles contract and signal for a transporter. This transporter comes to the surface of the muscle cell and acts similar to a key in a door, as it opens up the cell and allows the glucose to be let in and used as energy. This means that the pancreas doesn’t need to produce as much insulin, the insulin is not soley dependent on reducing the high amounts of glucose, and the insulin may also become more sensitive, or less resistant, to up taking glucose during or following exercise.  

3. Improves metabolism 

During exercise, your body is able to convert and utilise more of the foods you eat or drinks you consume as energy. This will help burn off more calories. 

4. Improves fatigue and sleep disturbances or quality

By decreasing arousal and prompting a change in body temperature. A decrease in body temperature following an increase (during exercise) has been shown to trigger drowsiness and therefore improve sleep quality to potentially reduce fatigue levels and sleep disturbances. 


5. Improves mental health 

By improving anxiety and depressive symptoms, as the exercise you perform may trigger similar symptoms and help associate those symptoms (such as a heavy chest, shortness of breath, sweating, etc.) to a more positive experience or environment. It can also release chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, which improve mood, self-confidence, self-esteem, and body image. 

6. And in turn, enhance weight loss. 

Compound exercises, such as a squat and an overhead press, are the best types of movement to improve your PCOS symptoms. However, on the days you may feel super fatigued, tight and just ek, any movement is better than nothing. Even just a basic mobility or stretching program may be more suitable.

Just remember; Not everyone has the same ability when exercising, and because you might not be able to jump or move in a certain direction, or lift heavy weights, or lose that 5% within 3 weeks like everyone else does, does NOT always mean you aren’t trying!! ANY movement is good for the big 6.

Resources:

If you would like further guidance on an appropriate and suitable exercise program tailored to your own symptoms and abilities, feel free to contact the Revitalize team on (03) 9016 3415. 

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