5 Common PCOS Diet Mistakes
A PCOS diagnosis often brings with it a whole host of emotions and endless questions. Often when women are diagnosed with PCOS their Doctor isn't very helpful. This is not necessarily the Doctors fault, they are just simply not educated in the area of PCOS. The advice Doctors often give women with PCOS are three things; lose weight, limit your carbohydrate intake and the only treatment option for PCOS is the Birth Control Pill.
Losing weight can be a struggle at times, however, losing weight becomes even more difficult when you also suffer from insulin resistance in which many women with PCOS also do. Insulin resistance is when the cells in the body have trouble absorbing glucose, and as a result, there is a buildup of glucose in the blood.
As I mentioned, Doctors often recommend losing weight for PCOS. While losing weight can help the symptoms of PCOS and is beneficial for one's overall health and well-being, it is not getting to the root cause of PCOS. The root cause of PCOS is a hormone imbalance, and therefore an approach needs to be recommended which can help treat and reverse their PCOS, a mere suggestion of losing weight and cut out carbs does not suffice.
However, as I mentioned above, it is not necessarily the Doctors fault for the poor advice, they are not specialised in PCOS and the area of diet and nutrition.
Below you will find 5 common PCOS Diet mistakes we have all made. Knowing the diet mistakes, you will now be able to recognise them and avoid making them yourselves.
Eating too little calories
If you are looking to lose weight with your PCOS you may be thinking, well how can this be? Isn't the whole principle of losing weight to be in a caloric deficit, so, therefore, I need to eat fewer calories, right? Yes, to lose weight you must be eating in a caloric deficit, however, eating too little calories can affect your weight loss and your PCOS.
A severe caloric deficit for an extended period of time can lead to a weight loss plateau, but it is also not healthy for your hormones. A symptom of PCOS is irregular or no periods at all. What often happens when you follow low-calorie diets for a long period of time is that your reproductive hormones, your menstrual cycle, sex drive, bones and heart are as a result affected.
Our body undertakes these responses in order to save energy. When your body is in a starving state it shuts down reproduction as there are not enough calories for one person let alone two. Your body is more focused on saving energy for survival.
Furthermore, low-calorie dieting brings with it many negative side effects. Restricting your calories too much also increases both chronic psychological stress and cortisol production – two factors that are known to cause weight gain.
Eating Little To No Carbohydrates
Our hormones need carbs.
Reducing your carb intake too low or eliminating carbohydrates from your diet is not good for your thyroid. It is vital for women especially that we eat carbohydrates for our fertility/menstrual health.
Your hypothalamus loves carbs/glucose; it is one of the key regulators of your hormones and it signals to your brain and ovaries that you are being fed. The hypothalamus produces the Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone; a low Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone is the cause of irregular menstrual cycles.
Many women with PCOS also suffer from insulin resistance.
Often Doctors suggest that women with PCOS should limit their carbohydrate intake. Reducing the number of carbs you eat can help.
Although, it is often assumed that eliminating carbohydrates from your diet will help treat insulin resistance. However, eliminating carbs from your diet does not treat insulin resistance, while you may think you are treating it, you have not healed it by getting to the root cause.
You do not have to eliminate carbs, simply opt for better carb options, complex carbs such as quinoa and buckwheat. These types of carbs have a low Glycemic Index and in turn, will not increase your blood sugar levels or your insulin.
Focusing too much on the calories rather than the quality of food
When it comes to managing your PCOS, it is not about the number of calories you are eating. Sure when you are trying to lose weight calories are important too. However, to reverse your PCOS and balance your hormones, your food choices are a lot more important than the number of calories you are eating. Focus on eating better rather than less all the time, the quality of your food is key to managing your PCOS and living a healthy lifestyle.
Furthermore, if you are someone who is following a Ketogenic diet make sure you are eating the healthiest sources of fat, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. While this also applies if you follow a Vegan lifestyle make sure that you are opting for the best carb sources, complex carbohydrates and carbs which have been minimally processed.
Stop jumping from one diet to another.
When it comes to managing your PCOS, there is no best diet. While there is nothing wrong with experimenting with different diet/lifestyle approaches, such as Keto, Paleo and Vegan, to try and find out what is best for your body and PCOS, simply do not get caught up with all the diets that are out there telling you this one is best. You know your body more than anyone.
We all know diets do not work in the long run. Studies show that 95% of all dieters will regain the weight they lost in 1-5 years. A most common effect of beginning a diet and not 'succeeding' is yo-yo dieting. This cycle involves starting a diet for a period of time, stopping and then restarting it again. Many women can be on a dieting cycle for their whole life, not knowing that chronic dieting is doing them more harm than good. However, women often yo - yo diet because they believe they have failed the diet, not that the diet has failed them.
Studies have further shown that dieting is also associated with increased food preoccupation, binge eating, and eating in the absence of hunger.
It is important that you stay away from short-term and fad diets for weight loss, sure you will lose weight, but it is not true weight loss. These types of diets are not maintainable or sustainable. Such dieting methods do not instil healthy eating or life-changing habits. Once the extreme diet is over, you will have gone back to your bad eating habits and poor lifestyle choices.
Restricting too much
Be flexible with your diet. While there are certain foods you should avoid or limit for your PCOS, allow yourself at times to indulge in foods you may not always allow yourself to it. Restriction almost always leads to binging.
Also if you are looking to lose weight, you do not have to go on crazy low-calorie diets, and you do not have to deprive or restrict yourself. Many people who decide to lose weight restrict certain foods and food groups. They label foods a 'good' and 'bad,' 'healthy' and 'unhealthy.' When you start labelling and restricting food, you begin to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and start to hate the journey and as a result quit or start binging.
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