How To Lose Weight With PCOS – 11 Ways To Try In 2023

Mitchelle Morgan - Health & Wellness Writer
Dr. Michael DiLeo, MD
How to lose weight with PCOS? Here are ways you should try. Read along for tips on the easiest ways to lose weight with PCOS in 2023 .
how to lose weight with pcos
You can lose weight even with PCOS. Photo: Ba Le Ho

Polycystic ovary syndrome — PCOS — is a common endocrinopathy affecting 6% to 18% of women. PCOS symptoms include irregular periods, ovarian cysts, acne, weight gain, increased testosterone, and abnormal hair growth. Also called polycystic ovarian syndrome, it can cause ovulation problems. Its distinguishing feature, however, is being insulin resistant.

PCOS is due to complex interactions of different processes, but obesity and family history increase the chances of PCOS.

Based on research, people with PCOS and its associated obesity and insulin resistance[1] risk diabetes. However, they can improve insulin sensitivity and manage PCOS symptoms with the right health choices. 

If you have PCOS, always aim for a carbohydrate diet with a low glycemic index, fiber, and whole grains to help regulate your weight. That will help insulin levels and help you lose belly fat. However, you may wonder, can I lose belly fat if I have PCOS?

In this article, we will explain how to lose weight with PCOS.

How To Lose Weight With PCOS

Here are ten plans that have been recommended to help you lose weight with PCOS:

  1. Adopt a low-carb diet.
  2. Exercise first, eat later.
  3. Focus on fiber.
  4. Add plant-based products to your plate.
  5. Eat more fermented foods.
  6. Practice mindful eating.
  7. Keep stress in check.
  8. Get enough sleep.
  9. Consider a supplement.
  10. Maintain your caffeine intake.

10 Helpful Ways To Lose Weight With PCOS

Living with PCOS makes it harder to lose weight unless you can improve insulin sensitivity. You can drastically reduce the symptoms of PCOS and perhaps even lose excess weight, too, with these healthy practices: 

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Adopt A Low-Carb Diet

Recent research by the National Library of Medicine tested the effect of low carbohydrates[2] on the weight of people with PCOS, with the following results:

Research for weight loss showed that altering the type of carbohydrates did not have enough evidence for recommending it.

From the 8-week trial, people who combined behavioral changes, exercise, and sleep hygiene did better with diet than diet alone for their body mass index.

Therefore, to shed weight with PCOS, while there isn’t enough evidence yet to recommend adjusting your diet drastically, there are some alterations you should consider in conjunction with a healthy diet:

  • Use olive oil instead of butter and margarine.
  • Eat beans and legumes instead of meat for protein.
  • Opt for whole grains like brown rice, sorghum, and barley.
  • Have whole fruits as desserts for fiber content. Fiber helps you remain full longer, aids digestion, and slows absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
  • Enjoy non-starchy vegetables, like mushrooms, tomatoes, kale, pepper, spinach, or broccoli.

The essential strategy for long-term body weight benefits is to adopt a weight loss diet that you can maintain long-term. This is why we don’t recommend doing away completely with carbohydrates since you cannot sustain this.

Drink Plenty Of Water And Low- Or No-Sugar Beverages

To stay hydrated, consume a lot of plain water and unsweetened coffee instead of soda or fresh juice. Also, avoiding sugar should be important.

Exercise First, Eat Later

Generally, working out directs your body to use stored fats, which balances insulin levels and reduces belly fat. Excess fats are stored in the belly area. Exercising first before meals maximizes your workout.

It will also help burn calories faster, which is essential for weight loss.

When you exercise before meals, your metabolic rate rises, and this causes your body to store carbs as energy, which are easier to burn than fats.

If you are dealing with PCOS, exercise regularly and take advantage of high-intensity workouts to keep your insulin levels in check.

Focus On Fiber

Food in a high-fiber diet makes you feel full longer, which causes you to crave less. Fiber also modulates insulin resistance, which can not only promote weight loss but be helpful in chronic illnesses like diabetes.

The American Heart Association[3] recommends that every woman consume nutritious foods with at least a 51% proportion of whole grain fiber daily compared to processed foods.

Most grains, legumes, leafy vegetables, and squash contain low calories and will help you raise your fiber levels.

You can also supplement your smoothie or protein shake for fiber.

Add Plant-Based Products To Your Plate

how to lose weight with pcos
A diet high in plant foods helps improve insulin resistance. Photo: Shutterstock

Research[4] done on women with PCOS determined how different dietary lifestyle changes affected them. These were the results:

  • A diet high in plant foods and dairy, increased meal frequency, and intense exercise improved insulin resistance and cholesterol the best.
  • A diet of sweets and added sugar increased the chances of insulin resistance in women with PCOS.
  • Fruits did not lower the metabolic rate.
  • Meat with low GI negatively affected the metabolic rate of women with PCOS.

Women with high insulin resistance should reduce their added sugar intake and increase their vegetable and dairy intake. However, focusing on a low GI diet can cause you to miss out on some fruits’ helpful antioxidant levels.

Plant-based foods tend to lower insulin resistance. Therefore, as you balance your diet, ensure your food has more plant-based complex carbohydrates like unprocessed grains, legumes, or vegetables and less meat. Fruits and their antioxidant effects should not be eliminated completely.

Eat More Fermented Foods

Studies of women with PCOS show that they are more likely to have risk factors for atherosclerosis[5] because of their dietary lifestyle. Probiotics and fermented foods may be helpful here, but more research is needed.

Practice Mindful Eating

how to lose weight with pcos
Mindful eating may help you lose weight with PCOS. Photo: Shutterstock

Women with PCOS are likelier to develop[6] eating disorders than women without PCOS. Therefore, they must be more attentive to their food to regulate their weight and avoid extreme dieting.

Ideally, it would be best to devise a meal schedule that controls food intake to avoid overeating.

With PCOS, increased sugar levels and meat negatively affect the metabolism, favoring obesity. Part of mindful eating consists of taking responsibility for the combinations and amount of food you consume.

Additionally, every time you sit for a meal, savor your food as you eat without distractions. This is to help you stay in touch with your hunger levels to reduce overeating and weight gain.

Keep Stress In Check

Find ways to reduce stress levels, as chronic stress has been linked[7] directly to belly fat and general weight gain. Your body increases cortisol levels whenever you are stressed, a hormone that promotes weight gain.

In addition to maintaining a balanced diet, managing your stress will go a long way in ensuring your weight stays in check.

There are several stress management activities you can take on, but the most common ones include yoga, listening to music, and taking a walk.

Get Enough Sleep

Lack of enough sleep[8] has been linked to obesity. Insomnia increases the activity of hunger hormones like ghrelin and cortisol, causing you to eat more than usual within the day.

Sleep disturbances, sleeping too much within the day, sleep apnea, and insomnia are all associated with weight gain.

While those can occur with PCOS, you should push as much and ensure you get the right sleep each day. In addition to regulating your weight, sleep will improve your general body function.

Consider A Supplement

Supplements with N-acetylcysteine are known to improve the liver’s ability to break down[9] excess testosterone, which people with PCOS struggle with.

You can also consider taking myo-inositol, a specific sugar that helps increase insulin sensitivity, possibly resulting in weight loss.

Carnitine, found in meat, can also aid weight loss, but a meat diet is considered a poorer dietary lifestyle choice for PCOS.

Maintain Your Caffeine Intake

While coffee intake may be beneficial[10] to people with PCOS, the studies are inconclusive. Additionally, coffee-associated improvement of insulin response has been both supported and refuted by studies.[11] 

Why Is Losing Weight With PCOS So Hard?

Several reasons[12] hinder weight loss for women with PCOS. Here are the most common ones:

  • Insulin resistance: One of the effects of PCOS is that your body has difficulty using insulin to process glucose, which can increase blood sugar levels. As a result, your body may have a more challenging time losing weight compared to someone who doesn’t have PCOS.
  • Depression: This is an indirect cause of over-eating.
  • Hormonal imbalances: PCOS can cause increased androgens like testosterone, contributing to weight gain and trouble losing weight. Androgens also promote fat storage, increase insulin resistance, and can result in unwanted hair.
  • Slower metabolism: Reduced metabolism makes it difficult to lose weight and often takes more effort, like more intense exercises, to burn fat.
  • Increased food cravings: Hormonal imbalances of ghrelin and leptin hormones that regulate appetite can make it harder for people with PCOS to control their diets.
  • Poor sleep patterns: Women with PCOS are more likely to have sleep disturbances, contributing to trouble losing weight because of the hormones, like ghrelin,[13] produced when you’re awake.

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Things To Consider

For a woman with PCOS, your diet should be your priority. Food that affects weight and general reproductive health cannot be ignored. Therefore, ensure you increase plant intake and reduce meat, sugar, and processed sugar.

That said, here are foods you should limit your intake of:

  • Red meat.
  • Beverages with added sugar.
  • Processed foods and snacks.
  • High-sugar cereals.
  • Refined floor.
  • Alcohol.
  • Saturated fats like butter.
  • Fried meals.

Instead, you should add more vegetables, legumes, and fruits to your plate. Doing this will go a long way in controlling insulin resistance and metabolism.


Most people believe that a PCOS diagnosis equals being doomed to a life of poor health and infertility. With the right diet plan, however, you can manage a healthy life and positively impact the effects of PCOS.

Also, losing weight with PCOS is a challenging task. However, if you regulate your sugar intake, focus more on fiber, vegetables, legumes, and fruits, and exercise often, you will maintain a fit body.

Before adopting any weight loss plans, exercises, and detox, talk to your doctor first to develop an appropriate weight loss plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Hard to Lose Weight With PCOS?

PCOS makes it difficult for your body to lose weight because of excess fats and ineffective insulin. Studies show that about 70% of women with PCOS struggle with obesity.

What Is PCOS Belly?

It is the bloating and abdominal weight gain associated with PCOS. It is often a result of insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, and inflammation that cause the body to store fats in the belly.

Can You Lose Weight With PCOS?

Yes. You can lose weight with PCOS, although it’s difficult because of ineffective insulin in the body that causes excess fat gain.

Is It Hard to Lose Weight With PCOS?

People with PCOS often have a difficult time losing weight. This is because of their body’s ineffective insulin, causing fat build-up and other indirect causes such as depression. The fat can be quite difficult to lose.

How Can I Lose Weight With Endometriosis And PCOS?

With PCOS, you need to stick to foods that reduce insulin resistance. Ensure your diet consists of low-carb and low-glycemic foods to reduce insulin levels. Endometriosis is quite different and unrelated, with less impact on weight.

How Can I Lose Weight With PCOS?

Focus more on fibrous foods. Fiber reduces insulin resistance and keeps you full longer, which helps control your appetite.

How Can I Lose Belly Fat With PCOS?

You should adopt a low-carb diet, eat more fiber, and add plant-based products to your plate. Keeping off stress and getting enough sleep is also vital in reducing belly fat.


  1. T;Mortada, W. (2016). Diagnosis and Treatment of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. American family physician, [online] 94(2). Available at:
  2. Cowan, S., Lim, S., Alycia, C., Pirotta, S., Thomson, R.L., Gibson-Helm, M., Blackmore, R., Negar Naderpoor, Bennett, C., Ee, C., Rao, V., Mousa, A., Alesi, S. and Moran, L.J. (2023). Lifestyle management in polycystic ovary syndrome – beyond diet and physical activity. BMC Endocrine Disorders, [online] 23(1). doi:
  3. (2021). Whole Grains, Refined Grains, and Dietary Fiber. [online] Available at:
  4. Aleksandra Bykowska-Derda, Małgorzata Kałużna, Marek Ruchała, Katarzyna Ziemnicka and Czlapka-Matyasik, M. (2023). The Significance of Plant-Based Foods and Intense Physical Activity on the Metabolic Health of Women with PCOS: A Priori Dietary-Lifestyle Patterns Approach. Applied sciences, [online] 13(4), pp.2118–2118. doi:
  5. Aleksandra Bykowska-Derda, Małgorzata Kałużna, Garbacz, A., Katarzyna Ziemnicka, Marek Ruchała and Czlapka-Matyasik, M. (2023). Intake of Low Glycaemic Index Foods but Not Probiotics Is Associated with Atherosclerosis Risk in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Life, [online] 13(3), pp.799–799. doi:
  6. Ee, C., Pirotta, S., Mousa, A., Moran, L.J. and Lim, S. (2021). Providing lifestyle advice to women with PCOS: an overview of practical issues affecting success. BMC Endocrine Disorders, [online] 21(1). doi:
  7. Barnali Ray Basu, Chowdhury, O. and Saha, S. (2018). Possible link between stress-related factors and altered body composition in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, [online] 11(1), pp.10–10. doi:
  8. Georges Copinschi and Caufriez, A. (2021). Sleep and the ovarian axis. Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research, [online] 17, pp.38–45. doi:
  9. Anna Maria Fulghesu, Ciampelli, M., Muzj, G., C. Belosi, Selvaggi, L., Gian Franco Ayala and Lanzone, A. (2002). N-acetyl-cysteine treatment improves insulin sensitivity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertility and Sterility, [online] 77(6), pp.1128–1135. doi:
  10. Wang, Y., Yang, Y., Deng, H. and Fu, L.-J. (2021). Coffee consumption and the risk of polycystic ovary syndrome: evidence from a case-control study. [online] ResearchGate. Available at:
  11. Chavarro, J.E., Rich-Edwards, J.W., Rosner, B. and Willett, W.C. (2009). Caffeinated and Alcoholic Beverage Intake in Relation to Ovulatory Disorder Infertility. Epidemiology, [online] 20(3), pp.374–381. doi:
  12. Barber, T.M., Hanson, P., Weickert, M.O. and Franks, S. (2019). Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Implications for Pathogenesis and Novel Management Strategies. Clinical medicine insights, [online] 13, p.117955811987404-117955811987404. doi:
  13. Pradhan, G., Samson, S.L. and Sun, Y. (2013). Ghrelin. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, [online] 16(6), pp.619–624. doi:

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