Dieting + PCOS can promote eating disorders

Have PCOS? You can make peace with food too. Let's navigate this.
Have PCOS? You can make peace with food too. Let’s navigate this.

This week’s blog is doing cartwheels around the possibility of PCOS and food peace. I hope you find this information invigorating and revolutionary. If you have PCOS, please know you don’t have to punish yourself anymore. You can find health without diets!

Dieting, PCOS, and Eating Disorders

I am primarily an eating disorder behavior expert. My training in nutrition and counseling helps me understand the root of client pathological connections to food. Although not always understood, eating disorders have the highest fatality rate of all mental illnesses. Eating disorder research is providing answers to the question, “Why!?!” The textbook eating disorder recipe: genetic predisposition, negative body image, and a change in eating habits (here’s an article explaining this).

Negative body image occurs frequently with PCOS. Remember that facial hair, balding, and fat tummy? Not exactly fitting cultural ideals of beauty. Combine that with weight stigma and most women with PCOS dislike their body. Of course they will try everything to change it. Why is it so hard though?

Most women with PCOS have insulin resistance (IR). Of important note, insulin levels are tremendously higher in PCOS compared to folks with type 2 diabetes. This means women with PCOS feel more chaotic from IR. Insulin is a growth hormone so when it is high a person’s weight will not go down unless doing something drastic. I refer to this as extreme dieting and won’t go into details. I do witness women with PCOS losing weight from these methods yet the weight always comes back. This sucks yet what is even worse is it starts diet → binge cycle.

And an eating disorder is born.

From here, genetics take over whether it becomes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder or subclinical disordered eating. None are health promoting. Remember, eating disorders have the highest fatality rate of any mental illness. We don’t know a person’s genetics by looking at them. We do know women with PCOS typically have the other 2 parts to the eating disorder receipe: negative body image and change in eating habits.

Numerous twin studies suggest the more a person diets the more disordered their eating (article explaining many here).

Why are we prescribing a method (diets), that has no scientific proof to work and can cause a mental health condition with the highest fatality rate?

Keep asking this question because we must find a better solution. Women with PCOS: you deserve a better one.

Click here to see Part 3 of this series: Stop Yo Yo Dieting to Help Treat Your PCOS