How to eat with PCOS without dieting

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. This is the fourth post of the series. If you have PCOS, please know you don’t have to punish yourself anymore. You can find health without diets!

Promoting Health without Harm: A PCOS Primer

You have PCOS and at high risk for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Or, maybe you already have these. We’ve been through why diets don’t work, how they set you up to regain weight, and place you at higher risk for developing an eating disorder. But, how you are supposed to eat?

Get enough fuel to prevent worsening long-term PCOS symptoms

  • Be sure you are eating enough to fuel your body to be active, energized, and prevent inflammation. Insulin levels will go down if you are able to consistently eat with more frequency throughout the day.
  • Dieting is not the solution. Eating too little promotes inflammation (which increases insulin) and sets many up to binge eat. Make a vow, for a month, a season, or a year to stop dieting. Stepping away from weight loss pursuits will give you the opportunity to feel less craving to binge. Remember that hopeful clear feeling a diet brings? That is just diet’s seductive fantasy starting its lie. This is how the diet → binge vicious cycle begins not ends. Do you feel chaos around food when not dieting? Don’t blame yourself or the food blame the dieting. Within my clinical work with bingeing behavior, my clients stop bingeing only after they stop dieting.

Let your body help you make food decisions

  • Consider what makes you decide to eat. Is it hunger? The clock? An emotion?
  • If hunger or the clock helps you know when to eat, consider working with a dietitian trained in Intuitive Eating using weight neutral approaches. Search Food Peace Challenge on this blog for many articles on this.
  • If you eat based on emotions, check out this post. It will help you move toward reconnecting safely with hunger and fullness to promote health. If this brings up discomfort, seek out an eating disorder dietitian specialist (he or she will have CEDRD after their credentials).

Some possibly helpful foods, supplements and medicines (latter as prescribed by your doctor)

  • Most people with PCOS need to eat more protein. Don’t completely omit carbs or fat; this would be harmful. Instead, eat protein with every eating opportunity. Notice how your body feels when you do eat protein versus when you don’t. Take a curious approach: do you notice a difference? Feel more energized? Fewer headaches? A dietitian can also help you with this.
  • I find women with PCOS will need to supplement their omega 3 intake with Fish Oil namely DHA/EPA. It helps treat the underlying PCOS condition. Speak with your health care provider about this. Keep in mind it takes 3 to 6 months for you to feel a benefit from this: keep on taking them! It will help your mood, insulin level, and ovulation.
  • I also recommend an inositol supplement. I love this background and recommendation from my colleague Angela Grassi RD.
  • Speak with your doctor about using Metformin. Most recent literature is suggesting its use with therapeutic doses at 1500 to 2000 mg. This decreases insulin levels and will significantly decrease cravings. Many report feeling queasy, nausea, or diarrhea while starting this medicine. Please know this is temporary for most and better tolerated when taken with a meal. If your doctor does prescribe Metformin, remember to get your B12 level checked annually and take supplemental B12.

Sleep is very important in hormonal regulation with PCOS

  • Sleep is just as an important part of treatment as food and medicine. Consider checking for sleep apnea if you haven’t already. If you properly treat sleep apnea and get better sleep quality, your PCOS symptoms will improve.
  • Be sure to avoid smartphones, tablets, and computers for an hour or two before bed time. Doing so will improve your sleep (more info here.)

Stop the judging!

  • There is no such thing as a perfect eater. Don’t let your brain convince you otherwise! You can promote health without doing everything right.
  • Be kind to yourself. PCOS sucks and takes a long time to heal. Think marathon rather than a sprint.
  • Healing your relationship with food while improving your health is going to be journey. Practice a nonjudgmental approach and you will move forward. Abundant research on this here.

Let me know how I can help you along the way.

Choosing diet free living is not neglectful. It’s not letting yourself go, it’s letting yourself be.