7 Reasons Why Diets Don’t Work for PCOS

I know you’ve worked SO hard to lose weight if you suffer from PCOS. Women with this condition work harder than anyone else I know to get the scale to budge only to see it not move!

You’ve tried it all: eating gluten free, counted everything from calories to fat grams to carbs. Maybe you even cut carbs out altogether. You’ve gone as long as you could without eating. You work out hard. Yet, the weight barely moves on the scale or you see weight loss only to look at a slice of pizza and see the weight come right back on and then some.

I hear you and I believe you because it all happened to me.

PCOS is complex. There is still so much to learn about it despite PCOS being the most common endocrine disorder among fertile women. Here are some reasons why weight loss is so hard for those with PCOS and why it may be time to jump off the endless diet roller coaster once and for all.

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Blame Your PCOS Ancestors

If you feel like you need to blame someone for your PCOS, blame your ancestors. There is a strong genetic link to PCOS. Many sisters have PCOS and daughters from mothers with PCOS. PCOS may have served a big benefit at some point. That benefit: survival.

Women with PCOS may have a genetic advantage that has been passed on for centuries, stemming from the hunter and gather years. PCOS women back then had the ability to survive when others didn’t thanks to a slower metabolism that required less food, infertility which resulted in less risk of maternal death, and the advantage of having more muscle mass and body fat to withstand a famine. But those days are long gone!

Higher Insulin Levels

Compared to those without PCOS, women with the syndrome have higher insulin levels. Insulin is a growth hormone: its role in the body is to promote fat storage (AKA weight gain). Insulin is also a powerful appetite stimulant which causes you to crave high carbohydrate foods. All the time.

Slower Metabolism

Women with PCOS tend to have much slower metabolisms than those without PCOS. Again, it can be related back to those hunter and gatherer years which served a great purpose of requiring less food to survive.

Many women with PCOS may only experience weight loss with very low calorie restriction. When you do lose weight, you will only slow down your metabolism more. As soon as you begin to eat more food, you will most likely regain weight. A slower metabolism is the basic premise of why diets don’t work for anyone really. It’s not your fault. It’s the diet.

Impaired Appetite Regulating Hormones

To top it all off, women with PCOS have been found to have impaired levels of appetite regulating hormones. This means the hormones that help us feel hungry or full aren’t working properly.  This hormone impairment along with high insulin could explain why you may feel hungry all the time.

Preoccupation with Food

Unless you are a chef or are in the food service industry, you may not want to be thinking about food constantly. Caloric restriction (AKA dieting) has been proven to cause preoccupation with food and weight. It’s part of survival: your body is communicating that you need more nutrition and won’t stop until you get it. Those who suffer from eating disorders will tell you that thinking about food and weight all day is exhausting and never ending.

Poor Self-Esteem and Eating Disorders

Diets lead to eating disorders. In fact, I have not met one person who I have treated for an eating disorder in my past 20 years as a dietitian that his or her eating disorder didn’t start with a diet.

Diets can initially result in weight loss but usually results in weight gain, making you feel like a failure because you couldn’t maintain the weight loss. Again, the diet failed, not you.

Feeling like a failure can lead to more attempts to control weight that can lead to eating disorder behaviors such as binge eating.

So as you can see, women with PCOS have a harder time losing weight due to many factors. Diets don’t work which is why almost all the people who follow a diet plan end up gaining the weight back down the road.

Diets really cause more harm than good.

I don’t blame you for wanting to be at a lower weight. We live in a fat-phobic society that values thinness. The most common advice received by the medical community is to diet and lose weight.  But it’s hard for women with PCOS to achieve a lower weight and keep it off for the long-run. Instead what happens is that women lose weight only to regain it and repeat this cycle over and over. Weight cycling has been shown to be detrimental to health and is linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Looking for an alternative way to manage PCOS without dieting? Yes, it’s very possible and not nearly as hard as diets are! Improving your lifestyle without focusing on weight loss is where it’s at.

Are you ready to jump off the dieting roller coaster? Would you like to learn how to eat for your PCOS and stop binge eating for good? I provide a non-diet approach to helping you find what works best for your PCOS body so you don’t ever have to diet again.

Let’s talk. Here’s a link to my calendar so you can schedule a call today to learn more.

I can’t wait to help you feel better.PCOS Nutrition Center PCOS Prenatal

pcos dietitian angela grassiAngela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN is the founder of The PCOS Nutrition Center where she provides evidence-based nutrition information and coaching to women with PCOS. Angela is the author of several books on PCOS including PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide, The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health, and The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook Recognized by Today’s Dietitian as one of the Top 10 Incredible Dietitian’s making a difference in 2014, Angela is the past recipient for The Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur Award, The Award in Excellence in Practice in Women’s Health and The Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having PCOS herself, Angela has been dedicated to advocacy, education, and research of the syndrome.

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Comments (10)
  • Meghna Desai

    January 10, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    I would like to know more. I have been suffering with PCOS since I was 17 years old and that is when I got my period, which is because of PCOS. I have the pear shape body with a big stomach and small face. The typical PCOS body type.

    I have been able to lose some weight on my stomach because my gyno prescribed me metformin 3 months ago, but its still harder to lose all the excess fat on my stomach.


  • Angela Grassi

    January 23, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    Meghana, feel free to book a call with us to see if our 3 month nutrition coaching program is a good fit for you: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/our-services/nutrition-coaching/

  • Debbie Chapman

    January 13, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Jennie has told me about you and I would like to get as much information as I can for myself and for a friend. I was not diagnosed with PCOS until I was about 59 yo. My endogrinologist told me I should have been diagnosed when I first became full female at 10. I have so many questions and so much confusion. I hope that you and your site can help me get some undetstanding on this problem.

  • Angela Grassi

    January 23, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Debbie! Happy to help! Here is the link to schedule a call with me and see if my 3 month program is a good fit for you: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/our-services/nutrition-coaching/

  • Jenny

    January 17, 2019 at 8:08 am

    I have PCOS and asthma and difficult control my diet

    Can text or email

  • Angela Grassi

    January 23, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    We would love to help you improve your eating. Feel free to schedule a call with us to discuss more: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/our-services/nutrition-coaching/

  • Luna Xial

    February 10, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    I’m 17 years old and just recently learned I have PCOS, I’ve always wondered why I could never keep weight off or why crazy diets didn’t work when I would follow them strictly. I’m so confused on how to go about living with this since as far as I’m aware there’s no cure. Hopefully I will learn as much as I can from your site!

  • Dietitian for PCOS

    July 26, 2019 at 2:02 am

    Thanks for the information.

  • Rebecca R

    February 7, 2020 at 3:53 am

    I would like to know more. I got diagnosed with PCOS when I was 14ish. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. Never having regular periods was amazing. Now it’s the worst thing I deal with. I am married, i have gained 55 pounds in 5 years and i have tried every diet out there. Never lasting more than a month or two. My cravings get the better of me and we are trying to have a baby. I was put on Metformin but never had a period.

  • Angela Grassi

    February 7, 2020 at 10:15 am

    Rebecca, Sounds like you have discovered diets don’t work for PCOS :). Ugh, it’s so hard. The PCOS Workbook is a great place to learn more about how to take control over PCOS and improve your fertility without dieting. I also have a 12 week program that is 1:1 nutrition coaching to help. Feel free to schedule a time to talk on my website. Metformin doesn’t work for all. Ovasitol is a supplement that hs been shown to regulate menstrual cycles and lower cravings. We sell it in our store.

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