Why Women with PCOS Shouldn’t Fear Food

As a registered dietitian nutritionist at the PCOS Nutrition Center, I have heard it all when it comes to foods to avoid for PCOS. You have probably heard your fair share of them as well on social media. Do some of these statements sound familiar?

“I can’t do gluten

Fruit is bad for PCOS”

“Soy? No way!”

“Too many points”

“Dairy is awful for PCOS”

Sugar is the devil!”

“No potatoes for me”

“No carbs for me, thanks”

“Peanut butter has so much fat!”

Women with PCOS are Scared of Food

This saddens me. One of the main reasons I became an RDN is because I saw the good in food. Food has the power to keep us healthy. Food can help heal PCOS. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not feared.

There are so many myths surrounding the holy grail of diets women with PCOS should follow. The truth is, there isn’t one special diet. No one way of eating has proven to be more superior to another for women with PCOS.

Yes, there are people that feel better following a gluten-free lifestyle or cutting down on dairy. But there are also women who don’t feel better and see no benefit to following them.

If anything, diets make us more fearful of food by focusing on avoiding certain foods. This is the main reason diets don’t work and only contribute to weight gain in the long-run and worsening PCOS symptoms.

A problem arises when people (including health professionals), promote the avoidance of food groups when there is little to no research to back it up. Just because one study says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. The problem it creates is that it causes women with PCOS fear food.

Maybe it worked for them (“Eat like me! Look like me!”), but no evidence has shown that fruit, soy, or gluten is “bad” for women with PCOS to eat. If anything, fruit and soy has been shown to benefit women with PCOS.

Remembering the Pleasure of Food

It’s time women with PCOS start remembering that food is pleasurable. It gives us energy. It keeps us healthy. It can heal PCOS.

Take fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods provide fiber and antioxidants. We need these foods to help prevent cancer and prevent diabetes and high blood pressure.

Omega-3 fats like salmon, nuts, avocado and olive oil can help our mood, skin, hair and fight inflammation.

Why should women with PCOS fear or avoid these foods?

It’s time women with PCOS start enjoying food again. Slow down and eat mindfully. Listen to what your body needs to eat at that time, not what the rules of the diet tell you to eat. If this is something you struggle with, here are some tips to guide you.

Tips for Becoming a Mindful Eater

Keep a Food Journal

This isn’t for keeping track of calories or points. A food journal can help you be more mindful of physical hunger, satisfaction and fullness using a rating scale from 1 (completely empty) to 10 (stuffed to the max).

Here’s how to use it. Each time you sit down to eat, rate how hungry you are. Pay attention to what you are experiencing when you are hungry. Notice what happens if you are hungry and don’t eat right away. When you finish eating, rate how satisfied you are. Notice if you are physically uncomfortable, satisfied, or didn’t eat enough. If you were feeling full or satisfied, notice if you are you able to leave food on your plate.

Sit Down and Pay Attention

Have you ever been watching TV or driving while you eat and suddenly the food is gone? Maybe you ate it all and didn’t remember tasting it. Sometimes you don’t know what it looked or smelled like. How satisfying is that? You missed out on the pleasure of several sensations. When your mind is focused on other things, your body has difficulty identifying what your body is experiencing. Your body may have needed less food but because you weren’t eating mindfully, you may have eaten more than you needed. This is when problems with weight management arise.

As much as you can, sit down at a table and eat without distraction. Really notice the food in front of you-how it looks and smells. Slow down and really taste your food. Notice its texture as well as flavor. Do this with each bite. With practice, mindful eating will become easier.PCOS Workbook

Use The PCOS Workbook

A good place to start learning more about mindful eating is The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health. The PCOS Workbook has been shown to be an effective tool to reduce anxiety, depression, and problematic eating. This bestselling self-help guide covers topics such as mindfulness to manage stress, helpful advice to be a more mindful eater, improving body image, as well as other ways to take control over PCOS.

Work with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Working with an RDN who has experience in treating individuals with distorted eating or eating disorders and PCOS (like us!), can help support and coach you to becoming a more mindful eater, and learn more about what foods to eat to benefit your PCOS.

As we approach Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude when food is shared with loved ones, take time to savor your meal. Not just on Thanksgiving, all days. Appreciate food and what it can do for our bodies. Taste the food. Eat it mindfully. And enjoy it!

Angela 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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