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General Fitness

Understanding weight gain with PCOS

February 25, 2024

Are you struggling with PCOS weight gain?  

We all know that losing weight can be tough, but it's even more challenging when you have PCOS. It feels like you're fighting an uphill battle, and no matter how much you try, the weight just won't budge. 

But it's time for you to take control of your health & wellbeing! So, make yourself comfortable, grab your notebook & pen, and let's dive into the what, why and how of PCOS weight gain. 

In this blog post, we'll explore the science behind why PCOS causes weight gain, which areas of our bodies are affected, and, most importantly, some natural ways to treat it.

Why does PCOS cause weight gain?

PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a hormonal disorder that affects many women of reproductive age. One of the most common symptoms of PCOS is weight gain, particularly in the abdomen area. Up to 80% of women with PCOS are overweight or obese.

There are several reasons why PCOS causes weight gain. Here's a breakdown:

Insulin Resistance 

  • Insulin resistance is a hallmark of PCOS. It happens when cells become less sensitive to insulin signals, causing the body to produce more insulin to compensate. This excess insulin can lead to high insulin levels in the bloodstream, disrupting the menstrual cycle and causing other symptoms of PCOS, including weight gain.

  • The exact reason why cells become less sensitive to insulin is still unclear. However, research suggests that genetics and lifestyle factors, such as a diet high in processed foods and sugar, lack of physical activity, and stress, can contribute to insulin resistance.

  • In addition to regulating blood sugar levels, insulin plays a crucial role in regulating ovarian function. High insulin levels in women with PCOS can cause the ovaries to produce more androgens, including testosterone, disrupting the delicate balance of hormones. Androgens are male sex hormones that women typically have at lower levels than men. Elevated levels of androgens in women can lead to symptoms such as acne, hair loss, unwanted hair growth, and weight gain.

Leptin Disruption

Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells that helps to regulate appetite and metabolism. In women with PCOS, leptin levels may be disrupted, which can cause them to feel hungry more often and to crave high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods. This can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Androgen Excess

High levels of androgens can also contribute to weight gain in women with PCOS. Androgens can affect how the body stores fat, causing it to be stored in the abdomen rather than in other parts of the body. This can lead to an apple-shaped body, often seen in women with PCOS.

In the next section, we'll discuss which areas are affected by PCOS-related weight gain.

Are there specific parts of our body that get affected by PCOS weight gain?

Weight gain associated with PCOS tends to accumulate in the abdominal region but can also affect other body areas. Women with PCOS often have higher body mass index (BMI) and body fat levels than those without PCOS. The exact reason why PCOS causes weight gain remains unclear, but insulin resistance and high androgen levels may be contributing factors.

The impact of Androgen levels on PCOS weight gain

Androgens, including testosterone, are an anabolic hormone that helps build and maintain muscle tissue. It does this by increasing the rate at which protein is synthesized in the body, increasing the muscle mass. 

Additionally, testosterone can help decrease body fat by stimulating the breakdown of fat cells and inhibiting the formation of new fat cells.

However, high testosterone levels can lead to a redistribution of body fat in women with PCOS. This is because testosterone can also increase insulin resistance, leading to more fat storage in the abdominal area. This fat accumulation increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Excess testosterone can also cause various symptoms, including acne, hair loss, unwanted hair growth, and menstrual irregularities.

How to treat it naturally?

Exercise regularly

Incorporating regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, into your routine can help improve insulin sensitivity and promote weight loss. Aim for at least 45-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

  • Start with short sessions and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workout
  • Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking to the store instead of driving

Follow a balanced diet

A healthy, balanced diet can help improve insulin sensitivity and promote weight loss. Focus on whole and real foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

  • Plan your meals and include home-made nutrient-rich foods
  • Don’t skip meals or go long periods without eating
  • Limit your intake of processed foods, sugary drinks, and refined carbohydrates

Manage stress

Chronic stress can increase cortisol levels, leading to weight gain and insulin resistance. Incorporating stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or massage into your routine can help manage stress levels.

  • Schedule time for self-care activities into your daily routine
  • Prioritize getting enough sleep, as lack of sleep can increase stress levels

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water can help flush out toxins, regulate appetite, and promote weight loss. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day.

  • Carry a water bottle everywhere you go
  • Add flavor to your water with fresh fruit or herbs for added taste

Limit alcohol intake

Drinking alcohol in excess can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance. Limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day or less.

  • Plan social activities that don't revolve around drinking
  • Avoid drinking alcohol/wine at night

3 Key Tips for Weight Loss with PCOS

Be Kind to Yourself

Be easy on yourself if you see results immediately. Losing weight with PCOS can be a slow and gradual process. It may take several weeks or months to see noticeable changes, but don't give up!

Practice Yoga

Light stretching and yoga can help manage stress levels and benefit women with PCOS. However, do these only if your body allows it! 

Plan your Diet and Workouts in Sync with your Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle has different stages, including follicular, luteal, ovulatory, and menstrual. Each stage has different hormonal changes that can impact your diet and exercise routines. Consult a healthcare provider to help plan your diet and workout according to each stage.

In conclusion, PCOS can cause weight gain due to insulin resistance, androgen imbalance, and other factors. However, with a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep, PCOS weight gain can be managed.

Remember to be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories on your journey towards a healthier lifestyle.


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