Each individual is unique and so is their PCOS! Not all women with PCOS have weight issues. PCOS can affect both thin as well as obese women. Not all women with PCOS have menstrual irregularity. Also, while some may have delayed or scanty periods due to PCOS, other suffer form heavy bleeding and prolonged period in PCOS. Although insulin resistance triggers the hormonal imbalances in PCOS, not all women show high levels of insulin or high blood sugar in their blood work!
Although, many women suffer from facial hair/ hirsutism, not all have high levels of testosterone. Just the way we manage all these varied presentation of PCOS differently for every patient, planning meal plans also needs customization!
Creating your own meal plan for PCOS is very simple and a great DIY activity. Here are 5 simple rules that you can follow to design your own PCOS meal plan.
- Identify your problem areas: Understanding your PCOS is the first step to designing
any meal plan. Which of the following is affecting you:
- Weight gain/ difficulty in loosing weight
- Hunger pangs, food cravings , binging or lack of appetite
- IBS, constipation, acidity or stomach bloating and gases
- Body aches, pains, muscle spasms
- Menstrual irregularity- heavy bleeding/scanty bleeding, delayed periods/periods occur too often
- Stress, moods swings, PMS, depression/anxiety, sleep disturbances\
- Lack of energy, exhaustion
- Hair loss
- Facial hair
- Pre-diabetic changes (HbA1C- 5.7-6.4%, Blood Sugar higher than normal)
Shortlist which of the above areas affect you. Based on your list you can start working out a meal plan. You may need the guidance of a professional in case you are not able to understand this area on your own.
2. 5 meals a day:
To ensure hormonal balance in PCOS, eating every 3-4 hours is a must. This eating pattern helps in regularizing insulin functions and ensures steady blood glucose levels- which are a must! Giving long gaps between two meals or skipping meals fuels hormonal imbalances and weight gain in PCOS.
5 points to remember are:
- Have your breakfast within 45 minutes of getting up. This ensures optimum insulin functions. This habit also helps get rid of lethargy and exhaustion, which are triggered by insulin resistance.
- Portion of every meal should be eat 3/4 of your capacity. This helps in regularizing hunger and intake. Also, it helps in preventing overeating.
- Have your dinner as early as possible. Metabolism and digestion slow down after sunset. Hence, in PCOS where metabolism and digestion are already at their rock bottom, early dinner is a must.
3. Keep it simple:
Keeping your PCOS meal plan as simple as possible, is the key to make it a sustainable and doable meal plan. PCOS meal plan needs to be deigned based on your ethnic eating habits which are familiar with.You can include super foods which are not a part of your ethnic eating habits. However, major portion of your meals should be foods which you and your body is familiar with. This make sure that you don’t have to learn special or complex skills or recipes. If you have to start learning too many new skills in kitchen, this is where most people give up on meal plans. Also, designing a meal plan which is way out your comfort zone in also makes it less sustainable and less mentally acceptable to many women.
- Choose recipes which have less than five ingredients and take no more than 20 minutes of cooking time
- Choose one pot meals that are loaded with whole grains and veggies
- Keep it economical! You don’t have to go broke in order to manage your PCOS. Budget your monthly grocery and food expenses to keep your meal plans economical. Use those coupons, in store offers and sales to get value for money while you shop for groceries
4. Wholesome is the rule:
Every meal, be it breakfast, snack , lunch, evening snack or dinner; make sure to include wholesome ingredients. Organic, locally grown foods, super foods, whole foods and seasonal foods are the once which will help you get rid of PCOS.
5. Final steps for designing PCOS meal plan:
- Make a grocery shopping list with with all the healthy food that are available in your area.
- List down 7-8 each of breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner and healthy desert ideas. Find recipes which are easy and print them. Make a binder book of these recipes and keep them in your kitchen for easy reference.
- No meal plans work without planning! Every Saturday plan your next week meals based on your recipe book and your grocery list and stick to it.
These are some pointers that can help you get organized with your PCOS management. Remember it takes at least 90 days to form any good habit. Do not give up on your PCOS meal plan unless you have tried it word to word for three to four months.
To make your PCOS meal plan work , include a healthy exercise and Yoga routine to go with it. Also, see your doctor regularly in case your require medications and regular check ups.
Managing PCOS naturally is definitely overwhelming.There is lot to take in and process when it comes to diet tips, exercise routines, super foods, Ayurvedic medicines and many more. Getting organized with your approach to your PCOS management is crucial for success! Here are the steps for getting organized your PCOS management with the help of Ayurveda:
1. Identify your problem areas!
For those who have already had a consultation with an endocrinologists or a PCOD expert,you might have already accomplished this first step. It involves detailed health check up and investigations (blood and Ultrasonography) to understand the nature and extent of your PCOS. Also, vitamin deficiencies like B12, Vit. D etc. which have a huge impact on both development as well as treatment outcomes PCOS may be detected during this phase.
Identifying problem areas gives you clarity towards choosing right diet, exercise and Yoga. Also, your Ayurvedic physician will suggest the right Ayurvedic supplements and therapies based on these findings.
Ayurvedic physician will analyze your appetite, digestion, unique body type or Prakriti which are crucial for the next step.
2. Choose the right Ayurveda therapies and supplements!
Once the problem areas are identified with required investigations and Ayurvedic analysis, therapies and supplements are recommended. Some of the must do Ayurvedic therapies especially for women with obesity and infertility due to PCOS are:
Virechana and Vamana– Types of Ayurvedic cleansing procedures that involve thorough detoxification. These should be done strictly under the guidance of Ayurvedic physician. When done correctly, Panchakarma therapies have high success rates in PCOS both in terms of weight loss and infertility.
Adhere to the Ayurvedic treatment plans designed for you as strictly as possible. Ayurvedic treatment is lengthy especially in chronic PCOS cases and may last anywhere between 6 months to 1 year.
3.Choose practical and realistic diet plan!
A well rounded diet sits at the helm of PCOS management. Apart from the focus on including all the right foods, superfoods, home remedies and must-do diet rules; your diet plan has to practical and realistic.This is very critical for the sustainability of any diet plan.
An impractical and idealistic diet plan will add to your stress instead of helping you. Choose your diet wisely based on your lifestyle, ethnic eating habits and your unique Ayurvedic body type. Also, eating healthy every three to four hours is critical for insulin balance in PCOS.
Plan your meals in advance by planning your weekly grocery shopping. It is easy to whip up a healthy meal, when your pantry and refrigerator are well stocked. Proactivity is very essential in making your PCOS diet plan a success.
4.Choose exercise and Yoga mindfully!
Each person is unique and so is their PCOS. Mindless exercising seldom gives results. Moreover, it can be detrimental to your commitment towards managing your PCOS and taking charge of your health.
Hence, choose your exercise routines and Yoga mindfully. Your Ayurvedic physician will guide you regarding the nature of exercise routines and Yoga that will complement your body type and PCOS.
5.Set timelines and goals!
Any task done without setting definite goals is deemed for failure. Goal setting again should be realistic. This is best done by discussing the course of your treatment with your Ayurvedic physician. For example, in how much time can we expect results with weight loss, regularity of menses, hormonal balance etc. Your Ayurvedic physician should also discuss with you the medical reassessment in terms of ultrasonography to assess the status of polycystic ovaries, laboratory investigations for levels of hormones etc. during or after the treatment.
Goal setting will motivate you to adhere to your diet, exercise and Yoga routines and also help in ensuring positive outcomes with your PCOS management.
Weight loss with PCOS is difficult beyond description. Way beyond the adjectives of herculean task, uphill climb and all others that you can use. Hence, I prefer not to use any adjectives. It’s tough alright! In fact, losing mind, hope and patience happens much sooner than losing weight in PCOS. I witness my PCOS patients struggle with weight loss every single day.
PCOS is a complex metabolic disorder which makes weight easy to gain and hard to lose. After years of working with PCOS patients, I would like to share 3 diet rules that work for real. Here are three rules that have worked for every single PCOS patient that I have worked with for healthy, sustained and successful weight loss.
- Breakfast matters
When you eat your breakfast is as important as what you eat for breakfast! Eating your breakfast within 30-45 minutes of waking is extremely important for optimum insulin functions and weight loss (Insulin resistance- an imbalance of insulin functions is one of root causes behind PCOS). Include plenty of whole grains, good serving of protein and vegetables in your breakfast.
- Eating and not starving is what makes you lose weight
Cutting down on food intake in the name of calories is one of most common and damaging move made by women with PCOS. Reducing food intake worsens insulin imbalance and leads to more weight gain especially around the mid-section. Also, it reduces energy levels, triggers hunger pangs and fosters unhealthy binging.
Eating healthy food every three to four hours is the key to lose weight in PCOS. For adopting this habit preplanning your meals is must! Plan your one day or one week worth meals and shop for groceries accordingly to adopt this most important PCOS diet rule.
- Superfoods Rule
Super foods are foods rich in anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins. They give your health that extra boost which is needed to overcome imbalances especially in PCOS. Include as many superfoods as possible in your daily diet to experience a natural, steady and sustainable weight loss. Superfoods that are a must have for weight loss in PCOS are:
- Avocado (1/5th of a medium size fruit every day)
- Walnuts ( 12-14 halves per day , better had in the evening)
- Millets (Foxtail millet, Finger millet, Pearl millet)
- Probiotic foods– Yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, tofu, tempeh, kombucha etc. and other fermented foods like Idli, dosa, dhokla, sourdough bread etc.
Apart from these diet rules for PCOS weight loss, avoiding problem foods like wheat, milk, white sugar and junk foods is equally important. Also, regular workout and Yoga should be planned depending on individual body type and feasibility.
Yo- yo diets, weight loss programs promising near magical weight loss, boot camps and what not- short term solutions DO NOT work and are not recommended for PCOS. Keep it simple and feasible when it comes to weight loss. Also, remember that weight loss is a part of being healthy and not the definition of health itself. Make your weight loss in PCOS a memorable journey that you enjoy and feel good about!