To many, this is an unknown acronym. But for those who suffer from it, the condition - known as polycystic ovarian syndrome - is almost a certifiable guarantee of an impending weight problem - particularly if weight is already an issue before the diagnosis.
PCOS is a condition in which the ovaries don't make enough hormones for the eggs to fully mature. Aside from the technical definition, PCOS makes the bloodstream insulin-resistant - and can cause not only weight gain, but extremely difficult weight loss among the women who are diagnosed (this is significant since statistics show that 6 out of 10 of PCOS sufferers are overweight).
Even more alarming, PCOS can cause increased abdominal (androgen) fat stores, resulting in the "apple" shape that studies suggest is more dangerous for women than the typical female "pear" shape.
If you are a woman who struggles with both a PCOS diagnosis and excess weight, the outlook can be grim. Doctors may prescribe metformin, thiazolidinediones, or Rimonabant to lose weight, but these medications are not without complications and side effects - some more uncomfortable than the weight itself.
So what are the natural (read: drug free) options?
First, and most critically, women with PCOS must clean up their diet. Using a healthy detox program like Clean and following up with an eat-clean lifestyle handbook is a great start to eliminate processed foods, chemicals, and sugars from the diet and begin to reduce the glucose stockpiles in the blood that lead to stored fat. The PCOS diet should rely on vegetables, lower-fructose fruits, lean meats, and whole grains. If you are unsure what to eat while adhering to a "clean" diet, consult a registered dietitian for a customized program.
Second (and here's the great news!) - even moderate levels of exercise (such as 20-30 minutes daily) can improve PCOS symptoms and speed along weight loss. The most important factor in the exercise you choose is that it gets your heart rate up and is enjoyable for you to perform. Whether running, walking, swimming, lifting weights, doing power yoga, or cycling, there are plenty of great exercise options to explore - and hiring a personal trainer can ensure that you are engaged, using proper form, and motivated to continue.
Finally, consider online support for women with PCOS. Personal blogs like Maddy's PCOS Diary, compilation sites like SoulCysters, or even video diaries on YouTube can be both inspiring and community-building. The most important thing to know about the disease is that you are not alone - in fact, 6.6% of U.S. women (over 1 in 20 women of childbearing age).
As with any health problem, one of the worst things you can do is ignore the symptoms and pretend like it isn't happening. Take charge of your health and make PCOS a condition you live with, not a condition that impairs your life. Assemble a professional health team (your doctor, personal trainer, and registered dietitian) as well as a personal support network (friends, family, and online communities) and you can conquer PCOS-related weight gain.