PCOS and Carbs: a match that’s not so heavenly

PCOS and carbs. Frenemies to the end. There is nothing a person with PCOS loves more than a good carb-filled meal. Her body, however, doesn’t. Those carbs slide down her gullet and her body goes into full-out panic mode and starts storing those carbs as fat almost immediately. That’s because of two little things that follow PCOS around like little lost puppies: metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.Untitled design (1)

Metabolic syndrome is a disorder that causes problems with energy utilization and fat storage. The biggest problem is, while scientists can tell us loads about what problems are related to metabolic syndrome, it is a healthcare chicken and egg story. They don’t know what causes metabolic syndrome because the issues surrounding it are muddled.  For instance, a few things they know for a fact are that people (both men and women) who suffer from it usually have centrally located fat storage (big bellies), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, sedentary lifestyles, poor diets that are high in fructose consumption, and high fasting glucose levels. The kicker is that there is also a genetic factor at play which throws all those other previously mentioned issues up in the air. You could have a person who isn’t sedentary, doesn’t have high blood pressure, has low fasting glucose levels, and doesn’t overeat who still has metabolic syndrome. That person probably has a family member or two, or an entire side of a family, who suffered from this issue. That person would be the author of this post. To make the issue even more unclear, there is a major debate over whether some sort of metabolic problem as yet to be determined is what CAUSED the obesity and health issues, and thereby the metabolic syndrome, instead of the other way around.

Confused yet? Let’s muddy the waters some more. What else could be causing/affecting metabolic disorder? Mood problems. A family history of schizophrenia. Sleep disturbance. Problems with inflammation. High uric acid levels. Everybody’s favorite–STRESS. It all boils down to one thing–with regards to metabolic disorder, just like PCOS, we need more research. We need to learn more about what causes it. We NEED to get out from behind culturally accepted biases surrounding overweight people and get to the root of the issues. But, that, dear reader, is another set of blog posts entirely. To learn more about metabolic syndrome, click here.

Insulin resistance is just what it sounds like. Your body produces the hormone insulin and your cells resist using it. It causes a vicious cycle to begin that leaves you with high blood sugar levels. Those high blood sugar levels are what cause people with PCOS to crave carbs like a meth addict. No joke. This particular little demon that follows PCOS around causes increased hunger, which causes increased weight gain and increased fat storage. Insulin resistance also causes sleepiness, especially after a meal, because it is basically a giant sugar dump into your system. You literally experience a sugar crash. It contributes to depression and pre-diabetes and causes intestinal inflammation. To learn more about insulin resistance, click here.

These two issues make carbohydrates a PCOS sufferer’s worst nightmare. We simply need to avoid them as much as possible. And you would think that would be easy, right? Just avoid refined sugars, flours, breads, pasta, rice and potatoes. WRONG. Sure. Those are the foods that are high in carbs and, yes, avoid those items as much as humanly possible. Treat them like you would if you were addicted, because, let’s face it. If you have PCOS, you kind of are addicted to them. I know, for me, if my family and I go out to dinner, I ask them to either not bring the bread to the table or I ask the kids to keep it on the other side of the table where I can’t reach it. I want that bread like a plant wants water. I stare at it like it’s calling my name. It’s terrible, but true.

Let’s take a minute to learn a little bit about carbs in our diets. There’s some interesting facts I’ve learned since starting my diet six weeks ago.

Plus Size Mama Says- (3)

When I first went to the endocrinologist he told me to do the obvious. Cut out all pasta, bread, flour, potatoes, rice and sugar. So I did. I even cut out all soda drinks, diet or otherwise. I drink nothing but ice water. I noticed, however, that I wasn’t losing weight. How does someone not lose weight when cutting out an entire food group from their diet?

The answer was simple and I didn’t find the answer until I got the My Fitness Pal app. (No. They don’t pay me. I just think it’s an awesome app.)

This app allows you to set your daily caloric intake (for me, 1200 calories), but it also allows you to set the percentages of carbs, proteins and fats you want in your diet as well. So, I did a little research to see what the average amount of carbs were for the average person’s diet. A moderate level of carbs for one person ranges between 100 and 150 grams per day. I figured if I set mine at 90 I would be fine because my goal was to stay well below that. The app would warn me when I was getting too close. My thought process was that, if I was not consuming any of those carbs I listed above, I was never going to come close to that level of carbs even on my worst day.

Boy, was I wrong.

Why? Fruit. Okay. No brainer. Fruits have natural sugars which should translate into carbs so I became very scrooge-like in my consumption of fruit.

Still wrong.

Why? Veggies.


Yes, veggies. Let me give you an example. Today I had an apple for breakfast. Super high in sugar, but I had a very small apple and that’s it. I always have a small piece of fruit for breakfast. I’m not a breakfast eater and it takes all I have to choke that down. For lunch, I had a chicken breast and some broccoli. For dinner I had some cabbage. That’s all I’ve had today. I still have to choke back 632 more calories somehow, and do you know where my carb level for the day is? 74 grams. What. The. Hell.

Can you imagine what my poor body was going through when I was consuming bread and noodles and rice like a boss? I am being as careful as I can and I’m still getting very close to the moderate carb level. My carb level must have been astronomical before getting this app. It’s been a real eye opener, that’s for sure.

All this, and I’m holding steady at 35 pounds lost. I’m not going to lie. For the last two weeks I’ve lost 0 pounds. And I’m pissed beyond belief. How do I not eat, take a diet pill that guarantees weight loss, exercise and lose NOTHING???? Ugh. Discouraged doesn’t even begin to describe me.

But, you know what?

I know I’m doing the right stuff. I’m doing what I’m supposed to. I’m eating right. I’m following the rules.

I’m trying to view this as a war. Me against carbs and my stubborn ass body.

And I’m going to win. Even if that means I have to drop that carb level to 50 and eat chicken like it’s my damn job.

So, what keeps you going when you hit a weight loss wall? What do you do to change it up and get the scale moving again? Leave your tips in the comments below!


About Miranda Gargasz

Miranda Gargasz is a freelance writer. Many of her essays can be found on sites like ScaryMommy, The Christian Science Monitor and The Huffington Post. In 2014, she published Lemonade and Holy Stuff and in 2016 she published Plus Size Mama: An overweight mom gets real about weight loss. She is also a contributor to Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee, and Lose the Cape: Never Will I Ever. Her debut novel, Haunting Suspicion, is being sent to agents for representation. She is currently working on her second novel, Dragonfly, about learning to love what you have before it's gone.
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5 Responses to PCOS and Carbs: a match that’s not so heavenly

  1. Not trying to be salesy… but have you tried or considered Shakeology? I drank it before I became a BB coach, and it really helped me get past the weight loss walls you’ve described. I plateaued for what seemed like an eternity, but Shakeo helped me get moving again.

  2. isuzyou says:

    I also have PCOS and eat high protein/low carb. Try finding a meal replacement protein shake (I drink Premier Protein shakes from Sam’s Club) to get a good, healthy amount of protein first thing in the morning (30g recommended.) This one thing has helped start my metabolism off right in the morning and help me consistently lose weight (or maintain when I screw up at another meal…)

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