Why is a healthy lifestyle important in PCOS or PCOD?

Leading a healthy lifestyle helps prevent and control many diseases and conditions and is good for overall health. Therefore lifestyle changes are a first step towards managing PCOS and include healthy eating habits, regular physical activity and weight loss.

Getting started: Set your goals

1. If you are overweight, then the initial goal of weight loss should be to reduce the bodyweight 10% from baseline. Aim for a weight loss of 500gm to 1kg every week for a period of 6 months.

2. Avoid crash diets – they are counterproductive. Whatever effort is needed to lose weight the same effort is needed to maintain the lost weight. So look for a realistic long term approach. Also crash diets lose more water and lean mass than fat.

3. Good amount of physical activity is also important. Try to get as much activity as possible during the daily schedule. Walk to the market to buy groceries. Try to avoid sitting for extended periods. 

Aim for the following: 

a. 3-5 hours of moderate activity every week.

b. 3 sessions of high intensity exercise (High intensity interval training).

c. Try to do intermittent fasting.

Set the RIGHT goals: Goals must be specific, realistic and attainable. They must be within your reach. e.g instead of “Exercise more”, which is fine, but not specific, try to set goals such as “Walk 30 minutes, 5 days a week”.

Watch what you eat: Follow a sensible diet and change your eating habits for the long term.

1. For weight loss, follow a low calorie diet. For a weight loss of 500gm to 1kg/week, restrict calories by 500 to 1000/day. A minimum of 1200 Cal/day helps prevent fatigue.

2. Reduce carbohydrates as well as fat. Avoid taking both at the same time(e.g have an omelette with vegetables, but avoid eating bread, rice-sambar, chapati etc at the same meal). Avoid high glycemic foods such as Maida.

3. Try to Roast, Bake, Steam or shallow fry food.

4. Avoid unctuous stuff such as cream, coconut, poppy seed paste and nut paste(e.g in north indian goodies such as malai kofta).

5. Avoid sweets and ice cream. To satiate your sweet cravings you could try to substitute with a limited amount of fresh fruit). Do not overdo the “fresh fruit”.

6. Avoid dairy products such as milk, cheese, paneer, malai, etc. Dairy has casein which exacerbates PCOS.

7. Avoid sweetened cool drinks. If you really want something more than water to quench your thirst, try fresh lime soda with a little salt, or some diluted buttermilk.8. Eat more pulses.

Change How you Eat:

1. It is scientifically proven that eating food mixed with water(i.e a semisolid slush leads to a longer period of satiety. Of course you cannot always eat slush. However chewing food thoroughly and downing the same with water or green tea will result in a similar ‘slush’ getting to your stomach.

2. The above technique of chewing will also help to reduce the speed of your eating, which will make you feel more full at the end of the meal.

3. When you feel peckish, try to tame the same with water. Often thirst masks itself as hunger. Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day.

4. Other tricks are to have smaller plates and to serve your food from the kitchen, rather than at the table(this also has the added advantage of reducing the need for cleaning more dishes).

Physical activity:

1. Look for about 3-5 hours of low level physical activity such as walking every week.

2. Do intermittent high intensity activity (High intensity interval training HIIT) 2 times a week (10-15 minutes duration). Try to do the same on an exercise cycle, treadmill or elliptical machine.

3. Lift heavy weights 3 times a week(also 10-15 minutes duration). Depending on how much you can afford get some kettlebells, dumbbells, or a home gym. This applies to ladies as well. Don’t worry, you will never develop huge muscles.

4. Yoga helps to calm the mind, reduce stress as well as maintain flexibility.

Other Points to remember:

1. Stop smoking. 2. Avoid alcohol – empty calories.

Lifestyle modifications for tackling polycystic ovaries are also useful to improve anyone's general health. Do not focus too much on weight loss, and try to improve health overall by maintaining a healthy diet and by regular exercise.