In my work with women with PCOS and nutrition coaching one of the biggest obstacles I hear about time and time again is the struggle with cravings. So, why do women with PCOS experience cravings and how common are cravings?
Research shows that 99% of women with PCOS experience cravings. These cravings make adhering to a prescribed way of eating difficult and they hinder attempts at weight loss in women with PCOS.
And the problem is that cravings can derail us, making it difficult to stick to any kind of way of eating to manage your PCOS.
You may be having an amazing week eating-wise. You’ve made a meal plan, shopped for healthy food, and even eaten some pretty darn delicious PCOS friendly meals.
And then, out of the blue – WHAM…
A cravings hits.
But, you’ve just had supper. You’re feeling satisfied; you don’t need anything more. But all you can think about is having something sweet.
And it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it will satisfy your sweet tooth and cravings.
So, you resist as long as you possibly can but the craving eventually wins the battle.
You give in… And instead of having one eency tiny little nibble of chocolate, the whole slab of chocolate is demolished before you even know what has happened.
(As you can see, I have experienced this too!)
So, let’s take a deep-dive and understand what cravings are and why we struggle with them so much.
Lean or overweight, 99% of women with PCOS struggle with cravings
There was a really interesting study done on women with PCOS (both with lean PCOS and those who were overweight). The women completed 3 different questionnaires and the results showed that 99% of women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome experience food cravings (1).
Not only did the women involved in the research experience cravings, but 20% of those overweight women with PCOS also showed binge eating behaviors.
And this greatly hinders any attempt to lose weight or even just better manage the symptoms of PCOS.
So, let’s have a look at what might be causing the cravings for sugary foods in the first place. And once we can better understand that, we can look at how we can go about managing those cravings so that they don’t completely derail us.
The Link Between Cravings and PCOS
We know that women with PCOS have an irregularity in the way that they process carbohydrates and we tend to be insulin resistant. This is not the case with all women with PCOS but it is true for many women.
These high levels of insulin promote hunger and cause cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. This sets up a vicious cycle. The more sugar we have, the more insulin we need, and the more the cravings are reinforced.
What also tends to happen is that the more sugary foods or highly refined foods that we eat, the more we exacerbate an imbalance and penduluming of blood sugar levels. These quick rises and drops in blood sugar levels will also bring on sugar cravings.
In light of this, one of the main ways that we can get to grips with our cravings is to better manage our insulin and blood glucose levels.
So, we know that 99% of all women with PCOS experience cravings and we know that cravings are part and parcel of the syndrome that is PCOS.
We have to learn how to cope with them because they are not going anywhere. And if we don’t get our cravings under control, we’ll always be struggling.
Here are some of the many ways that cravings are just not helpful for you:
4 Reasons to Manage your Cravings with PCOS
Cravings can Derail You
The research that we were just talking about also shows that women with PCOS struggle to stick with a prescribed way of eating (no matter what that way of eating is). And the reason that we seem to struggle is that our cravings get in the way.
You see, we tend to have an “all or nothing” mentality that goes a little something like this:
“ I really need to [lose weight/sort out my skin / get healthy with PCOS / any other goal you want to achieve]
So, I’m going to eat [low carb/paleo / dairy-free/weight watchers/ PCOS Diet]…”
And you’re super disciplined for a week.
But on suddenly, out of nowhere….
And they are all you can think about, no matter how much you try to ignore them and hope they go away.
You resist for as long as you can… until you can’t anymore.
And next thing you know, a bar of chocolate and 3 doughnuts later, you come out of the craving fog.
Now the thinking is,
“I’ve messed up so badly already, the rest of the day is a right-off. I may as well have whatever the heck I want…”
And then it takes a couple of days to get back to the healthier way of eating if we ever do.
But, if we were in charge of our cravings, we would be prepared for them, know that they are going to come, and be better equipped with how to deal with them.
Cravings can Make your PCOS Worse
Think about it. When you have a craving, what is it for?
Well, according to Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, we tend to crave foods that are a combination of fats and sugar (2). It makes sense, right? When was the last time you had a craving for a carrot stick or an avo?
The thing is, the foods that we crave are likely to be highly processed, high in calories, and high in carbs.
That means that you’re going to get a huge spike in your insulin levels when you consume the foods that you crave.
And any spike in insulin is only going to make your PCOS worse.
So there’s another reason to learn how to make friends with your cravings and learn to better manage them.
Cravings Beget Cravings
I’m sure you’re aware of this but the more you give in to your cravings, the more you are reinforcing the behaviour and the more likely you are to keep experiencing the craving.
In fact, researchers have found that giving in to a craving can actually make the craving even worse and it increases the chances of the cravings coming back more frequently (3).
So, getting in control of your cravings is a good way to actually reduce the frequency of those cravings happening.
Cravings Lead to Weight Gain
This may sound obvious but constantly giving in to your cravings can cause weight gain.
John Apolzan, Ph.D., assistant professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge suggests that 11% of all weight gain can be attributed to cravings (4).
So, let’s say that someone puts on 10lbs over the past month. At least 1lb of weight can be attributed to the fact that that person gave in to cravings.
We know that weight loss with PCOS is hard and one way to start to manage weight gain with PCOS is to better manage your cravings.
How can you Combat Cravings with PCOS?
So, I have given you some really good reasons as to why it is important to make peace with our cravings. The unfortunate reality is that they are not going away. If we want to get to grips with our PCOS symptoms, we are going to need to get to grips with our PCOS cravings.
Which is exactly why I have put together the PCOS Combat Cravings Kit. In the Combat Cravings Kit, I show you:
How to manage insulin to manage cravings
The supplements that will help with your PCOS cravings
How sleep can impact on your cravings
How to ride the wave of your cravings
How to Break the Chain and change the habit relaying to the craving
How to use mindful eating to manage your cravings
In the affordable Combat Cravings Kit, I will show you how to stop letting cravings derail you so that you can stay on track with your PCOS goals. Serously, this will help change those inner beliefs and you may just be surprised how much you will learn and be able to take on in this mini video series:
You can find out more about the PCOS Combat Cravings Kit here. I really enjoyed filming this mini programme and I can’t wait for you to see it.
To summarise, here are the 4 reasons to manage your cravings with PCOS. Cravings:
can derail you
can make your PCOS worse
lead to weight gain
What has your experience of PCOS and cravings been? Have you found an effective strategy to help you manage your cravings? Leave me a comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!