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Flexible approach to weight management and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Flexible approach to weight management

Current therapies of lifestyle management in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome patients are dietary focused and may contribute to development of eating disorder.

Because of the conflicting goal of weight loss and psychological wellbeing, more flexible approach to weight management would be beneficial.

But what does the flexible weight management mean?

The treatment for obesity can be divided into two stages:

  1. Losing weight
  2. Weight management after weight loss


For many people losing weight is easier than managing weight. Why?

Because you can restrict your food intake for a couple of days, weeks or even months. But you can’t do that forever. At some point your body will scream for more food. And the more you will restrict something the more you will crave it.

I know that loosing with weight with PCOS or hormonal imbalances can be challenging, but it is not impossible. 

Once you achieve a weight goal it would be better to come back to a more flexible approach to weight practices.

Successful long-term weight management is associated with the ability to move from strict dieting to a more flexible control of eating as one’s weight management progresses.

One research revealed that women with BMI within normal range who did not try to lose weight and did not mention any practices for weight control had more stable weight compared to women, who actively controlled their weight.

Changing your way of thinking about weight loss and weight management can make your goal more achievable, sustainable and less challenging.

People who perceive weight management as a new way of living rather than controlling practices expressed fewer negative emotions and are able to maintain their weight stable.

And as you will see emotion play a huge role in weight management.

But before we move to our feelings, let’s see what flexible weight control is.


Dietary control includes two distinct cognitive and behavioural styles:

  1. RIGID CONTROL  – ‘all or nothing’ approach to eating and weight control, strict rules (often related to negative self-image)


In rigid control phases of strict dieting are alternated with periods without any weight control efforts.

You may know that scenario, when you restrict your food and then you start eating like before or you completely lose control and can’t stop your cravings or binging.

You gain weight and start your diet and restrictions all over again.

  1. FLEXIBLE CONTROL  – graduated ‘more or less’ approach to eating and weight control, no guilt in enjoying food


On the other hand we have flexible control that is seen as a long-term or even permanent task.

You will need to eat for the rest of your life. There is no other way around it. Flexible approach in your diet means that you focus more on overall habits that fit your personal goal. Some food limitations are there, but no particular food or eating choices are forbidden.


Studies has shown that rigid control is associated with higher BMI and poorer weight loss, while flexible control is associated with lower BMI and sustainable weight loss.

Those who maintained a normal weight created a balance between certain limits in eating and weight to prevent weight gain.

Dietary choices of people who maintain their weight are characterized by compassion, awareness of one’s own eating habits, flexibility and a non-judgemental mindset.

Creating right habits is also important as people who had successfully maintained a normal weight had created a more or less unconscious personal weight-management supported environment. They had developed routines for achieving stable weight by a holistic view of weight management, as well as life.

Changing behaviour will at the same time change some things in your life. Take responsibility and commit to your new habits.  


Behavioral and psychological factors play a huge role in weight management.

Your thinking style and behavioural flexibility are key components of weight management.

Coping strategies based on acceptance are more effective than those based on emotional control in dealing with food cravings.

People who have an avoidant or impulsive style of copying with emotions or stress frequently use eating to regulate emotions.

In contrast people with an active, flexible and committed style of managing emotions successfully manage their weight.

Research shows that people who successfully control their weight actively manage their emotions and have the ability to focus on the present moment.

Additionally successful weight loss maintenance is related to higher levels of self-efficacy.


Flexibility in your weight management is a mindset that you can learn.

  1. Focus on your personal goal

The rules and habits you choose should fit your individual needs, preferences and lifestyle. Personalized goal should be in line with benefits that are important to you.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but rather realistic and appropriate to you.

  1.  Be more present during your meals

Flexible approach means being more aware of WHAT and HOW you are eating.

It requires you to:

  • be aware of the quality and amount of consumed foods,
  • recognize a satisfactory meal size,
  • avoid overeating,
  • no extreme eating restrictions.


In practice it means that you eat mindfully, you eat slowly, you chew your food and that you are fully present with your meal, enjoying every bite of it!

  1. Develop different coping mechanisms to emotions and stress

If you use food as a tool of copying with emotions or stress, come up with a list of non-eating behaviours that you could use as a first choice response to your feelings.

Some of the copying mechanism that you can use:

  • taking a few deep breaths,
  • going for a walk,
  • talking to a friend,
  • taking a hot bath or a cold shower,
  • dancing,
  • journaling,
  • or simply just stay with the emotion.


  1. Shift your mindset

Changing eating habits and lifestyle takes time and practice. Being flexible means that once you do not follow your new behaviours, instead of beating yourself up or thinking that you failed, take this as an opportunity to learn something about yourself or to adjust your plan.

Change is a process and the process is never about being perfect. The process is about learning and changing.

Flexible approach and PCOS Management

Rigid rules and restrictions very often promote unhealthy behaviours like overeating or binge eating once the rule is broken.

Women with PCOS are at higher risk of falling into eating disorders.

Be careful if someone recommends restrictions or strict dieting for PCOS management. Eating less and exercising more is not a PCOS cure.

Flexible approach to weight loss and weight management is about learning new habits, new behaviours and new routines. It is a mindset rather than rigid rules. The mindset that you can use in other areas of your life.

You can apply a flexible approach to your journey with PCOS management. Developing coping mechanisms to your emotions and lifestyle stressors will help you with other PCOS symptoms. Not only related to weight gain.

Developing a flexible mindset will have a positive effect on your self-esteem, body image and quality of life. 

So let’s start slowly shifting our minds to a more flexible approach not only towards weight loss or weight management, but also towards PCOS management and our lifestyle holistically.

Yours Agnese

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