PCOS and Eating Disorders

PCOS BlogHappy Eating Disorders Awareness Week! You may be wondering why I’m writing about eating disorders in a PCOS blog entry. Well, it’s because the two conditions actually have a lot of similarities. Although eating disorders are psychological disorders and PCOS is an endocrine disorder, the two have more similarities than you might think. Eating disorders are more common in girls than in boys and PCOS (obviously) affects only females. Both eating disorders and PCOS are often diagnosed during adolescence. Also, many girls with PCOS struggle with dissatisfaction with their weight, bodies, and appearance; and it’s this dissatisfaction that’s a key feature of many eating disorders.

Some research studies have shown that girls with PCOS have higher than expected rates of eating disorders. Although we aren’t sure why this is, there are a few theories out there. One theory is that the symptoms of PCOS (such as hair growth, acne, and weight gain) can take a toll on a young women’s self-esteem – especially because we so often see “ideal” images of thin, blemish-free women (with no evidence of body hair) in the media. Another theory is that a PCOS diagnosis might cause a young woman to feel worried or helpless and she may turn to food to cope with these feelings. People who have PCOS may also try to follow an overly restrictive diet, and over time, this can lead to feelings of deprivation and possibly binge eating.

The bottom line is that the body changes and the attention to weight and diet that are a part of PCOS may put you at risk for developing an eating disorder. Although eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are an important part of managing PCOS, there is such a thing as taking things too far. If you notice that you’re spending tons of time thinking about your weight and what you eat, or going to extreme measures to control your weight, it might be a cause for concern. If you notice any of these things, definitely talk to your health care provider about them… and don’t wait.

This Eating Disorders Awareness Week, stay healthy and positive by focusing on behavior changes you can stick with for life and by treating your body with kindness and respect.

-Dietitian Kendrin