Do you experience hormonal eating? Strong cravings for something sweet, carby or salty that just won’t go away, and seem to come at the same time every month? For some people it’s just before their period, for others it’s during their period, for some it’s when we ovulate.
Hormonal eating is a problem I hear a lot about from my female community… and when you’re trying to eat well, it’s really annoying when your hormones get in the way and just won’t let you stay on track with your good eating patterns. So I thought I’d do a series of blogs about your hormones and how they can affect your eating patterns… starting with your period and what to do about it. Plus I want to show you how your eating patterns might actually make your PMS and periods worse.
It’s not your fault, blame it on the hormones (but don’t forget, you’re in charge!)
So, every month, without fail, do you find yourself reaching for the carb heavy, sugar laden snacks whilst crying for no reason and shouting at people for breathing? I meet so many women like this, but the way you eat can actually really affect your periods and PMS… by getting in the groundwork of good eating patterns throughout your menstrual cycle, this can help you to get through this time a bit easier.
Women experience vast hormonal shifts in the lead up to their period – oestrogen has already dropped right down in the first half of the cycle, and progesterone levels now drop off, which is what helps to stimulate your bleed. All of our hormones in our complex endocrine system work in synergy together, and it is these fluctuations of hormones and how they stimulate receptors around our body that can cause shifts in our mood and our appetite.
One of the worst things for your periods, PMS and how you handle your menstrual shifts is to be living in the blood sugar rollercoaster cycle. As our blood sugar swings all over the place, caused by sugary foods, lack of protein, too much stress, high reliance on caffeine just to function… this can push us into a continual stress response. As more of our adrenal stress hormones have to be released, this can affect our delicate sex hormone balance… which can play havoc with our menstrual cycles and how our bodies respond to them.
So if you then have even more sugar and carb cravings, this can add even more pressure onto an already imbalanced system… and make your cravings even stronger!
So here are my tips to help you fight the sugar and carb cravings that can happen before your period and at other times in your menstrual cycle. If you have intense PMS, irregular periods, imbalanced menstural cycles and hormonal mood swings, these tips are the foundation to supporting your hormone cycles in a more natural way.
Here are a few tips that can help with hormonal eating
- Assess your diet… do you think it might be contributing to your PMS symptoms? Your everyday diet can play a huge part, and one of the biggest impacts is blood sugar imbalance. Firstly work on including a good handful of protein with every meal and half a handful with each snack. Also look at reducing anything sugary or that contains white carbs… and if you must have something sweet, have it after some protein rich food. E.g. a small amount of chocolate eaten after a proper meal that contains a handful of protein. If you are a slave to the sweet stuff, check out my sugar detox programme online.
- Being aware of your blood sugar cycles and how to manage it can help you beat your sweet cravings – understanding the science of the process can also help you rationalise and make sensible choices…I explain the cycle of sugar and hormones HERE in my previous blog…a helpful cycle that demonstrates why sugar makes things worse.
- Enjoy the treats… I understand that sometimes a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts just won’t cut it when your hormones are pushing you to eat… so if you want to indulge do it right – a little goes a long way… for example, have that G&T but make sure it’s excellent quality, in a tall glass with lots of ice and a slice…. If you are going to eat chocolate…make it dark and rich in cocoa, top quality from a proper chocolate retailer such as Om, Hotel Chocolate or Montezuma
- Eat mindfully… when you have hormonal cravings, it’s easy to scoff a bar of chocolate without it even touching the sides! So if you’re going to eat chocolate… make sure you actually enjoy it. Make a rule of not eating unless you’re sitting down… take it slowly… smell each piece of chocolate before you eat it, really chew and enjoy the flavour… also have a glass of water as well, because this can help you to feel a little fuller and you may actually be thirsty not hungry.
- Are you reaching for the sugar because your energy levels are diminished…why not try my ENERGY BALLS recipe – a guaranteed pick me up with the right nourishing benefits!
- Alter your perception of what is a treat– this is something I do with my family…bake a sugar free cake and enjoy together…appreciate seasonal fruit…at the time of writing, it’s strawberry season… delicious, sweet and good for you in so many ways. Again, it’s important to point out that fruit should be in moderation because it contains natural sugars… fill up on your veggies too for fibre and fullness, and always add a little protein with it, such as a handful of nuts.
- Take some time out… 10 minutes every day! It’s common to feel a drop in happiness around our periods and this can lead to emotional eating…. Be with friends, talk about your feelings and try to give yourself some ‘me’ time every day – even ten minutes of deep breathing on the floor can help – I try and do this everyday before clinic…it helps balance and centre me and leaves me feeling relaxed and ready for what the day brings. Plus I’ll always have 10 minutes outside in the garden when I can before anyone gets up and the busy-ness of my day starts… this is ME time, and it’s non-negotiable.
- Take some magnesium… magnesium is a great, instant muscle relaxer and when you’re feeling stressed and hormonal, it’s a really good nutrient to help you relax. I love the Better You magnesium salts… put a large handful in a bath or foot soak, laze away and enjoy. Perhaps add a few drops of lavender essential oil and have a cup of chamomile tea.
- Watch the booze: Alcohol lowers your impulse control when it comes to food and sweets. It only takes a little bit to make it much harder to say no to a food you’d ordinarily have the will power to avoid. So if you know there’s a time of your cycle when your food cravings are worse, then avoid alcohol at this time.
- Keep yourself full with fibre: Fibre is filling: fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, flax and chia seed all help keep you feeling full, which can help prevent binges and overeating
- Drink plenty of water— often during or before your period, your liver is having to work a bit harder to cope with hormone fluctuations. Make sure you keep your water intake up and watch the amount of caffeine your drink (keep it to just a couple a day, with or near to food.)
Lastly, be kind to yourself!
All the pressures that we all face, especially regarding food and weight, can make it hard to stop emotional eating. Your ability to treat yourself with compassion is one of the best ways you have to lower that pressure and stress. Eating junk food, binges, and overeating, though it feels like an indulgence, isn’t being kind to yourself. Break a habit and consider what you can do to feed yourself emotionally, whether at PMS or another time, to help change and avoid eating patterns that don’t serve you.
Go for a walk, dance to loud music with your children, bake a sugar free cake (see my fav recipe HERE), meet friends, cook from scratch, practise mindfulness, do gentle yoga, lay on the grass, hug a tree, do laughter yoga – whatever makes you happiest!
If you’d like to find out more about how I could help you with your hormones, pleasehttp://thefamilynutritionexpert.com/contact-me/ do contact me today. Also you might want to check out my 30 Day Sugar Detox programme, which you can do in your own time from home, and learn how to kick your sugar cravings.