PMS! Who needs it? Who wants it?
“I have one nerve left and you’re on it! Where’s that bag of chips? Whaddya mean I finished it?”
My childbearing years are behind me, so that whole menstrual cycle thing is over for me, but I remember what it was like!
I liked to think that my moods and eating behaviors were independent of the rising and falling of hormones in my body. I don’t think that was so – but I did like to think it was. It felt like a weakness not to be running my own show, but rather be a victim to a menstrual cycle.
Well, the reality is sometimes my hormones got the better of me. It wasn’t every month. In fact it was so infrequently that I often didn’t make the connection.
I’d have a day when I felt very irritable and hungry – really hungry. Then the next day, I’d slap my forehead and say, “of course!”
When I got that hungry feeling, I just went with it. I ate. It felt too urgent to ignore. As already noted it was infrequent so it didn’t have a negative effect on my weight management. Considering what some women experience, I think my symptoms were mild and I was lucky.
Unlike me, some women can count on hormonal upsets every month. The women who experience these symptoms every month are suffering from Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- emotional upheaval
- breast tenderness
- changes in appetite
- food cravings
Severe PMS packs a one-two punch to weight management efforts.
Punch One: Cravings for
- Sweet and fatty snacks, like chocolate candy
- Salty and fatty snacks, like potato chips
- Fatty, protein-filled foods, such as burgers
and Punch Two: Cramps that make a woman want to curl up with a heating pad and a couple Midol tablets until it’s over.
You may already be struggling to maintain your weight or lose weight and PMS making you eat and reduce your physical activity is the tipping point. Thanks to your PMS symptoms your efforts get toppled every month.
What’s the Connection Between PMS and Food Cravings?
Although researchers have not figured out precisely why food cravings happen, there seems to be a link between cravings and other PMS symptoms: When these symptoms strike, certain foods seem to trigger changes in the brain that ease those symptoms.
“We’ve noticed when we treat other symptoms, often the food symptoms also get better, so there may be a relationship there,” explains Steven Sondheimer, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
One suspect in PMS symptoms is fluctuations in brain chemicals, specifically the neurotransmitter serotonin. When serotonin levels drop to an insufficient level, that drop affects mood and can also set off food cravings, sleep issues, and fatigue.
How to Handle the PMS Hungries
Have your favorite fruit and vegetables on hand and ready to eat.
If you just have an urge to bite and chew satisfy it with fruit and vegetables. They’re naturally low in fat and calories and something you can eat as much as you need to satisfy your hunger without worrying about calories adding up too fast.
If fruit and vegetables aren’t satisfying the cravings don’t just grab for something else!
Take some time to try to identify exactly what you crave. Spicy and savory? Sweet and creamy? Salty and crunchy?
If you want spicy and savory
Try topping air popped popcorn with oregano, fennel, red pepper flakes, marjoram, and basil with a spritz of olive oil. Jerk seasoning with a spritz of coconut oil takes your pop corn to a whole new level. Experiment with toppings; you’re only limited by your imagination.
Your salty, crunchy cravings can be nutritiously satisfied with lentil chips.
A one-ounce serving has almost the same calorie count as potato chips but lentil chips beat the potato chip in nutrients and come in a variety of flavors to scratch your salty itch!
If it’s creamy, sweet and cold you’re craving try cold-churned ice cream.
It has all the creaminess with 1/2 the fat and 1/3 of the calories of premium ice cream. A half cup serving has around 100 calories. A serving of super premium ice cream may have as many 280 or more! Practice portion control and eat slowly to maximize the experience and make it last longer. A half cup serving is about how much you can scoop into the top of an aerosol can.
All month long fill up low energy density foods.
Foods with a high fiber, water, or air content allow you to have large servings for fewer calories. Staying full on low energy density foods is a healthy way to eat all month, every month and can help you balance your PMS craving days to keep your weight where you want it.
In addition to managing your cravings with lower calorie choices, many women find that despite the cramping they feel much better by engaging in exercise.
Exercise can help relieve some of the symptoms of PMS. Physical activity improves general health and helps relieve nervous tension and anxiety. Exercise is believed to release endorphins. Endorphins contribute to euphoric feelings such as the “runner’s high”
Monthly cycles and PMS is part of the “joys of being a woman!”
Do your best to manage the cravings and remember it’s a temporary condition. If a few days a month you have to go with the flow, the cravings and extra calories can be balanced with a healthy diet and regular physical activity the rest of the month.
You can’t stop it, but you can win by minimizing its effects on you!