For many women, hormonal cravings on and before their period can be a major hurdle to reaching their goal weight.
The fact is, hormonal shifts are a normal, healthy part of being a human. Yes, even men experience hormonal changes. There’s no reason to resist the facts or waste energy wishing it weren’t true.
Instead, what’s more helpful is to accept what is. You may experience some cravings on or before your period each month…and that is not a problem.
Once you stop making having cravings mean something negative about your ability to reach your goals, you can move on to finding ways to work with your monthly cycle.
When you can shift your mindset away from being afraid of what a craving might lead you to do, and instead realize that a craving is nothing more than a sensation in your body, you will understanding that you are always in control of what goes in your mouth.
Whether or not cravings will affect your health and weight loss goals is entirely up to you.
How to Curb Hormonal Cravings (On and Before Your Period)
In this post, I’ll be breaking down 5 easy ways to curb those hormonal cravings by supporting your body and giving it what it truly needs.
But first, I think it’s important to fully understand what creates our cravings and why they often feel heightened on or just before your period.
If you’re ready to understand hormonal cravings on a whole new level so you can stop letting them sabotage you health goals, let’s dive in…
Why do we have cravings?
All food cravings, whether period related or not, can be traced back to one of two drivers:
- Thoughts and emotions
- Physiological needs
Cravings can be driven by thoughts like, “I shouldn’t have to be alone tonight” which creates a feeling of loneliness. This feeling leads your brain to seek out comfort foods for distraction or a quick hit of dopamine.
These often fly under our awareness “radar”, leading to compulsive overeating and weight gain. However, not all thought-driven cravings feel negative.
You could be thinking, “Chocolate chip cookies sounds sooo good right now”. Then, that thought creates a feeling of desire, which lead your brain to seek our chocolate chips cookies to satisfy the desire.
On the other hand, sometimes our cravings are driven by a physiological need. This could be caused by a need for water, rest, a specific macro or micronutrient, or for blood-sugar balance.
Eating a diet based on real, whole foods (and limiting your intake of highly processed foods like flour and sugar) promotes blood sugar balance and decreases your likelihood of nutrient deficiencies.
Personally, I find that drinking more water has been a big help in reducing my cravings…It can be really easy to mistake the feeling of thirst for hunger…
Additionally, research shows that people who are sleep deprived experience more cravings. Hence why it’s important to prioritize your rest!
In my experience, I’ve find cravings driven by real physiological needs to be much less common. Most cravings are driven by our thoughts and emotions — whether we’re aware of them or not.
Still, it’s helpful to run through this check-list when you experience cravings so you can determine the source.
Why do cravings increase on and before our period?
There are more than 150 documented PMS symptoms — like mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability and many more. Food cravings are up there near the top of the list.
So what’s likely causing this extra hunger? Research suggests that the changes in estrogen and progesterone cause cravings for foods richer in carbohydrates and sugar.
Both sugar and starch (carbs) can cause the body to release serotonin (the “happiness hormone”), so we can speculate that these cravings may be the bodies way of seeking out a “hit” of serotonin to balance out other PMS symptoms like sadness and irritability.
The most important thing to know about these hormonal shifts is that they are absolutely normal. Nothing has “gone wrong”, you aren’t back-sliding or losing all your progress because you feel more hungry leading up to (or during) your period.
There is no reason to beat yourself up or punish yourself for having increased cravings and hunger. Always remember that your health outcomes are a result of what you do MOST of the time, not some of the time.
Pay attention to your patterns and your cycle. Take notes to learn about your most common symptoms, then you can be prepared for them!
5 easy ways to curb your hormonal cravings
1. Eat healthy carbohydrates throughout the day.
If you know you crave carbs on or before your period, be sure to stock up on your favorite healthy, whole foods sources of carbohydrates. Potatoes, squash, rice, quinoa, beans, legumes, fruit and oats are all good options. By increasing your intake of healthy carbs, you should notice a decrease in your cravings for highly refined carbs like pasta, bread, etc.
2. Eat meals that help to stabilized your blood sugar.
An unbalanced blood sugar will only make your cravings worse. To help curb your cravings, prioritize balanced meals that include protein, healthy fats and fiber. The combination of these three elements (with your healthy carbs) will allow your blood sugar to stay balanced. Limit highly refined sources of carbs like flour and sugar as these create large spike in blood sugar, and subsequent crashes, which lead to increased cravings.
3. Eat plenty of protein, especially at breakfast.
Protein in the most satiating of all macronutrients. By filling up on a good size portion of protein-rich foods, you’ll reduce your likelihood of cravings later. Breakfast is when women tend to skimp on the protein, opting for more carb-dense foods like oats, toast, etc. While it’s ok to have some carbs in the morning, adding in protein source like eggs, greek yogurt, or protein powder will help you feel more calm, full, and satisfied throughout the day.
4. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day.
This means that if you weight 150lbs, you should be consuming at least 75oz of water per day. This is the minimum amount of water you should drink — more is great! I usually drink about 1X my body weight in ounces of water per day. Staying hydrated eliminates the chance that I will feel “hunger” pangs brought on by dehydration. When I do experience cravings, when I drink a bottle of water first, often the craving goes away on its own.
5. Eat enough calories.
If you’re experiencing increased hunger on or leading up to your period, now is not the time to be restrictive. If you are well hydrated, well rested, and eating a diet based on whole foods, you can trust your body’s natural hunger signals. When all those boxes are checked, and you’re still feeling extra hungry, it’s time to up your food intake. Always check in with yourself first to ensure you actually are hungry…sometimes the craving to eat is being driven by your thoughts & emotions. Remember, food solves hunger, but it will never solves your mental and emotional problems.
One final note…
Food cravings on and around your period are your body’s way of combatting the drastic hormonal changes that are occurring.
It’s important to keep in mind that reaching for highly refined foods (containing refined flour and sugar) will only make you feel better for a moment — providing a quick hit of energy and serotonin. The downside is that quick hit of energy always leads to a “crash” later.
The best way to curb your hormonal cravings is to maintain a healthy, whole foods based diet, stay hydrated & well rested, and stay in awareness of the thoughts and emotions that may be driving you to eat.
If you can shift your mindset out of being fearful of experiencing cravings, and instead accept them as a natural, healthy part of life you can plan for them and be prepared.
At the end of the day, your period, your hormones, and your cravings aren’t in control of what you put on to your fork and into your mouth.
Control what you can and work with your body’s natural cycles, not against them. When you do, you’ll see that hormonal cravings are nothing to be afraid of.
November 10, 2021