July 27, 2016
8 TIPS FOR CURING PMS CRAVINGS!
One of the most commonly asked questions in our PIIT28 message boards is, “What do I do about PMS cravings when I’m trying so hard to eat clean?” We figured if our PIIT crew wants to know, chances are you guys do too.
Up to 85% of women experience at least one PMS symptom per month! These symptoms range from mood swings and fatigue to bloating and food cravings. So no, you’re not alone! These symptoms are very real, and they’re related to hormonal shifts that occur any time in the last two weeks of your cycle. So if you have intense chocolate and pizza cravings, and a moodiness that seems to zap your otherwise healthy willpower, it’s not your fault; hormones are driving the ship. Fortunately, there are several ways to captain that ship if you’re feeling fed up and want control once and for all. If you eat well most weeks, except for when you’re on your period, those out of control days might be the reason you’re not reaching your goals. It’s simple math, really. Consuming an extra 850 calories over four days equals roughly 1 pound of fat gain. If you’re in a calorie deficit most other days, you might be staying the same. If not, you might slowly be gaining. Either way, it’s extremely frustrating given how hard I know you exercise and care about your body.
Before diving into the solutions, do you want to know WHY your body cries out for sweet, salty or extra carby foods that time of the month? Estrogen is a key player in our bodies, and as its levels go up and down, so does cortisol (our stress hormone). When cortisol levels are high, the body turns on its fight-or-flight response. This stimulates appetite, and causes cravings for carbs and fat, the two things that support and fuel that response (yep, the caveman days still affect us even now!).
The types of cravings we experience come from cortisol and serotonin ratios. Isn’t it crazy how one day you’re diving into doughnuts, and another you’re eating a box of macaroni and cheese?! You’re actually not crazy at all! It’s physiological. According to Web MD, “If cortisol is high and serotonin is low, you’ll seek carbs and fats, but really heavy duty on the simple carbs— sugar-based sweets like chocolate bars.” Simple sugars are metabolized quickly, so they offer a quick serotonin fix. “If cortisol is way up but serotonin is relatively normal, a woman is more likely to crave a fat-carb combo without a huge sweet component,” like pizza.
As if that weren’t bad enough, we are often bloated, tired and grouchy, which makes us throw in the towel and say, “oh well, I might as well eat whatever I want because I’m fat and uncomfortable already.” We’ve all done this, right? But that attitude is a lot like jumping on your cell phone just because you dropped it. You don’t need to break it just because it cracked. The same goes for your body. Sure, the scale might be up five pounds and you have a little Buddha belly for a couple days, but those things will go away once your hormones even out. So instead of diving into the Ben & Jerry’s, be proactive to ensure you don’t put on real weight during your period. And who knows, you might even prevent your cravings all together!
8 TIPS TO PREVENT PMS CRAVINGS
1. STABILIZE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR.
Research has linked PMS to low blood sugar/hypoglycemia. Drops in blood sugar lead to irritability, shakiness and further hunger, generally for simple carbs, which deliver a quick rush of sugar to the system. To avoid cravings that stem from low blood sugar, eat five balanced meals each day. This might mean Greek yogurt, fruit and nuts for breakfast, a protein shake for a snack, a quinoa salad for lunch, bananas and peanut butter for a snack and chicken tortilla soup for dinner. The meals are smaller than “3-square meals” because you’re eating five times per day. They include balanced ratios of protein, fat and carbs which eliminate the blood sugar spikes and plummets that come with a day comprised of pancakes, a sub sandwich and Chinese takeout for dinner. Blood sugar stabilization is the premise of The 28 Day Reset – the official meal plan of PIIT28.
2. EAT A PROTEIN-RICH BREAKFAST.
A breakfast of scrambled eggs with veggies and avocado starts your day off much better than waffles or cereal. Having protein and fat in the morning leaves you satiated and energized, and a lot less likely to crave chocolate by noon.
3. INCREASE FIBER.
#1 New York Times Bestselling author, Dr. Hyman, suggests increasing vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains in order to ease PMS constipation, which affects your gut, which affects your cravings. “Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day are especially helpful in correcting constipation and balancing hormones. Put them in a shake or sprinkle them on salads or food.”
4. CARB UP.
Well, not really loading up, but a few moderate complex carbs can help raise your serotonin levels to stave off the, “I could kill for a Snickers bar right now,” moments. They key is having just enough to raise your serotonin without sending your blood sugar skyrocketing. So the next time you’re feeling crabby or a bit blue, and your period is near, go ahead and have two ounces of whole wheat pasta with marinara, a small baked potato or a slice of toast. The amount you have won’t ruin your diet, and might spare you from raiding the pantry tomorrow. It’s best not to eat these carbs with lots of fat, as fat will slow the absorption of the carbs, thus, postponing your serotonin surge.
5. DRINK UP.
As much as you might feel like a beached whale, the best remedy for beating bloat is 8-10 glasses of water. The sooner the bloat is gone, the happier you’ll be, which mean you won’t be eating raw cookie dough to temporarily lift your spirits. The bottle above helps me stay hydrated throughout the day. You can get the Timer Bottle here.
Whatever gets the blood pumping will raise serotonin and lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is your stress hormone, and nothing relieves stress like exercise! This can have a huge impact on your cravings too! The happier I am, the more I want healthy and clean foods. I know it’s hard, but get a short workout in, even when you want to crawl under the covers in your pj’s. You’ll never regret that workout!
7. GIVE IT A MAKEOVER.
When all else fails and you just can’t force yourself to eat a salad because only a huge quesadilla will do, don’t fight it, make it healthier. There’s always a healthier option for the bad stuff. Craving a burger? Go turkey burger with avocado and half the bun. Need chocolate? Make an avocado chocolate mousse, or grab some chocolate covered edamame. French fries? Make your own baked sweet potato fries. You’ll have a lot less regret this way, and you’ll still satisfy your craving.
8. REDUCE CAFFEINE.
Caffeine spikes cortisol, so reducing it helps, once again, with your cravings. Chances are, though, if you cut it out completely, you’ll experience moodiness and fatigue, which won’t help your cause. So just try reducing it by half, or try a nice soothing tea.
That’s it guys! Can you do it? Can you cut your coffee by half, increase your fiber and eat balanced meals before and during your period? Let me know if you choose some, or all, of these PMS craving-cures and let me know how you feel!