If you are anything like me, your monthly cycle has a huge impact on your appetite, among other things! Speaking specifically to your hunger and cravings, let’s take a closer look at what might be happening and 4 approaches to adopt.
What the #$@& is happening to me?! I swear I should be used to the swings in my hormones after a lifetime of living them, but still it’s as though every month they surprise me all over again!
If I could break my experience down into 3 phases:
- The week after my period when I feel my energy return and my body lean out from the bloating and water weight. I literally feel like I can take on my entire to do list with energy to spare! I am level headed (as much as I ever am) I love activity and social time during this phase. My appetite normalizes and I do not struggle with eating quality foods, typically its all I want and crave! Lots of veggies and good protein! I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. Often I am not as hungry too, so I tend to eat a little less. My mind is in a good spot, my body feels great and my sex drive is high!
- Leading into ovulation, I can almost tell you to the day when I am ovulating. A day or 2 after I start to notice my emotions are heightened, overanalyzing and stressing. My body starts to feel off, achy and sluggish. Sleep is not great, usually waking in the night and struggling to go back to sleep. My hunger begins to increase despite what or how much I eat. As I approach my period it all increases. About 10 day out I begin to feel lethargic, overwhelmed, overstimulated, my body begins to feel swollen and gross, my mind gets uber sensitive and thoughts are easily scattered, oh and I could eat from the time I wake up to the time I fall asleep, let’s not forget this one!
- By the time my period arrives I am so grateful for it! I can survive a few days of cramps and discomfort to finally pass through and arrive back to my phase of the month that I feel most myself and balanced.
For many women out there, this experience may be very different! I am acutely aware of my body therefore I notice every little change. It took me ages to start pinpointing what was occurring and how my mood and my body were directly related to my hormones. Thankfully I realized it when I did and started approaching these phases proactively instead of just surviving them!
4 Nutrition Habits to Practice with Your Monthly Cycle
1. What is your body needing that isn’t just food?
There is a long list of things that can affect our cravings for foods and our hunger cues. Largely, sleep and stress affect our hunger. When you are tired you might notice that you want to eat more. It’s as if your body is craving more fuel to keep you going. What can be done in these times? Naps if that’s a possibility, for me I would have to be in bed sick to take a nap! But focusing on getting quality sleep can definitely help with combating that non stop hormonal hunger. Stress is typically heighted as a lack of sleep too. So it is often that the 2 are walking hand in hand as they guide you straight into the kitchen and to the freezer where you keep the pints of ice cream! Addressing underlying stress is a much better approach to unnecessary eating or overindulging on “comfort” foods. Get at the root of what is causing the stress, work on resolving or at least understanding it. Let go of what you can’t change or control and move forward with your head and stomach in a better place.
2. Hydration makes all the difference.
This is definitely not a new concept, but it is also a concept that never gets enough attention! If your body is dehydrated, no doubt you will feel more hungry. You will likely be eating more and often not foods and drinks that actually aid in hydration! So start with eating fruits and vegetables and with each meal or snack you have, pair a glass of water with it as well. Make this a habit so you are doing it even when hormonal hunger is not a factor. The benefits of being well hydrated are vast, it’s such an easy way to feel and look your best.
3. What is your body needing from food?
As our body goes through its monthly cycle and changes are occurring, we can be deficient in micronutrients. That is the vitamins and minerals found in our food. We may be craving french fries or chocolate chip cookies but in reality our body is craving magnesium or iron. The first approach is to choose mindfully and eat foods that can help satisfy cravings while feeding your body what it needs. Eating plants that are nutrient dense can help to make sure you are feeding your body what it wants. If I am in my phase of non stop hunger, I am proactive to eat all the fruit and veggies I want. I will pair some lean protein with that and eat to satiety. This gives me the full feel I want and lots of healthy goodness to make my body happy. Then if I have a piece of cake or some chips, well I am not as hungry, my cravings are lessened and I will likely not over consume and eat the entire bag!
4. Go with a healthier version of whatever you are craving.
This is definitely a great option when you are in this phase! In fact this is an option you can adopt regularly. I do eat desserts and french fries etc, but those choices are less frequent and now I have learned and developed recipes and food choices that are the delicious foods I want but not going to make me feel awful after I eat them.
If I am craving french fries I make up some salty, crispy air fried potatoes. I dip them in ketchup and don’t feel sick afterwards or even a twinge of guilt. If I want sweets I am a bit of a picky snob because if it’s not worth it I don’t waste my time eating sub par desserts!
When I am in my monster phase of my cycle, I want sweets but it would be unrealistic for me to eat cake every day for a week and I would end up feeling even worse. But I will make up some protein cookies that I keep in the fridge and enjoy freely. Maybe a peanut butter and chocolate smoothie made with frozen bananas and some protein powder, if I am craving some ice cream.
You see what I mean. There are endless possibilities to creating those foods you crave but with better quality ingredients.
The best decision I have made for myself in regards to this hormonal hanger is that it’s all a cycle. I don’t always need to eat perfectly or have my shit together! I need to find balance for the moment I am in. If that means I eat some vegetables and protein, I drink some water, I pay attention to how I manage sleep and stress, and I want french fries or cookies, well I eat them! I eat them without guilt. I eat them knowing it is not an everyday decision, it is an occasional decision. Occasional decisions do not derail or elevate our health, consistent decisions do!