As if it isn’t hard enough to combat cravings, eat healthy and find time to exercise regularly, once a month women face the seemingly insurmountable challenge of getting through their period without giving into temptation. Along with the irritability, cramps, bloating and fatigue that come hand-in-hand with Mother Nature’s visit, cravings for sugar, simple carbohydrates, and other oh-so-good, but not-so-healthy treats hit full force.
If you have intense cravings during your period, you’re not just giving yourself an excuse to nibble on forbidden foods. There are scientific reasons that explain why your body craves certain foods during your menstrual cycle. During this time, your brain experiences a decrease in serotonin, a brain chemical that’s responsible for a whole host of things including your mood. Your brain, unable to operate as efficiently with a smaller amount of serotonin, sends signals – cravings – for foods that boost serotonin levels. Such foods include sweets, chips, muffins and other comfort foods.
How to Curb Cravings during Your Menstrual Cycle
Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce cravings during this time and stay on track. These tips also work when you’re not on your period. So, next time you get a craving, combat it with one or more of the following:
- Consume more complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates and foods rich in fiber – whole grains, legumes, fruits and some starchy vegetables – take longer for your body to break down and use. This means that you stay full longer and experience fewer cravings. While you’re satisfied and full, your stomach sends messages to your brain that no more food is needed.
- Eat foods rich in protein. Foods that contain a great deal of protein also work as an appetite suppressant for the same reason as complex carbohydrates. In fact, it takes your body even longer to break down proteins. Protein also helps regulate your sugar levels, which stops cravings. To add protein to your diet, choose from healthy options such as chicken, turkey, fish and peanut butter.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Bottom line, do not allow yourself to become hungry while you’re on your period. Satisfy cravings by eating six small meals instead of three large ones. Be sure to choose healthy options though.
- Spend some time exercising or doing another physical activity that you enjoy. Physical activity boosts levels of dopamine in the brain, a feel-good chemical that works alongside serotonin to regulate your mood. So, whenever you start feeling down, don’t reach for a snack, get physical instead. Exercise also reduces cramps.
- Think about something else. Sounds pretty simple, huh? Well, it is. When you have a craving, your brain automatically pictures the item you’re craving. You start to remember the taste, the feel, the texture of the food you want. If you allow yourself to keep thinking about it, you will likely give in to temptation. Instead, think about something else that you love, like the beach. Picture it – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the way the sand feels between your toes – and your brain will no longer be able to concentrate on the craving.
Combating cravings during that time of the month is a constant struggle. However, the more successful you are at fighting off cravings, the easier it will become for you to turn down unhealthy foods. If you slip up now and then, don’t beat yourself up. Simply put the experience behind you and look ahead. More cravings will come, and when they do, you will be ready for them.