It happens like clockwork each month. The moment your period begins, you start a lusty pursuit of carbohydrates. The cravings start simply enough, a bagel for breakfast, or a pastry on the way to work, and by the end of the day, your food diary is telling deep, doughy sins of the carb variety.
What’s up with craving carbs during our period and how can we keep those cravings at bay? Read on to find out.
Why our bodies crave carbs
During your period, your hormones are doing a manic cha-cha. Cortisol, our stress hormone, spikes as feel-good hormone serotonin dips. At the same time, estrogen and progesterone are also lower making us feel more tired or stressed.
Your body reacts by craving foods with sugar and carbs to boost serotonin and inhibit cortisol production which makes you feel happy and relaxed. It’s an opioid reaction, similar to the high feeling one gets from drugs; it cycles through the body. You’ve trained the body that when you are tired or stressed to reach for that chocolate croissant because it created more happiness in the body by way of serotonin. But the feel-good effects only last until the crash comes and then the cravings get worse. This not-so-athletic training can lead you to eat an additional 500 calories per day during your period according to a study published in Annals of Endocrinology.
How to combat your carb cravings
Now that you know why it happens, here are a few ways you can work with your body to curb your cravings:
- Eat mini-meals to regular your blood sugar.
- Include protein at each meal to slow the digestive process to keep you feeling full longer.
- If you are craving carbs, choose complex carbs with high fiber. These take longer for the body to break down, thus keeping overeating at bay. This is a great time to make up a pot of three-bean chili or enjoy a bowl of oatmeal with berries.
- Get moving! Go out dancing with your crew or take a walk with your pup. Getting some exercise decreases your appetite and boosts endorphins, making your body feel fabulous.
- Frankie says Relax! Stress makes cravings worse (see above about cortisol). Take a yoga class, do some meditation, or just take a bath to wind down and reduce stress.
There’s also some wisdom in giving in to the craving but in moderation. If you really want that Pinkberry, have a small and include at least one healthy topping like berries or dark chocolate. By satisfying the craving in a small way, you save yourself from the inevitable “I ate an entire package of Oreos at 1 am” quandary that happens when you deny yourself too much. Not that I know anyone who’s ever done that. Yeah, definitely not me.
If you give in to your cravings, don’t beat yourself up. Resign to do better next time and move on; there’s no use in crying over spilled pasta.
Photo by iamafoodblog