We all know how the story goes. You get irritated with your colleagues, shout at your poor dog for making a mess in the hallway and keep dropping office stationery all day long. Until it finally clicks that your period is on its way. You instantly call your partner to bring home some chocolate buttons and Maltesers, as you know those chocolate cravings are coming.
As much as women detest period-related stereotypes and the ‘time of the month’ jokes, we probably know some of it is not far from the truth. The majority of women surf the waves of period cravings. Additionally, blood sugar imbalances and harsh symptoms prevent women from having good life quality during PMS and their period.
So if you feel like PMS cravings or binge eating before period are completely taking over your life, find out what can change. Figure out why you have cravings in the first place, how to stop period cravings and make your period a more enjoyable time of the month. Yes, it really IS possible!
Why do you experience PMS Cravings?
In fact, chocolate cravings are not just “in your head”. Findings of a 2017 study of 30 women aged 18-45 showed that women have an increased need for energy of up to 500 kcal. And increased cravings for carbs during PMS and leading up to their period!
Hormonal fluctuations linked to the menstrual cycle also have a major impact on women’s moods and some of the behaviours. The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle follows ovulation and this is where oestrogen and progesterone levels start to peak and then plummet just before your period.
Research suggests that it’s the sharp drop of these hormones is what is responsible for stimulating your appetite and increasing cravings. And that works independently of the chemical messenger leptin, which helps to regulate appetite.
Additionally, insulin levels and blood sugar regulation, are affected by hormonal imbalances, also contributing to carbohydrate carvings. And if this isn’t enough, the levels of feel-good hormone serotonin also dip in the luteal phase. Meanwhile stress hormone cortisol levels spike, all leading to increased cravings for sweet and processed foods.
In short, these hormonal shifts can intensify food cravings leading up to your period. Important to understand that the cravings aren't a sign of weakness or lack of self-control. But rather, it's your body's way of communicating and responding to internal changes.
Get your FREE Cheatsheet
9 Mindset Mistakes
that keep you stuck
in the Binge Cycle
Should you give into Chocolate Cravings?
Research suggests that around 90% of menstruating women experience some symptoms before their period. This includes cramps, headaches, fatigue, bloating and food cravings. However, it is thought to be linked to imbalances in the diet, stress levels, alcohol intake and sleep. All of these affect the sensitive balance of hormones during all the stages of the menstrual cycle.
Sure, it’s so tempting to give in to PMS cravings and eat all the food, mostly carbohydrates and processed food. But it can easily affect those same hormone levels and enhance the chocolate cravings. With that, PMS and period symptoms can intensify, making you feel extra sucky while you’re on your period.
This cycle can affect mental health, as it often is followed by food guilt and regret, which can lead to compensation at other times of the month. In other words, you may feel like the PMS cravings are sabotaging your health and wellness goals for the rest of the month.
And yet, being strict and not allowing yourself to have different or more foods during PMS and your period may feel too restrictive, and lead to binge eating.
So if you don’t know how to stop period cravings for good, allow yourself the option, but notice when it becomes a problem (“I NEED chocolate to get through this”). Also, how it affects your physical and mental health. Notice what happens when you eat certain foods or restrict yourself too much, and find balance in between.
Are Period Chocolate Cravings- Just Cultural Conditioning?
Ever seen a TV show where a woman/ women on their period get together, drink wine, eat chocolate and ice cream just to get through the time of the month? Let’s think if social and cultural conditioning has a role to play in chocolate cravings.
Interestingly, a study of 275 women showed that women born outside of the USA were much less likely to experience premenstrual chocolate cravings (17.3%), compared to women born to USA-born parents (32.7%) and second-generation immigrants (40.0%). This showed the highest acculturation, with a clear link to USA culture. Embracing chocolate and other cravings may be conditioned through TV, social circles or social media.
Are you Binge Eating before period starts?
If you’re a long-term dieter or struggle with your relationship with food, PMS and your period could provide some extra challenges for you. You may be experiencing episodes of binge eating before period starts.
A study of 311 female students found that 85.8% of women had increased appetite before their period with increased carbohydrate cravings.
And while PMS cravings are a normal part of life for many women, it can be tempting to normalise patterns of binge eating before period. Here are some signs that tell you that it is more than just period cravings:
- Eating way more than you planned to, even if it is healthy food
- Needing to eat much more or faster than what is comfortable
- Not being able to stop even when overly full
- Feeling out of control or on auto-pilot during the binge
- Feeling immense guilt and shame after eating.
Binge eating before period is common in women, who are otherwise very strict and disciplined around food in other phases of the menstrual cycle. Researchers say that this is when women allow themselves to “let go” and “go all out”. However, often this just perpetuates the binge-restrict cycle.
👉 Do you find yourself binge eating before period, have no clue how to stop period cravings and are ready to make peace with food? Then check out how a Nutritional Therapist can help you balance your hormone levels and eliminate binge eating episodes for good 👉👉👉
How to Stop Period Cravings: Planning for 1-2 Weeks Ahead
The female body likes balance, not extremes. During the whole month in the lead-up to your period, stay focused on doing all you can to keep your hormones in a stable balance. It’s especially important in the lead-up week as that’s when PMS or binge eating before period normally hits.
Here are a few tips on how to keep your hormone levels in check and how to stop period cravings before they start.
Nourish your body
Aim to treat your body with love and respect and remember that it prefers structure and regularity, rather than chaos and extremes. Focus on keeping your blood sugar levels stable by reducing the amount of processed foods and eating regular meals, complete with quality protein, beneficial fats and complex carbohydrates that will give you sustained and stable energy.
Also, remember to eat plenty of different types of fibre from vegetables, beans and legumes and whole grains. Beans and legumes are especially important for hormone balance. They contain a wide range of minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron – all of which are important for keeping your hormones in check.
Reduce alcohol and caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can both play a part in increasing PMS symptoms and making PMS cravings worse. Aim to reduce them as much as possible in the days leading up to your period.
If you do need some added energy, reach for herbal teas or an extra portion of carbohydrates like sweet potato, brown rice or quinoa or extra protein instead. While green tea or matcha tea still contains caffeine, it is great for an energy boost that doesn't create the same crash that coffee has.
Exercise is a key element in maintaining overall well-being and is significantly helpful in managing PMS cravings. A regular exercise regime helps in feel-good hormone endorphin release. They may help manage lowered moods but also helps to regulate fluctuating hormone levels.
However, as your period approaches, it's essential to tune in to your body and adapt your exercise routine to what your body wants, not what the mind says you "should" be doing.
During this time, you may find that high-intensity workouts can be taxing. Instead, consider shifting to more relaxing forms of exercise such as yoga, pilates, or gentle walks. These activities can help alleviate stress and manage PMS cravings, without draining you physically.
Remember, the goal is to support and nurture your body, not to push it to the brink of exhaustion.
Being aware of your stress levels and monitoring your cortisol levels, often referred to as the 'king hormone,' is crucial. When cortisol is high, it can disrupt the functions of other hormones, leading to menstrual irregularities or even missed periods in women experiencing high states of stress or ongoing chronic stress.
Make sure you've got a bullet-proof stress relief strategy in place, especially when stress and anxiety get high to bring yourself into harmony, body and mind. This could be taking a hot bath, journaling, spending time in nature or simply reading a book before bed.
Whatever it is for you, make it into a routine and stick to it- even more so before your period.
Make time for rest
If you have 99 problems and 101 things on your list rest may be the last thing you think about. But as you enter the luteal phase, you might notice that your usual activities require more physical and mental energy.
Your body is already preparing for its monthly highlight and this means more restful activities are useful. This includes spending time with loved ones, meditating, taking a nap or just letting yourself relax in whatever way works for you should be on top of your busy list.
Self-care doesn't have to involve extravagant spa treatments every evening either. Simply finding moments throughout the day to nourish yourself, be a hot cup of tea, time to fully apply body moisturiser or stretch your body is enough.
"Help! It's the time of the month again and I don't know how to stop period cravings from taking over my life!"
Take a deep breath! Remember that you are in control of your own body and can use these strategies to help manage PMS cravings and take back your power over food. Here are some tips on how to stop period cravings, once they're already here:
- Cancel your evening plans, prep a hot water bottle and have a nap instead (with your cat),
- Choose warm, nourishing meals like soups and stews- fewer salads and raw foods as it will make the digestion process more difficult and might cause more bloating,
- Drastically reduce stress and retreat to your Zen Den,
- Drink herbal teas, such as peppermint, fennel and ginger to soothe bloating and digestion (and avoid caffeine),
- Wear clothes that help you feel comfortable and cosy and avoid checking or measuring your body- bloating and water retention are likely to be present and it may not give you a truly accurate image of where your body is at,
- Do something nourishing for the body- get a period massage (yes, they do exist!), run a hot bath with essential oils or do some restorative yoga (crystals optional).
Whatever you choose to do, avoid overthinking, worry or going down the negative mindset rabbit hole. Women experience increased negative body image and ‘the inner critic’ is much louder this time of the month.
It’s the time to recharge and rest and do physically and mentally as little as you possibly can.
Final Thoughts on How to Stop Period Cravings
While period and pms cravings can be a regular part of the menstrual cycle, it's important to become aware if binge eating before period turns problematic and sabotages your food relationship every single month. If you're concerned, reach out for extra help and support from a counsellor, nutritional therapist or GP as needed, as further physical and mental health imbalances may be at play.
Additionally, try making changes to your lifestyle habits that might be influencing your hormones. Get enough sleep, manage stress levels and eat balanced meals throughout the week. Don't underestimate the power of small changes, as it could help you understand how to stop period cravings for good!