Is PMS Ruining Your Weight Loss Efforts?

Thursday, 24 Mar 16

By Jaime Rose Chambers

Ladies, I think most of us have been here… imagine, you’re feeling wonderfully motivated, following a lovely healthy meal plan, buying your fresh fruit and veg, pre-preparing lunches to bring to work, bounding out of bed when the alarm goes off to bounce off to do your exercise.

Then, literally overnight the alarm goes off and you could think of NOTHING WORSE than getting up to exercise. All of a sudden your green smoothie is hideous and you can’t stop thinking about a giant egg and bacon roll. That salad at lunch makes you want to gag so you go and get a giant Asian noodle stirfry. A colleague brings out the chocolates in the afternoon and instead of your usual virtuous NO! you grab a handful without hesitation, followed by another. What makes it all so much worse is that you feel so much heavier (the scales don’t help with this), and your stomach and breasts are having hard time fitting into their respected items of clothing.

Sound familiar..??? The dreaded PMS!

As many as 70% of women suffer from PMS-related food cravings, bloating, fatigue, sleep disturbances, mood swings and irritability. These symptoms may only occur for a day for some ladies, which is really quite manageable. But for others this can last a week or more of every cycle and can really sabotage weight loss efforts as the weight you lose during the first part of your cycle finds its way back on in the later part.

What is the culprit?

A drop in your happy hormone, serotonin

Interesting research into this phenomenon was conducted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in USA that found the hormone serotonin, which in involved in regulating mood and weight decreases during PMS contributing to those pesky symptoms.

What can we do about it?

A So in order to reduce PMS symptoms, we need to increase serotonin levels.

A few simple little dietary tricks might be enough to put a dampener on those cravings and boost your mood a little to get through PMS. Now keep in mind, these recommendations aren’t necessarily for weight loss, they are to prevent potential overeating or binging that can cause weight gain during that time of the month. Ideally if you can even just maintain your weight during PMS then weight loss can recommence once PMS is over.

What MIT found was that by eating once to twice per day carbohydrates on an empty stomach WITHOUT protein or fat (which slows down it’s absorption) helped to stimulate serotonin production and boost mood. This improvement in mood was reported to occur around 45minutes after eating a small meal or snack containing around 30g of non-fruit, complex carbohydrate.

This is what the perfect PMS snack or meal might look like:

  • Grainy toast + honey 
  • Rolled oats made with water + a little drizzle of maple syrup or honey 
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Wholegrain crackers with salsa
  • Sweet potato wedges
  • Rice crackers

Other diet notes during PMS…

Make sure your base diet remains healthy and contains a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat

Avoid processed sugars such as lollies and soda

Include a few servings per week of oily fish (salmon, tuna, trout) in your diet

Drink lots of water – it fills you up and helps to reduce bloating

Limit salt intake – which helps to minimise fluid retention and bloating

Don’t overdo the fats – these slow digestion which is a contributor to bloating during PMS

Eat small and frequent meals – this helps to regulate appetite

Keep your exercise routine – even if you reduce the intensity, just get out there and keep your routine, it will make you feel so much better!

Keep alcohol to a minimum – alcohol can contribute to low mood and bloating

Avoid stress – this can ramp up our desires for high fat/sugar foods

Get plenty of sleep – fatigue makes us more vulnerable to going for the junk food and less likely to exercise.

Next: Mood Food

Previous: Signs it Might be Time to Stop the Diet

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