Many women have experienced the infamous PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome) along with some crazy cravings for carbs or sugary foods. One possible explanation for this timely and carb-specific type of craving is that estrogen levels start to decrease during the Luteal Phase (which occurs before our periods), affecting the production of serotonin, the "feel-good" hormone. A woman might start to feel "blue," and the brain might signal an attempt to raise serotonin - and that can be done by increasing the desire to eat carbs.
Carbohydrates cause the release of insulin, which promotes amino acid absorption and raises tryptophan (a serotonin precursor) in the blood.
So yes, there is a physiological explanation for why we crave chips and ice cream when we're feeling down and not a piece of chicken breast.
Now, let's talk about perimenopause and cravings.
Unfortunately, your cravings might increase during perimenopause. It may have to do with hormone levels, just like during PMS. However, there may be a combination of other factors that can most commonly happen during the perimenopausal years of a woman's life. These are: lack of sleep, mood swings, and stress.
Some behaviors can also contribute to an increased risk of cravings or binge eating, such as:
skipping breakfast, not eating enough protein during the day, and/or not eating enough calories in general.
Basically, different possible scenarios can lead to cravings.
So if you're perimenopausal, there are a few things you can do to decrease your chances of falling into the "craving trap."
Here are some:
Please don't do restrictive diets during perimenopause. Or menopause. Or at any other time of your life, but especially when your hormones are out of whack. The body is already going through a lot of stress, and adding another one on top - is just a terrible idea. If you don't eat enough, your body will find a way to signal it needs food. And hunger is craving in disguise.
2. EAT PROTEIN.
Ensure you have an adequate protein intake throughout the day: 20-30g at breakfast, 10-20g for snacks, 20-30g for lunch and dinner. Make them a good, natural source, not a protein bar. Balancing your protein intake during the day will prolong the digestion of foods and increase your satiety, making you less prone to bingeing behaviors.
3. EAT CARBS, WHOLE GRAIN, FIBER-RICH ONES.
Instead of going for those salty pita chips or that bag of Oreos, try having high fiber foods instead, such as popcorn, whole-grain tortilla chips, Fig Newtons, energy balls (usually made with dates, nuts, seeds), yogurt & granola, trail mix, bananas, and other fruits or whole-grain toast with peanut butter and jelly are a few examples of carbs that will give you energy without any crash in your blood sugar.
4. DRINK ENOUGH WATER.
Thirst is sometimes confused with hunger. So that's in itself is a reason to drink your water. Also, hydration helps our bodies to function properly, in many different ways, from keeping a healthy digestive system to naturally "detoxifying" our bodies - without the need for expensive charcoal drinks!
5. DON'T SKIP BREAKFAST.
There is evidence from studies that most people who skip breakfast will overeat later during the day. Suppose you add the factors previously discussed, like hormone imbalances, lack of sleep, etc. In that case, you increase the chances for cravings or out-of-control binges later that day by skipping breakfast.
6. IF YOU DON'T SLEEP WELL THE NIGHT BEFORE – PREPARE YOURSELF.
Studies have also shown this: people who don't sleep the night before tend to overeat the next day. When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, the lack of energy will trigger the body to seek fast energy through foods. When you know you didn't sleep well, try to be extra aware, and yes, try to rest if you can, taking a short nap. Try not to compensate with high caffeinated drinks or foods high in simple carbs that will just make you temporarily energetic. Follow the previous recommendations and try to get your sleep on track.
7. KEEP A SYMPTOM JOURNAL.
Track your periods (if you still have them) and your symptoms, including cravings, to see if you see any patterns. You may find that cravings increase during a particular time of the month or because you were stressed out about something that day. Be your own investigator – that's the key to knowing what is happening in your body.
Most important of all:
Remember to be gentle to yourself. If you get out of control with your cravings, just take it as it is, without making a big deal about it.
Don't reprimand yourself; these things happen to other women.
Breathe deep and try to get a good night of sleep so you feel better for the next day.
You've got this Fearless Femme.