It is true for most women that their menstrual cycle has some impact on their weight. Research shows that the two key hormones that rise and fall throughout your menstrual cycle - oestrogen and progesterone - not only affect your mood but also your energy and food cravings. And the good news is they can also help you lose weight too…..
It all begins with ovulation. Before ovulation (day 1 of your period until midway through your cycle) you should be feeling on top of the world and ready to take on any challenge including weight loss and fitness regimes. This is the perfect time for starting anything new because your rising oestrogen levels means you are more likely to stick with the program. You are motivated, confident and fabulous.
But then after ovulation oestrogen begins to drop and with it your willpower and self belief. Then progesterone rises bringing cravings for comfort foods (that are rich in sugar, fat and salt), bloating due to water retention and constipation, and a lack of energy. Who wants to exercise when you are dragging your bloated body around with a block or chocolate and a tub of hot chips. Surely that is difficult enough….
Then your period comes and oestrogen rises and you are on top of the world ready to knock down walls and kick through barriers. You are woman and you are strong……
Then you ovulate and progesterone levels increase and you can barely make it to the wall let alone knock it down and how would you knock it down anyway when your hands are full of chocolate and donuts?
Now here comes the interesting part…..
We are wired to biologically eat more calories after we ovulate to grow a baby. Our clever body has hormone fluctuations to help us make a baby and then nourish that growing baby. However, and this is really important, even though studies have shown that hormones do predict changes in binge and emotional eating across the menstrual cycle, the most significant predictor of menstrual changes in weight was our attitude or reaction to the binge eating. In other words, our reaction to the extra eating determined weight gain not our hormones or how much we were eating.
Even though we are wired to eat this way, it is not socially acceptable in a weight focussed and obsessed society. The self loathing and guilt we feel from the extra food we are eating causes further emotional eating and this is what was found to result in weight gain and poor food choices.
So make peace with your hormones and understand biologically why we eat more in the second half of our cycle. Don’t sweat the extra kilograms and they will be gone in a week.