Cravings, bloating and then the hunger – the best diets are often laid asunder by your period. For many women, the symptoms leading up to and during the week of your period are outrageous, and one of these is the hunger that seems to ratchet up from nowhere.
The reason for this increase in hunger is simple. Your body uses more calories during the time right before and in some cases during your period. This increase in calories makes your body burn more calories during this time, and as the calories as burning you’re going to feel hungry more often.
To compound this, the hormones at work in your body during this time are also likely making you crave particular food items. So suddenly, you’re starving, you already feel bloated from water weight and now you want to eat chocolate or chips. No wonder we all feel so miserable during this week!
Calories are units of energy. You can think of them like tiny gallons or liters of gas. Just like a car burns through gas, your body burns through calories. Every day, if you were to lie in bed and do nothing at all, you would burn a certain number of calories just being alive. This number is your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR.
As you lay in your bed doing nothing at all, your body is burning up fuel, or calories, keeping your digestive system working, helping your heart beat and all of the other wonderful things that happen inside us that we don’t have to think about on a daily basis. Every thirty days or so, the systems in your body pick up another task.
With the menstrual cycle, the week of your period makes your body do some extra work. This extra work burns more calories and your BMR actually goes up. In some women, the week of your period can make you burn up to fifteen percent more calories, and you haven’t changed a single thing about your lifestyle! To get the calories it needs, your body sends a message to your brain telling you you’re hungry more often. Since you’re feeling hungry, you eat.
This is a tricky week for women who are paying close attention to their figures, however. Being extra hungry often means you are compelled to eat. The additional symptoms of this week make eating even more enjoyable. I mean, really – if you’re sitting in sweat pants already watching weepy movies, wouldn’t it taste better with a pint of ice cream?
The trouble is, you may feel hungrier, but the extra calorie burning can be a bit deceptive. Your body is burning some extra calories, but only about 100 to 300 per day, and only for a few days at a time. Sadly, 100 calories is the same as one of those tiny snack packs you can put in your lunch while you’re dieting. At most, you can enjoy a candy bar for close to 300. A pint of ice cream is easily 500 to almost 1,000 calories at a time – it’s not justified by period calorie burn.
Controlling Hunger and Your Period
The best way to stay healthy and watch your figure is to listen to your body more than your appetite. You may feel a strong craving for ice cream, but that probably has more to do with comfort then nutrition. If you’re feeling like shoveling through a bag of chips, don’t give in to the craving. If you really can’t stand it, count out enough chips to be about one serving and then stop. Savor the chips you’re eating, but leave the rest put away.
If you can prevent your appetite from getting the best of you by eating filling foods without many extra calories such as lean protein and vegetables, you will benefit in another way from feeling so hungry this week. When your BMR goes up, as it does the days before your period, you’re burning some extra calories. If you fend off the desire to shove junk in your face this week, you can actually burn off more calories instead of consuming them.
If you are one of the lucky ones burning an extra 300 calories per day for about five days, you’ll lose half a pound by not doing anything except waking up in the morning. After gaining up to five pounds in retained water, losing that water plus a bit more feels outstanding the week after your cycle – it just takes a bit of willpower to reach that point.