For three weeks out of four, following a healthy eating plan can seem like a piece of cake (or celery), but then PMS strikes and all attempts at following a sensible strategy are lost. Here, Ms Colette Heimowitz, nutritionist and vice president of nutrition and education at Atkins Nutritionals Inc, provides five tips to keep you on track.
“The key is putting strategies in place to combat your PMS cravings,” Ms Heimowitz said.
According to Heimowitz, common premenstrual symptoms include feeling bloated and heavy, lethargic, a ‘bit blue’, and powerful cravings for chocolate and sugar laden foods – many of which can be combated by following a carbohydrate-controlled eating program, such as the Atkins Nutritional Approach.
“In the lead up to ‘that time’, many women may find themselves unable to resist reaching for high carbohydrate, starchy foods such as white bread and white pasta, as well as sweet foods such as lollies, chocolate and pastries – all of which may seem to be a quick fix to boost energy levels and ward off the premenstrual blues, but in actual fact will only lead to a vicious cycle of sugar-highs and lows,” Ms Heimowitz said.
So how can we combat the symptoms of PMS – and the (often) resulting pig out?
Colette Heimowitz’s top five tips for battling the bloat and keeping hormones and blood sugar levels in check include:
1. Avoid stepping on the scales
Many women may hold water and experience weight gain in the lead up to and during their menstrual cycle. Normal weight fluctuation is 2.5 kilograms, and some women may experience gains slightly higher than this during ‘that time’. Seeing your weight increase – or, if you are trying to lose weight, seeing weight loss stall – can be disheartening. Stick to healthy eating and exercise and wait to weigh yourself until after your cycle.
2. Carbohydrate control is key
Adopting a carbohydrate-controlled approach (such as Atkins) is an excellent way to curb your carb and sugar cravings – both in the lead up to and during menstruation, and every other day of the year. Not to mention the fact that high-carb foods are often the culprits of belly bloating and weight gain.
By cutting out processed carbohydrates and sugar-laden foods – such as white bread, chips and lollies – and building your diet around fresh, whole foods – such as lean protein (including meat, poultry, fish, tofu and legumes), plenty of leafy green and fibrous vegetables, healthy natural oils ,dairy, nuts, low sugar fruits , and whole grains– you will find your cravings for high-carb, high-sugar foods will decrease, belly bloating will lesson and you will be on your way to a healthier figure and lifestyle.
3. Never skip a meal or snack
A golden rule for weight management in general, ensuring you eat regular meals and snacks is even more important during menstruation. Eating regularly will help keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel, reducing cravings for high-carb and sugar-laden foods.
Even light exercise, such as walking or jogging, will encourage your body to produce endorphins – a naturally occurring chemical in your body that boosts mood, and is often considered an elixir of happiness. So if PMS has you feeling blue, one of the best cures is to get off the couch and get your body moving!
5. Keep healthy snacks on hand that will satiate cravings
Craving chocolate or sugar? Keep in mind that caving in to the sweet will only result in your blood sugar levels peaking and then dropping, leaving you feeling worse off than before. Reaching for a low GI, whole food snack – rather than a sugar-laden one – will keep you feeling full for longer and keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel.
If you really can’t pass up the chocolate or sweets, try a low-carb option instead, such as a bar or shake from the Atkins range. High in protein and fibre but low in sugar and carbohydrates – they taste like your regular favourites so will satisfy cravings and you won’t feel like you’re missing out.