This week I spotted a great article in Women’s Health about food cravings when you’re on your period, and I was instantly intrigued. It’s a familiar feeling when you have your period and all that goes with it – the pain of menstrual cramps, feeling moody and possibly tired, thinking how unfair it all is! It’s all too easy to use it as a legitimate excuse to comfort eat because we tell ourselves that we deserve it, need it even, as a pick me up to make it through. The same goes for when you’re hungover, had a sleepless night or are feeling a bit under the weather!
But the truth is we don’t need it. Yes it’s a great excuse, but sadly there’s no sudden biological change so that at certain times of the month women need to eat a whole 120g Cadbury’s chocolate bar. So why do we tell ourselves that it’s OK?
Well I think deep down we know that we don’t need the unhealthy snacks to make ourselves feel positive and less moody. Needing food is different from craving comfort food. When you’re hungry, you need to consume calories so that your body can function properly. But when you crave a specific comfort food, like chocolate or a share pack of crisps, your body doesn’t need it to function normally, it’s a psychological impulse.
More and more research is being done into why this is. When you crave food, your body is releasing dopamine, a chemical that makes us want something. Having your time of the month can trigger its release because you want to feel more positive and your brain can link this food. Your body then goes to unhealthy food to try to improve your mood, even though rationally you may know that exercising or snacking on something healthy would be better for you.
Next time you find yourself reaching for the share bag of Doritos, be honest with yourself about how long eating the whole bag will make you feel positive and satisfied for. Maybe for the 10 or 15 minutes it takes you to get through the bag, but the guilt and negative feelings that come after can often make you feel worse than you did before.
So next time catch yourself before you reach for the unhealthy snacks. Think how much better you’ll feel if you fought your cravings and snacked on something healthy or exercised instead.
Have a lovely weekend,