Hormones are powerful regulators of almost every bodily function.
For women of child-bearing age, cyclical hormonal patterns can govern our mood, hunger, energy, sleep and even our weight. As body fat forms part of our endocrine (hormone) system, being overweight or obese can have a significant impact on our ability to self-regulate all hormones, one of which is insulin.
For most women, we know that in the week or so leading up to menstruation, your stomach can feel like a bottomless pit! Hunger increases, fluid retention makes us feel like we’ve gain 5 kilos overnight, despite our best efforts to eat healthy and exercise. Once your period arrives, this bloating and ‘weight’ disappears as quickly as it arrived … until next month.
So, let’s look at why this occurs and how we can work with our hormones instead of fighting against them.
In the initial two weeks of our cycle (post menstruation), our sex hormones (primarily estrogen, progesterone) settle into a balanced state. We start to enjoy our calm mood, stable weight, high energy, and good quality sleep.
Halfway through your cycle, ovulation occurs, so your body is now gearing up for a potential pregnancy. Progesterone increases significantly, which in turn increases hunger, insulin resistance and fluid retention. Your body is, after all, gearing up for a period of potential foetal growth.
During this time, your ability to lose weight on the scales will be impacted and you may find it difficult to stick with any extended fasting due to increased hunger. If this is the case, we recommend that you stick with three meals a day and don’t try to fast for extended periods.
Sticking with a minimum of 5 hours between meals and a minimum 12 hour overnight fast will help to keep your insulin resistance and appetite at bay. Keep in mind that you are more insulin resistant during this time, so the more consistent you are will your exercise and food, the better you’ll manage PMS symptoms. Giving into cravings and consuming high-carbohydrate meals or snacks will only exacerbate PMS symptoms.
Maintaining your body fat within the ‘healthy range’ (20-30% for women) will also help to reduce severity of hormonal imbalances at any age.