08 Nov 2 study-backed tricks to curb hormone-fueled munchies
In my house, my husband has a suite reserved for teaching guitar to his many students: There’s his studio where he gives the lessons. And, attached to it, there’s a waiting room where parents, siblings, early-arriving students and other hang out.
Since I personally hate waiting for anything, I stock the room with everything someone who’s stuck waiting would want to make the time pass by–comfy chairs, TV, magazines, toys for the little ones and, most importantly, lots and lots of snacks.
I always keep the candy jar full of chocolatey, peanuty, gooey sweets. And I make sure there’s always a basket brimming with salty, spicy, cheesy, crunchy chips.
Of course, this means there is always delicious high-calorie temptation lurking just feet away from me at all times throughout my entire cycle. Which gives me plenty of opportunity to test out the research that shows which days of our cycle we’re more likely to experience cravings for sugary, fatty, salty treats as well as which cycle days we’re better at resisting temptation and when we’re most likely to succumb.
For those who are new to Hormonology or need a refresher, here’s a quick summary of what you can expect from your food cravings and willpower each week of your cycle.
And, if you keep scrolling down, I share two new studies about super-easy and fast tricks that help you resist temptation.
Day 1 (first day of period) to Day 7
During the first couple of days of your period, you may get the desire to munch away on ooey, gooey, salty, crunchy treats due to low estrogen and as a way to cope with period-related aches and pains. However, as your Week 1 goes on, your desire for calorie-rich foods decreases thanks to rising estrogen, which reins in food cravings and reduces your appetite slightly.
Day 8 to ovulation (which is Day 14 in a 28-day cycle)
Throughout your Week 2, you’re getting fewer urges to eat unhealthy foods in copious amounts and more urges to eat healthier foods in smaller portions. And, when you come face-to-face with your favorite indulgent goodies, you find it far easier to turn them down on these days than during any other time in your cycle. Thanks goes to high-and-rising estrogen, which pumps up your resolve to stick to good-for-you eating habits, making your willpower stronger than ever.
Begins day after ovulation and lasts 8 days
Let the cravings begin! Day by day throughout this cycle week, you’ll notice your appetite gets bigger and your desire for fatty, salty and sweet foods spikes. That’s a side effect of rising progesterone, which triggers greater hunger as well as cravings for calorie-dense foods in case you got pregnant during ovulation and are now eating for two.
And if you’re on a diet or watching your health, sneaky progesterone is pushing you to eat junk food anyway by making the scents of fat-rich foods (like doughnuts and pizza) trigger more reward sensations in the brain so that they seem totally irresistible.
Final 6 days of your cycle
During your premenstrual week, your progesterone level is decreasing, however, your urge to nomnomnom your way through your day is still at an all-time high–especially for carbohydrate-rich foods, such as candy, pastries, pasta and bread. The main culprit is descending estrogen. As this hormone drops, it reduces levels of the mood-moderating brain chemical serotonin. And, it just so happens that carbohydrates help replenish serotonin–so your brain sends out the message to you to scarf them like there’s no tomorrow.
Another challenge you’re dealing with is reduced willpower. Research shows your ability to stick to your guns drops due to low estrogen.
Luckily for you, you don’t have to completely resist your premenstrual cravings: Healthy and delicious “complex” carbohydrates (such popcorn and other whole grains, beans, peas and vegetables) also restore your brain’s serotonin–quelling food urges with far less fat and calories.
2 SNACK ATTACK TIPS TO TRY
Watching your weight or health and want help keeping snacking under control? Try this:
1. Rinse with minty mouthwash after a few nibbles
Years of research proves that denying yourself your favorite chips, cookies and other treats sabotages your weight loss plan because it eventually causes you to abandon your diet altogether. But, what if you tend to go overboard once you start eating them? Serve yourself a small portion of the food you love, then once you’re finished, rinse with a minty mouthwash. In a new study in the journal Appetite, this simple step was enough to curb food intake in snackers who were given as many potato chips as they wanted to eat.
Why it works: Mint-flavored mouthwash sweeps away the savory, salty, fatty and sweet flavors on your tongue that keep your appetite revved and replaces it with a minty, fresh taste, dampening the desire for the food you were just eating.
Ever since I read this study, I’ve been using this technique regularly–and for me it stops me in my snack tracks completely. What I find most fascinating is that I was never really aware that the lingering flavors of food on my tongue kept me wanting more. But, now when I wash away those flavors and replace them with a minty taste, I actually feel the desire to keep eating vanish. It’s like some weird magic trick–one I’d wished I’d tried years ago! Tip: I stick to an alcohol-free mouthwash to avoid drying out my mouth.
2. Turn off cravings with Tetris
Get too many food cravings and wish they’d just go away? The next time one hits, play Tetris, fill in a crossword puzzle or do another fun activity that requires your full visual attention. In another recent study in the journal Appetite, women experiencing food cravings who played a game that required them to look at it had their food desires nixed within just three minutes.
Why it works: A game that absorbs your visual attention blocks your brain from picturing food, so the craving passes.
I’ve also tried this tip–though I get frustrated because I suck at Tetris. But, I will say that being fully absorbed by those annoying little brightly-colored blocks really does distract me from food cravings. You can try this yourself by playing Tetris free at Tetris.com/play-tetris.