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It’s a sweltery 90 degrees F here in Florida, but I’m still wearing my new birthday sweater. (That’s iced tea in my mug.)

Today is my twin sister’s 44th birthday–she’s getting SOOO old! Of course, that means it’s my birthday, too. But, since she emerged from the womb a full six minutes before me, technically, I’m still the younger sister : )

I bring this up not to squeeze a birthday wish out of you (but I know you’re thinking it, so thank you!).

I’m letting you know about my annual birthday tradition–and how my hormones are impacting it:

Every year, I plan the same thing for my birthday: I watch a movie, eat indulgent food and buy myself something special.

I know, it’s not Earth-shattering stuff. But, it’s exactly how I envision living every day of my life if I was obscenely wealthy and finally got to the end of my to-do list. So, I like to preview my future blissful life one day out of the year.

As my birthday falls during my premenstrual Week 4 this year–with estrogen plunging faster than the first dip on a Disney rollercoaster–I couldn’t help but notice that my choices of movie, food and self-gift have been seriously affected by where I am in my cycle. Here, let me show you:

THE MOVIE This year’s movie choice is Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a serene, picturesque romantic dramedy starring my future boyfriend Ewan McGregor and some chick who I will mentally superimpose my own face onto while watching it.

I haven’t seen this movie yet, but judging from the description and my hairdresser’s incredibly rave–and someone incessant–reviews of it (Kari, I’m finally going to watch it!), this seems like a classic premenstrual chick flick that’s not going to be too mentally taxing and will, hopefully, give me a boost in soothing progesterone, which researchers from the University of Michigan say happens when you watch sappy flicks.

(As an aside, I have, in fact, made the horrible error of trying to watch experimental artsy indie flicks during my premenstrual week. I think my all-time record is making it through 11 minutes of an indie in my premenstrual week without storming out of the theatre swearing loudly or tossing the DVD into a burning pile of trash. That stuff is definitely Week 2 kind of material.)

THE FOOD So, for food, I’m going totally hardcore premenstrual: I’m starting off with a McDonald’s vegetarian cheeseburger (which is a cheeseburger no burger) and French fries. No judging! McDonald’s just triggers a lot of childhood memories for me of hanging out with my sister and BFFs scarfing down food together. (Thank goodness the local McDonald’s was over a mile walk, bike ride or, on special occasions, rollerskate away so we could burn off the mountain of calories we gobbled there.) And a meal that’s so wildly caloric AND that triggers nostalgic memories is such a pre-period kind of food to have since that’s when progesterone is amping up your appetite and making your thoughts turn inward so you’re more sentimental.

After that, it’s angel food cake. Because it’s really easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re eating a lot less cake when it’s so airy and fluffy and light–which means scarfing two slices is totally not out of the question.

And, finally, for during the movie, I got chocolate and sea salt caramel-covered popcorn. Because in my future life, only gourmet popcorn will be allowed in my home theatre. That seats 24 people. In puffy recliners. With a popcorn butler. A gourmet popcorn butler.

I know, that’s a lot of junk food for one day. But, thankfully, researchers have given me the perfect out. That’s because they say my hormones are to blame!

Turns out, we gals spend more of our dollars on food purchases during the second half of our cycle, reports the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Which makes sense due to the aforementioned rise in appetite during our Week 3 and Week 4.

And other research reveals the exact kind of food we want on these days: salty, sweet, chocolatey, high fat, high carb, yummy comforting treats that make us feel good.

While I usually spout on about how knowing how your hormones impact you gives you more control over what you choose to do and eat, yadda yadda, it’s my birthday, so I’m totally caving to the craving. (Besides, I can always make up for it later by taking advantage of the fact that the female body burns up to 30% more fat during exercise throughout most of the second half of our cycle thanks to the combo of estrogen and progesterone. So, a date with the treadmill is set!)

THE SELF-GIFT This year, I treated myself a cozy, oversized sweater that wraps around me like I’m in a cotton cocoon. Had it been my Week 2 when high estrogen pushes you to purchase sexier clothes, I’m pretty sure I would have been heading over to Victoria’s Secret or at least gotten a clingy top with a bit of decolletage.

Nevermind that it’s still 90 degrees Fahrenheit here in Florida–and autumn is evidently still about a month, maybe three, away. I grew up in New York where there were four seasons–and fall was the one I looked forward to all year.

Which means that with my premenstrual sentimental autumn memories in full swing combined with a desire for comfy clothes over sexy ones combined with a need to hide my soon to be swelling junk food belly from my future boyfriend Ewan McGregor, I’m going to be wearing my new sweater all day long. Despite the sweat droplets already forming on my brow and upper lip. Heck, I’ll just crank up the air conditioning–after all, it’s my birthday!

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