Feeling Hangry On Your Period? Here's How To Indulge Without Overeating
You're not alone. So many of my clients are prone to feeling hungry and angry as a result of unstable blood sugar levels (and probably lightheaded, forgetful, and anxious too), and it's often symptomatic of our busy lifestyles. We're always trying to get things done and often prioritize other people and tasks over our need to eat regularly, or we're so caught up in what we're doing that we don't even realize we're hungry, and this plays havoc with our hormones.
Your blood sugar level is the amount of glucose that you have in your blood, and it's in constant flux. There are two imbalances of blood sugar that we're concerned with. The first is low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can leave you feeling grumpy, irritable, nauseous, sweaty, and ravenous to the point of panic. When your blood sugar is low, you crave sugar and carbs because they're a quick-fix solution to the problem, but they also go on to cause blood sugar crashes that cause more instability and cravings. A little bit of hunger before you eat is OK, but riding it out and getting hypoglycemic just because it's two hours till lunch isn't. If you are prone to hypoglycemia, then it's really important that you eat regularly enough to stave it off and that you eat protein at every meal.
Habits that lead to hypoglycemia include:
- Eating breakfast hours after waking or skipping it altogether
- Surviving on caffeine and sugar to get through the day
- Grazing your way through the day
- Suppressing your appetite with caffeine and cigarettes
- Exercising a lot without replenishing calories
When you eat something sugary, whether that's a sweet treat, a croissant, some pasta, or some fruit with a high sugar content, your blood sugar level goes up and your body responds by releasing insulin. Insulin's job is to allow the cells in your body to let sugar (glucose) in so that it either be used as fuel or stored as body fat. By doing this, it keeps your blood sugar balanced, but consistently high levels of insulin can lead to insulin resistance, a condition in which your body doesn't respond as well to insulin. It's caused by obesity, surviving on carbs, sugar, and processed foods, and lack of exercise.
There may be no signs of insulin resistance initially, but as the effects of it progress, signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling tired all the time, particularly after eating meals
- Feeling hungry
- Gaining weight easily and having a hard time losing it, especially weight around your middle
- Difficulty concentrating
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Eating sweets doesn't relieve your craving for them
Breakfast: The most important meal to fight hanger.
Eat breakfast within an hour of waking, and don't you dare skip it—you can't expect to balance your hormones if you do. When clients tell me that they don't have time to make or eat breakfast before they leave the house, I ask them to evaluate how much time they devote to getting the outside of their body ready by washing, dressing, and doing their hair and makeup versus how much time they spend taking care of their insides.
Cereal does not count as breakfast, and neither does toast with jam. Your breakfast must always include protein and healthy fat in order to sort your blood sugar out first thing in the morning, and this is even more relevant if you have PCOS or your periods are MIA. Eggs are a breakfast favorite of mine, not least because they're so quick to cook. Scramble them and serve on top of some toast or a tortilla with some avocado on the side, or fill an omelet with some precooked veg.
If you're really pressed for time, then boil some eggs and store them in the fridge or make a vegetable frittata the night before so that it's ready to go the following morning (and the one after). Oats, quinoa, millet, and amaranth can all be used with plant-based milks such as oat and almond to make porridge and topped with fruit, nut butters, and a sprinkling of seeds. But in all honesty, I'd love it if we got rid of our very Western idea of what constitutes breakfast. I quite like to have some cooked salmon with cooked greens and rice or quinoa for mine, all of which can be cooked in advance and reheated quickly in a pan.
If you're really not a breakfast person, have protein smoothies and make sure that you're not eating your dinner too late (eating earlier in the evening often stimulates your need to eat in the morning). Any carbs should be complex, such as whole grains and starchy veg, and caffeine should be consumed alongside or after eating breakfast, not before.
Excerpted from Period Power: Harness Your Hormones and Get Your Cycle Working for You, by Maisie Hill. Reprinted with permission by Bloomsbury USA, 2019.
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