Q&A Thursday: Aunt Flo' And The Cravings - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Q&A Thursday: Aunt Flo’ And The Cravings

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Q: Erika, how do you fight cravings during that time of the month? I’m miserable, can’t hit the treadmill, & my appetite is always huge around this time….#ugh!

First, I’d have to ask – why can’t you hit the treadmill? Even for a walk… you can do something.

The answer to this question – as far as the technical stuff behind it – can get a little long and tricky, but you have to remember a few things when it comes to cravings.

First, if you’re not legitimately hungry… you need to seriously question why you’re craving anything.

Secondly, you need to work toward developing an understanding of why you crave certain foods. The reality is… a lot of it is emotional eating:

Once upon a time, in a land not very far from your home… lived mankind. No fast cars, no shiny structures, no skyscrapers, nothing. Just man.. rock… and animals.

See, this worked for man because his only task was to hunt wildlife, and gather his kill for his family. That was his responsibility. His purpose was to bring the salt and fat from the animal to the family. Not work, not bills… just hunt. Because life was much simpler then, this was man’s sole source of stress.

One day, man could not hunt. Every time he threw his spear, he’d miss his prey. He just couldn’t catch SQUAT! His family was to go hungry and he just… he couldn’t take it. The stress started to build up inside of him.

Because stress about the inability to eat is the only source of stress for man, his body became used to the eventual chain of events. His body knows: Lots of stress = lack of food coming in. How did his body react? His body decided to hold on to what it had – by way of diminishing the amount of energy his body could exert all at one time, by way of making sure his body took a very long time to lose weight, by way of making sure it held onto every pound and fat cell it could. This bodily reaction would only further compel man to step up his hunting skills… why? Because he didn’t want to feel that way! He didn’t want his family to feel that way! He had to get his caveman hustle on! When man was finally able to tackle that antelope or whatever-what-have-you, the fats and salts in the meat were sooooo satisfying that they would cure man of the bodily reaction to stress.

Compare this to emotional eating. The body’s reaction doesn’t change no matter what variables you swap out. Regardless if the stress comes from traffic, bad work day, or family problems… the body’s reaction to stress has not evolved as fast as society has. Now, we can get food within ten minutes if we drive or own a microwave. So presuming our body believes that stress is caused by a “famine on the way,” then it’s going to trigger feelings to make you go hunt! Our bodies just don’t know how easy it is to get food just yet. It hasn’t caught up.

This is what compels us to believe that emotional eating is the answer.

Emotional eating is defined as eating for a purpose other than curing hunger. If you’re eating for that gooey “Mmmmm” feeling, then yes – chances are, you might be emotionally eating. Approximately 75% of all overeating is attributed to emotional eating.

Because our bodies always provide this same reaction to food in a time of stress, our body’s reward system tells us that it makes sense to eat when stressed. It’s the fastest way to rid ourselves of this negative emotion, right? Stressed out about money and bills? You’re probably going to find the cheapest and quickest way to stick something in your mouth to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling. For some of us, that means we’ll be Dollar Menunaires for an hour. For some of us, that means we’ll be hittin’ up the Edy’s or Blue Bell. For others, we’ll be needing peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, or chocolate chip cookies.

Excerpted from Telling A Tale of Stress and Emotional Eating | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

How can you overcome this?

Idle hands are the emotional eater’s playground. Go shower! Go play with the kids! Go for a walk – shoot, go running! Get yourself a giant glass of water and guzzle it. Occupy your time. Stay busy!

Sound too easy? Trust me – it’s not. It takes practice… but its a challenge worth undertaking!

How do you curb your cravings?

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

20 Comments

  1. likeramona

    February 3, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    thanks so much for this! i have no problem working out when aunt flo visits but those cravings are RIDICULOUS!

  2. Alovelydai

    February 3, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    “How do you curb your cravings?” Read your blog! while drinking a ton of water! LOL!!!

  3. ChellBellz

    February 3, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    Great Article…i’m the same way around that time. I don’t want to be the token “TMI…but I loose alot of …well you know” around that time. I feel so weak after day two, and I end up eating a ton of stuff. It’s crazy because when i work out on a constant basis, the cravings aren’t really there, I don’t have any cramps or anything…and I feel better in general. I think a part of me use to think that the cravings just came with it, but for the past year…picking up a piece of chocolate just doesn’t do it for me. I really just fill up on sugaless Green Tea to keep my body warm, and I eat pineapple that is “supposed” to be good for cramps. Then I get my sugar fix if I even have one.

    • Bannef

      July 24, 2011 at 10:46 PM

      I was going to say that – back when I played volleyball my time of the month was nothing! I’m hoping all the biking I’ve been doing lately will make my next time easy *fingers crossed.*

  4. Eve

    February 3, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    You’re right…I used to suffer from really bad cramps during that “time of the month” and couldn’t do much of anything during the first couple days, so I used that as an excuse to eat junk. As I grew older the cramps went away, but I still ate any and everything I thought I wanted, especially chocolate ( + I don’t even like chocolate very much). I had to really look at it for what it was. I was conditioned to eat “since I was bloated anyway, I may as well have some snacks”..it was BS. It was hard, but now I still go to the gym and I still run. Nothing about my exercise + nutrition schedule changes… it’s a few days out of a whole month + I feel better staying on track.

  5. Kelly

    February 3, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    As the changes we undergo at this time of the month are physiological, not and definitely not imagined, I was hoping for professional input on this matter. I crave things during this time of the month that I have absolutely no desire for at any other time and I crave things in much larger quantities than I’d usually have. While working out is something I looked forward to just last week, this week it seemed like much worse than a chore. This is real for some people, however this article seems to trivialize the whole thing. Maybe many others experience a minor “blah” feeling but what I go through is beyond that. I’m not making excuses, just was hoping for some answers and real solutions when I saw the title.

    • Erika

      February 3, 2011 at 11:07 PM

      Kelly…

      I specifically wrote this: “The answer to this question – as far as the technical stuff behind it – can get a little long and tricky, but…”

      …because THOSE details are beyond the scope of what she asked, here. She asked how you FIGHT cravings. Not why does she get cravings.

      UPDATE: The “details” surrounding cravings can be found here.

      The reality is that a SPECIFIC craving is almost always emotional eating. There might be studies that suggest certain illnesses or deficiencies might cause certain cravings, but again – that is WAY beyond the scope of what she asked, here. What more could I give, especially when I declared what I was NOT addressing in the beginning? How is it trivializing or dismissing it? C’mon.

      Even still – Danielle, a commenter, pasted information from another website that doesn’t offer ANY INFORMATION BEYOND what I’ve ALREADY discussed on the site. These ARE solutions, no matter how you may feel about the “easiness” factor.

  6. Remnants

    February 3, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    I understand that most of the cravings can be for emotional reasons, but are you totally discounting that hormones might be a factor when ‘Aunt Flo’ visits?

    • Erika

      February 3, 2011 at 7:11 PM

      No… which is why I said it gets more complicated, and warrants more than one of the drive-by posts I’m doing today. :)

  7. Danielle

    February 3, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Hey there – just wanted to add my 2 cents- and Erika dont kick me off your blog for being too pushy haha :D

    Emotional eating I think is one aspect of how we feel that time of the month. I ganked this because it shows that the reason why the reader may be feeling this way, all ties in to this blog. I linked the site since I copied it whole sale- here is the link.

    http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/reproductive/menstrual/141.html

    Tips on controlling PMS
    •Eat complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains and whole-grain breads, pasta and cereals), fiber and protein. Cut back on sugar and fat.
    •Avoid salt for the last few days before your period to reduce bloating and fluid retention.
    •Cut back on caffeine to feel less tense and irritable and to ease breast soreness.
    •Cut out alcohol. Drinking it before your period can make you feel more depressed.
    •Try eating up to 6 small meals a day instead of 3 larger ones.
    •Get aerobic exercise. Work up to 30 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week.
    •Get plenty of sleep–about 8 hours a night.
    •Keep to a regular schedule of meals, bedtime and exercise.
    •Try to schedule stressful events for the week after your period.

    I don’t know what shape the the question asker was/is in, however I have found that since Ive started eating better and excersing my symptoms has been better. I do get the urge for chocolate though! I get cadbury fruit and nut chocolate square from World Market and freeze it, and just break off a section when I feel the urge.

    See also
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/premenstrual-syndrome/DS00134/DSECTION=causes

  8. ChoklateChild

    February 3, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    I’m going through this feeling as we speak !! When Aunt Flo is here all I can think about is EATING !!! I crave salty, then sweet. I havent been to the gym at all this week and I even ate a cookies and creme cupcake (havent had sweets in about 3 weeks!). WELP !! Help !

    • Danielle

      February 4, 2011 at 4:30 PM

      Hey ChoklateChild! I read an article that said that studies show a piece of good dark chocolate can satisfy cravings for salty and sweet things. I don’t know what it is about dark chocolate that fills both those tastes, the article didn’t say.

      Erika I just read your comments and I do want to apologize if I offended you in any way by copying something from another site and posting it here.It was just a succint listing rather than me retying everything that it said you know.

      • Erika

        February 4, 2011 at 4:45 PM

        Not offended at all, mama. :)

  9. Serenity

    April 25, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    I’m going to go on and admit to being the punk that gets sidelined when her cycle comes down. My resistance goes down right before my TOM and I come down with any bug that is in my immediate cipher. Also… I have a lower back spinal issue that never acts up any other time during the month other than right before my cycle. And that sends radiating pain shooting up my back and down my leg, rendering me useless for exercise. And that happens every month. The more I exercise (previously), the more severe the pain is. So I take that time off and jump back on the good foot when the “all clear” flag goes up. And I ain’t shamed!

    Peace

  10. Jean

    July 21, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    Timely. Period arrived today. Fortunately I put in my hour of exercise this morning just before it got here. But tomorrow at 0500….we shall see.

    I ordered a pizza and onion rings, delivery, today. It didn’t hit me what I’d done until I thought about the gym in the morning. Definitely going to pay for that slice in the morning. I threw the other 6 slices in the trash with the onion rings.

  11. Dominique

    July 27, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    I simply despise Aunt Flo’s arrival each and every month. I mean, the time itself is super long (hormone problems and yakkety yak), but tolerable. What kills me is that previous week before the ‘big show’, seeing as ninety percent of my symptoms (irritability, being over-emotional, cramping, and cravings) come from that alone.
    My guilty pleasures are chocolate and salt… oh and sometimes strange cravings for Chinese food, but we’ve lessened the intake of that, leaving it as a ‘sometimes food’. To satisfy the cravings for salt and chocolate though, I’d stick to eating pretzels and a Hershey’s symphony bar with toffee bits (*majorly drool*).

    With weight loss comes sacrifice though. The sixty calorie chocolate pudding cups at Wally world help me through my extreme wants for chocolate. For the salt? Gee.. I’m not totally sure on this one myself. A miniature bag of pretzels helps where a normal-sized snack bag was once the norm.

    As for exercising, it’s hard.. for me at least. Cramps usually leave me temporarily out of commission–this including the amazing lack of energy that comes with Aunt Flo’s appearance. I try hitting the gym as I normally would, even if it means having to roll myself out the house like a rolling pin. Even without giving 110%, SOME activity is alright…right?

    Great article by the way, Erika!

  12. Stefanie

    September 28, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    Because every woman is different, I won’t say what one woman can or cannot do. But I’ll provide what I find helpful….First off, when I was younger (high school), those were the days!!! My periods where easy! LOL. Maybe a cramp here or there but nothing that stopped me in my tracks. But now that I’m a little older, I tell you, I have to sit down somewhere for a while, LOL.
    Anyway, to my point: I can understand why the OP says she cannot get on the treadmill. I don’t want to sound gross, but it does not feel good when that stuff ‘down there’ is going on AND we have to walk or move around….ewww…so, with the moving part, I would say, take it easy. It doesn’t mean no moving, but just don’t do anything too strenous for the first few days. But as soon as the flo lets up, get to moving, even if its just a leisure walk around. Stretching also seems to work for me too, which can help alleviate the cramps. Lots of hot tea/hot coffee/hot chocolate. As far as food, I don’t know about you all, but I realize when I eat heavy, it actually makes me feel worse (not that I’ve been very obedient to eating ‘good food’ during this time every month). I understand the cravings – mine is ice cream. But just because your body craves it doesn’t mean your body needs it. Remember part of our cycle is hormonal, so our emotional state could be a bit off balance. And I like Erika’s suggestion to keep busy – even if you don’t feel like moving around a lot – find something else to do so you will not mindlessly eat.

  13. Valarie

    March 13, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    Luckily for me, I don’t crave chocolate during “that time”. I got a serious desire for organ meats instead, particularly liver. But heck, hearts and gizzards also trip my trigger. Nothing particularly bad for me so long as it’s oven-roasted with minimal oil and served with a side of squash. I’ve also found that exercise relieves cramps, even though it can be really hard to get to enthusiasm to get to the gym when you feel pretty awful.

  14. Bianca

    May 17, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Depending on what I am craving, I try to find a better substitution for it. So if I want salty stuff, I won’t find the chips, I’m hunting for a handful of nuts or a couple slices of cheese. If I want sweets, I’ll get strawberries or a fav fruit, and if I want chocolate, I get a proper serving of high quality chocolate and give the rest away lol.

    I also don’t keep the stuff I crave in the house. I have 3 kids under 6, two with special needs, so the effort it takes to pack them up and go to the store for something that makes me feel like crap is a deterrent.

    May not be fantastic but it’s better than a liter of Pepsi, bag of pork rinds and king size twix or reese’s cup.

  15. Elle

    October 1, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Egh. I usually have two days during my period where I’m hungrier than usually. A couple days before and then the first day. I usually get a lot more on those two days, but still just don’t eat the junk.

    Like other people have said, everyone is different. So when I’m craving something like cake during my period – I know it’s just a craving and that’s not real and I can get past that. Sometimes though, I am legitimately hungry to the point I can eat 30 – 50% more than usual. In those cases, I just make sure I’m legit hungry and try to eat veggies and whole grains. Those usually help me the most during my time of the month.

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