Ways to Prevent Weight Gain While on Your Period

woman sitting holding her stomach and pills in her hand
Your period may cause cravings. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Hormonal fluctuations before and during your period can seemingly wreak havoc on your intentions to stay fit and eat healthy. Monthly cravings for sweets and other high-carbohydrate foods may cause you to increase your daily caloric intake. Shifting hormone levels can also cause temporary bloating and water weight gain. Coupled with fatigue and consequent exercise avoidance, these factors can all contribute to weight gain during the menstrual cycle. Minor changes in diet and lifestyle may help you avoid gaining weight while on your period.

Understanding Food Cravings

Fish and Chips
Craving salty food during your period is normal. (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Craving sweet, salty and high-carbohydrate foods more than you generally do is not unusual during your period, reports the Weight Watchers Research Department. Fluctuating serotonin levels might be behind this well-known premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptom. Your serotonin levels may fluctuate immediately before and during your period, explains Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine. Serotonin helps regulate your mood and energy, and high-carbohydrate foods promote serotonin production. Lower serotonin levels might prompt you to desire less-healthy food choices than usual.

Avoiding Dietary Downfalls

Variety of fruits in a wooden bowl
Select fruits to eat. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Consciously eating every few hours both before and during your period may help keep those dreaded cravings in check. Regular ingestion of healthy meals and snacks can stave off peaks and crashes in both hunger and blood sugar. Restricting your intake of calorically dense food and practicing portion control and moderation may prevent or reduce weight gain before and during your period. Choose high-fiber, low-sugar, low-fat foods that provide your body with energy. Select lean sources of protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables to promote healthy weight maintenance.

Skipping Salty Selections

Pretzels, New York, USA, (Close-up)
Reduce sodium intake. (Image: Kevin Forest/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Reducing your sodium intake may help you prevent weight gain before and during your period, as suggested by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Your body is more likely to retain fluids in the week leading up to and during your period, making you feel bloated and heavy. The underlying cause for this common symptom is unknown. However, foods that are high in sodium can contribute to water retention and weight gain, interfering with your body's ability to rid itself of excess water. Eating high-sodium foods like canned vegetables, condiments, canned soups, soy sauce and processed foods may contribute to weight gain during the menstrual cycle.

Exercising to Relieve PMS

Woman doing stretching exercises on mat in gym
Exercise can help relieve PMS. (Image: Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Whether you prefer pumping iron, a yoga class, or simply walking the dog, any exercise you do can both burn calories and rid the body of excess water during the menstrual cycle. Regular exercise may eliminate or reduce the severity of other unpleasant PMS symptoms while also helping to prevent unwanted weight gain. Other common PMS symptoms include fatigue, headaches and mood swings. Limiting or eliminating such symptoms before your period may help prevent you from experiencing similar symptoms during your period.

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