Losing weight is challenging enough without having to deal with your period at the same time. Common menstrual and premenstrual symptoms include food cravings, cramping and water retention, all of which can affect your weight-loss motivation. Despite how you feel, the changes you're experiencing are minor and temporary. None of them should interfere with long-term weight loss. Maintain your motivation to lose weight during your period with a combination of healthful eating and regular activity.
Successful weight loss motivates you to maintain healthy behavior, so don't allow hormone-influenced sweet or salty food cravings during your period push you off track. According to a study in South Africa at the Medical School of the University of the Witwatersrand, your metabolism increases between 5 and 10 percent a few days before your period begins. This increase burns an extra 100 to 200 calories per day, but it also causes food cravings. Satisfy your cravings with healthy foods such as almonds, apples, low-fat yogurt or raw vegetables with low-fat dip.
Cramps and bloating make a long-distance run seem unappealing, but interrupting your exercise plans during your period won't help you lose weight. Reduce the intensity of your exercise routine when you don't feel well. Substitute a brisk walk or other low-intensity activity on days when your period makes you feel sick or lethargic. Use lighter weights and fewer repetitions when strength training. Regular daily exercise improves your mood and can relieve cramping by improving blood circulation, according to the Feminist Women's Health Center.
Snug-fitting clothing and a bloated belly easily kills your weight-loss motivation. Water retention makes you feel bloated, and eating salty, high-sodium foods increases the amount of water you retain. Prevent bloating before it happens by limiting your sodium intake the week before your period starts. Avoid added salt and sodium-rich items such as canned produce, soy sauce, frozen meals and processed snack foods. During this same week, further minimize the affects of sodium by drinking at least eight glasses of plain or zero-calorie flavored water and eating water-dense fruits and vegetables. Increasing your fluid intake helps your body flush out the water being retained before and during your period.
Skip the Scale
Even if you're careful, water retention and hormone changes can temporarily add a few extra pounds. Seeing a numeric increase on the scale is discouraging, especially if you've been losing weight. Stop weighing yourself a few days before your period starts and resume after the bleeding completely finishes. As long as you maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise during your period, this temporary lapse in weighing yourself won't negatively affect your post-period weigh-in.
Is This an Emergency?
- Weight Watchers: Menstrual Cycle and Weight Gain
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Premenstrual Syndrome
- Feminist Women's Health Center: Menstrual Cycles - What Really Happens in Those 28 Days?!
- Physiology and Behavior: Food Intake and the Menstrual Cycle: A Retrospective Analysis, With Implications for Appetite Research