Monday, March 5, 2012

Hormonology: Knowing Your Cycle to Help You Get/Stay Fit

Hi!  My friend, Anna, (mother of 4, including twins, who's hubby is also a pilot -- that's how we met) sent a link to me about hormones and how they can hinder and assist our weight-loss efforts.  I knew hormones messed with me, but I didn't know the how's, why's, when's, and what-to-do's.  I've put together a summary and a quick-peek chart that I will print for myself and keep near my calendar.

Adapted from Gabrielle Lichterman's "Hormonology:  Slim Down with Your Cycle."

Week 1 (Start of period - Day 7)  LESS HUNGRY
Why?  Estrogen rising = appetite suppressing effect
Watch out for:  Continuation of indulging from last week (week 4) out of habit and using junk food as comfort food for this week's aches and pains.
Hormonal Slim-down Tip:  Acknowledge you are less hungry and don't eat on autopilot.

Week 2 (Day 8-13)  ALL OR NOTHING
Why?  Two directions:
1.  Eat nothing:  Estrogen still rising >> suppresses appetite >> tempted to skip meals >> lowers metabolism >> weight gain
2.  Eat a lot :  Testosterone rising >> more impulsive behavior >> sampling new foods
Hormonal Slim-down Tip:  Eat regularly and balanced.  No skipping.  Sample the new treat without overdoing  (and I'm adding:  if the treat isn't as fabulous as you thought it would be, DON'T FINISH IT, put it down and sample something else).

Week 3 (Day 14 *Ovulation* - 22)  CRAVINGS
Why?  Progesterone rising >> preparing your body for possible pregnancy during ovulation which orders your body to crave energy-dense foods to put on pounds.  And if that wasn't bad enough, our digestive tract also slows down >> triggers constipation >> leads to water retention.  Happy happy joy joy.
Hormonal Slim-down Tips:
A.  For the Cravings
1.  First few days:  Have family member put you in a straight jacket and lock you in a padded room don't give in to the junk-food cravings, there will be fewer cravings for the rest of the cycle.
2.  Squash cravings by taking a 10 minute walk.
3.  Distract self from cravings by doing something fun (padded rooms are fun).
B.  For Constipation:  increase water intake and fiber-rich foods
C.  For Water Retention:  decrease salt intake, sweat more, (and I'll add to drink more water.  I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it helps, and it also dilutes the sodium in the body).

Good News Break:  The body is more efficient at burning calories during weeks 3 and 4, and you will most likely be less tired from working out than other days.
Why?  The progesterone and estrogen combination

Week 4 (Day 23 - 28 or cycle's end)  START MEDICINAL EATING
Expect:  *achy, *sadness, *irritability (PMS)
Why?  Estrogen descending >> reduction in serotonin >> increase craving carb-rich and sugary foods >> increase in serotonin and endorphins.
Hormonal Slim-down Tip:  Choose healthier carb-rich foods.

*I'll add:  Other things lead to these symptoms besides PMS:  dehydration, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, fatigue, seasonal changes (lack of sunshine).

A summary of the summary:

Week 1 (Start of Period - Day 7) LESS HUNGRY
Estrogen rising > suppresses appetite
Tip:  Mindful eating, regular (don't skip) but not on autopilot

Week 2 (Day 8-13) ALL OR NOTHING
Estrogen still rising (less hungry), Testosterone rising (more impulsive)
Tip:  Don't skip meals, eat balanced, sample treat w/o overdoing

Week 3 (Day 14 Ovulation - 22) CRAVINGS (less tired, more calories burned)
Progesterone rising (prep for pregnancy), digestive tract slowing (constipation, water retention)
Tip:  Don't cave to the junk-food crave for 3 days, take frequent short walks, distract self, drink more water, eat less salt, increase fiber, sweat more.

Week 4 (Day 23 - 28ish)   MEDICINAL EATING (less tired, more calories burned) PMS
Estrogen descending > serotonin descending > cravings increasing for carbs and sugar
Tip:  Choose healthier carb-rich foods (whole wheat stuff, whole grains, fruit, popcorn, honey).