Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trying Something New...

Well, after that weird hormonal binge and a gain of 2 pounds on the scale, I did some reading and thinking. I have found some evidence that suggests a reason for mid- to end-cycle binges, but I'm still pondering and will put that in another post. For now, let me share what I did to halt the "crazy rolling ball" of binge eating.

You know how once you screw up and binge, it is easier to do it again the next day? Harder to quit? It is for me, anyway. And with the hormonal stuff that's going on, I had to make a decision about how I am going to handle it.

If you haven't read my previous post, you might want to do so. By way of background, my female cycles seem to have something to do with my eating habits:

Days 1-14 or so, it is easy to eat healthy. I do not think or obsess about food AT ALL. I feel:

Then somewhere around Day 15, I lose it. I start thinking about food ALL THE TIME. I crave fats, refined carbs, and sugar. I feel:
like I want to withdraw

Those feelings stick around for about a week. Then, the cravings calm. But instead of feeling happy and energized, I feel exhausted from fighting the tiredness and irritability of the previous week. So the last week of my cycle feels:
like I am trying to get my feet back under me

Interesting? I've charted for 3 months now and this is pretty consistent.
As for the hormones, days 1-14 are predominated by estrogen. Then, mid-cycle, estrogen fades and progesterone increases. During that third week when I have difficulty, progesterone is at its peak. And, as I mentioned, there are actual scientific studies that suggest that people with binge eating disorders and bulimia are heavily influenced by these hormones, and that binges are far more common during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Now. Do I throw up my hands and say, "oh well! Can't fight nature!" and eat a pie? Nah. But I am also *not* going to fight and struggle and battle during the third week the way I have been. It is EXHAUSTING.

What I had been doing: trying to force myself to eat the same way throughout my cycle. No matter how I felt or what was going on with my body, I wanted to eat my 3 healthy, veggie-filled meals. I wanted week 3's food diary to look the same as week 1's. But it never does. It looks like this:

Forced 3 healthy meals and 2 snacks PLUS a bunch of binge food = 2500-3500 calories/day.

So this time, knowing that my *body* is actually different and being aware of how I feel, I decided to try a new approach: for this one week, JUST focus on making sure I do not go over 1700 calories a day, and making sure I bike 30 minutes. Period. If the 1700 calories is made up of cake and potato chips, so be it. I have to bend a bit to make this work.

Yesterday was my trial of this new plan. I felt pretty lousy and all I really wanted to eat was junk... carbs.... candy. This is very different from how I feel during the first two weeks of the month, when I crave vegetables and am just not hungry very often and don't care about food as much. So yesterday, here's what I ate:

Godiva chocolate truffle coffee with half & half and agave nectar, 1 egg over easy, 1 buttered wheat toast, 1 Clementine
A 2-pack of dark chocolate Reeses peanut butter cups
A large slice of pepperoni pizza
A sample cup of Starbuck's Gingerbread latte with whipped cream
A tall glass of orange juice
crackers and cheese
2 handfuls of Hershey's Bliss chocolates with mint centers (9 pieces)
A large cup of homemade chicken/veg stock
String cheese
Godiva vanilla truffle coffee with half & half and sugar

I tell you what. Eating all that chocolate and the carbs I craved felt REALLY good. I know it was not the ideal nutrition but like I said, I am tired of fighting my body on this and I am going to give this new method a shot, JUST for the days my hormones are wacky.

Oh, by the way, the total calories for yesterday: 1601. I biked 30 minutes. And I dropped those 2 binge pounds right back off this morning. Imagine that! Two pounds gone even though I ate pizza and chocolate. I am calling it a success.

Today I actually feel a little better, maybe because now I am not all stressed out about my cravings. I know if I want a candy bar, I'll have it. Maybe for dinner. And I know now that this is *temporary* and hormonal and in another week I will feel much better and be able to focus and eat my usual healthy foods.


Margie M. said...

Sometimes we have to throw nutrition out the window for the day if that is what it takes to get through a binge phase. You're working to figure this all out for yourself and that is progress. Interesting post!

Tamzin said...

Wow...I've never thought to track my feelings and hormones. But blogging certainly has giving me the history to look back over it. I think I'll have a look at it as well.

Thanks Lynn, as usual, you bring up interesting topics.

Have fun this week with your new plan. I can't wait to read more.

Autumnforest said...

I believe it. I had been underweight my entire adult life. Then, at 31, I went off the pill and began to gain weight steadily 4 pounds a year every single year. I went back on the pill in my late 30s and bliss--I lost the weight gain, but the doctor said that with a family of heart disease and clotting problems, I shouldn't do it. I went off it and continued to gain again. Yeah, it's pretty powerful stuff. Of course, the more weight you lose, the less hormones you have circulating--so, that helps too. There's always good with the bad. said...

Have you considered taking calcium and vitamin D to help control your PMS? Your body needs both anyway, and they may really help those binges.

here's an easy to digest article, if you'd like something more scientific I'm happy to link to it for you:

The Shrinking Violet said...

In.teresting findings about the binge cycle. I'll pay a little bit more attention mid cycle from now on.

Anonymous said...

I know you already know this, but it is FOR SURE not your imagination! I turned 43 in august, and FINALLY realized only few years ago, after years upon years of frustration, the exact same pattern in concerns to eating and my cycle as you. I mean the Exact. Same. Pattern.... Control and glorious calm stability in regards to eating/diet for the first half of my cycle -- only to have some sort of weird mental switch flip, plunging me into chaos and slavery of my eating impulses the second!

Progesterone, eh? Hmmmmm, interesting, veddy veddy interesting....

Lyn said...


Thanks! I do take D3 and calcium supplements daily :)

Kristin from the NW said...

I second the thought on progesterone. Once, after having a newborn who was still breastfeeding, the doctor gave me a "progesterone only" birth control pill and I put weight on like crazy WHILE NURSING! I just couldn't get enough to eat. She really should have warned me about the effects of progesterone...I really don't think it's just me. Good for you listening to your body.

flyingwoman said...

You might want to consider seeing a naturopath for herbal support during your cycle. Something like Black Cohosh, Dong Quai, or Wild yam might really help you smooth that third week out.

Chibi Jeebs said...

Very interesting... I can't wait to see the post about the rest of your research! I think we all tend to beat ourselves up for needing to fight the cravings instead of realizing that we're fighting hormones as you said.

Tony the Pink Panda said...

Interesting post. I don't think throwing nutrition out of the window during this time of the month is the right thing to do as a permanent solution, but it's certainly better than going binge crazy.

screwdestiny said...

That sounds smart to me. If you're going to eat crap either way during that week, it's best to eat it in moderation than to try and avoid it and then binge on a ton.

redballoon said...

Lyn, You are right on the money. I have known this for years (being older than you..wink) and I can clock my emotions to the day and know exactly that whatever is linked to, caused by or exasperated by the hormonal fluctuations. It is great to know this. You can take everything in a very scientific light. No more panicking, no more thinking you've flipped out. It's just, oh, crying jags? short tempered? reclusive? silent? it's ALL hormones. Of course, eating well helps it enormously and I mean enormously!! but doing as you do and allowing for a bit of indulgence here and there instead of fighting, fighting, fighting, makes everyone and everything happy. It's a power trip!
Good luck!

Leslie said...

This sounds really great, Lyn. I'm post menopausal so no longer am wrenched about my the same hormone fluctuations, but I remember the eating and hunger being so different at certain times.

The thing that comes to mind for me is that I'm not sure if I could stop at one Reese's 2 pack, or the Hershey's Bliss pieces in a measured amount. Sounds like you can, but for me, these would probably trigger my inner binge-er and send me off to the races. But that doesn't happen to anyone.

Great progress you're making!

Tiff said...

YOU GO GIRL! It's good that you recognized that even if you go completely crazy for one day it will ususally effect the next day and then the next until you've completely fallen off the wagon.

If it takes a week of you eating not the healthiest of things but still remaining under your calorie goal to keep you on track for the other 3 weeks of the month- then do your thing!

spunkysuzi said...

Now you're reading my mind :)
Today i started keep a cap on the calories and not worrying too much what i used them for because, yes, that time of the month is coming!!
My treat of the day will be a chocolate danish at work!! Because that is where i find it the hardest to not eat junk.

Duddes02 said...

Have you ever spoke to your Dr about your symptoms?

My BC helps with everything. I am in the same mood and mode the entire upswings or downswings. Perhaps he can switch up yours?

On another note: My personal trainer suggest not monitoring for one day a week. He suggest to moderate but not to count every bite. He claims it helps "shock" the body.

I haven't tried it yet, but I understand his theory.

Good luck today

Cortney said...

This is awesome, and it shows how important it is to be self aware and listen to our bodies- so many of your recent posts have been about how well you've gotten to know yourself,your motivations, your desires and drives, etc. over the past few months. I think this is the key to successful weight loss and maintenance- far too many people just want a program given to them to follow, and even the programs market themselves as "easy" you "don't have to think about it" just "follow the plan and be done!". But this is totally counterintuitive to what should be happening, which is you really digging down and learning about yourself and how you can change. Fantastic!

Helen said...

I read your blog every day but have never posted a comment before. You and I are alike in many ways, although you're 10 years younger than I, there are many similarities between us. Anyway, I just want you to know that you are not alone in this experience with hormones. For 17 or 18 days every month I am ok, I can eat 'normally' and healthily. Then around the 18th or 19th day of my cycle my world becomes unmanageable, emotions all over the place and the most intense food cravings. Just as you describe. For me, this lasts around 10 days.
I've monitored it for 3 years now and there is an absolutely undeniable pattern.
I notice someone mentioned calcium and vit D and you take this. I find that magnesium also helps too, which I take every day.
I'll be very interested to read your progress with your different way of eating during this time .
You're doing great Lyn.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog Lyn. I have noticed the exact same changes in my eating, it means I maintain my weight unless I really battle through the 2nd half of month. I lose day1-14, then regain days 15-28. I do often give in but last mth I didn't & continued to eat very healthily. AF actually took me by surprise! My symptoms were dramamtically reduced. I'm just saying this to point out that eating rubbish can sometimes make us feel worse. I ended up 5lbs down last mth which was great progress. This mth however is a different story, I've well & truly given in to my cravings & feel dreadful & have regained 3 of the 5lbs lost. I even stop drinking enough water when I go with the flow, which is not like me, I love to drink water. Maybe a modified approach would be best, give in to your cravings in a calorie controlled way but also make sure you have the fruit & veggies too. Anyway keep blogging Lyn! Thanks H