For many women, having their period means losing control with food.
They’ll think they overeat because of the pain, irritability, cravings, or fatigue.
The truth is, you never need to lose control with your eating habits during this time. We only lose control when we add suffering to this physically demanding time.
In today’s episode, I’m sharing exactly how you can find acceptance and control with your eating habits during your period. Along with how you can eliminate the unnecessary suffering during this time.
You don’t need to eliminate the physical discomfort during your period to eat healthy. You just need to remove the unnecessary suffering we add to it.
Hello there. Welcome back to the podcast this week. Today, we’re going to talk about a topic that is highly, highly, highly requested by you all. It’s something that I’ve been meaning to discuss on the podcast for quite some time. And that is eating healthy while on your period. So, I get messages from you all asking me, “Kat. It’s my time of the month, my period is in full force, and I can’t control my cravings. I’m eating everything in sight and it all just feels out of my control”. And in this episode, I want to clear up in terms of your period what you can and can’t control during that time. Because there’s definitely this false narrative that to have our period means that all of our health goals, food goals, or even other goals in life just fall to the wayside. That we lose all agency and control with those things. And this just isn’t the case. We want to make sure that collectively as women we’re being really compassionate and kind to ourselves during this time, because it can kinda suck. But we also want to not let this time of the month impact our deliberate decisions whether that’s with our eating habits, health, or other goals in life, right? That’s all we want. We can acknowledge that having our period can suck sometimes, but we ultimately just want to get through it without sabotaging our eating habits. So this is what I’m going to talk about here. The first step to eating healthy while on your period is to understand why you’re not doing so. I’ve recently had a couple of conversations with my private clients about this. It’s a topic that does come up in my private coaching sessions from time to time. And here’s where I find my client’s really struggle when it comes to food and their period. They feel stuck because they don’t understand at first what they do have control over during this time and what they don’t have control over that they need to make peace with. Because as mentioned, it can all feel out of control during this difficult time of the month for our bodies. I know this was the case for me in the past and I want to share a little bit about what my experience looked like in terms of food and my period. Now, this is the point where I’m going to call out the male listeners of this podcast for a second. Most of us are women here, but there are some men who gain value from this podcast. And if you’re one of them, I encourage you to stay, listen, and learn. Because you will take away value from this podcast if you let it. Firstly, because I think it’s important that men understand this part of the female experience. But, also because there’s elements to this that will apply to all humans, right? We’re talking about how to feel in control with your eating habits during your period, but this can apply to any time where there’s physical pain or discomfort that feels outside of your control. So, just a quick note there. We’re just going to get up close and personal because I want to talk about my experience with food and my period. So, to be totally honest, I’ve always had a really hard time with my period. In terms of my actual period, it never lasts that long, maybe a few days at most, but I’ve always found that they’re really painful. Like there have been times in the past where I’ve had to call out of work, go to the doctor, etc. Which isn’t uncommon. Period pain can be no joke for many of us women. And there’s no question that physically this was very painful. No argument there. But then I would also find that with this physical pain came feelings of helplessness. I would feel helpless with my mood, emotions, cravings, eating habits, all of it. Which would really discourage me when I was making progress with my health and eating habits, only to find that during this time of the month I would throw it away in a sense. Or at least that’s how it would feel. Now, what would tend to happen is during my period and after I would beat myself up like crazy. Because I would tell myself that I should be able to handle the pain, handle the emotions, handle it all without it affecting the way I ate. And looking back now, I was so unkind to myself. This mentality did nothing but keep me stuck in self pity and self punishment. I would have natural pain during my period and then on top of that I would layer self judgement and suffering. So, not really a good time. And that’s really what I want to talk about here, is what part of your period is natural pain and what part of your period is self-imposed suffering. Because knowing this difference will give you immediately more control of your eating decisions during this time. And a lot of us are doing this. There is this narrative about what it means to be on your period as a woman. We’ll have men talking about women PMS-ing and then as women we’ll adopt this narrative and convince ourselves that we’re totally out of control, and not to call everyone out on this, but it’s total crap. This isn’t the way it is. There’s no question that being on our period is a time of the month that requires more kindness and patience and that it’s more difficult, but this narrative of us being totally out of control or “crazy” for that matter is not useful. And if you’ve been subscribing to this narrative, it’s understandable. I used to have this story about myself and my period as well and it’s just something that as a society we need to question as women. Because it’s just not serving us. When I had this mentality that being on my period meant I was crazy and out of control, the biggest thing I did from this place was overeating. I would eat and eat and eat to the point where I felt sick, all because I had this really convincing story that I didn’t have any control on my period. I totally convinced myself of this. And if you convince yourself of this, my friends, it will become true for you in terms of how you show up and how you eat. Now, with all of this being said, here are the two parts you can look at when it comes to your period. You can look at the things that you can’t control versus the things you can control. And this is really the distinction I discuss with my clients, really in all aspects of their eating habits. When you become my client you learn exactly what is outside of your control and what’s really inside of your direct control. So you always know where to focus with food or your body. And with our period what can happen is we’re placing so much focus and jugement on what’s outside of our control. This is where we’re spending our time, focus, and energy. So when we can’t change those things that are outside of our control during our period, we feel discouraged, helpless, frustrated, etc. So, let’s start with what you can’t control when it comes to your period. You can accept that what you can’t control is the physical pain, alright? So, sure there are things we can do as women to mediate this a bit whether it’s medication or other more holistic practices, but we know that the physical pain is usually a natural part of it, right? For most women. So, it’s useful to just accept this physical pain as something we cannot change. And here’s what you need to know about physical pain. I really want you to understand this. It is neutral. It’s not good or bad technically. We can acknowledge it feels “not good” physically and that it’s really painful. I know this for sure is the case for my body. But we don’t need to see it as negative. Because most of us, when we’re believing things about our physical pain that are negative, we’re making the physical pain “wrong” in a sense. Like something has gone wrong and like it shouldn’t be there. This creates such a problem for your human brain when you do this. When we make the physical pain negative or “wrong” with our thoughts we add more suffering to it. And it’s going to be hard for you, if you’re doing this, to distinguish the physical pain from the emotional suffering you’re creating. So, for instance, let’s say there’s two women experiencing physical period pain in the same exact way. One woman may be thinking “Why is this happening? This sucks. I shouldn’t be feeling this way” yada yada yada. We’ve all been there. What this person is doing is adding judgement and opinions that don’t serve her to the physical pain. She’s adding maybe frustration, helplessness, some type of uncomfortable emotion to it. Which will show up in your eating habits and how you react. Because your brain wants to escape these negative feelings you’re creating from that judgement. It wants to seek comfort from them. And the most readily available source of comfort is food. So, this is to say that the physical pain of your period doesn’t cause you to overeat. Most of the time it’s because of what you’re making the pain mean. Your brain wants to overeat to suppress the emotional discomfort you’re experiencing, not the physical discomfort or pain. Now another woman could have the same physical pain and think instead “This isn’t supposed to feel good. It’s safe to feel this way right now. This is unpleasant, but nothing has gone wrong”. The physical period pain isn’t different between these two women. But the second woman has created the emotions of calm, acceptance, certainty – things like that. And this is what you can control. There’s the physical period pain that you can’t control. And then there’s what you make the physical pain mean, your beliefs about it, that are in your control. And I recommend choosing beliefs about your period pain that serve you and don’t leave you wanting to seek emotional comfort in food. We know that the first woman is creating feelings of frustration, helplessness, etc. which will compel her to seek comfort in food. But, the second woman won’t experience that same urge for comfort in food. Because she’ll be creating feelings of calm, certainty, maybe compassion for herself. And when you decide to opt for a less emotionally heightened experience, it better allows you to access your deliberate brain or your prefrontal cortex. So, this is the brain that can acknowledge the period pain, maybe acknowledge some irritability you’re feeling, maybe some cravings, and then decide what to do with that. You’re able to access this part of your mind from the calmer emotions. The first woman who’s creating those uncomfortable emotions, won’t have the same access to those deliberate decisions. Because her emotional experience is uncomfortable and more heightened. She’s in her primitive, reactive brain. And that’s really the theme here. We just want your experience with your period to transition from reactive to proactive. It doesn’t mean the pain, discomfort, maybe even that irritability isn’t there. It just means we’re going to stop making it mean something has gone wrong. So, you can create feelings of calm that allow you to make intentional decisions with food despite the physical pain you may be feeling. And here’s something else that’s really important to know. I’m not suggesting that you fight your cravings with food during this time. I just want you to intentionally be choosing to eat everything you eat. Regardless of what food that is. So, to give you an idea of what this looks like for me now. In the past, as I mentioned, my eating habits during my period would be very reactive. I would think I was out of control, feel helpless emotionally, beat myself up, and then seek comfort in food because of that. And the narrative of me being “out of control” during my period made it really easy for me to do this. Now, here are the things that haven’t changed. The amount of pain I experience hasn’t changed. My irritability around this time hasn’t changed, really. And I’ve just accepted that. I find it doesn’t really serve me to try and convince myself that I’m happy with everything during this time. I just accept that, alright, I’m going to feel a little irritable and that’s okay. Also, my general cravings for certain foods hasn’t changed as well. So, I’ll crave sweets, usually chocolate, during this time of the month. I can just acknowledge that. Now, the difference today is I see all of these things as neutral. I don’t see them as negative or as a reason to be helpless. I don’t see the pain as negative, I don’t see my irritability as negative, and I don’t see those natural cravings as negative either. Because it doesn’t mean anything has gone wrong. I accept them wholeheartedly. Which puts me in a place to make deliberate decisions with them. So, in the past I would make the physical pain wrong, so I would react by blaming everything on the physical pain. In the past I would make my irritability wrong and think “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”, so I would react by beating myself up. In the past I would make those cravings for sweets wrong, so I would react by convincing myself I was helpless and overeating the sweets. Now, here are the shifts I’ve made. I’ve completely changed my thoughts about it. Now, I don’t make any of it wrong. I believe that the physical pain is supposed to be there, so I decide to let it be there and take care of myself throughout it. I believe that the irritability is supposed to be there, so I have compassion for myself when those thoughts make an appearance and I’m way less likely to react to that irritability. I believe that the cravings for sweets are supposed to be there for me, so I like my reasons for letting myself have just enough chocolate to subside that craving and listen to my body. None of this feels out of my control. The biggest thing that’s changed for me is you will not find me overeating during my period. And if you ever do find yourself overeating, that’s okay. It just means you want to be looking at the areas where you’re still believing something has gone wrong or that you’re out of control. Because it is likely why. But when I am knowing exactly what I don’t have control over and what I do, it puts me in control with how I react. It allows me to make intentional eating decisions. Because I’m not reacting to any of it. When you’re willing to accept what you cannot change during this time, you’re better able to listen to your body, give it what it needs, and have compassion and understanding for yourself. Knowing that the goal isn’t to eliminate the pain. It’s to eliminate the suffering. The pain is neutral and it’s not what causes you to overindulge in food. In that way that feels totally helpless. The suffering is what creates those feelings of helplessness. Be mindful of when you catch yourself falling into the narrative that to be on your period means you’re out of control. You do have control, just maybe not in the ways you previously thought. Alright, my friends. Whether this is something you struggle with or not, I hope it gave you a new and different perspective. If you want more customized support with your eating habits, enrollment for my coaching program Own Your Eating Habits is open. You can learn more about how to apply at KatRentas.com/coaching. I’ll talk to you next week.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified health coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.