Why (Oh Why) Do I Crave Chocolate on My Period?
Out of nowhere comes a craving. CHOCOLATE! I WANT CHOCOLATE! You realize your period is around the corner and wonder, “why do I crave chocolate on my period?” It’s so frustrating!
Having cravings – usually for sweets or fatty foods – right before and during your period is normal. You’re not a “weak” or “bad” person for craving chocolate or even indulging that craving. It’s okay to give in-but what’s important is that you’re making food choices that feel good to you physically and mentally. I’m here to help you be more mindful around that so you can make food choices that truly align with how you want to be eating.
If you want to learn more about what’s behind those chocolate cravings, and how to deal with them (without guilt or restriction!) then keep reading.
Your period – the part with the blood – is actually just one part of the entire 28-day or so menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle is broken into phases – the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and continues until an egg is released during ovulation. The luteal phase happens after ovulation until your period starts the next month (1).
Your menstrual cycle involves hormone fluctuations that influence your hunger, energy level, mood, and even cravings. The hormones involved include estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone.
While how hormonal changes affect your hunger and cravings isn’t well understood, it is believed that estrogen and progesterone are the culprits in causing hunger, cravings, and changes in your body’s energy needs. I think we can all relate to feeling differently throughout the month and feeling at the whim of hormones now and again.
Energy needs fluctuate
While we can estimate how much energy you use on a given day, your body’s energy needs actually fluctuate during your cycle. One small study found that during the two weeks prior to having their period, 8 of the 10 women in the study had their basal metabolic rate rise between up to 16% (2).
While the number of participants in this study was small, it does show that if you feel more hungry in those two weeks before your period, it probably isn’t your imagination.
What we crave…and why
The majority of the hormone fluctuations that impact your eating happen during the luteal phase – right before your period starts (helloooooo chocolate!). One study showed those with higher estradiol (the form of estrogen made by the ovaries) levels ate more carbohydrate-rich foods and had more cravings for sweets than those with lower estradiol levels during the luteal phase (3).
Regardless of what the research shows, your body is your best guide for cravings, hunger and satiety signals, and energy levels. If you’re feeling more tired during your period, then try to get more rest, stay hydrated and make sure that you’re eating enough throughout the day.
During the whole 28-day cycle, your hormones are constantly shifting which means you have highs, lows, and . . . dun dun dun…cravings.
If you crave chocolate or potato chips, or both, a week or so before your period, it could be nature’s way of helping your body get what it needs. As your energy needs and hormones fluctuate so do your body’s hunger levels and the foods that it wants.
However; food doesn’t just provide fuel for your body. It can also offer comfort, and entertainment, and be influenced by how well you’re sleeping.
…or something else?
Another thing to consider is what else is going on in your life. Are you stressed? If so, cortisol – a stress hormone – can dial up cravings for sugary or fatty foods. Stress can also increase the hormones that make you hungry. It’s a chocolate-coated double-whammy.
What about your sleep? Are you getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night? If not, your body is much more likely to crave sweet, high-calorie foods to give it the energy it needs to make it through the day.
So, if you’re having cravings and find you’re hungrier than normal, ask yourself: are you about to have your period, or do you need to work on your stress or sleep? And if you know your period is coming, how can you deal with those cravings?
How to handle period cravings
As much as I wish there was a way to get rid of period cravings for good, there’s probably not. UGH, I know. But there are some things you can do to at least minimize them and feel more in control in dealing with them.
One of the things my clients find helpful in preventing or softening cravings is to be sure that they are eating well each day and throughout their cycle. Giving your body enough calories so it isn’t hungry, and getting enough protein and fiber helps you stay full for longer. The additional fiber can also help you avoid any of the changes in your bowel habits that happen to a lot of women before and during their period (thanks again, hormones).
I also recommend eating every three to four hours. Our bodies need a constant supply of nutrients and eating regularly helps prevent the hunger monster. If you eat lunch around noon and dinner around six, having one or two snacks in between meals can help keep your energy up, and keep cravings at bay.
Having consistency in your eating helps your body know that it will receive the nutrition it needs when it needs it, and also frees up mental space for you to focus on things other than food. Consistency also reduces your stress about what is available for your next meal or snack.
Pause (before you indulge)
When the craving hits, rather than diving in, take a moment to pause and breathe. Taking a couple of deep breaths helps you get centered and helps you to tune into your body.
Next, get curious about the craving. Are you really hungry or are you stressed, procrastinating on a task, or bored? Is it emotional hunger or physical hunger or a bit of both?
If you’re hungry, ask yourself how hungry you are and what you really want to eat. You may find that what you actually need is a meal instead of a snack (remember, your body may need more food before your period).
If you want a snack, what exactly do you want? Is it the dark chocolate, the one with cherries, or the one with sea salt? Zeroing in on what you really want can help you choose the food that will be satisfying and usually means you’ll also eat less of it (and be at lower risk of binge eating) (4). And if you want to add nutrition to whatever you’re craving to turn things into a satisfying and balanced snack, you can do that too.
Or, if you realize you’re not hungry, ask what’s going to help you feel better? Maybe you need to get some fresh air, or to move your body (even a 10-minute walk can help) or do you need some alone time in a bubble bath reading your favorite book? Or are you in need of connection and a phone call with a friend?
Curiosity allows you to discover what you really need in a moment and to provide yourself with that.
And honestly, what you truly need might just be chocolate!!
And it is absolutely okay to just eat it.
Whatever choice you make is the right one, as long as you own it.
Own your choice
After you’ve made your choice, own it. You made the decision of what to do or eat and there’s no need for guilt or remorse (but it may be an opportunity for reflection. I’ll cover that in just a moment).
If you’re going to eat something, especially something as delicious as chocolate – focus on and enjoy it. Put away the distractions and let the food do what it is meant to do -satisfy you and help ease this tough time of the month. Don’t just pull up next to the TV with a bag of chocolate – because you’re not going to enjoy it. If you’re mindlessly eating while you scroll on Instagram, you might not notice when you’re full (let alone truly enjoy the treat) and you’re more likely to leave the experience feeling stuffed, UNSATISFIED, AND guilty.
After you’ve taken your chosen action – eating, taking a walk, or whatever – pause and reflect.
Ask yourself three questions:
- How do you feel?
- Was your need satisfied?
- What might you do differently next time (if anything)?
Part of personal growth is to look back at choices and decide if you’d do the same thing in the future or something different. Was chocolate what you needed, or should you explore another tool next time? This is the difference between approaching yourself with kindness and curiosity instead of judgment or resentment.
Even when you’re having those cravings, you can make food choices that truly align with how you want to eat.
Chocolate isn’t just for that time of the month. Here’s why: the more you treat chocolate as a forbidden treat, the more power the chocolate is going to have over you.
Giving yourself permission to enjoy treats – at any time of the month – takes your power back. Your body is smart; sometimes she is going to want fruit, kale and whole grains, and sometimes her deepest desires are for a warm chocolate chip cookie. Enjoy both!
Craving chocolate is totally normal and is actually explainable by science.
Understanding that craving chocolate during your period is based on biology helps you accept and plan for it. When that craving hits, you can choose to eat the chocolate or not. What really matters is how your decisions make you feel, both mentally and physically. Guilt after a chocolate truffle is not healthy, nor is forcing yourself to eat a kale salad that you detest.
Getting to know and trust your own body’s signals – including your cravings – is part of developing healthy habits that stick. Easier said than done, amiright?
If you want to feel more confident tackling cravings at any time of the month then download this free guide and begin your journey to lifelong balance with food today. You’ll learn how to make choices that you’re proud of (and yes, that does include eating chocolate if your heart so desires!).