We are all aware that our bodies change throughout our monthly cycles. Whether we understand it fully or not, our monthly cycles have effects on us that we may not even notice or understand. However one of the biggest mysteries that can frustrate us all, is why does our weight fluctuate throughout our cycle?
There are many reasons why this may happen, and every person’s body is different, however understanding some of the reasons behind the fluctuation can help us to understand what our bodies go through each month, and why this is happening.
The luteal phase is the second phase of your menstrual cycle. It begins right after ovulation and ends when your period starts, this is when we are most likely to gain weight during our cycle. It’s normal to gain three to five pounds in the luteal phase, before our period begins, that goes away after a few days of bleeding.
But why is this happening? In short, our hormones – of course!
They seem to be the root cause of many – if not all – of the circumstances and wonderings we are faced with monthly. But why?! Great question.
BLOATING AROUND OUR PERIOD
Bloating, caused by water-retention, is like stepping on the scales with a glass of water in your hand, it’s not accurate weight gain, but when you’re in your more vulnerable, hormone imbalanced state, it can feel like it.
Water retention can come about due to the imbalance in our hormones, progesterone and oestrogen. Due to the imbalances, water isn’t being eliminated from the body as it should be, which results in bloating, the feeling of heaviness and weight gain, especially in the legs and lower body, as well as sore breasts.
The tip for reducing bloating and the weighing effects of it is actually to drink more water! This tricks your body into feeling it has enough and allows it to ‘let go’ instead of storing it up. You can also try eating vegetables that are high in water content, like cucumber & tomatoes, to help this along.
The delightful hormonal changes that have caused the water retention can also cause an increase in gas in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract and cause additional bloating around your stomach and escalate the feeling of weight gain. This is why it is even more important to try and ignore the cravings for the sugary, fatty, unhealthy foods and stick to the healthier options that can promote strong digestion and help to eliminate some of the additional gas.
You may experience constipation in addition to the bloating. Once again, our hormones are to blame! The progesterone increase we have in the week to two weeks before our period can slow down our digestive system, leading to constipation which has an added effect on the bloating you’re already feeling!
OUR APPETITE DURING OUR CYCLE
In the last week of the luteal phase of our cycle, the week before your period, our progesterone increases. Progesterone is an appetite stimulant, so as the progesterone levels rise and our appetite increases we might eat more than usual, which can in turn add a little weight gain. In addition to this, the Oestrogen regulates serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls our mood, and reduces our appetite. When the oestrogen levels drop right before our periods, so does the serotonin, resulting in having a bigger appetite, which can sometimes cause us to eat a little more, crave a little more of the unhealthy treats and result in a little extra weight gain.
In addition, when you period does begin, our magnesium levels slowly decrease. Magnesium is a mineral that regulates our bodies level of hydration. Low levels of magnesium can cause dehydration, which can often be masked as hunger, and make us desire sugar foods, when in fact we’re just thirsty!
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
When your hormones are in charge, which in our menstruating bodies is quite a lot of the time, we are subject to these changing cycles. Going with the flow of our own bodies, some people barely notice their monthly cycle changes and some bodies fluctuate heavily along with these changes.
So what can we do to feel in control of our bodies, and not feel quite as weighed down by these adjustments as we sometimes do?
Knowing your body and knowing your cycle are great ways of knowing what’s going on. There are some cycle tracker apps you can download to keep tabs on where you’re at, they’re especially useful if your brain is already so full of other buzzing thoughts that remembering exactly what day of your cycle you’re on and all of the feels that are relevant to that day is too much extra! This can in turn educate us each month where we are in our cycle, and if we realise our appetite is higher or our favourite jeans don’t fit as well as they did 7 days ago, we can be more informed, make a note and adjust accordingly.
Throughout our entire cycle, keeping an exercise routine is a great way to stay healthy, but when you’re tired, feeling in a bad mood or a little down, the last thing you want to do is head out for any form of exercise. But try not to let that stop you! Moving your body can give some way out to a lot of the issues and feelings around the Luteal phase weight gain. The resultant increased blood circulation, oxygen flow to your muscles and brain, easing of cramps, draining away excess water retention and most importantly the release of happy hormones - endorphins which are the little exercise gift you get, can do wonders to boost your mood, at any time of the month!
Unfortunately, aside from that, our hormones are running the show and a little weight gain is normal. Drink plenty of water, especially in the week before your period and the first few days, try to snack on raspberries, blueberries and fresh fruits to boost the water intake and avoid the sugary treats. Get to know your cycle so you can understand the flow fluctuations as they happen. And if all else fails, grab your period underwear, some comfy clothes and get yourself moving!
*Most pre-period weight gain, from water retention or constipations, will correct itself after the first few days of bleeding, however if you’re feeling like your body isn’t re-adjusting or your weight gain is higher than you’d expect, you don’t need to worry, but you can easily talk to your health care provider for a little further insight.*
PHOTOS credits: Cristina Gareau