For the Ladies: How to Survive That Time of the Month and Not Gain Weight

You’ll be doing fine diet-wise and working out everyday.  Then all of the sudden, you get smacked in the face with a butt load of crazy-making hormones and you are starving, borderline psychotic and exhausted.  Welcome back, PMS, you cruel cold-hearted bitch. 

The starving thing is normal and makes sense when you think about it – your body thinks you’re pregnant so it wants to pack on the pounds.  And you do need to eat a little extra calorie intake during this point at your cycle, but you can control it. How? You increase serotonin. Serotonin is a feel good hormone that gets secreted from non-fruit carbohydrates – you know how you get the happy from eating chocolate? That’s serotonin. Unfortunately, most of those carbs that we crave aren’t good for the waistline and for most of us, when you’re PMSing and dip into the chocolate or the chips, you can’t stop until the bar is gone or the bag is empty.  There’s another way.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the body produce niacin and serotonin. Eating foods high in tryptophan trigger that serotonin release so your PMS cravings go away and you’ll also sleep better, which is also great for weight loss.  Like you need a good reason to get some sleep?

Some foods high in tryptophan:
  1. Dairy products
  2. Animal proteins like fish, turkey, beef, chicken, pork and eggs
  3. SHAKEOLOGY!!! WHAT UP! (plus you can drink the chocolate or make it into ice cream and get your fix without the guilt)
  4. Legumes like chickpeas and lentils
  5. Whole grains – oats, brown rice, wheat germ, quinoa
  6. Nuts and seeds
So that solves the diet bit, but what about exercise?  Surely, who can think about working out when you feel bloated and crampy?  Well, there are a couple of fixes for this one.
  1. Ditch salt and alcohol – these just make you retain water and feel more bloated, no thanks!  
  2. Avoid simple carbs – candy, fruit, syrups, honey, pastries, chips, white bread, pizza crust… the good stuff.  While these might make your tastebuds sing and release serotonin, they also increase inflammation in your body so you feel more like Stay-Puffed and less on the svelte side.
  3. This one is going to make you want to smack me, but I have to say it.  Even though you’d rather stab yourself in the ear with a fork, EXERCISE!  Guess what, it will make you feel better!  By increasing your circulation to all parts of your body including your uterus, you’ll actually feel less crampy.   It also relieves headaches and the endorphin release will put you in a better mood!  
The rest is up to you in terms of controlling your thinking so that you stay motivated to keep on your body/health-transforming mission.  This is a great time to really work on flexing your willpower, because it’s just like a muscle.  You have to work it and work it for it to get strong.  If the urge to binge starts getting really strong, get out of the house or go take a bath.  I really recommend tracking your cycle so that you know when to get any junk food out of the house so that if you are a binger, knowing it’s all there isn’t tugging at your brain to send you to go get your fix.  Whatever you can do in your busy life to take care of yourself and let yourself relax a little will help, because your diet really doesn’t have to unravel just because it’s that time of the month and you can make yourself feel better just by being healthy.   

Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

Why am I not losing weight?  

This is a question I hear a lot.  We all struggle with different diet issues.  We all want to fit into the skinny jeans.  Many of us are fighting this weight loss battle and feel like it’s hopeless.  It isn’t.  What I have found is that it really comes down to what your food habits are and whether or not you’re doing resistance training.

First of all, before I dive into food, let me tell you this.  If you want sustainable weight loss that will last, you have to boost your metabolism.  The easiest way to do that is to lift some weights.  You can pick up a strength training program like P90X or Les Mills Pump (obviously, I’m in favor of Pump – I really appreciate how attentive they are to teaching you proper form and telling you what lower back pain means, things like that).  If you need to follow along with someone but are limited on time, you can pick up a program like Ten Minute Trainer.  You can leave a set of dumbells in your bathroom and do calf raises while you brush your teeth, triceps dips and push-ups on the bath tub, shoulder raises, biceps curls, weighted lunges, weighted squats – these exercises don’t take a lot of space.  You can save time by doing your bicep curls or overhead presses while you do your lunges or squats.  The point is – 3 times a week or so, you should be lifting weights.  Muscle burns fat.  Proven.  Word up.

So then it comes down to what you put in your mouth.  It’s totally true, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.  When I say bad diet, that doesn’t mean over-eating (though that’s another problem area but we’ll get there).  I mean that the quality of the calories you are feeding yourself is not ideal.  If you are eating 1200 calories a day of M&M’s and ice cream, you may lose weight but you’re going to feel like crap.  If you’re exercising on top of that 1200 calories of M&M’s and ice cream, though, you’re not going to burn fat.  You’re not fueling enough and the fuel you are providing your body is crap.  Not to mention, sugar promotes insulin production. Insulin tells your fat cells to store fat.  Ew, ew, ew.  

Let me give you a visual of how your ideal meal should be laid out – snacks too!

You can even buy these plates at  I wonder how my husband would feel if I swapped out all of our plates with these? 

Most people will look at this and immediately say, ‘but I hate veggies, they make me gag.’  Well, you know what?  BUCK UP AND EAT THEM.  I hate veggies too.  Does that stop me from eating them? Heck no! I eat them, pretty much with every meal.  If I really can’t stand them (broccoli makes me want to kill myself), then I eat them first and eat them fast.  Then I let myself enjoy the rest of my my meal.  BUT NO MATTER WHAT, I EAT THEM.  EVEN IF I WANT TO KILL GREGOR MENDEL FOR CROSS-GERMINATING THE DAMN MUSTARD GREEN PLANT TO MAKE THAT DARN BROCCOLI.  OH WHAT – HE’S ALREADY DEAD?  WELL, I STILL RAISE MY MIDDLE FINGER IN SALUTE.

Okay, enough caps-lock yelling at a dead guy.  ANYWAY…

At first, this plate might be panic-making – I’m supposed to have meat and veggies available for every meal??? Well, protein comes in multiple sources.  It can come in the form of nuts, lentils, protein powder, peanut butter, eggs, fish, meat, poultry, tempeh, soy, quinoa, Greek or Icelandic yogurt, cheese, peanuts, beans… there are many possibilities.  So that plate can turn into a burrito with a whole grain tortilla (notice I didn’t say whole wheat – wheat is another insulin stimulator – bad!) with avocado (healthy fat), lettuce, tomato, beans and chicken – just make sure you keep track of your portions. You can make an on-the-go meal in the form of a protein shake with protein powder, some spinach leaves and a banana (the banana will cancel out the spinach’s flavor – trust me!). That plate can also turn into a banana with nut butter (protein and healthy fat) and unsweetened coconut shreds sprinkled on top (carb!).  Okay, that last one lacks veggies but fruits in moderation are important too.  The point is balance.  Protein and carbs.  Meat, grains and veggies.  

When you balance your plate and include protein and fibrous carbs (veggies – holla!), it takes your body longer to digest and it keeps you fuller longer.  AND, your body has to work harder digesting it which means more calories burned with digestion!  HOOTY HOO!!!

So, earlier I talked about calories with exercise.  First of all, the quality of the calories you put in your body if you’re an exerciser (and you should be) really matters.  If you’re running on sugar, you stand a good chance of getting hypoglycemic.  You may not get the results you are looking for because of insulin-production. And if you aren’t eating enough of the right things or eating enough period, there’s a chance you could end up overtraining due to lack of adequate fuel or even starvation mode.  

If you are female, your body needs AT LEAST 1500 calories to function.  If you’re eating 1200-1500 calories a day and working out, you’re not eating enough calories to trigger fat loss.  You’re body is going to want to cling to fat to keep you alive.  My best rule of thumb is – calculate your calories.  Here’s a website that uses the Harris Benedict equation to give you an accurate basal metabolic rate – how many calories you need to be alive:  Once you get that number, click the link to calculate your daily calorie needs.  Be honest with your activity level – if you underestimate, you risk falling into starvation mode.  Then, to lose weight, remember that 

1 lb = 3,500 calories

3,500/7 = 500 so to lose 1 lb a week from diet, you need to subtract 500 calories from the calorie amount you calculated with your activity level included.  This way, 1 lb of weight loss comes from your diet, and 1 lb of weight loss comes from working out – eating enough to fuel workouts where you can push at high intensity insures that weight lost will be from FAT.  I know this is confusing and I still don’t quite understand it myself but look at the people I got this info from: Jillian Michaels, Shaun T, Chalene Johnson, Bob Harper, Tony Horton… they all instruct you to calculate this way.  They’re all ripped.  I followed their instructions and trusted them and it worked for me too.  So, TRUST IT.  And eat enough to support metabolic muscle tissue.  You want your weight lost to be fat, not lean muscle tissue so go about this right.

Last piece – water.  Your metabolic rate increases with drinking water.  In a study conducted by Berlin’s Franz-Volhard Clinical Research Center, they discovered that subjects’ metabolic rate increased 30% by drinking 8 glasses of water a day.  Drinking water also helps fill your stomach, making you feel fuller.  So, I follow Bob Harper’s advice:  as soon as I wake up, I drink 16 oz of water to get my metabolic rate up and at ’em!  Before I eat, I drink 8 oz of water.  It’s a pain in the ass, yes, but you know what?  I want my metabolism as high as I can get it.  Don’t you?  

So that’s it in a nut shell.  It isn’t really that difficult.  It just takes developing the right habits.  Picking quality foods to eat.  Staying away from sugar.  Eating within your calorie range.  Tracking everything you eat and drink.  It will seem like a lot of work at first because it’s new, but before you know it, you’ll be doing these things without even thinking about them!