Is PMS Sabotaging Your Diet?

How to cope with food cravings and keep losing weight

By Charlene Laino
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

Do you find yourself successfully dieting for three weeks at a time, only to succumb to an uncontrollable urge to scarf down a few calorie-laden hot fudge sundaes as that time of the month rolls around? You're not alone.

As many as 85% of women experience at least one symptom of PMS, the disruptive physical and emotional changes that can strike anytime in the last 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And as many as 70% of these women suffer from PMS-related food cravings, bloating, fatigue, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and irritability -- any of which have the potential to sabotage your diet, says Judith Wurtman, PhD, director of the women's health program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Fortunately, a better understanding of PMS in general and food cravings specifically can keep women from getting caught in a diet-destroying cycle.

Diet Double Whammy

PMS packs a double whammy against a diet, Wurtman says. "First, you have food cravings, usually for sweet, starchy foods with an underlay of fat, like chocolate ice cream. And then, your bad mood makes you say, 'To hell with it!' You lose your willpower to exercise any control over what you are eating."

The bloating that often goes with PMS also sabotages a diet, says Stephen Goldstein, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at New York University. "A woman steps on the scale and freaks out. And some people's response to being bloated and having to loosen their belt is to drown themselves in an ice cream sundae."

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