Dieting Special #4: Dieting and PMS Cravings


SONG: Duran Duran – Hungry Like the Wolf

Just like that time Alan Davies bit a tramp’s ear, we all have off days.

You can lead a healthy lifestyle, consciously trying to make good food choices (even to the point that you start saying twattish things like “I can’t eat any more carbs today”) and then without any warning at all: BAM. It’s all over. Because your stupid bloody period is about to happen. (Edit, pun not intended at all. In fact it’s gross. Sorry.)

It’s not just PMS – various factors can lead to moodswings – but they all tend to give you hellish days when you’re so desperate for fudge-cake, chips, or Ben and Jerry’s that you’d happily inject yourself with it like some sort of gooey heroine.

How do you fight something like that? You spend all month being rational and committing to conscious choices, and then you have a few days where you’d happily sacrifice your own mother to the Gods in exchange for a packet of chocolate digestives. Nothing in your mind can convince you otherwise: you NEED a mountain of fatty, greasy food.

It’s all you can think about. Trying to appease the beast with healthy snacks is like trying to distract an angry guard dog with celery. So what do you do when your body rebels against you in this way?

A company in America reckons they’ve come up with a herbal pill that alleviates PMS cravings, but I don’t buy it. And a lot of magazines give advice like “Try and eat balanced meals”, “drink herbal tea” and “get plenty of exercise.” Okay, good luck telling a hungry pre-menstrual woman that to her face – she’ll rip yours off.

If that worked, we’d all just do it. It doesn’t. So how do you make the best of things? Well, here’s a little bit of advice – some from my own experience, and some from research I did just for you. And, well, me.

1. The Science Bit: Apparently, if we boost serotonin levels then the cravings are eased – it helps lift grumpy, self-destructive moods. Some people claim fruit does this, but WHO THE EFF WANTS TO EAT FRUIT WHEN YOU’RE PMSing?! Expert Judith J Wurtman PhD has written in the Huffington Post and Psychology Today about a study saying we need to eat a non-fruit, low-protein carbohydrate to produce serotonin. Stuff like popcorn, pasta, low-fat ice cream, cereal, English muffins, porridge with brown sugar, and fat-free fudge sauce. The cravings should ease in minutes. I think I love you, Judith.

2. Be Prepared: Now you know what foods ease cravings, you can make sure you have them around when you’re due on. They’re not exactly health-foods, but they are damage limitation, especially if you try and be realistic with portions.

3. Have less caffeine. It suppresses serotonin. It also makes me want biscuits, but I don’t think that’s exactly scientifically proven.

4. Don’t freak out. Some days, you’ll just eat crap, despite any advice. Let yourself enjoy it, that way A. You’ll realise when you’re full quicker and B. You won’t get into the vicious cycle of bingeing when you eat more because “oh well I’ve fucked it all up now anyway.”
Allow yourself some of your poison, even if it means you relax your diet for more than one day. If you avoid the guilt-binge, you’ll limit the damage, and will probably only have put on a couple of extra pounds at the end of it all.

5. Don’t weigh yourself until after your period. FFS, woman, are you batshit mad? As well as eating extra calories because your body is telling you to, you’ll probably be retaining water so you’ll weigh more anyway. If you weigh yourself, you’ll end up back on the guilt-binge train, destination: Sitting on Your Kitchen Floor Eating Cake Mix And Crying.

6. Remember your tricks. They might not work, but it’s still worth trying things like:
* Drinking a glass of water to check you’re not just thirsty.
* Having a little snack and waiting fifteen minutes to see if you’re actually full.
* Brushing your teeth (I do this shortly after lunch to put off my snack urges because it’ll taste all Colgatey)
Obviously, if none of these work then don’t be miserable, grab what you fancy.

7. I hate to break it to you, but exercise does increase serotonin. It’s the last thing I want to do when I’m pre-menstrual, so don’t feel you have to go to the gym or do that Davina DVD. I try little things, like walking to the shops for the paper every morning, or running around playing hide and seek with my niece. Or you could always wander up and down a jetty wearing a loose pink dress like the Bodyform ad.

Diet Special #2: I’d Rather Be Curvy Than Hungry

Song: Chumbawamba – I Get Knocked Down

Here we are, a full month into my Weightwatchers shenanigans, and I can officially confirm I’m not Patsy Kensit yet.

You’ll be pleased to know in Week 2 I lost 3lbs, and actually quite enjoyed the food I had. The issue is that due to my bizarrely low ProPoints allowance, I realised I was starting to associate feeling ravenously hungry with succeeding at the plan – not the healthiest thing you’ve heard all day, I imagine.

Let me give you an idea of what I’d be allowed in one day if I didn’t use any of my ‘Weekly Allowance’ (let’s just be honest and call this my ‘Booze and Cake Points’, which can easily be used on a person’s average weekend.)

Daily Allowance: 26 points

Breakfast:

One 40g bowl of Shreddies – 4 points (have a look at how much 40g is. I guarantee it’s about half what you’d call a bowl of shreddies)
One ‘serving’ skimmed milk (140ml) – 1 point
Total = 5 points

Lunch:

2 slices of bread – 4 points
1 tsp low-fat spread – 1 point
1 30g slice of roast ham – 2 points
Total = 7 points

Dinner:

One small salmon fillet – 6 points
175g cooked couscous – 5 points
(in the couscous) vegetables roasted in 1tsps olive oil – 1 points
(in the couscous) 1 tbsp raisins – 2 points
Total = 14 points

Total = 26 points.

That’s it folks. No snacks, no treats, no dessert, no wine. A tiny bowl of cereal, an uninspiring sandwich, and a bit of salmon and couscous. END OF FOOD ALLOWANCE, CHUBS.

Yes, I appreciate if I could buy that weird spray-on cooking fat and spend hours researching how to squeeze every last drop of joy out of my food, I’d probably have a more interesting daily lineup of eats. The problem is I HAVE A NORMAL LIFE. We work hard, we socialise, we do stuff like relaxing, paying bills and washing ourselves, all of which take up precious calorie-counting time.

AND YET I managed to stick to the plan EVERY DAY for the whole of Week 3 too. And I weighed myself. And I’d put a pound back on again.

Total weightloss in 3 weeks of sticking to the rules: 2lbs. QUOI?

Week 4 was tricky – I attended a social gathering where it turns out my lovely hostess had bought us all a Chinese. Rather than being a whiny bitch and storming out to buy myself a Weightwatchers readymeal, I said thank you for the obvious act of kindess and ate a small portion instead. And used the rest of my Weekly Allowance for some weekend wine. So sue me.

I then spent the rest of the week being super-good to make up for it. I also did more exercise than usual, but didn’t use my ‘Activity Points’. Weigh in: Put on ANOTHER POUND.

This means that so far this week I have been in full rebellion mode – 2 parties, all of the wine, even a sneaky biscuit or two.
Weigh in today: Put on my final pound (the same amount as the weeks where I ate sweet fuck all), bringing me very nearly back to the start of my journey.

The question is – do I stay or do I go? Is one month enough? Feel free to motivate, placate or berate me in the comments.

Diet Special #1: Evil, Thy Name is Weightwatchers

Song: Perfect 10 – Beautiful South

I’m back already! I know, two blog posts in two hours when the last one was nine months previous. I get my timings wrong sometimes.

It’s time to mention the D word. January brings all manner of wrongs: the knowledge you have twelve months to wait until Christmas, the month with the highest suicide rate, and the dreaded New Year’s Resolutions.

It seems almost obligatory to be on a diet, and because during the previous month it ironically seems almost obligatory to gorge yourself into oblivion, losing weight can seem a somewhat perilously high mountain to climb.

It’s also massively NOT IN ANY WAY FUN, no matter how much the dreaded women’s mags dress it up to seem like such a total breeze and the tastiest time you’ve had in ages. “Craving a snack? Simply eat a small handful of unsalted nuts!” Thanks, but I’d rather die choking on a Twix.

As you can tell, I’m not afraid to admit I am pessimistic about diets. I’m also nowhere near overweight, but I do want to lose maybe half a stone and try to get fitter and healthier – so I signed up to Weightwatchers.

I’ve decided to blog about how it’s going, with the aim of maybe showing a bit of solidarity among all my miserable, dieting friends. I’m also recording my experiences to show it’s okay to hate it, it’s okay to take some bits of advice and leave others in order to make it work in the long term, and it’s okay to have days when you just go “OH FUCK IT, GET ME A TRIFLE.” We’re human, and it doesn’t hurt to fail sometimes. Warning: I fail, a lot.

P.S If you’re not interested in reading about my day-to-day eating, you probably don’t want to read on. Shoo, now. I’m doing this more me more than anything.

Here we go with: Week One

Daily Points Allowance: 26. Weekly Allowance: 49
(If you want to know more about how Weightwatchers works, click here. I’ve been on it in the past – about five years ago – and I lost around a stone, but they use an entirely new system now.)

Day One (Weds 2nd Jan): Ate leftover chocolate cheesecake for breakfast. Erm, my bad. But I made up for it by eating delicious vegetables and a low-calorie sandwich as the sum total of the rest of my daily food. That’s healthy, right?

Day Two (Thurs 3rd): My ‘Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself’ chicken salad sandwich manages to wipe out almost a third of my points. ONE SANDWICH, that was mostly cucumber. Spent the afternoon sulking, and had to pick the meat out of my stew in the evening so I wouldn’t go over my points too much.

Spent the rest of the evening screeching “HOW is this normal eating?” at random intervals, and in the end totally caved in and ate a leftover panna cotta in a fit of rage. It was the tastiest thing in the world.

Day Three: I wake up with a horrendous cold and no voice, which makes me feel like the inside of my head is expanding and that someone snuck into my room and sandpapered my throat in the night, so I spend the day in bed feeling even more sorry for myself.
Still, Friday night is supposed to be fun, right? So I decide to set aside enough points for a couple of glasses of wine (that I can’t taste) so I can curl up on the sofa and get tipsy watching Channel 4 mashup with The Boy. I have to watch him eat a hearty, homemade spag bol and biscuits which I AM NOT ALLOWED, while I tuck into the world’s smallest Weightwatchers readymeal. Aside from this all I’ve had is marmite on toast and some shreddies, all day. I do not feel like I am winning at life.

Day Four: Big dinner party plans, so I know I have to be careful during the day. My dinner party host is kind enough to give me the menu in advance. I work out that – without including any drinks – I have the sum total of 1 daily point left for the rest of the day.
Obviously, I go way into my Weekly allowance. This is my lunch:

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That, quite literally, is 2 seasoned tomatoes on two slices of toast. This is the point where I start to wonder whether I should just chop off a limb instead.

Day Five: Let me show you my miserable excuse for a breakfast:

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(One slice of toast, 1 tsp of margarine) The Boy, on the other hand, ate this:

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I hate him. Also: DUN DUN DUN. Sunday means family roast dinner. But, additional DUN DUN DUN: I manage to keep to my points all day, with no problems. EVEN THOUGH I ate this:

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In your FACE, diet. I’m back on track.

Day Six: Another day of keeping to my points all day, and I get to eat things like roasted mediterranean vegetables, a chocolate mousse, and a Weightwatchers chocolate miniroll. I even get a glass of wine. And it doesn’t hurt at all!

Day Seven: Just like yesterday, I aced being on a diet and ate seriously delicious food, in moderation. I’m also finding I have more energy than I did at the start, and drinking more water. I expect to wake up tomorrow having lost ALL OF THE WEIGHT and looking like Charlize Theron.

Weigh-in: I have lost half a pound. Half a buggering pound. All together now: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Although I’m disheartened, I’m also aware that I need to give this more time before I dropkick it entirely. I just can’t help feeling like this isn’t a normal, or worth it, way to live. But I’m giving it one more week before I jack it all in and eat the contents of all my cupboards.

Are you on a diet? Are you feeling as hard done by as I am? TELL ME ABOUT IT.