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Ten Ways to Control Menopausal Cravings

There are many reasons why we may experience intensified cravings during menopause.  We have a hormone called leptin that helps us recognize that we are full, and that hormone decreases with the loss of estrogen in perimenopause.  You might also be dealing with mood swings that cause you to reach for comfort foods.  Now we’re not saying you won’t ever have your favorite foods again, but some of the more craveable foods are usually processed foods and are high in refined sugars and don’t have ingredients that move you forward in your health goals. 

So here are some strategies to help you to take care of your future self and not just your immediate cravings.

stay hydrated to help menopause cravings

1. Stay Hydrated

Sometimes we think we are hungry but we are actually just thirsty.  A technique I learned from Dr. Michael Greger is preloading your water. You drink a glass of water about half an hour before each meal.  Don’t do this too close to a meal because you will dilute your stomach contents and interfere with digestion, but a half an hr I find when I do this I don’t need as much food to feel satisfied.  You can also just try having a glass of water if you are experiencing a craving and see if that extra hydration helps that craving disappear.

2. Eat Fiber

Fiber takes longer to digest, and helps us stay feeling full longer.  Fiber is great for your blood sugar and keeps your energy levels steady, and you can also eat more of it without adding a lot of calories.  The fiber in plants holds in moisture.  Fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed vegan foods are high in water, which helps with hydration.  They are excellent foods for perimenopause. 

3. Eat Protein

Protein helps regulate appetite and takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, which can help you feel satisfied longer after eating. This can be very helpful in managing cravings for comfort foods.  The amino acid tryptophan is a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin, which controls appetite and cravings.  The amino acid L-glutamine decreases sugar cravings.  Refined sugars are abundant in our culture, which leads to a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels. Then, about 1½ to 2 hours after consuming simple carbohydrates we crash and start craving sugar again. This ise a vicious cycle that can be hard to get out of because that foggy headed feeling, moodiness, general weakness, and lethargic feeling of a sugar crash leads you to seek out another sugary snack.  Among other health issues, this blood sugar roller coaster can cause emotional stress, depression, anxiety.  When we can get away from that roller coaster of sugar spikes and crashes, we experience fewer cravings.    Having protein along with your carbohydrates helps stabilize blood sugar and decreases the likelihood of cravings.  If you haven’t already downloaded my Vegan Menopause 3-Day Meal Plan, you can grab that now!

menopause cravings - be prepared with healthy snacks

4. Be prepared. 

If you have healthy foods available, you are more likely to reach for them.  One of my favorites is to have an apple and some kind of nut, like almonds, walnuts, or pistachios, or sunflower or pumpkin seeds if you are nut free.  The apple and almond combo seems so simple, but it is an ideal snack.  The apple has fiber, hydration, and can satisfy your sweet craving, while the nuts or seeds have healthy fats and some protein, and as you just learned, that protein and fiber combination is very powerful.  This snack idea doesn’t require any preparation, it’s portable, you can have it on your desk or in your car, and you could even bring it on an airplane, although you’d have to cut up the apple first.  Another part of this point of being prepared, is that if a food triggers you – and I’m not saying you should not eat chips, but if you can’t have one chip without eating the whole bag, you might not want to keep chips in the house.  Because if you are experiencing a craving and you have your apple & almonds handy but you also have your favorite chips in the pantry, what’s going to be more appealing to you?  You might ignore your apple and give in to the temptation of the chip bag.  This is putting yourself in a difficult situation.  So have some foods on hand that you enjoy and that also contribute to your overall health.  

5. Have a stress reduction strategy in place. 

When we are stressed we produce a hormone called cortisol, which contributes to storage of body fat in the midsection. Stress can also make you less motivated to stick to a healthy eating or exercise program.  Because stress plays such a big role, stress reduction can help.  So your stress reduction strategy could be a meditation practice or gentle exercise that doesn’t require as much motivation to get started.  We also have a hormone called oxytocin which decreases as estrogen decreases.  It’s known as the love hormone and low levels can lead to cravings.  You can increase oxytocin with the loving kindness meditation.  You basically meditate thinking of someone you love, it could be a family member or a pet, and really feel the feeling of love.  This is a beautiful meditation and can be part of your stress reduction strategy.

6. Get enough sleep

This also ties into the stress strategy because stress can make it difficult to sleep.  Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain by increasing stress - whether you feel more stressed or not, the sleep deprivation increases sympathetic nervous system activation.  Lack of sleep also disrupts hormones that regulate appetite.  So you may feel more hungry and cravings can become stronger.  If you are sleep deprived, you are a lot less likely to want to exercise. We generally don’t make good decisions when we are sleep deprived.  So some basic sleep hygiene suggestions are to go to bed and wake up at the same time consistently, and definitely start to prepare yourself for sleep by avoiding screens for an hour before bed.  Ideally you want at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Check out this episode for more information on menopause and sleep.

7. Less is more. 

A common mistake I see is cutting calories too drastically in hopes of achieving weight loss.  While you may have been able to do this in your 20s, in perimenopause caloric restriction and overexercising will backfire – not only because it will stress your adrenals and your body will go into survival mode, put all its resources into producing stress hormones, while trying to hang on for dear life to your body fat stores – but this will also cause massive cravings for calorically dense foods.  For most people, eliminating processed foods, but still making sure you get the nutrition you need, while adding some walking or other light exercise, and reducing stress is the best solution.  Don’t expect to lose 20 pounds in a month – this would probably bounce back anyway and possibly even result in gaining more weight back. Weight loss of half a pound or a pound a week is more realistic, maintainable, gentle on the body, and adds up over time to get the results you want, without setting yourself up for additional cravings.

8. Delay or distraction

Sometimes a craving can manifest out of boredom – such as if you don’t like your job.  Having worked in many boring but stressful administrative jobs, I certainly understand emotional eating.  I was constantly reaching for a treat – in my case it was chocolate – out of unhappiness and boredom.  So you can use the delay or distraction tactic to do something else and take your mind off the craving.  You could try going for a walk around the block to release stress and distance yourself, even temporarily.  Find something you find pleasurable, like listening to a song you enjoy, or even applying hand lotion and giving yourself a little bit of a hand massage.  Find other ways of taking care of yourself that are non-food-related.

9. Mindset

You might have a limiting belief that you can’t stop eating a certain food or you just don’t see yourself as the person who makes healthy choices.  Changing your mindset around this can help.  This is a strategy that may need one-on-one coaching but a good starting point would be to visualize yourself each morning as this version of yourself who makes the healthy decisions, who eats the healthy foods, who has a stress reduction strategy.  Really try to experience the feeling of what it feels like to be this future version of yourself.  Where you put your energy and focus expands, so visualize this version of yourself and set the tone for your day. 

Menopause cravings meal plan

10. Recognize that it’s healthy to eat foods you enjoy. 

The food you are craving is not “bad”, it may just not align with your goals.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it at certain times.  In fact, if you feel like you can never have that food again, it can set you up for failure because it’s an all or nothing mentality.  This is not true, having one chocolate bar does not undo all the good things you did all week.  What you can do is enjoy it mindfully and you will likely find that you are satisfied with much less of it.  Pay attention to the smell and the taste, eat it slowly, savor every bite, notice the flavors, and try to feel that enjoyment in your whole body.  I did a whole episode on mindful eating so you may want to check that out.  Another thing you could do is make an outing of it. So it could be that you don’t keep the food in the house but one day a week, you decide to go for a nice walk to the store and buy it, just in a single serving, and maybe sit on a nice park bench and truly enjoy that food.  Think of ways you could make this a really enjoyable experience for yourself and this will likely help you in dealing with cravings when you know you can still have your favorite foods.

As you can see, these strategies are all about self care and choosing behaviours and foods that align with your health and goals.  I hope you try some of them and let me know how they work for you.  If you know someone who could benefit from this information, please pass this episode along, or leave a review to help others find the podcast.  Thanks for listening and I hope you have a wonderful day! 

Further help for Menopause Cravings

My free Vegan Menopause 3-Day Meal Plan is packed with plant protein to help you feel full longer, stabilize your blood sugar, protect your bones, boost your mood, and feel better overall during perimenopause!

In my free guide, Five Action Steps to Elevate Your Vegan Menopause Experience, I share five simple steps you can implement immediately, to feel more calm, more positive, and less affected by menopausal symptoms.

If you're struggling with menopause symptoms, a Menopause Wellness Check will help! You will get a custom video with feedback and tips based on the information you provide.

DISCLAIMER: This website's information is general in nature and for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


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