Health

The Monthly Weight Cycle

Men and people who disapprove of discussing bodily functions openly, you might want to skip this one.  It’s about female stuff.  I reserve the right to use the words like “menstrual,” “period,” and “bloating.”  You have been warned!

When we talk about our weight, we tend to define it as one number.  Yet rare is the person who weighs exactly the same amount every day, especially among women.  There are so many things that affect the day to day number on the scale, but the most predictable one for women is our menstrual cycle.

This month has been a perfect illustration of this phenomenon for me, so allow me to share:

Weight history - one month

On Friday, May 29, I was irritable and hungry.  PMS.  I was having a stressful time at work, my boyfriend was in a bad mood, and I was feeling pretty stressed out.  I didn’t eat all that much more than usual- but I did drink several drinks and I usually only have one.  I think I also had some Chipotle for dinner, which is notoriously high sodium.  Saturday, May 30, I hit my “weight limit” of 170 pounds for the first time since I entered maintenance and my period started.  Sunday, May 31, my weight went up a tiny bit more.

I could attribute the gain to the sodium and the start of my menstrual cycle, which always causes a bump up for me.  This analysis would have been accurate.  However, I have chosen the arbitrary number of 170 as the Do Not Cross line.  After seeing it on the scale 2 days in a row, I counted calories for 2 days which dropped my weight promptly back to normal.  This has always been my maintenance plan.  Look, it worked!

The rest of the month, I have eaten what I would consider to be a nearly perfect diet for me.  That means instead of 80% awesome 20% questionable, it was more like 95% awesome and 5% questionable.  I drank plenty of water almost every day and never crossed my 1 drink limit.  The fluctuation the rest of the month is almost completely cyclical.

Back to menstruation.  Personally, I have found that I experience some predictable events during my cycle.  For a few days prior to menstruating, I am ravenous.  So I started to wonder: why is this?  With a little research, I found several sources that state women actually burn more calories during our periods!  Well I’ll be.  And here I thought my hormones were just making me go mad.  This was quite the entertaining read:

Hormone Myths

“…food intake and energy expenditure decreased during the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle, or the follicular phase, when the egg develops in the ovaries and estrogen levels peak. “It’s known as the anorectic effect of estrogen,” says Pelkman. Food in take and energy expenditure increased during the last weeks of the menstrual cycle, or the luteal phase, when the corpus luteum develops in the ovary and progesterone levels are high. “Women do eat more calories during the luteal phase, but they burn more too.”

Click!  I also always found that the two weeks following my period were the best for weight loss.  Since reading about this, I noticed a defined pattern: I weigh the most the first few days of my period, which makes sense because I feel bloated and sore.  Then my weight drops for two weeks.  I see another bump up during ovulation.  Not so long ago, I didn’t know how to tell if I was ovulating.  There are two ways I can tell now. I track my cycle with an iphone app called “iPeriod,” which predicts ovulation based on your cycle length.  That tends to be pretty close to when I feel the physical feelings of ovulating.  I can’t believe I made it through 30 years of life without realizing you can feel that.  It’s like a cramp, but on one side only.  And it’s very distinct if you’re looking for it.  I tend to feel it for 1 day only.

I feel so much better knowing this is all just connected to being a woman.  It doesn’t have anything to do with my choices, it’s just nature.

So what to do about it?  Nothing!  Why fight it?  It doesn’t mean anything.  What difference does it make if my weight is a single number like 163 or a range of numbers like 163 to 167?  It doesn’t make a difference.  It’s just numbers.

I posted this because I’ve seen this question so many times “Does anyone else weigh more during their period?” and because I wondered that very thing myself.  Isn’t it odd how little we know about our bodies?  Personally, I’ve made it a mission to know more.  And I also hate to see people getting frustrated by weight fluctuations that are so clearly caused by the cycle.  Fear not- you cannot gain or lose a pound of fat in one day without doing something incredibly extreme.  I’m sure I have posted that before, but it deserves repeating.

I don’t use this as an excuse to gorge myself when I have PMS or anything.  But I do give myself leeway and I listen to my body.  I’m hungrier, so I eat more.  I really want chocolate.  So I have some.

I definitely recommend tracking your weight daily and your cycle, not to frustrate yourself, but to learn about your own weight cycle so you can get used to it and accept it as just another part of the joys of womanhood.

7 thoughts on “The Monthly Weight Cycle

  1. I agree, i have been a much happier woman since i started listening to my body. I was on my period this week, my body told me i was tired and hungry, so i relaxed a bit more and ate a bit more. Not only did this keep my mood swings to a minimum, but i’m actually down half a pound! 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for writing about this reality that few women think about, and fewer still make the connection: our hormones govern everything!!

  3. I’m hearing mixed signals — I do not remember if I had read/heard this from your blog or if it was from someone else possibly on Elephant Journal — but weighing in daily is supposed to be a “no no”. While trying to loose weight anyway. I understand it’s part of a natural family planning method and just good to know in understanding ones body. But, I cannot help but feel like it would be counter productive for significant weight loss.

    1. I think it’s only bad if you care about it. I mean, I like weighing in daily but I am okay with fluctuations. It’s just data. I understand that my weight will go up and down and that there are many ways to measure progress besides the scale. If it frustrates you to see the weight go up and down, then maybe weighing in every day isn’t a good idea. But it works great for me and I got to know how my body fluctuates and reacts to different foods. As long as you don’t get frustrated by this, I don’t see why it would be harmful.

  4. So this last month I decided to stop avoiding the scale and using it daily. I liked your reasoning in the past and have enjoyed the scale for motivation. Today I am having a “fat” day. I’m tired, cranky and my weight has jumped by 4 lbs. I was so frustrated. Although in the back of my head I knew it was due to my up comming period. Then I came here to ask you a question And here was this post. Thank you!

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