CRAVING CHOCOLATE IN PERIMENOPAUSE? YOUR GUIDE TO INDULGE WITHOUT THE SUGAR CRASH

menopause perimenopause women's health Mar 25, 2024

Welcome to the sweet spot in life, where perimenopause hormone changes mess with your brain and cause an outbreak of cravings. If you find yourself reaching for the dark, smooth, and utterly delectable chocolate more frequently during perimenopause—or just before your period—you're not alone.

This blog is your golden ticket to indulging without compromising your health and messing with your hormones any further.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHOCOLATE CRAVINGS DURING PERIMENOPAUSE

The journey through perimenopause comes with rollercoaster-like hormone fluctuations, which can intensify your cravings for chocolate. But why does this happen, and what does it mean for your overall health and well-being?

THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION

Food is more than just a fuel for us. From early childhood, we are taught that food is comfort, a reward, a destressor, and more. We keep those subconscious thoughts for life, and they directly influence our feelings, habits and behaviors around food, especially sweets like chocolate. I have discussed this topic in more detail in my previous blog post.

This craving isn't just about the taste—it's also about the emotional fulfilment we seek during times of stress, transition, and hormonal upheaval. And it can also be about the emotions we are seeking to avoid! There’s many physical and emotional reasons underlying cravings, and you can read more about that (and what to do about it) in this blog.

During perimenopause, as our hormones ebb and flow, our natural stress resilience hormones start to fade and these changes can impact our brain compounds (neurotransmitters) like dopamine. Dopamine is our happy compound - it gives us our get-up and go our mojo, and motivation. You can see that with lower levels of dopamine, your feelings will be impacted.

Your brain is hard-wired to keep you happy, so it drives you to seek out activities that will boost your dopamine. Because of this, many of us will have more chocolate cravings and turn to chocolate for comfort more often, as your brain seeks to help you boost your dopamine levels and therefore mood. Your brain knows chocolate helped you feel good in the past, so why not now?! Part of the reason chocolate boosts your dopamine levels is that it contains dopamine precursors and nervous system soothing chemicals.

BLOOD SUGAR BLUES

Diving deeper, the pull of chocolate is closely linked to its impact on our blood sugar and insulin levels. (In fact, this is true really of any simple/refined/processed carbohydrate that women often crave - chips, lollies, wine.)

Eating a meal rich in refined or simple carbohydrates quickly increases your blood glucose levels. Insulin levels follow, spiking high, trying to get the excess glucose out of your bloodstream and into the cells to make energy with it. This leads to too much glucose going into cells from the bloodstream and causes a crash in blood glucose.

Low blood sugar causes the cycle to start again with hunger, feeling tired, cravings, and irritability, because your brain sees you need to lift your blood sugar levels - pronto - and it drives you to another instant energy hit. You can see many of these side effects are the same as perimenopause symptoms! So it could be dysregulated blood sugar levels either creating perimenopause-like symptoms or making your perimenopause symptoms worse.

Perimenopause hormone changes can further mess with this process, by altering our insulin sensitivity, encouraging insulin resistance. When your insulin is high you are going to be in fat storage mode.

So, how can you satisfy your chocolate cravings without derailing your health goals or making your perimenopause symptoms worse?

STRATEGIES TO TACKLE CHOCOLATE CRAVINGS IN PERIMENOPAUSE

Craving chocolate in perimenopause isn't just about white knuckling it and using your willpower; it's about understanding your body's signals and responding in a nurturing way. Here’s how to manage cravings and maintain balance:

BALANCING BLOOD SUGAR

Stabilising your blood sugar is key to breaking the cycle of cravings and crashes. Eating balanced meals and incorporating protein and healthy fats can help keep your energy and mood steady throughout the day. Not sure about how to do that? Have a look at my freebie The Balanced Meal Formula.

FULFILLING EMOTIONAL NEEDS

Often chocolate cravings are a sign that we're seeking sweetness in other areas of our lives. Finding joy in hobbies, friendships, and self-care activities can reduce the urge to find comfort in food.

CHOOSING AND ENJOYING CHOCOLATE MINDFULLY

Eating mindfully is about enjoying chocolate consciously, savoring each bite, and eating slowly. However, there is more to eating chocolate mindfully than just how quickly you consume it! It’s really important to help slow the flow of glucose (sugar) into your blood stream. Doing this helps avoid messing with your mood, energy and weight.

Here are my practical tips to help you indulge wisely, and slow the flow of glucose:

  • Avoid eating chocolate on its own, or as a snack.
  • Combine chocolate with protein and/or healthy fats to slow sugar absorption. Ideally, have chocolate at the end of your protein-rich meal. If it’s in-between meals, then enjoy a few nuts or some cheese before your chocolate.
  • Opt for dark chocolate with lower sugar content. Avoid the flavours and creme chocolates, because they’re loaded with sugar.

DECODING CHOCOLATE LABELS

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to choosing the right chocolate. By learning to read labels effectively, you can make informed decisions that satisfy your cravings and support your health goals.

  • Turn the pack over and look for lower sugar content and higher cocoa percentages.
  • Compare chocolate nutrition panels using the ‘per 100g’ column, it makes it easier than the per serve (which can often be unrealistically small!) column.
  • 4g sugar = 1 teaspoon sugar.
  • Look for dark, organic options to minimize exposure to unwanted additives.

Listen to the podcast for more label-reading tips.

EMBRACING CHOCOLATE IN YOUR PERIMENOPAUSE JOURNEY

It's possible to enjoy chocolate and maintain a healthy lifestyle during perimenopause. By understanding your cravings and making mindful choices, you can satisfy your sweet tooth without compromising your health. Remember, indulgence is not about restriction; it's about balance and enjoying life's pleasures mindfully.

YOUR PATH TO SWEET BALANCE

Perimenopause and chocolate don't have to be at odds. By understanding the root of your cravings and adopting mindful indulgence strategies, you can navigate this transitional period with grace and enjoyment. Remember, it's about finding harmony between indulgence and health, one bite at a time.

CRAVING MORE?

For additional insights on navigating the chocolate minefield at Easter, or any other festivity, then be sure to listen to the full podcast episode below and listen to more at www.chaostocalmpodcast.com

If you're seeking personalised guidance to manage cravings and balance your mood, energy, or weight during perimenopause, The Perimenopause Naturopath is here to help. Book a free Clarity Call, and let's find the sweet spot in your health journey together. Together, we can make perimenopause a phase you thrive in, not just survive.

 

 
 
 

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