Every month or so, I start eating like an uncontrollable beast who has just awoken from 100 years in hibernation. 

I’m talking second breakfasts, constant inter-meal snacking and supersize dinners with all the trimmings (and by trimmings, I mean chips). And I can’t lie, I start to freak out. I worry that this ravenous hunger will never leave me and that if I continue to eat at this rate, I’m destined for a future as the world’s largest woman.

But then… then I get that pang; that little twitch in my lower abdomen giving me a head’s up that my period is on its way. And suddenly I remember that this always happens, that a few days before my period I am always hit with the most unquenchable hunger. Then I chill the hell out.

Me Want Food 30 Rock gif

You see we’ve all heard of pregnancy cravings (which seem to involve eating pickles with everything), but we rarely talk about period cravings – even though many women encounter them on a monthly basis. As well as just wanting to eat EV-ER-Y-THING for a time, I also get really seriously into cheese. And chocolate. Toasties, cheese on toast, thick chocolate milkshakes and really dense, sticky brownies are my go-to treats – things I usually eat as occasional treats suddenly become essential parts of my diet.

And it’s not just me. I asked around my friends, and everyone agreed that their eating habits changed around the time of their period. Unsurprisingly, chocolate featured pretty highly on a lot of people’s period craving charts, but some of the foods were a bit more leftfield. Not one but two people got back to me saying they craved all things tomato – from plain old tinned tomatoes to baked beans and even tomato & basil pasta sauce straight out the jar – while another friend said she became a crazed carnivore, always fancying loads of bacon, sausages, steak and, I quote, ‘ALL THE CHICKEN.’

But what do these cravings MEAN? Is there any rhyme or reason to them, or are they all just random? And are there any dietary dos or don’ts we should know about? To find out, I spoke to Gaynor Bussell, a dietician and registered nutritionist specialising in women’s health.

First up, Gaynor confirmed that period – or PMS – cravings are totally normal. She explained: ‘Cravings can be one of the symptoms of PMS, and due to changing hormone levels this can happen from two weeks before the period (known as the luteal phase) to the time when the period really gets underway (which could take a few days from when it first starts). Calorie requirements increase for many during this time of the month, and so there is an increase in hunger which may drive cravings.’ Phew.

Mindy Project McDonalds gif

So the hunger is normal, but what about our food choices? ‘Nobody really knows why certain foods are craved and cravings do vary, with some preferring savoury while some crave any carbs,’ Gaynor explained. But when it comes to chocolate, Gaynor told me it’s all about that feel-good feeling: ‘Chocolate has always been associated with comfort, regardless of PMS. This time of the month is associated with increased depression and anxiety so comfort food may be craved.’

Finally, I asked Gaynor for her period dietary tips. Unsurprisingly, seeing as she’s a nutritionist, chips and chocolate brownies didn’t feature too highly. Instead, she advised: ‘A healthy diet throughout the month has been associated with less PMS symptoms. Being generally active too can help reduce symptoms. It is also believed that having regular meals throughout the day that that are made up of low energy release carbs, such as pasta, seedy bread and oats, can help even out swings in blood sugars and hence avert cravings. And in general, you should avoid consuming too much junk food – especially foods and drinks that give you quick energy/sugar boosts which may be followed by crashing lows. These are known perpetrators of PMS.’

So, as ever, it seems that a healthy, active lifestyle with the odd treat is the way to go. I’ll try to remember that next time I’m dunking chips in a chocolate milkshake with a side of double-cheeseburger…

@MissSisiG

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Manjit Thapp

We’ve all seen the adverts. We know that periods and PMS shouldn’t stop us from wearing white playsuits, or going swimming, or playing sport at a professional level, or chartering a rocket to the moon. But every person and every period is different, and for every month where someone feels unstoppable, there will be another person who wants to stop the world and get off for a bit.

During your period, you’re allowed to do anything, everything – and nothing. Here’s how to do nothing in a nourishing way, if that’s the mood you’re in.

Practise the art of self-love

During your period, it’s totally normal not to feel like your best self. However, it can be hard to avoid falling into a spiral of self doubt and negative thoughts. If you’re in a pit of PMS depression or feeling spotty, achy and bloated you don’t feel like a confident go-getter – you’re using all of your energy on going to the loo every twenty minutes. So a bit of mindfulness doesn’t go amiss.

You don’t need to overthink it; just try to catch your thoughts if you’re thinking negatively about yourself. Think “I love Me, I am doing everything in my power to take care of Me, and I am doing an awesome job.” Be your own best babysitter, and treat yourself as kindly and tenderly as you can. This means that you’ll feel super strong, confident and ready to do great things when your hormones calm down.

Eat your chocolate biscuits from a silver platter

With the caveat that periods are much easier to deal with if you fill yourself with vegetables and vitamins, sometimes the only thing that makes us feel better is to eat so much junk food that we start to wonder whether it’s worth camping out on a petrol station forecourt in order to be close to a shop that sells nothing but Doritos and Jelly Babies.

The trouble with junk food is that sometimes, as the name suggests, eating it can make you feel even more rubbish. But you can avoid this by making an occasion out of it. Put the crisps in the prettiest bowl you can find, instead of just shoving your head inside the bag. Arrange the cupcakes on a china plate. This makes your period wallow feel like a special occasion, and you are less likely to end up covered in crumbs. No matter where your cycle is at, being covered in Monster Munch dust just isn’t good for the soul.

Channel Winnie the Pooh

Winnie is a wise bear, and knows the value of ‘stoutness exercises’ – this means that if your tummy feels round and uncomfortable, some very gentle movement can make all the difference and help you to feel a little less like you’re being possessed by a sentient volleyball that’s about to burst out of you, uterus first.

But importantly, Winnie bear-ly (#sorrynotsorry) breaks a sweat, and sticks to his comfort zone. This isn’t about feeling the burn so much as getting slightly warm and then stopping to open a window. If you can face it, a tiny bit of exercise will relieve any cramps, and give you a bit of a break from your sofa-and-bed-based routine.

Have an Ultimate Bath

If you’re prepared to put the effort in, washing yourself can be an art, and one of the most rewarding activities there is. It’s only a matter of time before a TV commissioner capitalises on this and everyone sits down each week to watch The Great British Bathe Off.

For now, focus any energy that you have on upping your bathtime game. Find the nicest scent you can. If you’re so inclined, many essential oils are thought to have properties that ease your menses cramps, including lavender, clary sage, rose, peppermint and cinnamon (if it smells nice, it has probably, at some point in history been used to cheer someone up during their period) but the posh bubble bath you got for Christmas will definitely do the trick too.

Spend time getting the temperature right. Sometimes the body feels warmer during menstruation, so you might be more comfortable if your bath is on the cool side. When the bath has been run, make a peppermint tea, put a classical station on if you have a bathroom radio, and wallow away. When you get out, you’ll feel like Venus rising from a clam shell, if Venus was Beyonce.

Sleep where you fall

Fact: you’re not lazy – periods are tiring. As your oestrogen levels plummet, you might find that your iron levels drop too. Making sure that you get plenty of vitamins and eating iron-rich foods will help you get back to normal, but during the first couple of days, the best thing you can do for your body is to give it the sleep it craves. If you can’t keep your eyes open, it’s fine to have a nap. Unless you’re in the middle of crossing a road. Or using scissors.

If you know that you tend to get sleepy at the start of your period, try to give people a heads-up so you’ve got the time and space to get your head down. If your body wants extra rest, the smartest thing you can do is listen to it.

@NotRollergirl

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Laura Callaghan

We’ve all been there – scrolling through Instagram, feeling that our life isn’t quite as pastel-tinted, our outfit quite as perfect, our friends not quite as glamorous as all of the people populating our feed.

It can be exhausting. And irritating. And probably, maybe, quite bad for us.

Whenever I make the crucial mistake of opening Instagram when I’m lying on my bed waiting for the next episode of Gilmore Girls to load, surrounded by Maltesers and half drunk cups of tea, it can feel like a punch to the stomach. Why is everyone so flawless-skinned? And tanned? And chilling on a yacht while I’m in Nando’s? How are these people always travelling? Why do they drink so many smoothies? Does anyone, if they’re being really honest with themselves, even like kale?

So as a lovely antidote, here are 12 Instagram accounts that won’t make you feel terrible about your life.

And I promise, not one of them features kale.

Paul Nicklen bear photo
Image: @paulnicklen

Paul Nicklen

You might not have heard of Paul Nicklen, but 2.5 million people have. That’s right; 2.5 freakin’ million. He’s a photographer for National Geographic and his photos of nature are so beautiful it will make you want to live outdoors for the rest of your life. Maybe.

School of Doodle t-shirt image
Image: @schoolofdoodle

School of Doodle

The School of Doodle is a really cool project that focuses on providing young girls with the knowledge, skills and experiences not taught in high school. You can watch inspirational and informational videos featuring big creative brains and world changers, connect with fellow Doodlers and take part in the weekly Doodle challenge.

Image: @janetomyausten
Image: @janetomyausten

Jane to my Austen

I want ‘Jane to my Austen’ to be the Darcy to my Elizabeth. Basically, we are now in love. Don’t panic, this isn’t just a Jane Austen fangirl feed – it’s beautiful celebration of all things bookish.

The Atlas of Beauty instagram photo
Image: @theatlasofbeauty

The Atlas of Beauty

Mihaela Noroc photographs women from every corner of the world. Through exploring all sort of different cultures, she wants to expand our concept of what ‘beauty’ really. It’s a super inspiring project and her photos are amazing.

 

Mr Pokee
Image: @mr.pokee

Mr. Pokee

Somehow, in what I can only assume is a cruel punishment from the universe, I only recently found this account. The entire account is dedicated the adventures of a hedgehog. A hedgehog! Mr. Pokee is now my life, and he’ll be yours too.

Girl with no job Instagram post
Image: @girlwithnojob

Girl with no job

Sometimes life can get you down. Especially when other people are lying on a sun lounger in the South of France, sipping on organic, macrobiotic coconut water and you are lying in your back garden on an old towel with a warm glass of flat Coke. But luckily that’s what comedy is for. Here’s to Girl with No Job, who uses her downtime to entertain us rather than make us jealous.

History Photographed image
Image: @historyphotographed

History Photographed

This isn’t one of those Instagram accounts that just churns out old black and white images of Audrey Hepburn you’ve seen a million times. History Photographed includes loads of really unusual images that you’ve probably never seen before. Like parents at New York Pride in 1974 carrying signs that say “I am proud of my gay son.” #LoveIsLove

Baby Animalstagram
Image: @babyanimalstagram

Baby Animalstagram

This Instagram account is exactly what it sounds like. But better. So much better.

NASA sky photo
Image: @NASA

NASA

I never used to be that fussed by space. I knew it was out there but never wanted to learn all that much about it – like taxes or Kanye West. But NASA’s Instagram account changed all that. Now, while I would give all of my savings (£67.50) to go to space, this account means I don’t have to. I can see some pretty amazing things from the comfort of my bedroom.

 

Papered Thoughts pebbles
Image: @paperedthoughts

Papered Thoughts

I love everything Paper Thoughts does so much I want to eat it. Yes, even her illustrations. Yes, even her beautiful letters and envelopes. Yes, I would even gobble down her beautiful motivational painted rocks without so much as a second thought. I fully believe it would be worth the indigestion.

Makers Women quote
Image: @makerswomen

Makers Women

Need some inspiration in the your life? Look no further. Makers Women’s feed is brimming with kickass feminists and inspirational quotes like this one from Shay Mitchell: “You have this one life, so go and make the most of it.”

Mental Floss cheesecake post
Image: @mentalfloss

Mental Floss

If, like me, you are a lover of random facts, useless information, and things that will make you say “Really?!”, then this is your holy grail.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome.