Many young women are hesitant to fast because they’re worried fasting will be problematic for their cycles. Ladies worry that the potential disruption in their cycles (although temporary) may cause them to become infertile or create great difficulty for them becoming pregnant down the road. This turns a lot of young women away from fasting. But the truth is, fasting is more likely to regulate your cycles and reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) dramatically!
Here in the Western world we’ve adopted the “you must walk up and eat immediately” and “you must eat practically every hour all day long” mindset. So thinking about how fasting is an ancient healing strategy made me laugh when funny images started popping up in my head as my mind started to take an evolutionary stroll throughout human history. Cavewomen didn’t wake up and go to their cave refrigerators and pull out a dozen eggs, nor did they go to their cave cupboards and pull out a box of cereal. We had to hunt and gather.
And what if the weather sucked? What in the world would we have hunted and gathered on a -30 degrees day in Winnipeg mid January? Bark? Plants? No, we would have had to have fasted until there was food to eat, which could have been quite a while. This is why fasting is referred to as an ancient healing strategy. It was forced adaptation before modern conveniences.
Even if you go back 15-30 years…can you imagine your grandparents eating hourly? Here in North American we have access to the same food 27/7, 365 days a year! Every culture fasts, every religion fasts – except us!
The Tread – The Frequency of Your Cycle
For the first two months of fasting most women report more than usual delayed menstrual cycles. This makes them think that either their pregnant, which isn’t always planned, or they think that fasting is destroying their ability to have a healthy cycle.
When fasting your whole body is completely out of homeostasis and is struggling to find it’s new “normal”. A delayed cycle is really quite common, there are so many changes happening in your body!
Almost every woman I’ve worked with has experienced this to some degree. Some don’t notice the irregularity as much at the start because their cycles have been so unregular for so long. Regardless, it’s around months three and four when things start to regulate in terms of timing whether or not you’ve had extremely or just mildly irregular periods in the past. Even women who haven’t had periods in nearly two years start to experience normal cycles within the first six months of fasting – it’s incredible!
The Trend – The Symptoms of PMS
The good news is that these symptoms don’t get worse before they get better despite all the hormonal changes that are occurring in your body when you first start fasting. We still have the cramping, bloating, cravings and irritability that we’ve always had to the same degree for the first two months into our fasting journey.
Often, I encourage women to fast the week after their cycle. It can be easier! So much of fasting is mind over matter. If your body is working against you making it difficult for you to fast, you’re not likely to succeed. This really screws people up because they think they should be able to fast ALL OF THE TIME – but that isn’t the case! Most often people give up on fasting entirely because they feel like they’ve “failed” at it when they try to fast at inappropriate times.
Don’t fast when your body or life isn’t cooperating. Do you best to fast or stick to a low car, healthy fat approach instead for the first few months.
Things generally start to improve around month three. During this time, you’ll find that most of the physical and emotional side effects of PMS start to diminish greatly. Women report that their appetite is still strong but the cravings for unhealthy, processed carbs has diminished significantly.
The magic seems to happen at month six! The side effects of PMS are a distant memory, and you feel in control of your diet. This is when I suggest women start to actively fast during their period. Either the day it starts, or the second day. What’s even better is that they start to notice weight loss during their periods rather than weight gain! And to add to all of the goodness, women often report that days one through five of their cycle are the easiest days for them to fast every month! We always laugh at how crazy this sounds because our periods have always been a junk food eating frenzy and weight gaining nightmare.
My advice for the ladies out there who are nervous to fast? Start out slowly. Cut out snacking. Try to eat your dinner an hour earlier if possible. And start cutting out the meals one by one as you feel comfortable. No rush, this is your health journey!