How Does PMS Affect Weight?: Implications of Premenstrual Syndrome for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are widely recognised to cause much distress to sufferers and may impact upon almost every single aspect of the individual’s life. There are a whole range of different associated physical and psychological complications which may range from minor such as fatigue to severe even life threatening symptoms including arrhythmias and cardiac arrest. This article aims to explore how menstruation may impact eating disorder sufferers with key areas to be examined listed below.

  • What is Premenstrual Syndrome?
  • Implications of PMS for Eating Disorder Patients
  • Coping Strategies for Managing PMS

What is Premenstrual Syndrome?

Premenstrual Syndrome, more commonly referred to as PMS, is believed to affect around 40% of women. PMS manifests itself in a variety of different symptoms which may occur anywhere from a few days before to over a week prior to a period. The following are examples of common associated symptoms: feeling bloated/overly full, weight increase (as a result of fluid retention), fatigue, lack of energy, low mood, increased appetite and headaches.

Implications of PMS for Eating Disorder Sufferers

As two of the common symptoms associated with PMS are that of weight gain (albeit temporary) and feeling bloated it is hardly surprising that this may negatively impact upon those suffering from an eating disorder. Feelings of bloatedness that cause clothes to feel tighter or uncomfortable combined with seeing the number on the scale rise are likely to result in an increased need for restricting food and/or purging. The increase in appetite which is related to the fact that immediately prior to a period there is an increased energy requirement of around 250-300 calories a day may also trigger a binge. Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder patients report a rise in bingeing and/or overeating during this time.

Coping Strategies for Managing PMS

Ideally, an eating disorder sufferer should receive in depth information regarding the possible impacts of PMS on their physical and mental health as an integral part of nutritional counselling or within the framework of psychoeducation. Learning the reasons why specific symptoms likely to cause much distress to the patient such as weight gain, bloating and low mood occur and how temporary they are provide valuable insight leading to increased awareness and acceptance. Encouraging the patient to listen to the body’s increased desire to rest and continue to follow the menu plan regardless of feeling bloated are also vital for recovery. Further means of coping with PMS symptoms may include the following: distraction activities, relaxation skills and distress-tolerance planning. If worried about the impact of PMS symptoms upon recovery consider speaking to a member of your treatment team or family doctor.

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