Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.
Your body is amazing! Your lungs are always breathing. The body is a super-computer, and it never makes mistakes. It is always there for you, pumping blood, never skipping a heartbeat, digesting whatever food you put in it and maintaining homeostasis. It knows when to go to sleep, when to wake up, and when to go to the bathroom. It maintains a temperature of 37 degrees, repairs itself when wounded and knows the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth.
Is this dependable, intelligent, super bio-computer making a mistake by craving ice cream or a hamburger or chocolate? Are your cravings caused by a lack of will-power or discipline? I’d like to suggest that your cravings are not a bad thing. Listening to what your cravings are telling you can tell you important information about what your body needs.
Understanding why you crave what you crave is the key to ending your cravings and gaining health and balance in your body. We are often taught to view cravings as weakness, but in reality, they are important clues meant to guide you to higher levels of health and well being.
Take a closer look at the foods, deficits and behaviors in your life that could be the underlying cause of your cravings. Maybe your diet is too restrictive or devoid of essential nutrients. Perhaps you’re living a lifestyle that is too boring, lonely or stressful. Your body is constantly trying to achieve balance by sending you a message: a craving. A craving for something sweet could mean you need more protein, more exercise, more water or more love in your life. The key to stopping the sugar craving is to understand and deliver what your body really needs. Once you find out what your body actually is asking for, you can integrate that component into your lifestyle and end your craving for good!
No book or theory can tell you what to eat. Only awareness of your body and its needs can tell you. Of all the relationships in our lives, the one with our body is the most essential. It takes communication, love and time to cultivate a relationship with your body. As you learn to listen and respond to your body’s cravings, you will create a deep and lasting level of health and balance.
The next time you have a craving, treat it as a loving message from your body instead of a weakness. Try these tips to respond to your body:
- Have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes. Lack of water can send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger. So drink up before you reach for the snacks. On the flip side, excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.
- Eat a healthier version of what you crave. For example, if you crave sweets, try eating more fruit and sweet or root vegetables. Often times, cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods from our childhood. A clever way to satisfy these cravings is to eat a healthier version of one’s ancestral or childhood foods. Experiment in the kitchen to come up with healthier versions of what you crave so you don’t end up feeling deprived and binging on something that would not be serving your health. Some cravings are caused by hormonal changes. When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings. The thing to remember is that there are always healthier versions of your craving, so notice how each food makes you feel and adjust your diet accordingly the next time you get the craving.
- What is out of balance in your life? Is there something you need to express, or is something making you depressed? What happened in your life just before you had this craving? Being dissatisfied with a relationship or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little or the wrong kind), being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Eating can be used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of primary food. Yet another cause could be a yin/yang imbalance. Certain foods have more yin qualities (expansive) while other foods have more yang qualities (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings in order to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods or vise versa.
- Eat the food you are craving, enjoy it, taste it, savor it; notice its effect on your mood and body. Once you become more aware of how a food affects you, you can decide if you really want it next time. Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, people crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw foods and ice cream, and in the fall people crave grounding foods like squash, onions and nuts. During winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat. If the body has inadequate nutrients or is eating out of season, it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine. Eating very heating foods in the summer will cause a strong craving for cooling foods and vice versa in the winter.
- Notice self sabotage patterns. This is also known as de-evolution. When things are going extremely well, sometimes a self-sabotage syndrome happens. We crave foods that throw us off, thus creating more cravings to balance ourselves. This often happens from low blood sugar and may result in strong mood swings. Are you afraid of what your life would look like if you were slim, fit, healthy and happy? It sounds crazy but it’s more common than you think. Notice if you’re falling back on old patterns that are no longer serving you and your wellness goals.
Next time you experience a craving, deconstruct it. Ask yourself, what does my body want and why? Instead of an enemy, your cravings may become one if your greatest tools for gaining holistic health and wellness.