It knows when to go to sleep, when to wake up, and when to go to the bathroom. It maintains a temperature of 98.6 degrees, repairs itself when wounded, and knows the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth. Your heart never misses a beat. Your lungs are always breathing. The body is a super computer, and it never makes mistakes.
So why do we sometimes crave foods that are “bad” for us or just plain strange?? Many people view cravings as weakness, but really they are important messages from our perfect bodies, meant to help us maintain balance. When you experience a craving, deconstruct it. Ask yourself, what does my body want and why?
Here are a few common reasons or clues you can use to help deconstruct your own cravings:
1. LACK OF PRIMARY FOOD
“Primary Food” is everything that makes up your life besides food. Being healthy is as much about primary food as it is about what you actually eat and drink.
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.
Take a look at your life as a whole: is there something there causing imbalance? Notice any patterns when you experience cravings. Is it Sunday night as you prepare to go to a dissatisfying or stressful job on Monday morning? See if you can follow the clues – and if you discover a pattern, perhaps you can address the actual issue rather than covering it up with comfort food.
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 the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water. Excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.
3. HABIT or TRADITION
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 your ancestral or childhood foods.
Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, you might crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, you 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. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays, for foods like turkey, eggnog, or sweets. Notice when and what you’re craving — it might not all be bad! This is your body’s way of following the seasonal flow. Just try to keep the sugar to a minimum.
5. LACK OF NUTRIENTS
If the body has inadequate nutrients, 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. Make sure you’re getting a variety of good, whole foods. And take a multivitamin for insurance!
When women experience menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings. Stick to whole foods, reduce sugar and junk food, and get good sleep to keep your system as balanced as possible.
7. SELF ESTEEM
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. Recognizing this pattern is the first step in helping kick it. Again, stick to whole foods, and reduce the sugar.
The most important thing you can do when you’re experiencing a craving is to pause, and listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
Please share! What have you discovered about your own cravings? And how did you respond?