Do you feel like your cravings are a force that needs to be ignored. Or do you feel like your ability or inability to conquer cravings is a result of your willpower or lack thereof?
It's not that simple...and it's not your fault! Cravings are simply your body's way of trying to communicate what it needs. Your body is amazing, listen to it!
Instead of feeling bad about your cravings, try deciphering what your body's trying to tell you and try taking action based on what you learn. Take the guilt and self-judgement out of it!
7 Common Sources of Cravings
Lack of Primary Food
Consider that the food you eat is secondary to all of the other parts of your life that feed you, for example, your relationships, career, spirituality, hobbies, and exercise routine. These parts of your life are considered Primary Foods in the Integrative Nutrition world.
Integrative Nutrition bridges the gap between nutrition, or the food you eat, and personal growth and development. Both of these work together to create a healthy lifestyle. As I like to say, you could eat the most perfect diet in the world, but if you're unhappy in the rest of your life, you probably won't feel that healthy.
If you find yourself craving "unhealthy" foods, take some time to consider what's going on with the rest of your life. Are you happy in your relationships, such as with your significant other, your family, friends, or coworkers?
Are you stressed, bored, or uninspired by your job? Are you exercising too much or too little? Do you have a spiritual practice? All of these could potentially be a cause for your cravings.
Lack of water can manifest as a feeling of hunger! If you feel hungry between meals, drink a full glass of water first thing, but be careful because too much water can also cause cravings.
Sometimes water might not be enough. Adding some minerals or electrolytes to your water can make it more absorbable. If you find yourself especially dehydrated, perhaps after exercising or spending time in dry air, try making Sole water (pronounced Solay). For more on the benefits, how to make it, and how to use it, click here. Wellness Mama is one of my favorite health and wellness bloggers!
Foods have yin and yang qualities and eating foods that are extremely one or the other cause cravings in order to maintain balance. Foods that have more yin qualities are expansive, while foods that have more yang qualities are contractive.
The most common and potent contracting food is salt. This will seem contrary to what I just wrote about previously, but there are different forms of salt and they aren't all created equal. Salt is commonly used as a preservative in processed foods, think fast food, chips, and other foods that don't even seem especially salty!
The other common form of contracting food is animal products, including eggs, and hard cheese. The benefit of these foods is that they're high in protein and can give you a feeling of strength and increased mental and physical power. On the other hand if you eat too many of these foods you can feel bloated, heavy, and mentally slow.
As a result of eating too many contracting foods, your body will naturally crave expanding foods as a way of creating balance.
The leading expanding food is refined white sugar. Expanding foods can create feelings of lightness, elevated mood, and relief from stagnation. Unfortunately, refined white sugar elevates serotonin rapidly, followed by a rapid drop. The drop in serotonin typically causes feelings of depression, low energy, anxiety, and loss of concentration.
Have you ever craved salty foods, given in, then craved sweet foods?
Inside Coming Out
Cravings can come from what you've recently eaten. I talk a lot about the microbiome and how what we eat, causes particular microbes to flourish. For example, a diet with plenty of fresh vegetables will have one type of diet, whereas a diet high in sugar will have another type, and a diet high in animal proteins will have still another type of microbes.
It works the other way, too, which is encouraging because it means that you can change your microbes and your cravings! Think of it this way, it's not you that's craving sugar, it's your microbes craving sugar. If you stop eating sugar, your microbial profile changes in the matter of days, which is why when you quit sugar, it takes about a week to stop craving it.
Lack of Nutrients
Odd cravings can often be attributed to inadequate nutrients. If you're low in minerals, you might get salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition can produce cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy such as coffee or caffeine.
However, in this case realize that if you're craving salt, you're better off eating some leafy green vegetables that are high in minerals, instead of a bag of chips. In general, people's diets lack minerals because so much of our food is highly processed.
If you're craving bitter foods, your body might be wanting something to enhance digestion and help break down fat, which bitter foods like dandelion greens, mustard greens, arugula, kale, and collards do quite well.
There are many other examples, such as cravings for pungent flavors, spicy foods, and moist or liquid foods.
Cravings can also be linked to hormonal changes, such as during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. But, just as it's a two way street with cravings and your microbiome, the same is true here.
Eating nutritious foods, and avoiding processed foods and caffeine, can contribute to balanced hormones, thus getting rid of the craving.
Particular foods help to balance your hormones such as, clean proteins, organic fruits and vegetable, resistant starches, and gluten-free grains.
Track Your Cravings
Try keeping track of your cravings for a week. Keep a journal of every food you crave each day. Rate the craving on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest level of desire. Then, write down your thoughts next to each entry on how that craving is a response to an imbalance somewhere in your diet or life.
This can help to take the blame out of the craving!
What's Your Relationship With Your Cravings? Do You Notice Times When You Do or Don't Have Cravings?
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