“Love is sweet” is an expression we commonly hear. In some relationships it can be “bitter sweet”. The chocolates we gift each other on Valentine’s Day and the romantic dinners associated with it, are an expression of love and shared emotion over food. We see food and emotion perpetually intertwine in our day-to-day lives.
Sometimes when we eat, we do not differentiate between eating because we are hungry for food or because we have a craving for a certain food or eating for fulfillment in another area of our life.
To better understand cravings, you need to differentiate them from normal hunger. Cravings are an intense desire to consume a specific food. When you eat to stave off hunger, you experience no guilt. You actually develop a comfortable and peaceful mindset; since this is the healthy pattern your body was designed for. If you catch yourself frequently feeling guilty or thinking “I know I should not be eating this,” then you are probably eating for the wrong reasons. It may be that you are missing something else, other than food. It could be a sign that you are eating to heal some emotional pain. If you are eating to feel better then you are eating for the wrong reasons.
As a Health Coach, I encourage you to deconstruct your cravings. How? By looking at the foods you are craving, the foods you are actually eating, the deficits in your life and your behaviors. Cravings are not a weakness; they are messages that your body and mind are sending you in order to maintain balance.
The crave cycle
When you ask someone what they crave, their response will rarely be BROCOLLI. Most people crave sugary foods like chocolate or cookies or other junk foods like chips. Take the example of sugary foods and the cycle would go something like this: You have a sweet craving. You may or may not try to resist the craving. Next, you are downing one cookie after the next. You feel full, satisfied, almost sedated, as with an addiction. This is the effect foods high in sugar and carbohydrates have on our brain. The feeling lasts for only a few hours and then the cravings will most likely kick in again.
If you can relate to this then here are ways to help you differentiate and eliminate your cravings:
Eat a whole foods diet
A lack of nutrients will signal to your body to crave certain food categories to give your body what it needs. By eating whole foods –
foods that are as close to their natural form as possible-you flood your body with the nutrients it needs.
Eat at regular times every day
Managing what, when and how much you eat is key. Eating balanced meals (proteins like chicken, complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, carrots, and beetroot and all the greens you can get on to your plate) at regular times every day allows your blood sugar levels to remain balanced throughout the day, keeping your nutrient and energy supply constant and in turn, curbs cravings.
When you are thirsty, your body signals the feelings of hunger instead of thirst. Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. To add a twist to plain water you can infuse it with a variety of fruits and herbs and experiment with organic herbal teas.
Diversify your diet
If your diet is high in salty foods, you are probably craving sweet, or if you eat a lot of cold, raw foods you might be craving warmer foods. It is important to listen to your body to find a balance of different foods with a variety of flavors.
Eat what’s in season
Eating what’s in season is nature’s way of providing us with the foods we need in order to balance our immune system, boost our energy and wellbeing. This means that during winter months, you’ll be eating warming, grounding foods like soups and stews and in the summer lighter cooling foods like fruits and salads.
Keep a food/mood journal
For two weeks, write down your mood next to every food you consume. This will show you the emotional patterns linked to what when and why you eat.
Look out for underlying causes
Look at the non-food related areas that nourish you.
Ask yourself “What is food covering up for?”
“What it is that I am really craving?”
“Is it intimacy? Friendship? Fun? More physical activity? A deeper spiritual practice? A more fulfilling career?”
Be true to yourself. It is with balance, satisfaction and nourishment in these areas of our lives that our focus on food becomes secondary and so do our cravings.