Written By Julie Paiva, CHHC
Cravings are something that we all encounter. They can be frustrating when they are intense and difficult to control. What’s worse is that when we give in to them, we often feel guilty and not even able to enjoy the indulgence. Some people, especially woman, can’t get enough chocolate and sweets. For others, it’s salty and greasy foods. Anyone who has ever struggled with his or her weight knows that resisting a craving is much harder than just “staying strong” or “exerting willpower.” Cravings are caused by a number of reasons including excess sugar consumption, strict dietary restrictions, triggered memories, emotions, weather, or stress.
Rather than viewing cravings as weaknesses, see them as important messages from your body meant to help you maintain balance. Cravings are critical pieces of information about your body. The important thing is to understand why you crave something not to beat yourself up about craving it. Ignoring that voice inside your head calling for a sweet isn’t always easy! During this time of year when most houses, offices and other common places you visit have bowls of candy and baked goods up for grabs, it can be really hard to quiet that voice and stay in tune with your body. In the moment, getting a sugar fix might feel like it will satisfy your needs, but giving into processed sweets often leads to further cravings and overindulging. Plus those feelings of guilt and shame are certainly not worth a small snack size candy.
Before caving to your cravings, try these suggestions to help you navigate them mindfully:
Deconstruct your craving
Our bodies are very intelligent. This is what tells your heart to beat, digests your food and maintains a state of homeostasis all without you having to give your body any instructions. When we feel cravings, our bodies are trying to send us a message that we need something. Something is out of balance and needs to be corrected. Are you craving candy or are you actually hungry or thirsty? Is it just a momentary desire? Are you lacking something in your life and filling the void with food? Instead of immediately giving in and reaching for a sweet, deconstruct what your body is truly telling you and decide what will fulfill it. Emotions can lead to craving something your body doesn’t actually want or need, especially with all the hype around the holidays. As you learn to decipher and respond to your body’s cravings, you will create a deep and lasting level of health and balance. Use the list below to help you figure out the cause of your cravings.
Listen to Your Body
- Are you drinking enough water? Drink a glass and wait ten minutes.
- Are you stressed? Acknowledge what is stressing you, focus on a solution to the stressor, close your eyes, and breath deeply for a few minutes.
- Are you bored? Get up and move a little. Find something fun and productive to do.
- Are you uninspired or unhappy with your relationships or job? Take a moment to ask- What is out of balance in your life? Is there something you need to express, or is something being repressed? What happened in your day just before you had this craving?
- Are you getting enough nutrients? Specific cravings are linked to specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Generally, a lack of proper nutrition will make you constantly crave a quick form of energy like caffeine or sugar.
- Are you experiencing hormonal fluctuations? This is especially relevant for women. During different phases of your menstrual cycle, the fluctuation of your hormones will create cravings.
- Have you been eating lots of sweet or salty foods lately? Eating these foods often can make your body continually wanting for more.
- Are your cravings associated with seasonal changes? We can crave foods based on the weather outside. For example, in the winter we crave foods that are warm and heavier and in the summer we crave foods that are raw and cooler.
Take a step back
Seeing the grocery store shelves stocked with colorful bags of candy that remind you of childhood can cause your brain to think it’s something you want. However, before you walked down that aisle, you had no desire for candy at all. Take a moment to be mindful about what you are yearning for and to understand your craving before you grab that big bar of sugar. Typically, when you take the time to reassess what your mind and body are telling you, you’ll have a better understanding of what you really want.
Opt for naturally sweet foods
Instead of tearing open a candy bar or taking a cookie (or two) that your coworker shared, soothe your cravings with more wholesome options. If you know you have a sweet tooth and a hard time resisting a craving, keep fruit on hand. Root vegetables are also a good thing to eat. They naturally have some sweetness to them and can be grounding to the body. Having your own stash of wholesome goodness will make it easier to make the better choice.
Enjoy it – in moderation
If you have a continuous craving for something but have been resisting it, allow yourself to enjoy it in moderation. Look for a healthy version on what you crave. It may take a little of your time to prepare, but your blood sugar will not be thrown off from unhealthy store-bought counterparts and you will not be left with those negative feelings of guilt and shame after eating a sweet item. Listen to your body and know that it’s okay to enjoy something you’re craving without overindulging. If a craving is constantly ignored, it can lead to giving in and over consuming it eventually. So when you are experiencing a craving, ask yourself, “what does my body need and why?”
“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.” – Cicero