Cravings are your golden ticket to a healthier body and happier life. Yes, you read that correctly. No doubt you’ve been bombarded with the idea that cravings are something to be ashamed of or squashed out all together. But what if these cravings were in fact your body’s way of communicating what it needs?
The human body is a hard working piece of genius that loves you to pieces.
It keeps your heart beating, your lungs working, and all your systems functioning so that you can go out and live an amazing, juicy life. Maintaining balance is its number one priority, which becomes quite the challenge when you pile on stress, unhealthy food choices, alcohol, drugs and negative thought patterns. It does the best it can with whatever you give it.
Do you think your body is actually making a mistake when it craves sugar or a hamburger? Is it really just an indication of your total lack of willpower? I think not.
It’s not the cravings themselves that are the problem, but way you are “decoding” them.
There’s valuable information imbedded in the foods you desire the most. The important thing is to figure out why you’re having that craving and how you can truly satisfy it.
Perhaps your diet is lacking in some key nutrients or is too restrictive in general. Maybe you’re bored or stressed out or feeling lonely. Whatever the case may be, your body is out of balance, and is trying to correct itself by sending you a message: a craving.
Let’s take the most common (and powerful) food craving on the planet as an example… SUGAR.
At its core, a sugar craving is the body asking for energy. But what type of energy is your body needing? Is it simply glucose so your cells can function better, or is there some deeper need not being met? That’s the part that you need to figure out.
When you have a sugar craving, it may be the body needing longer-lasting forms of energy such as protein or complex carbohydrates. It could also be an indication of needing emotional energy in the form of love or connection with others. If you are stressed out or depressed, your body may be asking for a mental lift, something to raise your spirits and shift your outlook on life. Have you experienced this before?
No book or health expert can tell you what you should eat or how to satisfy your cravings. That knowledge surfaces as you become more aware of your body and its needs. As you dive deeper, you will learn how to decode and respond to your cravings.
It takes time, love, patience and lots of communication to build a strong relationship with yourself. But hey, you’re not going anywhere, so you may as well spend some time getting to know yourself better.
You may be feeling a little rusty in the art of decoding, the days of making up secret languages and writing in code to your best friend well behind you.
There are many ways to brush up on your skills and begin learning the language of your body’s cravings.
The next time you have a craving, try a different way of responding to your body’s message:
Dehydration can feel a lot like hunger. When in doubt, drink a glass of water, wait 10 minutes, and see if your craving is still there. You’ll be surprised to find just how often a craving is your body simply asking for water. After all, every single cell in your body is filled with it, and they can’t properly do their job if they’re “thirsty.”
Do you always crave sugar at 3:00pm in the afternoon, or only when your partner is out of town? Take note of the circumstances when you experience a craving: the time of day, your mood, your emotions, recent changes in life situations, when you last ate, what you ate the meal before, etc.
As you become more aware of the patterns surrounding your cravings, you will have more information about what your body is actually asking for.
Do a primary food check.
Cravings can be an indication of something we are hungry for beyond just food—a primary food or deeper desire. Ask yourself, “How am I doing in my relationships? Am I satisfied with my job or life work? Have I moved my body enough? Do I feel connected to myself and the world around me?” If you find that you’re not satisfied in these areas, it might be an indication of a craving or desire of the soul.
By paying attention to the patterns of my own cravings, I have learned that my sugar cravings are not just a cry for protein, but more often for love and connection with others. Now I simply check in and ask myself, “Have I had enough protein today? Am I needing love and connection right now?” The answers to those questions tell me the proper actions to take in order to satisfy the true craving I’m having.
Indulge, enjoy and observe.
All too often, we pile on so much unnecessary guilt and shame when we “give in” to our food cravings. Leave that stuff at the door. Give yourself permission to explore your cravings as if you were doing a science experiment. Be curious and detached from results.
When you take a bite into the food you’re craving, be present with it, enjoy it, taste it fully, and savor the flavor. Notice how you feel while you’re eating it and after you’re done. This practice will help you become more aware of how it makes you feel (physically, emotionally and mentally), and empower you to decide if you really want to eat it the next time the craving pops up.
Find healthy alternatives.
It’s not uncommon for people to crave certain flavors and textures. Have you ever craved potato chips simply because you enjoy their crunchiness? Or have an overwhelming desire for something sweet because you love the taste? You can choose a healthier version of what you’re craving and skip the whole denial/guilt story all together.
For example, if you’re craving something sweet, treat yourself to a delicious bowl of fruit or sweet root vegetables. If it’s crunch that you’re after, grab a handful or nuts or make a batch of kale chips (they’re delicious, healthy, and known to be quite addictive. You’ve been warned!).
Regardless of what you’re cravings are, challenge yourself to see them as nuggets of gold, deep insights, and messages of love.
Free yourself from the guilt, shame and negative self-talk, and instead, aspire to satisfy the deepest cravings of your soul.