What Are Your Cravings Telling You?
Ever experienced cravings? I definitely have. They were incessant. I knew the multitude of sugar treats were not good for me, but I would always say, ‘tomorrow will be better.’ Tomorrow came. It wasn’t any better. The mind is powerful, and my persuasion was great. The cravings would derail any rational, logical thinking. Ever been there?
When I look back at this time in my life, I was not happy. I was constantly looking for happiness externally and I definitely buried my sadness in food—specifically sugar. The more I gave into my cravings, the more I put my body in a nutrient-deficit state, which fueled more cravings.
Cravings are powered by emotions and exacerbated by nutrient deficiencies, creating a vicious circle that is hard to exit. They are multi-faceted, but once understood and accepted can lead to a healthier you.
I don’t believe it is a lack of information that leads to cravings—there’s a lot of information about nutrition available to us—but rather a lack of understanding as to what is fueling the cravings and how they affect our bodies.
Suppressing your emotions with food is like throwing mulch on your garden to cover the weeds. At first, it may seem okay, but over time the weeds find their way up through the mulch, and you are soon looking for more.
Craving certain foods can be the body’s way of saying it is looking for a specific vitamin and/or mineral to propel the functions of the body in an optimal way. However, it can also be a way to deal with the problems we are facing in our everyday life or the fear of something or someone we are trying to control. The two become intertwined and a mighty force to stop.
What causes cravings
Exercising more or skipping meals will not undo the damage of cravings because it is not just about calories. Understanding the drive behind the cravings is important.
I remember when I had an exceptionally hard day emotionally, I couldn’t wait to put the kids to bed and sit in front of the TV with some sort of sweet treat. Then it was like for a moment everything was OK.
The reason for this moment of bliss was endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters, produced by our central nervous system that decrease our perception of pain. They are also known as opioid peptides and can create a feeling of happiness. Endorphins can be released after exercising—the mechanism behind “runner’s high.” Certain foods can also elicit these same feelings by creating an “opiate-like” effect on our brain.
A combination of being nutrient-deficient from eating foods lacking in vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and fibre, being emotionally deflated by the stresses we encounter, and functioning with minimal sleep for a long period of time, creates the perfect environment for our cravings to take control.
What to do about your cravings
To deal with cravings, you need to identify—and address—the reason behind the cravings in the first place. Here are some things to explore:
If you’re stressed, do you need to put a relaxation routine in places, such as meditation in the mornings, or yoga classes to deal with stresses from home, family or work?
Is sleep an issue for you? Try creating a night-time routine that allows for the body to unwind and relax before going to sleep. Refraining from eating two hours before bed is important as well.
Are you dealing with emotions that are reflective of past experiences? Sometimes having a non-biased third party, such as a counsellor, to help you navigate the emotions is helpful. So is allowing support from friends and family.
Are you consuming whole, nutrient-dense foods?
Changing everything all at once can be frustrating and stressful. Taking small steps to change your lifestyle slowly will be more effective. The following suggestions can be incorporated at your own pace:
- Increase your veggie intake to 8-10 servings per day
- Increase the number of good fats you are consuming (avocados, fish oil, nuts/seeds, coconut oil, organic butter)
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day
- Increase the amount of high-quality protein you consume with each meal or snack (including plant-based proteins).
Cravings can be a way to comfort us, but the long-term damage will bring further stresses.
As someone who was absolutely handcuffed by cravings, I know how crippling they can be. I also know that when you heal your mind and body, the cravings disappear.
At the end of the day, we all have the insight, wisdom and compassion to guide us through any circumstance, if we trust and allow our journey to unfold the way it needs to for us….not the way we want it to.