I was just back from meeting with my divorce lawyer, and I wanted a chocolate chip cookie. A big one. One of those cookies that’s as big as your face, and really counts as a whole meal. And a glass of milk. Real milk. Like from a cow.
But I was vegan (not just a vegan, but a three-time vegan cookbook author) and supposedly a “health expert” and couldn’t allow myself to indulge.
I was stressed to the max as I was now a single mom, and every time I turned on the TV I was at risk of seeing my soon-to-be-ex-husband’s face. (Being involved with a famous dude has its pluses and minuses, I can tell you!)
I was so angry with my body for wanting a cookie and milk.
Why would you do this to me! What’s wrong with you!? I silently shouted.
And over time I learned, as so many teachers who need to learn what they’re teaching, that my cravings were telling me so much. It took support, curiosity and a little time, but I figured it out.
We hate our cravings, and therefore our bodies, from where all cravings are born.
Yet what we don’t see, what we don’t feel, is that our cravings are living, breathing messages from our true selves.
Here are the three root causes of cravings, and how you can begin to answer them:
1. You may not be getting enough nutrients.
Many cravings are your body simply asking for what it needs. Ever feel hungry? That’s a craving for food when you need nourishment. Is that bad? Of course not. Being hungry is wonderful! It means you need sustenance to survive.
A craving for salty food could be a nutritional need for more minerals. Adding sea salt, which is richer in a wide variety of minerals than white, refined table salt, can boost your mineral reserves. Sea vegetables, like dulse, kelp and nori are packed with minerals. Added to your lunch and dinner in small amounts, sea veggies can quiet the urge for salt as the mineral reserves have been filled. Hemp and chia seeds are also tiny power house mineral-rich foods. And they’re easy to carry around or keep at work.
A craving for sugar is often a craving for energy as your brain burns through the glucose in your body pretty quick when you’re juggling commuting, parenting, working, and Facebook. Often when we’re trying to “be good” or lose weight, we starve ourselves of carbohydrates (think Paleo and low-carb diets), which encourage our body to convert fat and protein into the glucose our brain needs.
Yet, when you attempt this sort of diet plan during a very stressful life period, without emotional support, the strain can be too much and we default to eating sugar.
Look at your diet as a whole – are you eating a wide variety of mineral rich foods? Are you getting enough calories? Where can you add more long-lasting, nourishing foods as condiments like sea veggies, hemp, chia seeds, or berries?
2. Your body is craving a physical change (such as resting or stretching).
Have you ever wanted chocolate between 3pm and 4pm? Oh, every day? Yeah, join the club! This craving is often a signal that you're tired from a full day of work. Your brain and body need to either rest or move.
When you next get that craving, I want you to close your eyes for 10 seconds. How does your body feel? Is it tired? Anxious? How does it really want to feel? Do your eyes need a rest? Would a 5-10 minute nap in your car or putting your head down on your desk with eyes closed feel amazing?
Or perhaps you want to get up and stretch! Move around! Take a 10-minute walking break outside or even in the stairway in your building. Sitting all day is so bad for us!
Your body knows this. It wants to move, feel alive and free. Give it what it wants. Move now!
3. Your body is craving food because it's processing deep emotions.
What about those cravings that pop up because you’d rather eat than feel the message from your body? How does the craving feel? Could it actually be grief, anger, frustration, or shame?
So many of our cravings are actually physical manifestations of an emotional issue. Have you been ignoring your feelings, pushing through to try to ignore the sadness?
In my own life, I experienced huge sugar cravings when going through my divorce. Other cravings, like popcorn on the couch for dinner, were very strong when I was considering going back to dating again. And again, when my mom died, cheese and dairy products were all I wanted, a signal that I longed for comfort.
Your cravings mean something. They aren’t bad, and you’re not weak for having them. Begin to look at and listen to them. Feed them in a way you're comfortable with when it's necessary and address the underlying cause of the craving so that you can move on!
Your cravings are your guide to your best life, and a body you love. In fact, I believe they are the only way to true health.
What you crave, you are.
What you crave, you need.