How Your Cravings Can Help You Reach Your Goal Weight

mbg Contributor By Jennifer Hand
mbg Contributor
Jenn Hand is a food coach, blogger, speaker, and retreat leader at Jenn Hand, LLC, helping clients overcome their struggles around food. She has a bachelor's in communications, advertising, and public relations from Penn State University, and currently lives in the Greater Denver area.
Medical review by Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN
Registered Dietitian
Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, INHC is a registered dietitian, health coach, and writer with a passion for helping people streamline their wellness routine and establish a balanced relationship with food and exercise.
How Your Cravings Can Help You Reach Your Goal Weight

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For almost half my life I battled my body and my food cravings. I thought knowing more about nutrition and educating myself on the "consequences" of a poor diet would be my ticket into a world of freedom around food.

I believed knowledge was power; the more I knew about nutrition, the less I would crave things that were "bad" for me.

I spent two years in a graduate program, studying nutrition and spending all of my spare time absorbing as much information as I could about plant-based health, minerals/vitamins, and how they affect the body as well as processed foods and the impact they have on our biochemistry.

At the same time I was studying nutrition, I was also knee-deep in a battle with disordered eating. I knew I "should" be implementing what I was learning: eating more plant-based foods; consuming tons of vegetables and fewer animal protein; and eating fresh, whole meals.

But the reality was that I still craved candy from my co-worker's candy dish, something salty every afternoon, and chocolate after dinner. I would try to eat "perfectly" during the day, but by nighttime, I was spooning ice cream into my mouth from the pint.

I went to war on my cravings. I thought if I could just learn more about nutrition, my cravings would fall by the wayside.

That's why cravings are so important—you're not meant to battle and resist them, you're meant to listen to them.

It took me years to realize this didn't work. My weight fluctuated dramatically during this time, as I would commit to "clean eating" for a month, lose the weight, then binge for weeks afterward.

It wasn't until I actually started to listen to my cravings that my weight naturally began to stabilize. I let go of my hard-fought battle and began to understand that my cravings were trying to tell me something.

Instead of fighting my cravings, I befriended them. I sought to understand what they were trying to tell me. And my entire world changed. I began to experience the freedom I thought a degree in nutrition would give me.

I started to crave sweets LESS when I addressed the underlying issues. My diet improved gradually and naturally as a result of tuning into what my body was trying to tell me.

And that's why cravings are so important. You're not meant to battle and resist them. You're meant to listen to them. For example, if you’re craving red meat, you’re likely low in iron; if you’re craving carbs during the winter, your serotonin levels are probably low because there’s less sunlight. Whatever the craving, here are three things to remember when you face one:

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1. A craving may mean you're missing something in your diet.

A strong craving may be a signal that your body is missing an important nutrient. Intense cravings can point to a nutritional deficiency within the body.

We're born with innate body wisdom; our bodies know what they need to operate from a place of balance. But we often mistrust that wisdom and don't listen to what our bodies say.

A craving can be a sign that something important is missing from your diet.

  • Cravings for sweets can mean you aren't getting enough protein in your diet (the more protein you have, the less sugar you’ll crave).
  • Chocolate cravings can often signal a magnesium deficiency (eat more nuts, seeds, fish, and leafy greens).
  • Cravings for salty snacks may point to a hydration problem (drink more water).
  • A midafternoon craving can signal low blood sugar (don't go more than four hours without eating to keep your blood sugar even).

Our cravings aren't bad and they don't mean something is wrong with us. They simply mean your body is trying to tell you something.

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2. When you're craving something, it's a sign to go deeper.

So many of our cravings are in response to emotional needs. If you aren't experiencing a nutrient deficiency, cravings are often a cry for comfort, love, nourishment, or self-care.

We're craving chips because we need something crunchy to alleviate our work stress. We want ice cream at night because the smooth, creamy texture seems to take away our overwhelm. We want wine after dinner because the more wine we have, the less we worry about the issues we don't know how to resolve in our family.

Look deeper at your emotional life to see how you can satisfy yourself on a deeper level. If what you want is relief from anxiety, no food will ever be able to solve the real issue. Cravings are a sign to go deeper into your life to see how you can nourish yourself.

3. The body never lies.

Respecting our cravings is a sign that we trust our bodies. It may take time to discern between a physical issue and an emotional one, but it's worth exploring. Because the more you acknowledge your cravings instead of fighting, ignoring, or resisting them, the more likely you are to get to the root of what's causing the craving in the first place.

Cravings aren't something to fear, and it doesn't mean we don't have any willpower. It just means your body is trying to communicate with you.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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