Food cravings can indicate many things, some as simple as hunger or thirst. But they can also be a sign of something deeper. If your diet is lacking in nutrients, for example, you might crave foods that replenish those vitamins and minerals.
Food cravings can indicate that you're not feeling emotionally supported, and you what you might need is acceptance, pleasure or love. Cravings can also be sensory-driven, creating intense urges for a physical sensation such as crunchiness, or cold, for example.
When your body tells you need water, fruit, greens, or freshly cooked grains, heed these messages! Your body is telling you to find nourishment and sustenance. But if you're constantly feeling the need for sugary, salty and fatty foods, read on to learn the how and why of these frustrating cravings—and how to deal with them healthfully!
Where do cravings come from?
A high calorie, low nutrient-dense diet based on processed foods doesn't allow your body to get the proper nutrition it needs. An unbalanced diet like this can cause hormonal and blood sugar fluctuations, which leave us feeling deprived.
Many of our cravings are for processed foods (made of processed oils, sugars, salt and chemicals), which send messages to our brain leading to addiction of sugary and salty foods.
Rather than thinking about how to cure food cravings, think instead about how to really nourish your body.
Unconsciously we associate “good feelings” with food. As a child, you were probably rewarded with food. Be a good girl and you’ll get a cookie! So we're lead to believe that it’s OK to “treat” ourselves with junk food as adults. This unconsciously leads us to react in unhealthy eating patterns.
Advertising tells us we’ll be sexy, rich and happy if we consume their sugary, salty snacks. Unless we’re thinking critically about these deceptive ads, we begin to buy into the notion that unhealthy food will make us feel good. And while junk can make us feel good in the moment, these foods do not nourish our bodies and can have hurt our health.
How can you put an end to cravings?
When a craving rears its ugly head, here are questions to ask yourself. (These can be posted on your fridge or cabinet door to help you every time a craving strikes.)
1. What is my hunger level?
On a scale of 1 to 10, ask yourself how hungry you really are. You can do this simply by paying attention to physical sensations you feel in your body that are letting you know if you’re body needs food… or something else entirely.
2. What have I eaten today?
Consider what you’ve already consumed and how much. Think about protein, carbohydrates, fats, hydration, etc. Try to learn about what your body might be lacking and try to fulfill that deficiency first.
3. What is my mood?
Hone in on your emotional status. Are you feeling overwhelmed, tired, angry, unsupported? Food will only make you feel better short-term. Get support from others or find healthier ways to cope in these moments.
4. What are my options?
Along with these questions post a list of alternative things you can do that are healthy choices. Examples include going for a walk, playing with your pet, sipping tea, asking for a hug, chewing gum, taking a nap, or simply tuning in to some quiet time. If none of these options will help, check the Sensory Swap graph below for some alternatives to common cravings.
<strong>What are you Craving? </strong><strong>Examples </strong><strong>Try instead…</strong>
Chewy Cookies, brownies Oatmeal bars, dried fruit
Bubbly Soda, beer, Champagne Kombucha, water kefir, sparkling water; Crunchy Chips, crackers Crisp veggies like carrot sticksCold Ice cream; Milk shakes Frozen bananas, smoothies Creamy Pudding; Creamed soups Greek yogurt, avocadosTangy Salad dressing; Ketchup Lemon juice, salsa
5. Could I be satisfied with just half of what I was planning to eat?
You might decide that it feels right to give in to the craving this time, but that doesn’t mean you have to sabotage your health. Try eating a smaller portion of the food you’re craving. If you really must have a cookie, would half a cookie be enough?
Keep in mind the goal here is to eliminate shame around eating and getting your needs met. So even if you get through all these questions but decide you really, really do need a cookie and not a nap, just know that it’s not the end of the world. You now have an opportunity to make healthier choices for the rest of the day.
Ultimately, if you’re eating a well balanced meal with the right nutrition for your body then cravings won’t be a common thing for you.
Cortney Harden, MSW, RH is the owner of Mindful Wellness and is passionate about helping others explore their own personal power. Cortney offers affordable mind-body services to help you reach your wellness goals. Based on the Island of Oahu but also offering virtual sessions, her approach is to help you make mindful actions that are in line with your personal values and commitments to self. She believes everyone has the right to create a healthy and balanced life that is meaningful to them. Schedule a Free Consultation today!