9 Popular Food Cravings And What They Say About Your Emotions
Rather than expressing our emotions, we tend to stuff them down with food, which our bodies translate as comfort and fulfillment.
Scientific research shows that when people have difficulty identifying the emotion they're experiencing and ways to deal with it, they're more prone to binge eating. The more readily we can express our emotions, the healthier our bodies, hearts and minds will be.
Cravings are a window to your inner landscape. By deciphering the real meaning of your cravings, you can get insight into what’s truly gnawing at you from within. These are some patterns I've noticed based on my 20 years of working as a health expert.
1. Baked sweets (pastries, cakes, candy, pies, etc.)
Sweet cravings are probably the most frequent craving people report to me. These people are often working too long and hard, moving from one to-do list item to another and feeling exhausted.
The real reason for this craving is they aren’t experiencing enough joy — it's evaporated into their daily grind.
Alternative: Find an activity you enjoy and can indulge in for 30 minutes per day. Try taking a walk in the park, reading a good book, or treating yourself to a foot massage. Once you begin to let yourself have joy in your life, you won’t be on the hunt for those sweet foods to do the trick.
Those who like spicy food, even to the point at which their eyes start tearing, are most likely looking for intensity and action in their lives.
They love to be on the go — going to movies, traveling to distant countries, exploring new restaurants. When they haven’t made the time to do these things, spicy food becomes the option to “get them going”.
Alternative: What are small steps that you can change to give you the shift you need to feel “alive”? Trying stepping out there and taking a dance class that you haven’t tried before, like Zumba, or even venturing out to the latest blockbuster action movie!
When we eat lots of salt, we move the water in our bodies. Salt is like a magnet for movement and flow, which is important for helping people to “go with the flow” of life and relax.
Alternative: Find ways that you can sink into the moments of life and reflect. Try deep breathing, running, or meditating. You may even want to try watercolor painting — using the water to flow with your creativity!
We want to be in the midst of it all, absorbing all the information we can, and remembering it so that we can be at the “forefront”. At the core of all this mental juggling, is mental exhaustion.
Caffeine gives the false impression of keeping it all together and being mentally sharp, but really, it exhausts us further — especially in excessive amounts.
Alternative: Rather than that next cup of coffee or soda, give your mind a break and get some extra rest. Try taking a nap or going to bed early, then you’ll really be able to concentrate.
5. Crunchy/crispy foods
Crunch, crunch. With every crunch, it’s a cry of “hey, look at me!”
Perhaps we're angry and want to “snap” back at someone, but feel restrained. We might also want a “pat” on the back for a job well done. Crunchy foods give us the artificial center stage.
Alternative: See if you can understand what you really want to say. Write in a journal and when you're ready, try to express what you've been bottling up in a manner that's a win-win for all.
Ah yes…chocolate. Chocolate enables us to be blanketed with a feel-good, in-love feeling like no other.
It actually contains compounds that change our brain activity, so it’s no surprise that we have these feelings.
Alternative: Take a deep breath and think about love in your life. How can you make changes to give and receive the love you need? Maybe you need to get or give a hug the next time a craving hits.
7. Soft, filling starches
Squishy, soft, and comforting. Starchy foods like bread, pasta, and even rice sound great when we need some hand-holding or hugs. We're seeking comfort and sustenance in hard times.
Alternative: Instead of bread, talk to a friend or join a support group. Put your momentum in the direction of making your life memorable with opportunities that are creative and health-promoting.
8. Ice cream
Our connection with ice cream often takes us back to childhood and memories of the summer. It imparts a feeling of freedom and being carefree. So when we're feeling hurt, we start lapping up the ice cream.
Alternative: List ways you can soothe and feel free in your daily life — like riding a bike or taking a bath and reflecting on simple ways to heal those deep hurts.
For those with any “mother” issues in your life, whether over-mothering or needing mothering, cheese has probably been calling out to you.
When we need to be nourished, both physically and emotionally, it makes sense that we crave cheese. Cheese is made from milk, the essence of maternal nourishment. Cheese provides a grounding, earthy protein to keep us anchored into the human body.
Alternative: Do you need some nurturing and connection? Find a community that's meaningful for you. Create a space within a personal tribe where you feel safe to express yourself and share your inner thoughts.
Deanna Minich, Ph.D., IFMCP is a nutrition professional and functional medicine doctor. She has a master's in human nutrition and metabolism from the University of Illinois at Chicago and doctorate in medical science and nutrition from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She has a wide range of experiences in the health field, including working in clinical practice, with food and lifestyle medicine, at dietary supplement companies, and teaching at universities and health institutes.
She has written four books on healing, food, and personal growth. She created the Food & Spirit program, to radically shift people’s relationship with food, eating, and living, and the Certified Food & Spirit Practitioner Program, to equip practitioners with a structured framework for bringing together the rainbow-colored seven aspects of the self in the therapeutic encounter for optimal healing.