The body is amazing. It knows when to go to sleep, when to wake up, and when to go to the bathroom. It maintains a temperature of 98.6 degrees, repairs itself when wounded, and knows the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth. Your heart never misses a beat. Your lungs are always breathing. The body is a super computer, and it never makes mistakes.
So, lately I had been craving sugar… well not overtly, but I had found myself eating more sweet foods (foods with sweeteners like dates and rice malt syrup in them). I was thinking… what is going on?!
When this happens we need to look at the foods, deficits, and behaviors in our lives that are the underlying causes of our cravings. Many people view cravings as weakness, but really they are important messages meant to assist you in maintaining balance. When you experience a craving, deconstruct it. Ask yourself, what does my body want and why? For me it was hormonal and climate… My body adjusting after my India trip.
So while this is a longer blog, find what stands out to you, and then scroll to the call to actions at the end to help with kicking your cravings.
LACK OF PRIMARY FOOD
Being dissatisfied with a relationship or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little, or the wrong kind), being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Eating can be used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of primary food.
Lack of water can send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water. Excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.
Certain foods have more yin qualities (expansive), while other foods have more yang qualities (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings in order to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods or vice versa.
INSIDE COMING OUT
Often times, cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods from our childhood. A clever way to satisfy these cravings is to eat a healthier version of one’s ancestral or childhood foods. See my healthier version of nan’s lemon slice recipe here, for an example.
Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, people crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw foods, and ice cream, and in the fall people crave grounding foods like squash, onions, and nuts. During winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil, and fat. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays, for foods like turkey, eggnog, or sweets.
LACK OF NUTRIENTS
If the body has inadequate nutrients, it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine.
When women experience menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and oestrogen levels may cause unique cravings.
When things are going extremely well, sometimes a self-sabotage syndrome happens. We crave foods that throw us off, thus creating more cravings to balance ourselves. This often happens from low blood sugar and may result in strong mood swings.
So what do we do about it?!
HOW TO KICK YOUR CRAVINGS
REDUCE OR ELIMINATE CAFFEINE
The ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar swings, and may cause sugar cravings to become more frequent.
Sometimes cravings are a sign of dehydration. Before you go for the sugar, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see what happens.
EAT SWEET VEGETABLES AND FRUIT
They are naturally sweet, healthy, and delicious. The more you eat, the less you’ll crave sugar.
AVOID CHEMICALISED, ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS AND FOODS WITH ADDED SUGAR
Use gentle sweeteners like maple syrup, brown rice syrup, dried fruit, stevia, and barley malt. Eliminate fat-free or low-fat packaged snack foods. These foods contain high quantities of sugar to compensate for lack of flavour and fat, which will send you on the roller coaster ride of sugar highs and lows.
GET PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Start with simple activities like walking or yoga. Start with 10 minutes a day and gradually increase. Being active helps balance blood sugar levels, boosts energy, and reduces tension which will eliminate the need to self-medicate with sugar!
GET MORE SLEEP, REST, AND RELAXATION
Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, are the most readily usable forms of energy for an exhausted body and mind. If you are in a chronic state of stress and/or sleep deprivation, your body will crave the quickest form of energy there is – sugar.
EVALUATE THE AMOUNT OF ANIMAL FOOD YOU EAT
According to yin-yang principles of eating (such as in Macrobiotics and Traditional Chinese Medicine), eating too much animal food (yang) can lead to cravings for sweets (yin). Imbalances can also occur with too little animal protein (for some individuals). Through experimentation and intuition, you can find which foods create balance for you as an individual.
EXPERIMENT WITH SPICES
Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and reduce cravings.
SLOW DOWN AND FIND SWEETNESS IN NON-FOOD WAYS!
Every craving is not a signal that your body biologically requires sugar. Cravings often have a psychological component. By identifying the psychological causes of food cravings and substituting lifestyle and relationship adjustments accordingly, you can begin to find balance and take charge of your health. When life becomes sweet enough itself, no additives are needed!
USE A TONGUE CLEANER AND OIL PULLING
Tongue cleaners are simple and inexpensive yet completely transformative. They are usually thin, U-shaped devices made of stainless steel or plastic, consisting of a blunt edge that removes build-up from the surface of the tongue. Dentists throughout the world recommend the tongue cleaner because it helps fight cavities by removing bacteria from food and drink. The tongue cleaner also prevents bad breath, especially common in people who eat a lot of dairy and red meat. This tool reduces excess mucus in the mouth, and in turn the nose and throat.
Cleaning the tongue of leftover food and bacteria reduces cravings greatly. When the taste of food is still in your mouth, you’re more likely to crave foods from the opposite extreme of what you last ate. For example, if you had an intensely savoury meal, you’re more likely to crave strong sweets. Tongue cleaners re-sensitise your taste buds, allowing you to experience subtle flavours more fully. This makes basic foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables taste more delicious than ever. These simple foods will begin to bring you greater satisfaction, leading you to eat less. Last, but certainly not least, tongue cleaning enhances kissing by making the tongue more fresh, sensitive, and sweet. If you’re in a relationship, try tongue scraping two times a day after brushing your teeth, and encourage your partner to do the same. You’ll probably notice a dramatic difference!
When swished around in the mouth, the antibacterial properties of oil pull out bacteria and fungus, alleviating inflammation, congestion, and even allergies. It squelches bad breath, bleeding gums, cavities, gingivitis, plaque, and sensitive teeth, and moistens the mouth, lips, and throat. Oil pulling is even said to relieve stomach issues such as ulcers, improve kidney function, and kill strep throat bacteria.
Crowding out is about adding things in instead of taking things out. What is happening is that we are eating more food with less nutrients. Our food is nutrient void. Therefore we continue to eat more and more of the nutrient void food in an attempt for our body to get what it needs to have energy and function. Instead these foods are full of sugar salt and oil, so we are gaining weight, but not health. Those of you familiar with my work have heard me say –think green. Should be simple, its my name and business name. For me its green leafy veggies. At breakfast lunch and dinner. Some kale in my smoothies, or on my hummus and sauerkraut bread and always with my dinner, be in spinach, kale, broccoli or silverbeet. Maybe for you it is caffeine. Perhaps have a glass of water before your coffee. See if you still crave it. Or eat a banana before reaching for the sweet biscuit and wait 30 seconds. Are you still craving that sweet biscuit?
Call to action
Stop and think about your cravings, what foods do you crave?
Check in with yourself before you make a decision. Are you thirsty? Craving some form of primary food?
How can you help your cravings?
Experiment with tongue cleaning and oil pilling. You can purchase a tongue scraper off eBay for a dollar or so.
Be aware of how the Circle of Life affects your cravings. Are you satisfied with career? Relationships? Physical activity? Relationships?
I would love to hear from you. Click reply or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts/questions