Did you know that food cravings are not weaknesses at all. Instead, cravings could be your body sending you some pretty important information, maybe about other things in your life that you are missing. Here are eight different reasons that cravings could be what you feel, instead of what you need.
Number One: Lack of Primary things in your life. How are your primary relationships in life going? Maybe exercise is off-kilter like too much, or too little, maybe just the wrong kind and you need to change it up a little. Are you feeling bored, uninspired, in the wrong job, or is there an empty spot in your spiritual life? Sometimes these cause emotional eating, where we try to cope with situations by seeking balance in our lives through food. Kind of like a self-medicating, food provides a relief, an escape or sorts when we’re stressed. So, food can be a poor substitute for areas of your life that are important, but lacking. (see: Crockett, A. C., Myhre, S. K., & Rokke, P. D. (2015). Boredom proneness and emotion regulation predict emotional eating. J Health Psychol 20(5), 670–680. and Sinha, R., & Jastreboff, A. M. (2013). Stress as a common risk factor for obesity and addiction. Biol Psychiatry 73(9), 827–835.)
Number Two: Water, water, everywhere – but you aren’t drinking it. It’s true, staying hydrated provides your body with what it really needs, and reduces cravings. There’s no doubt that when your electrolyte balance is off because your fluid volume is low that your sodium levels are high, and your craving for water may come across as cravings for food. Conversely, intake of water with a meal will help you feel satisfied sooner and reduce the un-needed calories you eat. If you exercise hard, drink water – as much as ignoring water all day, sweating it out means electrolytes are either lost through sweat, or remain concentrated in a water-poor balance. (see: Corney, R. A., Sunderland, C., & James, L. J. (2016). Immediate pre-meal water ingestion decreases voluntary food intake in lean young males. Eur J Nutr 55(2), 815–819.)
Number Three: Energy (yin and yang) imbalances. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), foods can be identified as either yin (expansive) or yang (contractive). TCM theory posits that foods that are too yin or too yang can lead to cravings for the opposite so that balance can be maintained, similar to Western Medicine’s identification of “homeostasis,” or the body’s way of maintaining balance. In TCM, foods that are neutral (like grains, vegetables and beans) are preferable to extremes that can lead to cravings. Like – eating too much sugar (a yin food) can cause cravings for dense foods like meat (yang).
Number Four: Old emotions surfacing. Sometimes what we had as a child is the basis for cravings, especially when they’re hooked to happy, positive memories. Comfort food, anyone? Sometimes we try to create those positive experiences and seek the feelings of comfort that were provided when we were younger.
Number Five: ‘Tis the Season. Ever notice how your taste for certain foods changes with the seasons? We’re more apt to crave fruits, salads, raw foods, and cooler items that are lighter and satisfying in the summer time. In the cooler half of the year, maybe meat, cooked root vegetables, nuts, oil and fat are what we want – things that warm us up. Family gatherings at holiday times in Fall and Winter often have designated menu items that we look forward to and crave.
Number Six: What’s Missing is needed. If we’re not ingesting adequate amounts of certain minerals or other nutrients, we might have odd and inexplicable cravings. One answer to this deficiency is the body craving non-food items, like red clay. Commonly eaten during pregnancies, this is called “pica,” and is the non-concious way the body directs us to get the minerals or nutrients we need. (It can also be an eating disorder, but most of the time I have seen this as a nurse, is when it’s clay and pregnancy.)
Number Seven: Hormonal Disregulation. Menstuation, pregnancy, menopause, testosterone level changes and estrogen changes can also cause some unique cravings. When stress is high, hormones also respond from the stress reaction and can alter our cravings in odd ways.
Number Eight: What’s Old Comes Back – “Devolution.” Changes that we try to make don’t happen overnight with perfection and predictability. We unconciously revert to old habits unless we are practicing a constant awareness, which is almost impossible. It’s more important to be kind to yourself and realize that going off track every now and then is just going to happen. Like having that one cooking really doesn’t ruin the whole day and give you an excuse to just overeat the rest of the day. No! Acknowledge the mistake, make peace with yourself and do your best. The process of change isn’t perfect, and it’s the long term that matters.
Lizzie Bennett is an Advanced Holistic Nurse, Board Certified, RN, Whole Health thought leader, and Ordained Minister of some years. She is a Nurse Health Coach facilitator, and owns Three Moons Medicine™ as her private counselling and coaching practice, a blog, educational forum, Facebook page, and outreach to support others on their journey. Appointments, classes and structure learning experiences are available.
RNHA™ and Registered Nurse Health Advocate™ are intellectual property and service marks belonging to Lizzie Bennett, owner of Three Moons Medicine™
P.S. Maybe you want to take the deep dive and spend a whole year learning not only how to heal yourself, but help others, too? Be sure to check out my school and get information on becoming a health coach!