“One of the reasons people consume anything too much is because they don’t consume other things enough.” (Marianne Williamson, A Course In Weight Loss, 74).
When people ask me what they can do about their sugar cravings, I usually suggest that maybe they could look at where in their lives “sweetness” is missing. Some of them nod in recognition of a truth they had been avoiding, others become defensive and sometimes angry. Either way, I know I hit a nerve.
Although sometimes fighting cravings seems an unwinnable battle, these desires are actually not good nor bad. Cravings are instead wonderful indicators that something inside of us is out of balance. As emotional eaters, we have used food to numb out our feelings, so when they suddenly start calling our attention, we become scared and we fall into the automatic response that we have learnt to comfort ourselves in these cases: we go to food. We will invent one thousand excuses and justifications of why it is good to go ahead and use food to calm us down.
Whenever you are having cravings for those “comfort” foods you tend to go to when there’s some emotional stuff happening, take a deep breath and some time to think about what is triggering those cravings. Even if you do indulge in them, don’t miss the opportunity to understand yourself and identify what’s beneath them. Deconstructing cravings is a magical way to develop mastery over them. When you experience a craving, ask yourself, what does my body really want and why?
Some causes of cravings are:
1. Lack of “primary” food, that is to say, nurturance beyond food. For example, relationship issues, an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little or the wrong type), boredom, stress, an uninspiring job, or a lack of a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Food can be used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill a void.
2. Water. 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. For more tips on this topic, please go to my previous blogs “Our Bodies Many Cries for Water,” and “Please Stay Hydrated.”
3. Yin/yang imbalance. Certain foods have more expansive qualities (yin) while other foods have more contractive qualities (yang). 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).
4. 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.
5. Seasons. 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 raw fruit and veggies, 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.
6. 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 and sugar.
7. Hormones. When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings.
8. De-evolution. 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.
As we become more aware of the underlying emotions below the cravings–stuff repressed for so long–, that crystallized energy starts to melt down and bubble up to be released. Exactly the same as when we detox. Addressing our stored emotions IS a way of detoxing! Thus we de-program ourselves from years of automatic behaviors around emotional eating. That is why staying conscious and paying attention to the indicators that something’s out of kelter is so crucial. Stay aware and enjoy the journey!
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