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Cravings: Friend or Foe?

On December 4th, 2012

Recently, I read an article by Rupina Meer on cravings.  This is what was said and I agree that we should listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us.

By Rupina Meer

chocolate-cravingDid you know that cravings are important messages that are key to unlocking your body’s optimal vitality?  For example, as I watched the nightly news on television and absorbed scene after scene of mayhem and random acts of violence I felt compassion for those directly impacted by these events.  I also felt something else-a gnawing feeling of despair that instantly gave rise to a craving for dark, creamy chocolate.  After a few bites, my jaw unlocked and my shoulders dropped.  I was enveloped by a stream of cacao’s legendary feel-good endorphins and felt the clouds of depression lift.  Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

Often we are not craving a particular food but the emotion it creates.  Later that night, I had the same uplifting feeling from cuddling with my dog.  As I hugged him and looked into his liquid, brown eyes, I realized my earlier craving for chocolate had nothing to do with physical nutrition.  I was merely looking for some therapeutic touch.

In his ground-breaking book, Integrative Nutrition:  Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness, Joshua Rosenthal says, “food can fill you, but not fulfill you.”  He believes that often we are just looking for some Vitamin-L “L” standing for love, or a hug or even physical activity to evoke a certain emotion.  But we often misread these vital signs and choose to stuff our faces with the nearest comfort food.  For example, when we don’t sleep well, we often crave coffee to get us going and to mask weariness.  After a stressful day, many of us turn to something sweet to release the tension of the day.  We crave proteins such as eggs or steak in the morning which can leave us feeling heavy and bloated.  Do you see how we create a vicious cycle where we ricochet from sweet processed foods to animal fat?  From one extreme to another till our bodies and spirits are drained of energy.  And we repeat these unconscious patterns daily.

Cravings Are Not the Energy

Ask yourself, why is it so difficult to tame cravings?  And why do we want to tame them?  Many people view cravings as signs of weaknesses or byproducts of a flawed will power.  But in reality they are vital messages that the body sends out in an attempt to start a dialogue with ourselves.  They are messages too important to ignore.  We have this sophisticated bio-computer called the human body that never makes mistakes.  No matter how involved we are in the day-to-day madness of our lives, our hearts never skip a beat and our lungs diligently expand and contract to pump our life force.  Once we realize this, it’s easy to conclude that cravings are the body’s solution to underlying imbalances and food becomes the healing salve to regulate our current state.  It all comes down to building a trusting dialogue with our bodies.

Shh, Listen, Really Listen, to Your Cravings

We live in an era of “time poverty” where we’re hurtling through life, multi-tasking and being constantly stimulated by pressure.  Is it any wonder that we don’t take the time to slow down and actively listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us?  The next time you’re overcome with a strange craving, take three conscious breaths to get still, and really descend into the heart of your cravings and decode what your body is asking for.  Ask your body, “What is it you really want?”

Primary Causes of Cravings

You’ll find that most cravings fall into one of these categories:

  • Dehydration – Dehydration often masquerades as hunger.  Your body typically doesn’t send the message that you’re thirsty till you’re on the verge of dehydration.  The next time you’re overcome with a craving, try hydrating yourself with some pure water to see if that takes care of the underlying craving.
  • Lifestyle – Often we eat because we are craving entertainment.  If you’re bored, try to deal with the issue directly rather than distracting yourself with snacks.  We often eat because we’re starving for love, affection or fulfillment.  Touch can be therapeutic.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a hug when you need it.  Dysfunctional relationships, unfulfilling jobs, lack of a spiritual practice, not having regular physical exercise or too much exercise are all triggers for emotional eating.
  • Yin/Yang Imbalance – Green veggies and fruits have an airy, light, expansive quality that makes the body feel light.  They also cool the body and may spark cravings for heavier, warming foods, such as red meat or cheese.  This is simply the ancient wisdom of the yin-yang philosophy in play.  This is the dance between two opposites that are the complementary forces the body uses to maintain balance.
  • Conditioned Responses – Your body wants what it’s used to.  If you recently indulged in a Chicago style deep dish pizza, your body will likely crave the gooey cheesiness a few days later.  You’ll also often experience cravings for foods routinely consumed in your childhood or by your ancestors.  The trick is to reach out for less extreme or healthier version of that food.  For example, think dark chocolate instead of M&Ms.  Another tip is to pay attention to food labels.  You may think that you’re doing your body good by eating oatmeal in the morning, but most commercial oatmeal brands have as much as 25 grams of sugar which will likely create a rebound sugar craving in the mid-afternoon.
  • Seasonal – Cravings for sweets can often be associated with the holiday season while the summer time often gives rise to cravings for cooling sweets such as ice cream.
  • Hormonal fluctuations – Menstruation, pregnancy or menopause often cause fluctuating levels of testosterone, progesterone and estrogen levels that may cause unusual cravings.
  • Self-sabotage – Often when things are going really well, we experience a self-sabotage syndrome.  We all like to fit in and sometimes cave in to peer pressure to go out and indulge in nutritionally-devoid foods and drinks that we normally avoid.

Ignore the outside world and listen to those innate whispers of wisdom from within.  They are always trying to make us feel better by urging us to eat foods that will melt our physical tension, give us more energy and brighten our moods.  You will realize that the answer to every problem is wrapped in the problem itself.  We only have to stop resisting and decode the message.

HealthKeepers Magazine April 2012

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