Control Those Crazy Cravings
We all experience cravings, but we never really stop to ask, “What do these cravings mean? What is my body trying to tell me?” Our bodies are a very powerful, smart tool and send important messages to us daily, letting us know when to eat, when to sleep and even when to use the restroom.
Therefore, when a craving hits us –whether it’s for fried food or chocolate—that’s usually our body’s way of telling us something is up.
Sugar cravings are the most common type, as humans are naturally inclined to crave sweets. Unfortunately, it’s often in the forms of ice cream, candy or other processed, un-natural varieties. (Think high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners)
When your sweet tooth hits, I recommend:
- Reducing or eliminating caffeine
- Upping your H2O
- Loading up on naturally sweet fruits and vegetables like yams, berries, beets, squash and carrots
- Using natural sweeteners like honey, agave, and maple syrup instead of the common refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and the likes
- Stay active, even if it means just going for a walk around your neighborhood!
- Getting enough sleep, that is approximately 8 hours a night or as much as your body needs to stay rejuvenated and energized for the next day
- Reading the labels: Check the sugar content on your favorite foods! Often times, it sneaks its way into salad dressing, condiments and even bread. Also, stay away from low-fat or fat-free varieties, which often add sugar to make up for the lack in flavor
- Play with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom (all great for the fall), which naturally sweeten food and help reduce cravings. Add spices into your morning oatmeal, coffee or homemade sauces for an extra flavor boost.
- Enjoy healthier versions of your favorite desserts like frozen berries with Greek yogurt, homemade oatmeal cookies or these delicious No Bake gluten free, vegan brownie balls (Note: at the workshop, I adjusted this recipe by using walnuts instead of almonds, agave instead of honey, a blend of cacao/cocoa powder, and I and added a touch of cinnamon)
Now that we’ve covered sugar cravings, we’ll go over some of the top causes of cravings, whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or a thing for fried food.
Here are the top 8 causes of cravings to be on the lookout for:
1. Lifestyle: Many of us assume cravings are food-related, but we also need to take a look at the other areas in our lifestyle. Are you in an unhealthy relationship? Are you stressed out or bored from your job? Do you have an inappropriate exercise routine? When we’re not fulfilled in these areas, we resort to emotional eating as a substitute. Maybe you just need a new outlook on your job, a long walk or even a hug. Take a look at your own lifestyle to see which areas could use a little help.
2. Are you getting enough water? When we’re dehydrated, our body gets completely out of whack, which can lead to unhealthy cravings among a number of other issues. Next time you’re craving ice cream at night, have a glass of water first and then reassess those cravings 20 minutes later.
3. Dietary Imbalances: Make sure your diet is as balanced as possible. When we eat too many raw, cooling foods, we tend to crave warm, high-fat foods to balance our diet out. For example, a diet extremely high in sugar can cause cravings for meat. Make sure you aren’t getting too little or too much of any one food, and opt for a wholesome, balanced diet.
4. Childhood Favorites: We tend to crave foods we ate frequently growing up, as they remind us of our childhood, often providing a sense of security and comfort. Unfortunately, these foods are most likely those “comfort foods” such as macaroni and cheese or grandma’s famous chocolate cake. For me, it’s my mothers homemade Chicken Divan (which is packed with lots of fat, cheese and added ingredients). A good way to deal with these cravings is by making a healthier version of these childhood favorites, by making your own sauce, using fresh ingredients and cutting back on mayonnaise, cheese and salt. This way, you can enjoy your favorite meals without sacrificing taste!
5. Seasonal Cravings: As the seasons change, so do our cravings. We may crave ice cream to cool us off in the summer, or heavy gravy and stews to warm our souls in the winter. Pay attention to these signals, and give your body what it needs in healthier ways like roasting up some squash or using sweet potatoes instead of loading up on mashed potatoes. Also, be mindful during the holidays, a time where many of us pack on extra pounds by overdoing it in sweets and comfort foods.
6. Lack of nutrients. When we are nutritionally deprived, we develop strange cravings. For example, when we aren’t getting enough minerals, our body produces salt cravings. To help alleviate these cravings, be sure to get a diet rich in leafy greens and sea vegetables, and replace your processed table salt with an all-natural sea salt. Hint: Sea salt should be pink, grey or off white; white salt means it was refined, or stripped from all its beneficial minerals.
7. Hormone Changes: This one is more for the ladies! When women go through pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause, hormones fluctuate sending confusing signals to our body. That’s why you often see pregnant women craving pickles, or women experiencing PMS going for the chocolate bars. I recommend relaxing in natural ways with yoga, herbal tea or a hot bath. Also, make sure you are getting enough magnesium in the forms of food (like nuts and seeds) or with a supplement if need be.
8. Keep Your Blood Sugar In Check: Dying for a candy bar around 3 p.m. at the office? Do you eat an entire bag of chips when you’re bored? Load up on soda when you’re feeling sluggish? This could be a sign that your blood sugar levels are low, in turn relying on sweets or processed food for a natural pick-me-up. Be sure to bring healthy snacks with you to work, like homemade trail mix, unsalted nuts, or apples with natural nut butter. This can manage your blood sugar levels, while keeping mood swings at bay.
Rachel Chemerynski is a Boston-based Certified Holistic Health Counselor and founder of Zesty Living, a health counseling business focused on stress relief, energy, weight loss and “getting your zest back.” Join her for monthly workshops at Fitness Together North End on the second Wednesday of each month.