Be Light and Healthy

Giving Thanks For Your Cravings

Posted on: November 7, 2010

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”  W.T. Purkiser

Another year is slipping away, and the holiday season is upon us.  As Thanksgiving nears, thoughts of gratitude become more prevalent as we go about our days.  Have you ever thought of your cravings as blessings deserving of your gratitude?  Cravings are desires or yearnings that sometimes appear to be uncontrollable.  I always believed my cravings originated in my head.  In addition, I perceived them as bad until I learned to recognize and appreciate that they are messages from my body

Are you craving nutrients?  Your body wants you to be healthy and is always trying to pull you back into balance.  If your body is not getting the nutrients that it needs, it will send you messages indicating that it needs more food.  However, if you aren’t eating nutrient dense food, you may have trouble identifying that your body is craving healthy food.  Processed foods are calorie-dense and nutrient-deficient, which leads to weight gain and leaves our bodies hungry for nutrition.  Amazingly, as you incorporate healthy unprocessed foods into your diet, your body will begin to crave them.  Incorporating healthy foods into your diet will naturally crowd out unhealthy foods and ultimately help to diminish your cravings for processed foods and facilitate weight loss.  

Are you lacking primary food?  Joshua Rosenthal, founder of Institute for Integrative Nutrition, categorizes primary food as relationships, career, spirituality, and exercise – aspects of our lives that nourish our souls.  When these areas of our lives are unfulfilled, people sometimes turn to food to fill the void.  I miss my husband when he’s away on business, and it would be easy to slip into the habit of turning to food for comfort.  Instead, I use the time to connect with friends and family or incorporate more exercise into my routine.  If you find that you’re lacking this type of nourishment, ponder what changes you could make in your life to improve the quality of your primary foods. 

Are you craving water?  Sometimes dehydration is perceived as hunger.  If you’re not used to consuming water, it may sound strange to hear that people crave water.  I can attest to the fact that I often crave water.  When a craving occurs or when I just don’t feel my best, I’ve learned to pause and determine if it’s water that my body wants. 

Are you craving foods from your childhood or your ancestry?  We sometimes turn to foods that are familiar and comforting to us and often those are foods that we ate as children.  In addition, a major component of bio-individuality is ancestry.  It is likely that you will thrive by eating foods that were traditionally consumed by your ancestors, and this may be the source of some of your cravings.  Eating healthier versions of your childhood favorites or ancestral foods is one strategy for dealing with this type of craving. 

Is it a seasonal craving?  We sometimes forget that we are natural beings.  Our bodies may be craving locally grown, seasonal food in its attempt to synchronize with nature’s rhythm.  In the autumn people often crave winter squashes and root vegetables, and in the summer they often crave cooling fruits.  The holidays are another source of cravings, and many people look forward to the traditional foods shared annually with family and friends at holiday gatherings, such as a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  I actually have an unusual seasonal craving.  We keep the temperature in our house very low; consequently, I’m often cold.  I recently realized that sometimes I think I’m hungry when what I’m actually craving is warmth.  Turning up the heat is an easy solution to this craving.      

Are you craving energy?  If your body needs energy, you may crave caffeine or sugar when what you really need is sleep.  Reaching for coffee or a candy bar may boost your energy temporarily, but it will also deplete your body of minerals and nutrients.  A piece of fruit can satisfy your cravings for sugar and provide energy.  If you’re yearning for coffee, is it the caffeine you’re craving or possibly just a comforting, warm drink?  A craving for a warm drink could be satisfied without caffeine by drinking hot water, herbal tea, red tea, or Teecino

Is it a mental craving?  I consider using food to reward or comfort a mental craving.  In addition, it’s easy for a physical craving to morph into a mental craving when it’s fueled by negative thoughts.  When I used to become fixated on the idea of eating a particular food, I would feel like I was possessed by a demon until I had it.  Typically, these were foods that I had forbidden myself from eating.  I could not get what I was craving out of mind, and the more I focused on the thought, the stronger it became and the more I had to have it.  Even when I tried opting for something healthier, the intensity of my initial desire would not diminish until I got it.  When I got my hands on my chosen food, I would proceed to devour it with a complete lack of awareness, which meant that I neither tasted nor enjoyed the experience.  By denying myself the pleasure of indulging in this “banned” substance, I was punishing myself.  And of course, playing like background music in my head were those voices berating me for my lack of willpower.  This mental frenzy would often be the catalyst to a binge, and there was no telling how long one of those would last.  I’ve come to realize that when my head is trying to control my body, I have to get out of my head immediately.  Techniques that have worked for me include getting out of the kitchen, changing my thoughts, focusing on my heart, focusing on my breath, taking a walk, singing a song, dancing to music, meditating, or taking a nap – whatever allows me to release the attachment and move back into the moment with calmness and serenity.  In addition, changing those mean voices in my head to gentle, encouraging voices and speaking to myself like I would soothe a child served to comfort me.  As I incorporated these techniques into my life, these mental cravings dissipated; and I began to hear what my body was telling me.  And when I do consciously choose to indulge in a less healthy option, I savor eating it.  What I’ve learned is that by allowing myself to enjoy and savor a “forbidden” food by slowly chewing it, I often end up losing my desire for it.  I’m happy to report that I can’t remember the last time I had an uncontrollable mental craving. 

I invite you to acknowledge and accept your cravings.  When one strikes, pause for a moment and try to discern what this blessing from your body is trying to tell you.  You may be surprised to realize that you are truly grateful for these messages from your body and can use them to facilitate your transition to a happier, healthier life.  In addition, I invite you to sign up for weekly e-mail updates to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.

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