What Your Cravings are trying to Tell You
Food cravings are communication signals from our body. They tell us we are a little, or sometimes a lot, out of balance and give us rich clues about how to rebalance ourselves. Learning to interpret the information cravings present is part of keeping ourselves well. While no two bodies are alike, and cravings strike people at different times, there are some common causes and when you know what they are, it makes it much easier to manage them and keep yourself healthy. Here are some of the most common reasons why we experience cravings. Some of them may surprise you!
Why we Crave (what we crave)
1) Dehydration, which presents itself as a mild form of hunger, is the most common cause of food cravings. The Catch-22; by the time you experience thirst, you are already dehydrated. So, the next time you’re thinking, “I’d kill for a KitKat,” have a glass of water, wait 10 minutes and the urge to kill may have subsided.
2) Lifestyle factors – I am craving X because I am feeling Y – examples include…
stress, boredom, lack of physical activity, eating as self-medication or entertainment. When you are reaching for that bag of chips or candy, ice cream, ask yourself, what am I really hungry for? Is it contact, connection, quiet? We have the tools to give ourselves what we need if we stop and check in first…before opening the frig for answers.
3) Cravings can be caused by an imbalance in recent eating, i.e, salty foods over a day or so can lead to sugar cravings. Seasonal changes have us craving heavier, warm foods in winter and cool foods in summer.
4) Cravings can be caused by a lack of nutrients in the body or inadequate nutrition overall. An increase in the hormone ghrelin (our “hungry” hormone) can become a run-away train when we are not eating nutritious food (think diets high in junk food, highly processed foods, fast foods, foods low in dietary fiber). These foods keep ghrelin fired up which puts us behind the wheel of chronic cravings for high fat foods. FIBER is your single best tool to break this cycle and give your body the chance to re-balance and get the nutrition it needs.
5) Monthly hormonal cravings. Need I say more? Well, yes, I should say that (menstrual) hormone driven cravings are real. They are powered by fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone and even mild insulin spikes during PMS and your menstrual cycle. For a lot of women, this causes cravings for energy and mood boosting foods, (like chocolate) which increases serotonin and dopamine – the brain chemicals that help elevate our mood and calm us. So, in this case, go with it (in moderation) along with a healthy dose of extra sleep, a hot bath, and some primrose or chaste berry tea.
So, before you reach for that candy bar, cupcake, bag of chips or…
Stop, get yourself a glass of water and do a little detective work before you make your next move – ask yourself...
- Is this / was this just thirst?
- Am I craving (actual) food or something else? In other words…
- What am I really hungry for?
- What have I recently eaten that may need balancing out?
- What is the healthiest choice I can make for myself right now?
Sometimes the best way to answer a craving IS with chocolate or chips - and sometimes it isn’t. But know this:
You don’t have live at the mercy of cravings
When you know the WHY behind your craving, you can make better decisions around satisfying it…and yourself.
To find out more about what specific food cravings mean for you and your health (i.e. sugar, fat, salt) check out part 2 of this blog series, "De-Coding your Cravings, What we Crave (and What it Means) published on July 3, 2018.