Cravings: Friend or Foe?
We’re quick to vilify cravings and aim to crush those pesky urgings as quickly as they rear their ugly heads with herculean will power. But if you descend into the heart of your cravings, you’ll find that they’re vital messages that are key to unlocking your body’s optimal vitality…
Cravings Are Not the Enemy
Why is it so difficult to tame the beast of our cravings? And why do we want to tame them? Many people view cravings as 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 us. Messages that are 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 that, it’s easy to conclude that cravings are the body’s solution to underlying imbalances. It all comes down to building a trusting dialogue with our bodies, instead of labeling cravings as the evil enemy that needs to be vanquished or ignored.
Shh, Listen. Really Listen, To your Cravings
We’re typically hurtling through life at 95 mph. 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, try taking three conscious breaths to get still, and really descend into the heart of your cravings to decode what your body is really asking for.
Primary Causes of Cravings
You’ll find that most cravings fall into one of these categories:
Dehydration: your body typically doesn’t send the message that you’re thirsty till you’re on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration often masquerades as hunger, so the next time you’re overcome with a craving, try hydrating yourself with a full glass of spring water and wait 15-30 minutes to see if that takes care of the underlying craving—you’ll find this often does the trick.
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 could also be starving in the areas of love, affection or fulfillment. Touch can be so therapeutic, so 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. It’s simply the ancient wisdom of the yin-yang philosophy in play–the dance between two opposite yet complementary forces that the body uses to maintain balance.
Conditioned Responses: your body wants what it is used to. If you recently indulged in a deep dish pizza, your body will likely crave the ooey gooey cheesiness the next day. You’ll also often experience cravings from foods routinely consumed in your childhood or by your ancestors. The trick is to reach out for a less extreme or healthier version of that food (think dark chocolate versus M&Ms).
Seasonal:cravings for rich eggnog or sweets can often be associated with the holiday season while the summer time often gives rise to cravings for cooling watermelons and 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 get intoxicated or to indulge in nutritionally devoid foods (think buffalo wings) that we normally avoid.
In our 24/7 hard-hitting world, the mainstream media is always releasing some “late breaking news” to keep us hooked to the incessant stream of information. But our cravings are also delivering critical pieces of information about our bodies’ state of homeostasis and balance. These innate whispers of wisdom from within 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. We only have to stop resisting and decode the message.