What Are Your Cravings Telling You?

Most of us are hard on ourselves.  We often don’t give our bodies much thought until something goes wrong and it causes us pain or discomfort.  But just like an infant who cries in order to communicate, your body has distinct ways to communicate to you what it needs, what it is lacking and when it has an excess of something.

Learning the language of your body is so important because it allows you to benefit from all the wisdom and information stored within it.

One of the ways to begin listening is to pay attention to your cravings.  When your body begins to generate strong cravings for certain kinds of foods we can be sure it is trying to communicate something to you.

At first it can feel confusing to figure it all out– sometimes our cravings don’t make sense…why would my body crave something I know is not good for me?  But when we look a little deeper and trust in the process, we can identify what is out of whack by using our cravings as signals.

At the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, they taught that there are 8 primary causes of cravings.  Let’s look at these as a starting point.

1.  Water

  • Dehydration can often be perceived as mild hunger.  If you find that you are getting strange cravings of hunger when you have eaten recently, try drinking a large glass of water and waiting 10-15 minutes to see if the hunger signals stave off. Or try to stay ahead of the game and keep yourself hydrated through the day.  I wrote this post at The Art of Simple blog, sharing some tips on how to stay hydrated.

2.  Lack of Primary Food

  • When we are not filled and satisfied in other areas of our life we can begin to substitute the food we eat for our lack in those areas.  Being in a difficult or unloving relationship, being bored or unmotivated at our jobs, lack of exercise, being cooped up indoors for too long, or feeling stagnant in personal growth can all manifest as strong food cravings, particularly for sweet foods.  Check out this post about exploring whether you are getting enough primary foods.

3.  Ying/Yang Balance

  • Our bodies function under the need to maintain homeostasis or balance.  When we are out of balance, we often will experience a strong craving to counter the excess in our diets or lives.  Foods and experiences have either yin qualities (expansive) or yang qualities (contractive).  For example if we are craving sweet foods (high yin) we may need to examine if there is an excess of contractive elements or foods in our diet or life.

 4.  Comfort Seeking

  • Foods are used by many of us from a very young age to reward, calm, nurture and comfort us when we are feeling sad, lonely or needy.   This emotional connection to food can become deeply seated and will often continue to play out in our adult life without our even being aware of it.  Sometimes the craving is simply our conditioning to reach for certain foods that temporarily make us feel better or numb us from uncomfortable feelings.

5.  Seasonal

  • The foods that are naturally harvested in each season have qualities that balance the elements of that season.  For example, foods that are in abundance in the summer months work to cool our bodies off in the heat.  In this way, our bodies have an intuitive sense of which foods will help balance what we are getting an excess of in each season.  The longer we eat in season, the more we find these natural cravings surface. Check here to see if your diet is winterized.

6.  Lack of Nutrients

  • In today’s modern world, we have available foods that are completely bereft of nutritional value — they have been so overly processed that they contain calories but little to no nutrients.  This is never the case in nature.  So our bodies don’t count calories, but they seek the adequate amount of nutrients and will continue to exhibit hunger signals until they receive the nutrients needed to survive.  Many times, I have seen a dramatic reduction of someone’s cravings when they switch from processed to real foods.

7.  Sugar Addiction*

  • Never before in human history have we consumed the amount of sugar that we do now.  Our bodies are simply not designed to manage it and often times the impact it has on our body is more like a drug than a food.  Sugar consumption can set up biochemical responses that will cause intense cravings for more and more sugar.  Getting a handle on this one aspect of our diet makes a huge difference in our physical, mental and emotional health.

8.  De-evolution

  • Have you ever noticed that when things are starting to go really well, you find yourself self-sabotaging?  If we are feeling strong, energized and healthy because we are giving our body great nutrition, we can also find ourselves facing intense cravings toward foods that will depress our mood and success.  If we give in, we can begin the intense craving cycles that keep us swinging between highs and lows in attempts to balance ourselves. But if we recognize this happening we can thwart the attack and keep on track.

As you read through this list, did any cause seem to resonate with you?  Begin to be mindful of where your cravings are sourcing from.  Ask yourself some questions…What is going on right now?  What do I really need?  Why might I be having such a strong urge?  Begin to expect that your body can communicate important information to you and slow down enough to listen to the signals.