Cravings – why we get them and how to curb them.

Cravings. They come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s for something sweet or salty, a meal that is heavy or light. We crave comfort food, but we can also crave healthy food. It doesn’t even stop with food. We crave intimacy, adventure, alone time, and more. So why do we get these intense desires?

The simplest answer is that we are suffering from an imbalance someplace in our life.  Whether it be in our diet or elsewhere.

For the purpose of this blog post, we will be discussing how to address food cravings, but many of these techniques can be applied to cravings that go beyond the plate.

A Dietary Approach to Cravings:

As I mentioned earlier, cravings are often an indication of an imbalance occurring somewhere in the body. The theory of Macrobiotics believes that you strive for balance through yin and yang. When you apply this to your plate, you are trying to balance flavors, such as sweet and pungent (yang) with sour, bitter, and salty (yin). This can also be applied to temperature, balancing hot foods (yang) with an equal amount of cold foods (yin). If you find yourself craving sweets, it may be because you have an excessive amount of yin in your diet and you need to find a balance. Maybe this is taking out some salt (decreasing yin), or maybe you need to add in some sweet (increasing yang). It’s important that increasing sweet can be as simple as adding in a little sweet potato to a meal, it doesn’t necessarily mean adding in a ton of sugar.

Ayurveda has a very similar approach to cravings. Ayurveda recognizes six flavors: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. If you are familiar with Ayurveda you will know that it is all about striving for balance between your own unique constitutions. We won’t get too deep into that today but instead will focus on the basics of balancing the flavors to decrease cravings. I love the ayurvedic idea of attempting to have each flavor present in a meal. Sahara Rose has an ayurvedic cookbook where she demonstrates this with six-taste bowls. For example, if you are making a salad, you may add arugula for bitter, strawberries for sweet, radishes for pungent, a little sauerkraut for sour, potatoes for astringent, and top with some sea salt for salty. The idea is that you will have satisfied all six tastes in one meal, thus lowering the chance of craving one of the tastes later in the day.

How to Identify and Navigate Cravings:

1. Acknowledge the Craving

Have you ever tried to ignore a craving or try to satisfy it with something else and the craving just continues to get stronger and stronger. I definitely have, and it is not a pleasant feeling. When you acknowledge the craving, you take away its power. This does not mean that you have to give into it, but you recognize it for what it is, which allows you to proceed to the next step.

Currently, I am craving chocolate chip cookies so let’s use this as an example. For step one, I simply acknowledge what exactly I am craving. Instead of trying to fulfill this craving with foods I deem “healthier”.

2. Explore the Origin of the Craving without Judgement

This is where you dive into the “why” ‘of the craving. Some questions you can ask yourself to help you with this process are:

  • Is this craving occurring alongside a particular emotion or physical feeling?
  • Is this craving for a highly palatable food?
  • Is this craving tied to a habit?
  • Is this craving guiding me toward a food that would support my health or well-being?

For me with the chocolate chip cookies, I often crave sugar and carbs when I am feeling overwhelmed. Stress, fatigue, boredom, and loneliness are emotions that can often lead to cravings. Identifying what you are feeling at a time of a craving is a great way to take away its power.

Chocolate chip cookies are highly palatable foods, they are full of sugar and carbs, and can offer a sense of comfort. While highly palatable foods are okay to be enjoyed on occasion, eating them excessively can lead to more and more cravings for them.

This particular craving is not tied to a habit, but I do often crave sweets after dinner, which would be a habit of having dessert at that time. Identifying if you are used to having the desired food or drink at a particular place, event, or time of day is another way to feel more empowered around your cravings.

For me, sugar usually gives me a migraine, so having the cookie will most likely not support my health or well-being. However, there are times when I know that just a bite of something will satisfy my craving without harming my health, which is another important piece of information to be able to recognize yourself to feel more empowered.

3. Proceed from a place of Empowerment

Now that you have acknowledged the craving, and identified its origin, and hopefully also recognized if there were any places in your diet where you may be experiencing an imbalance you can proceed from a place of empowerment. Instead of feeling like you are being controlled by your cravings, with your new knowledge, you can decide if it is best to satisfy the actual craving, or maybe it is better if you find balance in another area of your life to create satisfaction that may be more permanent than turning to food.

In my case with the chocolate chip cookie, simply identifying that the craving was coming from a place of overwhelm made me realize that taking some time to do some deep breathing and a five-minute meditation was enough to get the craving under control. My head felt clearer and I no longer needed sugar to soothe my body.

I hope this information helps you navigate your next craving. Remember, cravings are apart of life and is a way for your body to send a signal that something is out of balance. Next time you have a craving the most important thing is to approach it from a place of non-judgment and curiosity. Look at it as information that can lead you to a more empowered and wholesome life.

What foods do you crave the most? Are you more likely to crave sweet or savory? Tell me in the comments below along what tips you found most helpful from this post?