Cravings. We all have them. Even the Smartyest of Plants. We are all only human and it’s totally natural. However, cravings are a way our body communicates with us when it needs certain things.
Here’s the deal. We are made up of trillions of cells which are connected and work together to make sure we are functioning properly. So, how does our cellular network relate to cravings? Because cravings are critical messages sent by our bodies to tell us something is missing. They are powerful cues that may help in bringing and maintaining balance within us. And rather than letting them get us down, we approach them with curiosity and, as always, we try to get to their “root cause.”
There are many reasons we experience the cravings but some of the major causes for cravings are:
- Dehydration. Roughly 70 percent of our body is made up of water so even if we are slightly dehydrated (which most of us are!!) will send the message that we are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration manifests itself as a hunger, so the first thing to do when we get a craving is drink a full glass of water.
- Nutritional deficiencies. In order for our bodies to perform and operate how they are designed to, we need to nourish them every day with a variety of macronutrients and micronutrients. Health is in the details! If we aren’t getting enough nutrients, it will send messages in the form of cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition can lead to cravings for non-nutritional boosts….like sugar or caffeine.
- Sleep Deprivation. As a busy as we all are, prioritizing sleep can be tricky, but it’s one of the most important things we can do to reduce the amount of cravings we have. Lack of sleep has been shown to increase our preferences of high-calorie, high-sugar food choices. Also, the less sleep we get, the more likely we are to eat, which means not only will the quality of our diet suffer, but the quantity we may eat goes up, too! Aim for about eight [quality] hours per night.
- Sugar. The sugar rollercoaster is REAL. Consuming artificial or added sugars (even small amounts) lead to craving more sugar. Research shows that in the United States, added sugars may make up to 17% of total energy intake per day. The American Heart Association recommends that men limit added sugar in the diet to no more than nine teaspoons per day and women limit their sugar intake to no more than six teaspoons per day. It adds up quickly so READ LABELS! To reduce cravings for sugar before they even start, eat a diet based on whole foods and be sure to stay hydrated.
- Stress. Like sleep, stress has a major effect on our diet. When we’re stressed, it’s natural to turn to food for comfort. In the body’s attempt to find balance, high-sugar, high-energy foods offer a quick boost of energy to help us tackle a stressful situation. But when stress becomes chronic, cravings for simple carbs can be overwhelming. To avoid stress cravings, add some daily relaxation practices. Consider meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or spending time in nature.
Other ways to prevent cravings is to avoid getting extremely hungry, having healthy options on hand, eating a variety of whole foods and adding protein to every meal and snack. Eating regularly will keep blood sugar levels steady. Whole food provide nutrient-dense options to insure we are getting what we need to function properly. Protein helps to keep us feel full and satisfied.
Being able listen to our body about what we are craving, will be key to giving our body what it actually needs. So, next time when the urge to eat something hits, stop for a minute, breathe, and try to think what, exactly, and why we’re craving this particular food. I call these “body checks”. Am I truly hungry, or is this just a whim? Am I craving something in particular or a general sweet or salty something? Try to be mindful about what is happening and how it will make you feel after you give in to that temptation. Becoming aware of cravings and their triggers makes them much easier to avoid!
Our 10 Day and/or 40 Day programs are a great way to prevent cravings heading into Halloween and beyond. We focus on nutrient-dense, whole food options and help you to establish healthy habits so you never feel deprived. If you need a little guidance to stay true to your health goals, email us and we will support you through the holiday season!