Chocolate, peanut butter, pizza, fro yo, french fries, bread – whatever it is that you crave, it doesn’t matter. WHAT? IT DOESN’T MATTER? No. It. Doesn’t. Matter. What does matter is WHY you are crave what you crave. Have you ever thought about that? Everyone thinks that cravings are bad but, once you understand what your body is telling you, it will change your life. It is really important to listen to what your body is telling you. Once you can actually hear what your body is saying you can learn to decode the messages. Cravings are simply pieces of information that help you understand what your body needs.
The primary causes of cravings are dehydration, lifestyle, change of season, lack of nutrients, stress, lack of exercise and hormones. Some of these may lead to overeating because you feel hungry and you just don’t know what you are hungry for; you just eat and eat and eat. Or on the other hand, I know people that are attempting to lose weight and are stuck in the vicious cycle trying to go hungry all day, ignoring the body’s craving for food. People skip breakfast, go to work, maybe grab a cup of coffee just to keep going and then have a salad for lunch. Somehow they make it through the afternoon and by the time they get home in the evening they are Starving! Being distracted by the busyness of the day and now they slow down and finally can hear what that body is telling them. EAT! Then they end up eating way too much at dinner and feel too full. The next morning the cycle starts over again, not eating breakfast because last night’s dinner is still undigested. Know anyone like this? Is it YOU?
Most people crave sugar in some way, whether it be chocolate, candy, cake or cookies. There are many healthy alternatives to help beat these cravings. A sugar craving is simply the body asking for energy. All carbohydrates contain sugar – either simple or complex – they are processed differently by the body. Most simple carbs are highly processed, contain refined sugars and have very few vitamins and minerals. This is what gives you a sugar rush and then quickly followed by a crash. Natural foods, like fruit, contain naturally occurring simple sugars. Fruit is high in fiber, which helps to slow down digestion, and limits the amount of sugar that gets absorbed by the body. Carbs that appear in nature, like veggies and whole grains are complex. These kinds of carbs provide a longer lasting energy because of the higher fiber content and the sugars are processed a lot slower over a longer period of time. This is why you feel fuller longer as well. For example, if you eat a whole grain (a complex carb) for breakfast, you will feel full and have a natural energy all morning and naturally feel a dip around lunch time. If you eat a cookie, a piece of candy, or white bread (simple carbs) you will feel a quick burst of energy and very soon after your blood sugar will drop and you will be hungry again. People are so afraid of carbs because the media has told us that carbs make us fat. Most people are just not eating the right kinds of carbs that the body needs to function properly.
Most nutritionists and dietitians give people a list of foods to avoid and foods ok to eat. I’ve found that this is why most people are so turned off by nutrition. People think that they have to give up their favorite foods and start eating things that are “good” for them but, they don’t like. Taking away people’s favorite foods is like taking alcohol away from an alcoholic. Simply adding more whole foods to your daily diet will automatically crowd out those foods that might not be so healthy. The body can only hold so much food and after eating whole foods the body is full and will not crave anything else. Same goes for drinking water. The more water you drink the less room the body has for other drinks like coffee, energy drinks and other chemical filled beverages. It’s really that simple.
Remember, a craving is not a weakness. It is simply your body trying to talk to you. Trust your body instead of thinking of your cravings as the enemy to be ignored or defeated.