Cravings can be a daily battle, but I’m here to help you ease into being comfortable with what you crave and offer solutions you can try today.
Cause: There’s something lacking in your personal life. Whether it’s relationship issues, career troubles, spiritual dissatisfaction, or financial woes, where are you not being nourished? It’s very natural to seek satisfaction in food when life is out of balance.
I love the wellness wheel, it’s a common tool for health coaches to help clients holistically. Here’s an activity from Dr. Sears Wellness Institute that untilizes the wellness wheel with questions you can ask yourself! The main idea is to feel fulfilled and balanced in all areas of your life, including; Emotional, Spiritual, Physical, Nutritional, Intellectual, Occupational, Environmental and Social. If any area seems lacking, it could cause you to sabotage your diet. Being aware is the first step. The next step is taking action towards fulfillment in one of those areas. For example, I felt very dissatisfied with my environmental area of my life. Now, I make a point to go outside during sunsets and to enjoy nature as often as possible. I also walk my dog a lot more now too!
Cause: Lack of water intake. Dehydration can manifest as hunger.
Drink a glass of water before diving into food. Sometimes this simple activity does the trick.
Cause: Often times you crave food from your childhood. Comfort food from your younger years can make you feel content and happy. For example, does Mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese, Grandma’s fried chicken, or Aunt Mary’s famous chocolate pie bring back fond memories?
Try finding a healthier version of those same comfort foods! Believe it or not, you can bake chicken that tastes pretty close to fried? Here’s a recipe from Elie Krieger. I love this healthy version of macaroni and cheese from 100 Days of Real Food! Did you know you can make chocolate mousse with avocados?! I promise, even the best chocolate connoisseurs won’t be able to taste the difference! Try it here from Kris Carr.
Cause: Craving foods you just ate. This may sound a bit odd, but some women just want MORE!
Try brushing your teeth or use a tongue cleaner to stop the craving in it’s tracks.
Cause: Lack of nutrients is another culprit of cravings. If your body is not getting enough protein, you may be craving a greasy hamburger. If your body is lacking certain minerals, you’ll want salty food. Lack of iron causes fatigue, which may cause you to want sugar or caffeine.
Just be sure you’re eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of proteins, carbohydrates and fat. I always say ‘eat the rainbow” and don’t eliminate any food group (unless you have to for medical reasons!) Your doctor can also help you decide if you feel you are low in certain nutrients.
Cause: Hormones may be the offending reason for some of your cravings. This particular cause is something to navigate with your doctor.
In the mean time, make an ‘instead of’ list. On one side of a sheet of paper make a list of all the foods you crave. And on the other side, directly corresponding to the craved foods, make a list of a healthier option. For example, instead of chips, choose popcorn (recipe below); instead of ice-cream, eat frozen banana ice-cream or yogurt; instead of chips and dip, choose whole-grain pita chips and hummus; instead of a glass of wine, try flavored hot tea or pomegranate juice (poured in a wine glass of course!) Be sure you always have these healthy alternatives on hand and ready to eat, because when your hormones are raging, you want it NOW!
Cause: Boredom or mindless munching is so common, especially in front of the tv. The brain and, or your hands want something to do!
Try chewing gum or what about taking up a hobby, like knitting? or Soduko? Anything to keep your mind off of eating needlessly!
Cause: Some foods are just plain addictive. You don’t lack willpower or strength, you just may be chemically dependent on certain foods.
If this is the case, it is best to take that particular food completely out of your diet and home. Please be encouraged and know that there is a lot of help in the form of a support groups and counselors.
Cause: Stress, let’s face it, when you’re stressed, you eat. Period. When your cortisol levels are high, your body utilizes energy reserves, and if they dip too low, BAM, you want to eat!
There are so many ways to reduce the stress in your life, but for this article I’d like to invite you to just BREATHE. Did you know that breath and that feeling of overwhelm cannot occupy the same space in your body at the same time? Take a moment to breathe deeply from you diaphragm, inhaling for a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 2 and slowly exhaling for a count of 6. Meditation and getting enough sleep will help alleviate high cortisol levels as well.
Cause: Deciphering between true hunger and emotional eating. Emotional eating creates a never-ending cycle of wanting more and more.
By simply becoming mindful and aware that there is a difference between true hunger and emotional eating is the first step. Then tracing what triggered the craving so you can regain control is difficult, but can be done! Here are a few prompts to help you start the process.
Think about the last time you had a craving. What were you feeling at the time? Sad? Angry? Depressed? Anxious?
Did something happen immediately preceding the craving?
Now, make a list of other activities that you can do instead of turning to food to fulfill those feelings. For example, if you were feeling depressed, you could call a trusted friend or relative. If you’re angry or frustrated, perhaps you could take a walk or a hot shower.
Also, think of how you felt after you ate the craved food? Did you feel ashamed? guilty? bloated? full? angry? regretful? Write out those feelings and keep them on a notecard and attach it to the fridge (or pantry)…knowing those feelings BEFORE you eat, might remind you to avoid the craving.
On the contrary, if after you fulfilled your craving, you felt comfort and joy, what other activities might you try first that will satisfy those good feelings? Perhaps it’s a long, hot bubble bath!
Finally, anticipating and prepping are the keys to curbing cravings. Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Make a grocery list, stick to it, and don’t go grocery shopping hungry! Prepare your foods right when you get home from the store. Wash and cut your veggies, pre-make the dips or healthy ‘avocado pudding’ and hummus to have on stock in the fridge. Set yourself up for success. You’ve got this!
Healthy Popcorn Snack Recipe
Pour half cup of kernel popcorn in a brown lunch bag, roll the top down a couple of times, pop in the microwave for about 3 1/2 minutes (the “popcorn” setting.) Listen carefully, when the popping becomes intermittent, pull it out, because it can burn quickly. Pour in big bowl and drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle generously with Nutritional Yeast for a healthy, buttery-tasting, low-calorie flavoring.
Optional: Add some almonds or cashews for an extra protein hit. You can also flavor with any spices, for example; smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic salt, rosemary. Have fun and try different things!