Guest post by Dr. Annabel Boys
Try this simple exercise:
Think about the last time you had a strong craving for something. Try to visualize what was going on for you that day in as much detail as you can: where were you? Who were you with? What you had been doing? What you were about to do? What else had you eaten that day and when? Had you drunk anything (coffee, soda, water, alcohol etc.)? The more detail the better.
Now make a note of the details and read on …
Some cravings are due to addiction (think sugar and caffeine – which are technically ‘drugs’). If you tend to crave something at the same time every day then it might well be a form of addiction or ‘habit’. Other cravings carry important messages that your body is trying to communicate. Now think about the circumstances around your last big craving, ask yourself each of the following questions and see if any of them seem to ‘fit’ – if you have an ‘aha’ moment please share it in the comments below:
- Were you tired?
When we are tired our bodies look for quick sources of energy. Your body sees SUGAR as ideal for this as it requires very little processing (digestion) before it is useful. A caffeine craving is another common response to being low on energy.
- Were you sad?
Learning to associate certain foods with comfort is something that many of us do in childhood. This can lead to years of battling with comfort eating in adulthood. Learning to recognize when you are wanting to ‘comfort eat’ is the first step towards finding better, more effective ways to manage your emotions.
- Were you bored?
Being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice can also prompt emotional eating. Many of us get into the habit of reaching for certain foods as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of insufficient ‘primary food’ (note – primary foods are things that nourish you, that aren’t food – things like great relationships, your work, exercise etc.).
- Were you dehydrated?
Many of us are chronically dehydrated, and it is sometimes easy to confuse our body’s requests for water with mild hunger. Next time you have a craving, try drinking a full glass of water before you decide how to respond to it, wait 10 minutes and see if the craving subsides.
- Could your hormones be the cause?
When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels can cause cravings. Many women crave high carb foods around the middle and end of their menstrual cycles.
- Is you diet properly balanced?
The essential parts of a balanced diet are protein, healthy fat and healthy carbs, plus a range of vitamins and minerals. If what you are eating does not meet your body’s requirements, you may find it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels can lead to salt cravings.
Dr. Annabel Boys is a health coach and Body Stress Release practitioner based in the UK. She gained her doctorate in addictive behaviours from King’s College London and trained as a holistic health coach with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She now specialises in working with women and food cravings (with a particular emphasis on PCOS). Dr. Boys is the author of an ebook titled “PCOS-friendly Eating – the ultimate Do’s and Don’ts” and runs online group coaching programmes as well as offering one to one intensive coaching programmes. See www.healthcoachforwomen.co.uk or link with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/dr.annabel.boys or Twitter @annabelboys