When I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with IBS.
That’s what the doctors tell you when they can’t figure out anything else wrong with you but you’re obviously symptomatic.
Over the next 10 years I was taken off gluten, dairy and other commonly known allergies such as soy, corn, peanuts (actually all legumes and beans at one point), sugar, alcohol and fried food. Needless to say, I had a pretty clean diet. And then I got pregnant.
After 20 years of being dairy free and 10 years of being gluten free, I found my car accidentally pulling into Burger King one day and I heard myself ordering a fried chicken sandwich. (I have a photo of me eating it, which I will sell to the highest bidder.)
For the next three months, all I wanted to eat were grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes, french fries and barbecue flavored potato chips. When I went in for my 20 week exam, my husband confided in our doctor that I had not eaten a vegetable or fruit in four months.
Our bodies have an incredible source of intelligence; they are always there for us, striving to maintain a perfect balance. So, did it derail when you start to crave an entire box of chocolate or is it giving you critical information to bring you back in balance?
The questions become: Why do we have them? and How can we deconstruct them so we can understand what our bodies are really saying to us and thus provide them with the nourishment they need?
Here are 8 things that cause cravings and steps you may be able to take to stop them:
1. Lack of water or dehydration. You may be craving a certain food when what you really need is water. Before you give in to that late afternoon snack, drink a big glass of water, wait a few minutes and see if you’re still craving that food—or whether you’re really hungry at all.
2. “Primary Food” deficit. You are “malnourished” in another area of your life, i.e. career, family, sexuality, fitness. Have you ever noticed that you may not want to eat that entire pint of ice cream when you’re happy in your new relationship? Ask yourself what you need to fix in the circle you call your life.
3. Yin/Yang imbalance. Sometimes, when you eat a certain kind of food, it causes a craving for another type of food. For example, eating salty foods can cause a craving for sweet foods; eating a lot of meat can cause a craving for alcohol. Check in to see if you are eating too much or not enough of a certain food group—or if your diet is lacking in variety.
4. Craving the foods of our ancestors. Have you ever noticed that when you go back home to visit your family for a holiday or reunion, you start craving foods you would never eat in your own home? And, if you bring your partner, spouse or a friend with you on one of those trips, they may have a totally adverse reaction to those same foods?! The foods your parents served to you during your childhood become part of your DNA; the next time you head back for a holiday dinner, note what feelings are associated with the foods that may be served. Do they comfort you? If so, why?
5. Seasonal. Do you notice when the weather starts getting warm, you crave more fruits, salads and raw foods? And then when the seasons start to move towards autumn and winter, you start to crave warmer foods, like soups and root vegetables? These cravings are good cravings. Your body, if attuned, should start to anticipate and desire what the next harvest is bringing.
6. Lack of nutrients. When your body is out of balance, you may crave a certain food that will bring you back into balance. I was very lean when I got pregnant, so during the first trimester of my pregnancy, my body needed to store fat to protect the fetus. I craved fatty foods like grilled cheese and fries. I put on ten pounds within the first 8 weeks! My body knew what it had to do to prepare the womb for a baby to grow. Once my body was back in balance, I craved a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables again.
7. Hormonal. Most of you women know what it’s like to crave certain foods around your menstrual cycle; or, as I stated above, during a pregnancy. These cravings are harder to stop since they are hormonal—but they too will pass.
8. Eating foods with little nutritional value. Products like refined foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and drugs, which have little or no nutritional value and are confusing to the body. They throw your body off balance and can create more serious cravings as your body tries to restore its internal harmony.
Cravings will come and cravings will go…but the key to stopping cravings is to understand them, not give in to them. Your diet may be too strict or devoid of essential nutrients; your lifestyle may be too stressful or you may need more exercise or more water.
Ask yourself how you feel before you put something in your mouth and what you feel like after you eat it; as you learn to decipher and respond to your body’s cravings, you will be able to create a diet and lifestyle that is more balanced.
Editor: Bryonie Wise
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