Why you Can't Outsmart Food Cravings (Listen to them!)
One thing I hear all the time from clients is "Why do I have so many food cravings?" Typically followed by, "How do I get rid of my food cravings?" Ah, get rid of food cravings. Just for fun I started typing that into google, and wouldn't you know - it's a very common search term. Don't search it unless you looking for magical "cures," ways to "outsmart" cravings (like that works), or how to "crush your cravings with appetite-suppressing foods" from Dr. Oz.
If you're here reading this, I'm going to assume all those crush your cravings tips didn't work.
The cravings are there for a reason. Your body is trying to give you a signal.
Instead of trying to outsmart our cravings, it's time to listen to our bodies.
Media thrives on trying to outsmart our bodies. We try to ignore our hunger signals and starve ourselves...only to end up binging hours later. We try to push past our limits and overexercise...only to end up injured for weeks. Outsmarting your body doesn't work.
Listening to your body and its natural cues seems like the obvious answer, but we don't do it very often. Food cravings are a wonderful lesson. When we treat them as an opportunity, we can learn more about our bodies. You can make conscious choices and actions towards nourishing your body, and you may notice your cravings lessen or disappear. Here are 3 reasons you may have food cravings. It's certainly not all of the reasons but many of the most common.
3 Reasons You May Have Food Cravings & How to Listen:
1. You're Hungry!
Since media likes to tell us that 1200 or 1500 calories is enough to stay healthy, exercise, and thrive, many women are walking around starving their cells of energy. Naturally, the body will respond with hunger cues. What happens when you ignore those hunger cues time for too long? It leads you straight into a hunger-driven binge. When I let myself get too hungry, I not only get irritable, cranky, and can't focus, but a normal amount of food for my body does not satisfy me. I eat fast, want more, and eating is not an enjoyable experience.
Why? When my body reaches the starving point, my blood sugar has dropped. My entire body (especially my brain) needs energy to get my blood sugar up, so I have energy to continue on with my day. It's normal and natural to crave sugar, especially if you're constantly hungry or having blood sugar swings.
Hunger is not a bad thing. It's normal. When your body is calling out for food, you can trust that it's time to eat. Even if you just ate an hour ago. Even if it's past 6 at night. Your body doesn't care about those diet rules you force on yourself. What you can do is experiment with your meals to see which foods and amounts keep you satisfied for longer. If you realize that green smoothie is leaving your hungry mid-morning, add a snack, or make your breakfast larger. Ideally, meals should all have some carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber to keep your blood sugar stable. When your blood sugar is out of balance, your energy and moods are going to be all sorts of crazy.
2. You need nourishing food.
Similarly to hunger, filling our bodies with "diet" food doesn't give our cells the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs to thrive or even metabolize your food. When I have a night where I have a few too many drinks, I majorly crave veggies, fluids, and typically eggs the next day. It's no surprise that those foods literally re-hydrate my body, replenish nutrient stores, and make me feel good again. Eating low-calorie foods are often also low in nutrients and don't satisfy our energy and nutrient needs. Our stomach may fill up from the volume of food, but we'll end up starving in another hour and never find true satisfaction or satiety. It's okay to feel physically full and satisfied from your meals. You may also consider exploring how to feel mentally, emotionally, and spiritually satisfied.
3. You're living in a deprivation state.
Did you just swear off chocolate forever? Well, of course, you're thinking of chocolate then. Our brains do not like living in a deprivation state. As soon as a food is declared forbidden to us, we rebel. We want that exact food. We obsess over it, and as soon as we get our hands on it, we don't stop after one piece. Of course not. It's forbidden, so as soon as you "give in" and eat the chocolate, you know the whole thing will be gone in a matter of minutes. What the hell, right? You better enjoy it before you have to give it up again.
Our bodies can give us the clues we need around food. If you're binging on sugar, and you end up with massive headaches and stomachaches, listen to your body's signals carefully. It doesn't mean those foods are bad for your body. In fact, you may feel completely fine after eating one piece of chocolate or a cookie, but when you go overboard, you don't feel great. Yes, many people have real food sensitivities, intolerance, and allergies and have foods they can't eat (or have to limit), but there's a major difference in mindset around a food when it's "forbidden" from diet rules compared to a food that causes symptoms in your body. Again, be honest with yourself if your sensitivity is real (or a hidden diet rule.
If you haven't read Intuitive Eating yet, I encourage you to give it a read. The first step is giving up the diet mentality because if your body thinks another diet is on the way, it's similar to living in a deprivation state.
Listening to your body's cues may feel abnormal at first, but you know your body best. No health guru, doctor, or dietitian can tell you exactly what or how much to eat to feel good. Be your own health guru, and get to know your body.