Guest post written by Catherine Chen, Health Coach at catherinechenwellness.com
I was chatting with a friend when he told me that sometimes he has cravings for chocolate but that it was “so bad.” Cravings have a bad reputation – people think that they shouldn’t have them because it leads them to eat the foods in quantities they wouldn’t normally consume. There is an element to guilt and shame when we crave things we think we shouldn’t have. As a result, people tend to believe that cravings are due to lack of will-power or discipline.
The reality is, cravings are actually good for you.
Let me explain. Cravings are your body’s signals of what you have been missing in your diet or even in other areas of your life on a deep emotional level.
The important thing is to understand why you crave what you crave. Is your diet is too restrictive or devoid of essential nutrients? Are you living a lifestyle that is too boring or stressful? Your body tries to correct the imbalance by sending you a message: a craving. A craving for something sweet could mean you need more protein, more exercise, more water or more love in your life. The key to stopping the sugar craving is to understand and deliver what your body really needs.
No book or theory can tell you what to eat. Only awareness of your body and its needs can tell you. Of all the relationships in our lives, the one with our body is the most essential. It takes communication, love and time to cultivate a relationship with your body. As you learn to decipher and respond appropriately to your body’s cravings, you will create a deep and lasting level of health and balance.
The next time you have a craving, treat it as a loving message from your body instead of a weakness.
Try these tips to respond to your body:
- Have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes. Sometimes a craving is thirst in disguise.
- Eat a healthier version of what you crave. For example, if you crave sweets, I find that having more sweet root vegetables like sweet potato in my meals seems to take care of it for me.
- What is out of balance in your life? Is there something you need to express, or is something being repressed? What happened in your life just before you had this craving?
- When you eat the food you are craving, enjoy it, taste it, savor it; notice its effect. Then you will become more aware and free to decide if you really want it next time.
In general, I find that for me, it is better to have a little bit (like a spoonful of ice cream or a piece of chocolate) more regularly over a long period of time, thereby decreasing the likelihood of wanting a lot of it in a shorter timeframe. Experiment for yourself! These changes won’t happen overnight. Remember to ask a supportive friend, family member, or a health coach to support you with the process.
Food Focus: Natural Sweeteners
Who among us doesn’t love sweets? The sweet flavor releases serotonin in our brains, the chemical responsible for our sense of well-being and contentment. But when it comes to sweeteners, not all are created equal. There are side effects and health risks from refined sweeteners like white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, and from artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, saccharin and Splenda. Since refined sweeteners have been stripped of vitamins, minerals and fiber, they can spike blood sugar, which can often lead to cravings and mood and energy fluctuations. Instead, using naturally and minimally processed sweeteners can reduce cravings for sugary things.
Here are a few natural sweeteners to substitute in drinks, food and baking. Since they are all approximately 1.5 times sweeter than refined sugar, you can use less. You can find them in most supermarkets or natural food stores. When replacing sugar with liquid sweeteners in a recipe, reduce the amounts of other liquids.
One of the oldest natural sweeteners on the market, honey will have a different flavor depending on the plant source. Some are very dark and intensely flavored. Wherever possible, choose raw honey, as it is unrefined and contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals and vitamins, which add to its benefit.
Agave is made through the extraction and purification of the juice of the agave cactus. It does not stimulate insulin secretion as other sugars do, so it does not create a “sugar rush.” It has a delightfully light and mild flavor, which I sometimes prefer over honey.
Maple syrup is the concentrated extract of the sap of maple trees. It adds a rich, deep flavor to foods and drinks. Make sure to look for 100% pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored corn syrup. As with all sweeteners, organic varieties are best.
How do you manage your cravings? What has worked and hasn’t worked? Tell me below, I want to know!
Catherine Chen is a certified Health Coach for busy professionals who want to eat and think in ways that give them more energy and time to do what they love. If you enjoyed this article, sign up to receive more tips from Catherine on healthy ways you can increase your energy so that you can reduce stress and enjoy a vibrant life at www.catherinechenwellness.com