We’ve all been there. You’re sitting on the couch after dinner and all of the sudden find yourself fixating on that bowl of ice cream, brownie or piece of cake that’s just a few steps away in the kitchen. As someone who needs a little dessert most every night and has so shame admitting it, I understand this desire completely.
While I can now say that I have a much healthier, more balanced relationship with food, this most certainly has not always been the case. Restricting, over exercising and obsessing over maintaining a certain number on the scale used to consume me, and along with these sad realities came MAJOR sugar cravings, especially in the evenings.
I’ve since grown significantly and developed true food freedom through much self reflection, personal growth and intuitive eating, which has ultimately allowed me to help others on their own journeys in my holistic health coaching programs.
As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I’ve also studied the root causes of cravings as well as simple diet and lifestyle tweaks to deconstruct these feelings and understand how to respond accordingly.
Below are my top tips for reevaluating your relationship with the foods we long for the most!
Employ curious, nonjudgemental observation
We’re trained to perceive cravings in a negative way — getting down on ourselves for “failing” to overcome these urges with pure will power.
What I work with my clients to understand is that no one is perfect. Rather than allowing cravings to incite more negative energy, one must step back and observe them with curiosity and openness as to why they’re occurring in the first place.
The body is amazing at letting us know when it’s out of balance, and cravings are often a sign that there’s a deeper issue at hand. Removing our emotions and judgement allows us to better understand what these signals mean. Cravings are NOT a weakness, they’re a sign that something is out of whack. Tune in and listen to what your body might be calling for in order to get back to a desired equilibrium.
Understand the cause
Once we’re able to remove our emotions from these cravings and gain a more clear, intuitive understanding of what they’re signaling towards, the causes often become more clear.
Cravings are complex and completely bio-individual, thus honest contemplation and self reflection is needed in order to get to the root of the problem. Great questions to ponder include:
- Am I lacking comfort or groundedness in my life and hoping to fill these voids with food?
- Am I actually dehydrated?
- Could changes in my hormonal cycle be a factor?
- Am I eating too many animal products? Too little?
- Are my cravings influenced by seasonal or weather changes?
- Am I suffering from a nutritional deficiency?
The list goes on…
While getting to the root cause of our cravings can seem overwhelming, I know, this is exactly what I’m here to help you sort through as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I work with my clients to understand their health in a holistic way by discovering how to positively impact overall wellness both on and off the plate.
If you’re interested in discussing how I might be able to help you better understand your own cravings, build healthy habits and simply become the best version of yourself, read up on my programs here. I’d love to set up your FREE consultation call to get the conversation going!
Satisfy, don’t deprive
One of the main tips I’ve personally found impactful to combat my own cravings is making space in my life for all foods. I’ve struggled with orthorexic thoughts and tendencies in the past in which my desire to eat “perfectly” meant demonizing foods I deemed “unhealthy.” Well, not only did that spur significant anxiety around food but it also only made me crave these off-limits foods even more intensely.
Once I began to understand that balanced, healthy living goes far beyond just what we consume, I realized that I actually felt my best when my diet consists of primarily whole, real foods yet also leaves room for the foods that feed the soul and provide joy (sweets, cocktails, bread…yes please). Removing the self-constructed labels of “good” and “bad” foods is an essential first step!
In the same way, I now realize that when I simply wasn’t eating enough day-in and day-out, I craved and fixated on food more, as my body was simply calling for more fuel. When you’re running on a constant caloric deficit, the body’s natural response is to crave calorie-dense foods and quick sources of energy such as refined carbohydrates, processed snacks and sugar.
When I ditched old, calorie-counting habits and instead began focussing on eating to the point of satisfaction, my mind was able to focus on much more important things than food.
Yet with all of this in mind, an important factor to note is that our bodies’ natural response to stress, fatigue, heightened emotions, hormonal fluctuations, etc. is to crave more energy-dense foods, and that’s okay! I’m simply encouraging you to tune into the causes and honor such cues appropriately, no shame or guilt allowed.
Prioritize the right foods
While depriving ourselves is obviously not the answer, we can indeed focus on incorporating more nutrient-dense, craving-fighting foods into our diets. When it doubt, work to prioritize more of the following:
- Fruit, especially berries
- Dark chocolate
- Fermented foods
- Chia seeds
- Healthy fats like wild-caught salmon, avocado, nuts/seeds and olive oil
- High quality proteins like eggs, grass fed beef and chicken
- Vegetables (the more variety the better; “sweet” starchy vegetables are particularly helpful to combat sugar cravings — sweet potatoes, squash, parsnips, carrots, etc.)
On the other hand, limiting our processed food consumption can also be helpful as these items are often filled with nasty artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Packaged, industrial-produced “foods” contain the perfect combination of fat, salt and sugar that’s specifically engineered to induce cravings and keep us coming back for more. This isn’t surprising considering how easy it is to devour an entire bag of chips or sleeve of cookies before even realizing.
When we increase our awareness towards the role that craving-inducing foods play in our daily diet and mindfully choose wholesome, nourishing options instead, we can control and navigate these urges with much more efficiency and ease.
Get your gut in check
It’s no surprise that this plays a role in the cravings conversation considering the gut seems to be an incredibly important factor in basically every aspect of health from mood to brain function to immunity and so on.
While nutrient-dense veggies and fermented foods like sauerkraut and probiotic yogurt feed the “good” bacteria in our gut, the not-so-beneficial bacteria that are likewise present thrive in a toxic environment (and thus want to make your gut more pleasing for themselves). The more we feed these “bad” guys what they love — sugar, fat, refined carbohydrates, etc. — the more we encourage their growth. This in part creates more of an appetite in our gut for these types of foods, and so the cycle continues.
Instead, working to get the gut microbiome back in check by “starving” the bad bacteria that make us sick, overweight and unhappy is key. Reducing refined sugar and processed food consumption and increasing intake of gut-loving foods as well as taking a quality probiotic (my favorite is Seed — use code GEORGIA15 for 15% off the first month of Daily Synbiotic) are essential first steps.
To learn more about this topic and for a list of specific diet recommendations, check out my Deep Dive Into My Digestive Healing blog post as well!
Reduce stress & sweat
As mentioned previously, when we find ourselves craving specific foods — sugar, carbs, greasy fast food, etc. — these desires are often linked to a “craving” in another aspect of our lives. This is never more true than when we’re feeling stressed or run down. During anxious times, our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol which increases appetite and ultimately can cause us to crave sugary or fatty “comfort” foods.
Indulging these cravings time and time again only perpetuates the problem and leaves us feeling crummy and most often more stressed. Instead, work to implement mindful, stress-reducing techniques into your daily routine for a more longterm positive solution.
Personally, daily movement, my meditation practice and prioritizing sleep are essential as I’ve found these help me feel more grounded, in control and less susceptible to stressors (and thus cravings).
When cravings strike, it’s easy to get down on ourselves and view these natural human responses as some sort of personal failure. Yet I urge you to employ the tactics above in order to better understand and manage cravings in a more balanced, intentional way.
If you’d like to dive more deeply into this topic (among others!) with more hands-on, personalized attention, take a peek at my holistic health coaching program to see if it might be a good fit for you. I’d love to be your advocate and guide in learning to take control of your health once and for all