While the replacement of sugar with natural sweeteners is helpful, it does not make your sugar cravings disappear. Cravings are not a bad thing, however, they are simply your body’s way of talking to you, of telling you what is going on. It may be an indication that you are not eating a diet that is right for your body type or that you have stress in other areas of your life. It is usually an imbalance, by slowing down and taking the time to recognize what else may be going on in your life, you can uncover your sugar cravings once and for all.
Here are some important reasons you might experience cravings.
- Dehydration. You don’t experience the sensation of thirst until your body is already on the verge of being dehydrated. Oftentimes, dehydration is even experienced as mild hunger. So when you’re thirsty or you’ve already got the munchies at 9:30 a.m., drink an entire glass of water before reaching for something to eat.
- Nutrient deficiency. If your body isn’t getting enough minerals, you may crave salt. If your overall diet is devoid of nutrients, you may crave unnatural energy sources such as caffeine.
- Hormonal fluctuations. PMS, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are accompanied by fluctuating estrogen and testosterone levels. One reason that women crave chocolate before and during menstruation is due to magnesium depletion that occurs during menstruation.
- Seasonal fluctuations. There’s a very good reason why you crave certain foods in certain seasons. When you crave a lot of leafy green salads in the spring, it’s your body’s way of detoxifying after winter. On hot summer days, you may crave cooling foods such as watermelon or cucumber. In fall, you crave hot apple pie with cinnamon because cinnamon is a spice that increases body temperature. In winter, you crave mashed potatoes because they’re a healthy form of carbohydrate that provides fuel, warmth and helps with depression.
- Recreating the past. You may crave foods you enjoyed as a child, such as instant pudding. Find a healthier version in your local health food store and limit it to reasonably sized servings.
- Lack of spiritual nourishment. If you’re lonely, bored, hate your job, are nervous, are grieving, haven’t healed your emotional wounds, have a spiritual void or are uninspired by your exercise routine, you may eat simply as a psychological attempt to fill the void in your life. If this is why you experience cravings, take look at your life and make the appropriate changes to fulfill your soul.
- Fear of the other shoe dropping. You know those times in your life when everything is going so marvelously that you begin to get suspicious and wonder when the other shoe is going to drop? Sometimes we sabotage our happiness from a subconscious and erroneous belief that we don’t deserve the very best in life.
Some cravings are easy to overcome, while others aren’t. It’s better to eat a reasonable portion and get it out of your system than to overdo it. If you’ve been craving a candy bar for two weeks, eat one or elevate your food choice to the very best option of that craving – for example, two squares of organic 70% or 80% dark chocolate instead. Enjoy! And then begin to listen to why you are having a particular craving. While eating the food may initially satisfy you, there is often a deeper meaning to the craving that can be uncovered.
It’s important to remember that your cravings are a window to your emotions. Emotional eating is less about the food and more about what’s behind your cravings. The question then becomes: “What is my food covering up exactly?” If you eat emotionally you are shutting down your present awareness in order to escape a current state of anxiety. While this may work for a while, it only pushes your emotions down deeper and creates more stress and anxiety in the body. Addressing your emotions is the first key to putting an end to emotional eating.
The holidays can be a very emotional time for a variety of reasons. In our state of emotional overwhelm, we tend to overeat. Getting to the bottom of emotional eating will help you make healthier choices this holiday.
Here are four ways we use food to handle our emotions:
1) Stress eating – When you're having a bad day (emotional stressor), you eat and eat till you end up in a “food coma” – numbing your body in order to block out the unpleasant emotion.
2) Boredom Eating – You're waiting for an appointment or a phone call or simply procrastinating, and suddenly you're nibbling everything in sight. In this case, the emotion of boredom is relieved by this "nervous" eating.
3) Unconscious eating – You may find that you've finished off that entire carton of ice cream and you don't remember how it happened. You are blocking some unpleasant feelings---and at the same time detaching yourself from your own actions.
4) Fear Eating –When you don’t want to face something in your life, distracting yourself with food helps you avoid coping with the uncomfortable situation.
Emotional eating and the cravings that lead to it are attempts to avoid dealing with unpleasant emotions. Getting a handle on those unpleasant emotions is the key to putting an end to emotional eating. If you find yourself eating mindlessly or turning to food when you are not hungry, ask the question “If I am not hungry, then what am I feeling?” When you choose to turn to food instead of acknowledging your feeling, the feeling gets buried. We may be harboring old emotions that are results of things that happened to us many years ago. While painful, bringing them to the surface is the best way to heal them.
Here are some quick tips to help break the emotional eating cycle:
1) When a craving hits, take a minute to find out where it comes from. Will eating right now really solve the underlying issue?
2) Take 5 deep breaths before eating. Relaxing will help you to see more clearly what you are doing.
3) Chew. This slows you down and gives you time to realize what you are doing.
4) Create a list of comfort activities. It may be taking a walk, praying, calling a friend, journaling or sitting in silence. Comfort activities are much more likely to fill your body's need than "comfort foods."
5) Plan ahead. Know what triggers your stress and have your pantry stocked with healthy food like nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits.
By making these smarter choices your food will nourish you and give you energy, not add to your problems. Take time to get in touch with what you are feeling, don’t cover feelings up with food.