In the past week I have been giving in to my body’s sugar cravings…Peanut M&M’s, Raisinets, Twizzlers, Ice Cream…I have not been following my own Health Coaching advice BUT I have also made some better choices like Coconut Bliss Ice Cream, and my own homemade Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes.

Regardless of the type of sugar I may have been eating, my focus is to find out WHY I am craving so much of it! To find the answer I examined the foods, deficits and behaviors happening in my life that underpin the causes of my cravings. What I found was a lack of protein, an increase in stress, a lack of exercise and a general sense of unease that I was using sweets to calm – unfortunately not the best medicine for me.

Many people view cravings as weakness, but really they are important messages meant to assist you in maintaining balance. When you experience a craving, deconstruct it. Ask yourself, what does my body want and why?

To shift gears and steer myself back into balance I am focusing on the eight primary causes of cravings and what I can do to minimize them.

The eight primary causes of cravings are:

  • Lack of Primary Food – Being dissatisfied with a relationship or having an inappropriate exercise routine (too much, too little or the wrong type), being bored, stressed, uninspired by a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Eating can be used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill the void of insufficient primary food.
  • Water - Lack of water can send the message that you are thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is drink a full glass of water. Excess water can also cause cravings, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.
  • Yin/Yang Imbalance - Certain foods have more yin qualities (expansive) while other foods have more yang qualities (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings in order to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods or vice versa.
  • Inside Coming Out - Often times, cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods from our childhood. A clever way to satisfy these cravings is to eat a healthier version of one’s ancestral or childhood foods.  For me, an example of this is the basic baked potato.  I LOVE THEM!  Its the Irish in me:)  To make a healthier version, I remove the inner starchy core, and fill the skins up with garden fresh salsa or sauteed greens with olive oil and celtic sea salt.
  • Seasons - Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, people crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw foods and ice cream, and in the fall people crave grounding foods like squash, onions and nuts. During winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays, for foods like turkey, eggnog or sweets.
  • Lack of Nutrients – If the body has inadequate nutrients, it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine.
  • Hormones - When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings.
  • De-evolution – When things are going extremely well, sometimes a self-sabotage syndrome happens. We crave foods that throw us off, thus creating more cravings to balance ourselves. This often happens from low blood-sugar and may result in strong mood swings.

What are your cravings this week? How can you pinpoint the reasons for them using the aforementioned eight points as your guide? Would you like to eliminate cravings and have a more balanced nutrition?