What do you do when you get a craving? Do you try to control it? Shut it down with willpower? Avoid then binge? Convince yourself you don't need it (while secretly obsessing about it)?
The true secret to conquering cravings once and for all isn't in avoiding your food of choice; more often than not that just gives it more power and makes it that much worse when you finally do give in.
I know I can't be the only one who's avoided eating a cookie and ended up eating 8 cookies, a slice of cake, and a half a bag of pretzels.
What really works is understanding your cravings, interpreting the signals your body is giving you, and addressing the root of the 'problem'.
With that in mind, here are some of the messages we may be missing when we try to white-knuckle our cravings into submission:
Sometimes we crave certain foods because we're missing vital nutrients that they contain.
Craving chocolate? You may be low in magnesium. Try eating more avocado, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, lentils, beans chickpeas, flax, pumpkin, chia seeds, salmon, and dark leafy greens.
Craving salt? You may be experiencing an electrolyte imbalance. Add more banana, coconut water, watermelon, avocado, lemon, olives, and/or celery to your daily diet.
You also may be responding to higher stress levels. It's been shown that people with higher sodium levels release less cortisol when stressed.
Instead of reaching for a bag of chips, try meditation, getting outside, or following the 4-2-6 destress breathe (breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 2 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 6 seconds, repeat at least 10 cycles).
Craving cheese or ice cream? You may be in need of more fat or vitamin D. Opt for avocado, salmon, egg yolks, and wild mushrooms.
Craving red meat? Your body may be looking for iron (I know I always crave steak around that time of the month). Try including more dark leafy greens, cherries, and legumes. And if you do enjoy red meat, make sure it's organic and grass fed!
Craving pasta or bread? Get higher amounts of chromium with apples, grapes, broccoli, potatoes, and green beans.
This is why we say not to grocery shop on an empty stomach. When you aren't getting enough calories, nutrients, and energy, your body's cravings for fat and carbs are going to go through the roof and feel much more out of control.
I can't tell you how many clients' nighttime cravings have gone away when they start eating more throughout the day.
The bugs in your gut have the ability to send signals to your brain to crave their favorite food. If you have more bad bugs than good, you're going to be reaching for sugar and carbs like they're going out of style.
Also if your gut is damaged, you can't absorb the vitamins and minerals in your food properly which leads to the first problem we talked about: nutrient deficiency cravings.
We all have dealt with the desire for comfort food when we're feeling sad, bored, or stressed. But food isn't the answer here. In fact, just like our cravings, the more we avoid our emotions the more powerful they become.
We have to remind ourselves, our negative emotions won't kill us. It's ok to feel sad, bored, or stressed and not self medicate with candy, alcohol, or bread.
In fact, a huge predictor for success in weight loss and in life in general, is the ability to tolerate negative emotions.
So instead of avoiding or burying your negative emotions, allow them to roll over you. Feel it in its full intensity, breath deeply through it, and then release it. Trust, you'll feel a LOT better 20 minutes after a good cry than you will 20 minutes after a full bag of Doritos.
Sometimes a craving is nothing more than a routine you've created for yourself. The kids go to bed and that little signal in your brain goes off to hit the pantry. Or 3 o'clock rolls around and you find yourself magnetically pulled to the vending machine. Or Netflix comes on and you get triggered to make some popcorn.
When this is the case, it's just a matter of breaking the habit loop by setting up different triggers and swapping habits! But that's a conversation for another episode.
There is one more major message your cravings are trying to tell you, but to find out what it is, you'll have to jump into the podcast with the link at the top of the page!
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