Honest confession: I’ve been bad lately.
For the last few weeks I’ve had little to no desire to cook (which if you know me, is strange because cooking is absolutely one of my favorite things to do as creative self-expression).
But that’s not all, I’ve been craving and eating very specific foods: heavy, spicy, warm foods.
Thats code for: Indian food.
Now with summer around the corner this is a very odd choice of foods to eat. As it gets warmer we are naturally drawn towards light, raw, fresh foods. My cravings on the other hand, have been similar to those experienced in fall or winter when our body starts to hoard and prepare for colder temperatures.
But like a possessed person I’ve been gorging on Indian treats; khakras and parathas and aloo tikkis. Yum yum yum.
As a health coach I know that there are several reasons why people crave foods. And today while chatting with my friend about my strange inexplicable behavior I realized why I was craving these foods.
I was missing home.
Yes believe it or not, the foods we grew up on as kids become an integral part of our sense of self. When we are separated, physically or psychologically, with this feeling of home, we try and fill that void by ….eating foods that bring those memories back. This kind of craving is called ‘Inside coming out’ – cravings for foods eaten by our ancestors or by us as children.
So here I was, thousands of miles away from my beloved India and my loved ones, wanting some mommy-made food. The realization suddenly lifted a heavy weight off my shoulders because I’d been unconsciously beating myself up over these crazy, unfathomable cravings, asking myself
“What’s wrong with me?”
Actually nothing is wrong with me. Or any of us. We’re simply being talked to, by our bodies. How amazing are our bodies? They know when to go to sleep, wake up, go to the bathroom, maintain 98.6 degrees and contract the eyes when the light gets bright. It knows the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth. Our heart never misses a beat. Our lungs are always breathing. The body is a super-computer and it never makes mistakes.
But when we experience guilt or frustration about our cravings, we suppress the precious signals from our body that might deepen our understanding of the self. If we instead look at the foods, deficits and behaviors in our life that are the underlying causes of our cravings, we might get some precious insights into living a truly healthier life.
Many people view cravings as weakness, but really they are important messages meant to assist us in maintaining balance. When we experience a craving, we need to deconstruct it and ask ourself, “What does my body want and why?”
Here are some reasons we crave certain foods:
1. 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.
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.
3. 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 vise versa.
4. Inside coming out
This is the kind of craving I was experiencing.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. Interestingly, my desire for these foods has subsided since I had my AHA moment. Sometimes just becoming aware of a pattern is good enough for its release.
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.
6. 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. Here’s a detailed chart explaining what nutrients your body might actually be craving for
When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings.
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.
So what have you been craving for lately? And how do you react to your cravings? Are you harsh or kind? Are you willing to dig deeper and get the bottom of things? I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts.