“Let’s go out to dinner. I’m craving a big, juicy burger.”
“All I want right now is a hot, cheesy piece of pizza.”
“I’m on my period and I NEED chocolate.”
My guess is you’ve said one of these before, if not all of them. Managing cravings is HUGELY important to staying on track with our eating. (If you’re interested, check out my FREE Cravings Cheat Sheet). We all get cravings once in awhile, but the question we should be asking ourselves is what type of craving is it?
Late yesterday morning I had a craving for meat, which is super rare for me. I had finished my morning workout and had just eaten a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I usually include eggs in my post-workout breakfast, but I was all out. The meat craving came on a little after I finished my cereal and I realized it was because I didn’t get the protein that I usually do around that time of day (cereal has much less protein than eggs). My protein craving was my body’s way of telling me that it needed something. This craving was a real one.
Later in the evening, right after dinner, I started to crave salt even though I wasn’t even hungry. I wanted chips or pretzels or something salty and crunchy. I recognized the cause of this craving right away…stress. Whenever I’m overwhelmed and trying to balance a lot of ideas in my head I crave salt. I learned this from years of paying attention to my personal habits, but I find a lot of people have this same issue. Stress makes us crave things we don’t actually need like salt, sugar, alcohol, etc. These cravings aren’t real needs, just emotional reactions to stress.
The point of these anecdotes is to explain that there are two ways cravings can hit us.
The first way is via a nutritional deficiency resulting from a poor diet. My craving for meat was an intuitive hunger pang. It was my body telling me what I needed, which at that time was protein. This was a real craving because it was something I actually needed.
The second and more common type of craving is emotional. We crave foods that calm us down when we are stressed or anxious. Typically these “comfort foods” are high-carb, high-sugar, or high-sodium, like sweets or pizza. Very rarely, if ever, are our emotional cravings healthy foods like vegetables.
We can determine which type of craving we’re having simply by being more aware of our bodies. The mental aspect of how we eat is crucial, and a lack of mental awareness is usually what leads to undesirable weight gain or loss. If you are craving something, ask yourself if your body requires nutrition of some sort or if you are just seeking comfort in the form of food. Being more aware of our cravings and what they mean will allow us to become more intuitive eaters. (Learn my easy-to-implement #SOS system for fighting off cravings with this free guide!).
Eating intuitively means listening to our appetite and understanding what’s real and what’s not. Intuitive eaters end up getting the nutrients they need in the amounts that their bodies desire so they don’t have to count calories or focus on precise measurements of portion size. They also are able to recognize when they are satisfied before they get full and overeat. The goal is to learn how to eat without having to think about it.
Download a FREE Cravings Cheat Sheet! It includes a system you can use to fight off stress cravings, as well as some healthy alternatives to common cravings. Check it out and let me know how you do!