What are you craving?

Someone I know recently told me she has been craving sub sandwiches and pepperoni pizza. She cut out cheese and refined foods from her diet a couple weeks back. So, I asked her: Could that be the root of your cravings? She didn’t think that was the issue. As we talked more, it came to light that the last time she had a sub sandwich or a slice of pepperoni pizza was with friends – close friends – that she had not seen in a while.

Most of us associate cravings with foods. After all, most nutrition books will tell you that cravings are tied to a nutrient deficiency. You crave salt when you need more greens. You want water when you’re dehydrated. You crave meat when you’re low in iron. All of that is true. But cravings don’t have to include a fat, protein, or carb.  

Sometimes what you crave is an experience. Or love. Or safety. Interestingly, these desires manifest as a type of food. If you think about it though, it makes sense. Food plays a large role in many of our of memories. Most of us remember eating cake and ice cream at birthday parties. We correlate the smell of burgers on the grill with summer. And we remember grandma sneaking in candy bars when mom wasn’t looking. So, it’s only natural that emotional needs materialize as foods.

So, how to do you differentiate between nutrient deficiency and emotional deficiency? The answer is increased self-awareness. It’s a simple solution, but it’s not always easy to execute. If you need help with execution, next time a craving pops up, ask yourself what is so appealing about this item – and then wait for an answer. If one doesn’t come to you right away (it usually doesn’t, by the way), scan your body. Are you happy? Are you sad? Is your chest tight? How’s your stomach feel? What about your head? When’s the last time you felt like this? Ask yourself these questions and any others that come up. And then answer them honestly.

Maybe you really do need more kale in your diet. Or maybe what you need can’t be solved with what’s on your plate. Believe me when I say, you’ll know what you need if you take time to figure it out. So, next time you’re craving a donut or slice of blueberry pie, ask yourself – why am I craving this? The answer may surprise you.

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