As a human being, at some point of time or another, almost everyone experiences food cravings. Whether it’s for something salty, sweet, crunchy, or creamy, these intense desires can sometimes create overwhelming and uncontrollable urges.
However, these food cravings can also provide valuable insights into our physical, emotional, and social needs. By learning how to decode and respond to these food cravings, we can deepen our self-awareness about our eating habits, improve our relationship with food, and enhance our overall physical and mental well-being. In this article, we will explore the wisdom of food cravings and how to make peace with them by practising mindfulness.
A food craving is a strong desire or urge to eat a specific type of food. The cravings or desires can be triggered by various factors, such as hormonal fluctuations in the body, nutrient deficiencies, increasing stress levels, boredom, social cues, childhood memories related to a particular type of food, or even lifestyle habits.
These Cravings can also vary in intensity, duration, and frequency. They are just like mood swings and can occur at any timer. Some people may have occasional cravings that are easy to resist, while others may have frequent cravings that feel almost irresistible.
For e.g: During pregnancy, women have a craving for certain types of foods. These cravings occur due to the changes in the body’s hormone levels during the period of pregnancy.
Cravings are not random or meaningless. These cravings are often driven by our body’s deficiency for certain nutrients, such as sodium, sugar, fat, protein, or fibre. For example, if we crave chocolate, it may indicate a lack of magnesium in the body, which is found in abundance in cocoa.
If we crave salty snacks, or any other thing that contains salt, it may indicate a lack of sodium or other related minerals, which can be found in seaweed or nuts, or salty biscuits or cookies. If we crave burgers or fries, it may indicate a lack of protein, healthy fats, or fibre, which can be found in abundance in beans, avocado, or whole grains.
Food cravings also reflect our state of emotions or the relationship that we have with food. For example, if we crave ice cream of a particular flavour, it may not only be because of its creamy texture, or sweetness, but also because it reminds us of happy childhood memories, or because we seek comfort or distraction from the current stress that we are suffering from or trying to get away from sadness.
If we crave pizza or any other food, it may not only be because of its cheesy goodness, but also because it’s a popular and convenient food to share and enjoy with friends or family.
Ignoring or suppressing cravings is not the best approach, as it can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, or bingeing. Instead, a more better, healthy and sustainable approach would be to understand, accept and honour our cravings, by responding to them in a mindful and a balanced manner. Following these simple techniques can help make peace with your food cravings and develop a more positive relationship with food:
The next time you are reaching for a snack at an odd time, ask yourself: “Am I really hungry, or just thirsty, tired, bored, or stressed?” Use your body’s senses to notice the physical sensations in your body, such as your hunger pangs, thirst, fatigue, tension, or relaxation. Drink a glass of cold water, take a few deep breaths, stretch out, take a walk, or just lie down rest for a few minutes, and see if your craving subsides. Try closing your eyes and concentrating on your breathing and try to divert your mind from the food to something that you enjoy.
Practising this every time you feel like reaching for a quick snack, you will slowly start understanding your body and its signals in a better manner and give an understanding into a deeper psychology of your relationship with food.
If you are craving something sweet, try eating a piece of fruit, a square of dark chocolate, or a spoonful of honey, instead of grabbing a candy bar or a pastry. If you crave something crunchy or salty, try eating some carrot sticks, cucumber slices, or air-popped popcorn, instead of a pack of chips or a pack of your favourite brand of crackers. If you crave something savoury, try eating some roasted nuts, hummus, or olives, instead of ready-made fried or processed snacks.
In spite of all this, if you still crave the food you want, it’s okay to indulge in it occasionally, as long as you do it mindfully and in moderation. Choose a small portion, savour it slowly, and enjoy every bite. Don’t judge or criticize yourself and beat yourself up for having a craving or for eating the food you crave. Remember that eating food is not just fuel, but also enjoying the pleasure that is associated with the food.
If you notice that your cravings are due to your emotions, such as stress, anxiety, loneliness, or boredom, take a look into your own self to find alternative ways to cope with these feelings. You can practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
You can also connect with others, either in person or online, who share your interests, hobbies, or support groups that can help you overcome those cravings. You can engage in activities that bring you joy and happiness, such as music, art, or nature. By addressing your emotional needs in a better and positive manner, you may find that your cravings become less intense or reduce in frequency.
If you tend to crave the same type of food or flavour, try to expand your culinary horizons and discover new tastes and textures. If you like food, you can explore different cuisines from all over the world, such as Thai, Indian, or Mexican, and learn how to cook some simple dishes that you enjoy.
You can try adding new fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, or grains, and see how they can add variety and nutrition to your diet. By embracing diversity and creativity in your food choices, you may find that your cravings become more diverse and satisfying as there are more options that are available to you. If the intensity of the cravings is less, it may also happen that the cravings would automatically vanish over a period of time.
Food cravings are not a nuisance or your weakness, but they are a part of your personality that includes your relationship with food. This also provides us opportunities to learn about ourselves, our personality and an opportunity to improve our health and happiness, by tweaking our food habits. Cravings are an opportunity to explore new types of cuisines and healthier food options.
Taking our cravings as a challenge, and an opportunity to better ourselves, both in terms of health and happiness, we can transform our cravings into sources of wisdom and joy. So next time you have a craving, don’t resist or regret it, but rather embrace and explore it, and see where it takes you.