Deconstructing Cravings: What Is Your Body Telling You?

Last night I held a group conference call about Overcoming Sugar Cravings, and I wanted to extend a big thank you to everyone who joined me.  And today I thought I would share one of the most important aspects of cravings - understanding why we get them, and then of course, some tips on how to better deal with them.  

It’s funny how all of us get very frustrated by our intense cravings.  We can’t control them, we give in to them, and then we feel guilty.  It happens to all of us.  For many people especially women, its chocolate and sweet desserts.  For other’s it's salty and greasy foods.  But what most people don’t know is that there is a good reason for those cravings!

Our body is pretty amazing and knows when to go to sleep, when to go to the bathroom, how to maintain a temperature of 98.6 degrees F, how to keep the heart beating, and how to heal itself when wounded.  But in order for your body to do all of its functions, it needs the right nutrients, proper rest, and love.  When we feel cravings, our bodies are trying to send us a message that we need something.  Something is out of balance and needs to be corrected.

So its important to really deconstruct your cravings so that you can fuel your body with what it really needs.  This way you will avoid over-indulging, and spare yourself the feeling of guilt.  Here are a few things that might be out of balance, and are leading your cravings.  Try addressing these first before digging into the cookie jar!

  1. Lack of water.  This is often the primary cause of cravings.  So try drinking a glass of water next time you have a craving and give it a few minutes to see how you feel.  You can also have some herbal (non-caffeinated) tea.  Drinking plenty of water and tea in between meals will generally help reduce all cravings.

  2. Stress.  Stress and anxiety from personal relationship issues, from work, from not completing your to-do list, etc.  Acknowledge the underlying cause, take a deep breath and focus on ways to relieve your stress instead of eating.

  3. Boredom.  We often eat when we’re bored, so try to take note of that, and instead of eating, go do something fun and/or productive!

  4. Yin-Yang imbalance.  Certain foods have more Yin qualities and others more Yang qualities.  When you eat a lot of foods on one side of the spectrum, your body naturally craves foods on the other side in order to reach balance.  For example, sugar is yin while meat is yang, so eating a lot of meat can lead to sugar cravings.  Or when you eat a lot of raw foods (yin), your body may crave some cooked / dehydrated foods (yang).

  5. Inside coming out.  We often crave foods that we've recently been eating.  You know the feeling when you had something  yummy yesterday and you want more of it?  For this, I highly recommend tongue scraping which will remove the residue on your tongue and help avoid this type of craving.  Your body can also crave foods that we used to eat a lot during childhood, or that our ancestors used to eat.  

  6. Seasons.  We often crave foods due to the weather outside, and this again is your body trying to find balance.  So for example, in the summer we crave cool, raw foods, while in the winter we crave warm and heavier foods.  The key here is to find healthy options, so in the summer, go for a slice of watermelon instead of that gelato!

  7. Lack of nutrients.  This is a BIG one and I consider it one of the most important to understand.  There are physical explanations for almost all common food cravings.  Specific cravings are linked to specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  But most generally, lack of proper nutrition will make you constantly crave a quick form of energy like caffeine.  So if you’re constantly craving coffee, I’d suggest eating a more balanced diet filled with fresh whole foods, organic protein, healthy fats, and cutting down on packaged foods (which are mostly void of proper nutrients).  Also, try taking a multivitamin.

  8. Hormones.  This is especially relevant for women.  During the different phases of your menstrual cycle, the fluctuation of your hormones will often create unique cravings.  So its very important to know and understand what goes on in your body during each stage, so that you can be prepared and give your body what it really needs.

Many people that have known me for many years know that I was always craving sweets.  I now have been able to make huge progress on that front by really focusing on what I was craving, and the potential root causes.  In particular, I was always craving chocolate.  So I researched this and realized chocolate cravings are usually linked to a magnesium deficiency, and let me tell you, my cravings have gotten way better now that I'm taking a magnesium supplement every night.  I also found that when I started to include sauerkraut in my daily diet, it really helped with my sugar cravings.  That's because I was addressing a yin-yang imbalance, and I needed to add more sour foods in my diet to balance off the salty and sweet foods.  

I also faced emotional and "inside out" triggers.  I always felt I "needed" something sweet right after lunch and dinner  Giving it some thought, it occurred to me that this was, to a large degree, out of pure habit because I grew up having dessert after meals.  Now when I don’t give in to this craving,  it subsides, as my body doesn't actually need dessert after meals, especially now that i’m eating more balanced meals.  

Apart from those sweet cravings, I also find that when I’m sad, I feel like binge eating and mindless eating.  So now I think about it; I acknowledge that I’m sad, but also that eating won’t help.  So instead, I indulge by taking the afternoon off and watching a chick flick in bed or going to the pool for a bit  And I feel so much better after, which means my body is telling me that I need some self-loving and “me” time, not more food!

So when you experience a craving, ask yourself, "what does my body need, and why?"  

Start paying closer attention to your body’s messages, and your thoughts.  Try going for a walk, calling your parents or a friend, make yourself a tea, and just laugh out loud.  Anything to distract you for 15-30 mins, and then see if your craving is still there.  Most often times it’ll be gone.  If it’s still there, refer to this guide and see what might be triggering it.

Lastly, for those of you who crave sugar in particular, a good detox from sugar for just 10 days can immensely help to make those cravings go away.  Because a large part of it is getting out of your poor habits, and creating new healthier ones.  With just 10 days of no added sugars, your body will thank you, and will no longer ask you for it.  Not only that, sweet foods will start to taste extra sweet, and just one bite of something sweet will be more than enough.  Trust me, it will change your life.  This detox will also be great for those with possible food sensitivities, or in general, for anyone looking to lose a few pounds and/or jumpstart a healthier lifestyle.  Join me for a 10 Day Summer Detox workshop in June, and email me at if you have interest / for more details.

Love and cravings,