What Your Cravings Mean and How To Manage Them

What Your Cravings Mean and How To Manage Them

Cravings. One of the most loved and hated words in history of mankind. So maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it happened to be the only way I could describe the rollercoaster of emotions that come alongside cravings.

Cravings aren’t just simply a yearning for a certain food – they are deeply embedded and born out of emotions; our wants, needs, sadness, pain, love, grief and happiness. The nutritionist in me also recognizes that cravings can be born out of nutritional deficiencies, which I’m going to touch upon shortly. But I would say, it takes an equal effort of healing emotionally and nutritionally in order to get rid of cravings altogether.

The reason why I started off by described the “cravings” as one of the most loved and hated words is simply because of the words I just said that so many people are constantly seeking the solution for – “in order to get rid of cravings”. It’s like a craving arises and we feel we need to suppress it or make it disappear altogether. On the other hand, you could be walking down the street on a beautiful sunny day and happen to pass by an ice-cream shop and suddenly develop a strong desire for ice-cream. You might then find yourself sitting in a park with a friend reveling in the beautiful day, the beautiful moment and the ever-so-beautiful ice-cream and finding joy in satisfying that craving. So you can see that cravings can be classified as both “good” and “bad”, right?

But my goal here isn’t to make enemies, but to make friends with food. I now know from personal experience that it is entirely possible to have a healthy relationship with food. I also know that things like cravings can be warmly welcomed into our lives without feeling like we have “screwed up” if we happen to indulge in that craving. So instead of getting rid of cravings, I’m going to explain how to manage them!

What Your Cravings Mean

In the past when a craving, such as chocolate, would arise, I would immediately think that the only way to “make the craving go away” would be to just have the chocolate (of course, the former-diet-obsessed me would turn to everything else first thinking it was “healthier” – chocolate milk, 100-calorie snack pack chocolate pretzels or low-fat chocolate ice-cream). Nothing was ever enough and I would always end up eating way more than I would have, had I just had a square piece of chocolate to begin with.

Now when cravings arise, I bring my nutritionist and emotional eating knowledge together to try to come to some sort of conclusion as to how I should approach it. For example, if I’m craving chocolate, I might ask myself:

– Am I bored?
– Do I feel lonely?
– Could I possibly be lacking magnesium?
– Do I feel unworthy?
– Do I have love in my life?
– Am I missing love in some areas?
– Do I feel love for myself?

I know it seems crazy but conditioning myself to think of my cravings in this way has really helped me get a hold on what I’m really needing at that time. Sometimes after going through this thought process, I might still go for the chocolate and I remind myself that that’s okay.  But when I do, I don’t feel out of control and feel satisfied after a square or two of chocolate!

So how can you do this? I’ve broken it all down for you right here!

How To Manage Your Cravings

Craving: Chocolate
What It Means: Need for love, romance, intimacy, touch, hugs, closeness
Nutritional Deficiency: Magnesium
Supportive Foods: Nuts, seeds, broccoli, kale, swiss chard, spinach
Supportive Lifestyle Tips: Exercise, play a sport or do an activity that gets your body moving to produce serotonin and endorphins, practice self-love through self-care practices (deep breathing, bath, journaling, alone time)

Craving: Sweets
What It Means: A lack of joy or “sweetness” in life, sadness
Nutritional Deficiency: Chromium, Sulfur, Tryptophan, Phosphorous, Poor blood sugar balance
Supportive Foods: Broccoli, cabbage, kale, nuts, legumes, eggs, chicken, sweet potato
Supportive Lifestyle Tips: Tend to a beloved hobby you haven’t done in awhile, go for a long walk, get a massage

Craving: Salty Food
What It Means: Stress (body craves salt when stress levels are intensely raised for a long period of time which depletes your adrenal gland’s ability to create aldosterone which is a hormone that helps to retain sodium)
Nutritional Deficiency: Chloride, Iodine, Low Electrolytes
Supportive Foods: Fish, cashews, water, dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes
Supportive Lifestyle Tips: Exercise, go for a walk, meditate, stretch, do yoga, deep breathe

Craving: Carbohydrates
What It Means: Need for comfort when life or a task feels hard, stressed, sad
Nutritional Deficiency: Nitrogen
Supportive Foods: High protein food (meat, fish, nuts, beans, chia seeds)
Supportive Lifestyle Tips: Release worry, address stress when it comes and turn to a positive coping mechanism like deep-breathing, remove unnecessary stressors to your life that contribute to your overall stress (traffic, preparing lunch in advance, getting organized the night before a big day)

Craving: Greasy/Fatty Foods
What It Means: Hurt, loss, depleted self-worth
Nutritional Deficiency: Essential Fatty Acids, Calcium
Supportive Foods: Nuts, chia seeds, flax seed, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, sesame seeds, dark leafy greens
Supportive Lifestyle Tips: Practice journaling to rid your mind of negative thoughts, develop positive affirmations and constantly repeat them to yourself

On top of the supportive foods I recommend to help balance out that nutritional deficiency and craving, there are also a few super effective tips I typically give clients who are struggling with managing their cravings:

  • Ensure you are having a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein at each meal
    This will make sure you are getting the macronutrients and hopefully the micronutrients you need to be your best self and to feel completely satiated after each meal.
  • Balance out sweet, savoury, spicy and sour flavours at each meal
    I make a point to do this in my meals as much as possible, but especially in salad dressings. That way, my palette is fully satiated and doesn’t go looking for other foods to satisfy it after I’ve finished my meal. For example, my salad dressing might consist of: 2-3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp raw honey, 1/2 tsp miso paste, a dash of sea salt.
  • Drink water (with lemon!)
    Are you hungry, experiencing a craving or just thirsty? Have a drink of water (with lemon – extra satisfying!) and think about it 🙂
  • Keep your blood sugar balanced
    Enjoy consistent balanced meals throughout the day and ensure you’re loading up on loads of fat and protein-rich snacks to ward off hunger and cravings.
  • JERF (Just Eat Real Food)
    It sounds plain and simple, maybe even silly, but I swear this was one of the biggest things that helped me control my cravings and binges during my disordered eating years. I would constantly turn to diet drinks and food that wasn’t nourishing me on a cellular level and leaving me with uncontrolled cravings that could never be satisfied. It wasn’t until I just started eating the real thing (i.e. square of dark chocolate VS aspartame filled chocolate flavoured pudding or yogurt) that I finally felt satisfied and in control of my cravings.

I can honestly say it’s been quite a while since I’ve felt overwhelmed by a craving. Sure, I still get “in the mood” for certain foods, but I’m not experiencing the uncontrollable sensation where I feel like life can’t go on unless I satisfy this craving (because let’s get real – cravings do a dang good job at making you feel that way!) It is largely in part due to living up to these recommendations and getting to the root of what the “issue” might be, so I hope you are able to take away some key learnings from this to help you manage your cravings better and feel more in control of food.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this Rachel! It totally makes sense to me now why I always crave salty food and carbs. I don’t think I really pay attention to make sure I get enough protein and I definitely tend to be stressed out! Now I know how to soothe these cravings in healthy ways 🙂

    • Rachel Molenda

      Awesome! I’m so happy it was helpful to you, Mel! It can take a while to learn how to stop yourself in the moment and decide what your body really means but just by starting to bring consciousness to this, you will gradually learn how to do so and eventually it will feel more natural 🙂

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