It is always best to be mindful when we eat. Our parents taught us to sit at the table together as a family. We had to turn off the television and absolutely no toys at the table. Chew thoroughly. Many nutritionists teach their clients to note their mood when they choose to eat when not feeling hunger signals. Were they feeling mad, sad, frustrated or happy? Seeing the connection between food decisions and emotion may better help us understand when and why we crave the foods we do. But with the fast-paced life we live nowadays, we are often either forgetting to eat, scarfing down the most convenient available choices (fast foods) on the go, letting our kids play with electronic devices at the table or in front of the television, and eating it in the car or at our work desk or standing up in the kitchen. Are we teaching and perpetuating negative food habits? Below are 8 causes of our food cravings. Understanding them will hopefully make us better eaters and healthier, optimal functioning people.
Being dehydrated and not having a habit of drinking clean water around the clock (not just when you are thirsty) can send the message to the brain that the body is thirsty and on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can manifest as a mild hunger, so the first thing to do when you get a craving is to drink a tall glass of water. But note this: excess water can also cause cravings and bloating, so be sure that your water intake is well balanced.
Being dissatisfied or (or happy, for that matter) with a relationship, having an obsession to working out or an inappropriate exercise routine, being bored, stressed, uninspired, feeling purposeful, unhappy at a job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Eating, especially in our country is used as a comfort, sport and many times a celebratory occasion which teaches our brains to turn to food for feeling satisfied.
From the Eastern Chinese Medicine practices, all foods have yin and yang qualities. Certain foods have more yin qualities (expansive) while other foods have more yang qualities (contractive). Eating foods that are either extremely yin or extremely yang causes cravings in order to maintain balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in sugar (yin) may cause a craving for meat (yang). Eating too many raw foods (yin) may cause cravings for extremely cooked (dehydrated) foods or vice versa.
Often times, cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten, foods eaten by our ancestors, or foods from our childhood. That is why people who eat junk and fast foods often crave them more and more. When people abstain from eating junk food and sugars, taste buds are retrained and the body does not crave those foods as much.
Often the body craves foods that balance the elements of the season. In the spring, people crave detoxifying foods like leafy greens or citrus foods. In the summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw foods and ice cream, and in the fall people crave grounding foods like squash, onions and nuts. During winter, many crave hot and heat-producing foods like meat, oil and fat. Cravings can also be associated with the holidays, for foods like turkey, eggnog or sweets.
Our bodies are incredibly smart. We can actually learn so much if we just pay attention to what it is telling us by being aware of our cravings. If the body has inadequate nutrients, it will produce odd cravings. For example, inadequate mineral levels produce salt cravings, and overall inadequate nutrition produces cravings for non-nutritional forms of energy, like caffeine.
When women experience menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, fluctuating testosterone and estrogen levels may cause unique cravings.
People who are less aware of the foods they put into their mouths are subject to self-sabotage syndrome, when the foods we crave start causing a cascade of self-binging in order to balance ourselves. This often happens from low blood-sugar and may result in strong mood swings. The foods that are agriculturally grown in our modern day with pesticides, toxins and antibiotics cause extreme changes and adverse health effects to our bodies. Starting a new weight loss program, diet, or medication drug can also off set the way we eat.