Hello everyone! Crystal is posting today on cravings – enjoy her insight!
I can say with 100% certainty – the only time I have felt strong cravings or thought I had a “sweet tooth” was when I was restricting my food. I would go days limiting carbs and then inevitably get a craving for donuts or some other sweet and eat beyond comfortable fullness, which then of course led to feelings of guilt and being out of control. And the cycle would repeat itself. Nowadays, I still enjoy sweets and eat them, but the experience is much more enjoyable and reflective of what I have learned through intuitive eating. Below I’m going to outline 3 steps to help you begin your journey to enjoying and finding peace with all foods.
Make sure you’re eating enough
You can’t move on to other steps without doing this first. A good rule of thumb is 3 meals and 3 snacks a day or eating satisfying and nourishing meals every 4ish hours. Often we underestimate our energy needs – the average woman who is moderately active throughout the day needs about 2500 calories/day. I use that objective value to help give you some perspective, not necessarily an “exact” number. Energy needs vary for everyone, but I think as women we get the message that we should be eating much less than that number which can lead to either intentional or unintentional under eating.
Make Peace with Food
Principle 3 of intuitive eating is Making Peace with Food. I think this is a great principle to work on if you feel like you experience intense cravings or don’t trust yourself around certain foods. Permission levels the playing field, thus all foods become fair game and there are no foods that hold more power over you than others.
Here’s a helpful quote from the authors of Intuitive Eating:
“If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, binging.”
Trust your body
This is an ongoing journey and has many layers, but knowing that your body can handle what you eat is a big step to finding peace with food. If we are constantly thinking about what a food may or may not do to our bodies – it’s nearly impossible to tune in and make intuitive decisions. Also remember if you find yourself nodding to what I’m sharing, you are so not alone. We are all swimming in diet culture. This stuff is hard.
Carbohydrates (particularly sweets) are definitely the one food group I hear people say they have cravings for or feel they are “addicted.” Why is that? We are hardwired to seek out carbs if we haven’t been eating enough or if our overall energy intake is below what we need. Our brains run on glucose (what the body breaks carbs down into), so if we don’t have enough coming in, the brain can’t function optimally. We also need them for a variety of other bodily functions and processes like making serotonin which is our feel good neurotransmitter. Those cravings are actually a red flag, a way for your body to get what it needs. If we don’t eat enough carbohydrates throughout the day, it makes sense that we are going to crave them. Particularly at night.
You might find yourself craving carbohydrates and high energy foods in the days or weeks leading up to your menstrual cycle – this is totally NORMAL. It takes a lot of energy to menstruate, if you think about it, your body is preparing to make a baby, so even if that doesn’t happen – we still need that energy. We need approximately 500 extra calories/day during this time. I also think it’s because most women don’t feel their best the first 2-3 days of their period which can throw off hunger cues. It makes sense that eating foods higher in energy can help offset this time when we might not feel good enough to eat what we normally would. Ever craved chocolate during this time? Yea, me too. Chocolate is full of magnesium and iron, as well as carbohydrates and fat – all the things we need during this time of the month!
Some medical conditions like PCOS or Type 2 diabetes may lead to intense cravings for carbohydrates, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat them! All of this still applies to you and might just take some more mind knowledge and gentle nutrition. You can read more about our approach to PCOS in these three posts.
Our own beliefs or the stories we tell ourselves can set us up to feel out of control around certain foods, much like a self fulfilling prophecy where we create the outcome before we even eat the food. In this sense, practicing mindfulness like meditation or gentle yoga can help you tap into the brain/body connection.
When you have a safe and enjoyable experience with food, you essentially rewire the brain and body to understand, “I can have this food and enjoy it, my body can handle this.” Those lived experiences are what truly begin to shift your belief systems and relationship with food. Right now, some foods may feel scary to you and that’s okay. It’s a learning process and takes time, you’re right where you need to be.
Moral of the story – our bodies know best. I know this can be a scary idea and can take some time to work through and figure out. But, you will get there. Trust the process and yourself! 🙂
Hope you found this post helpful – I’m rooting for you!