Deconstructing Cravings

I hope you enjoyed my first newsletter, and found the information interesting and useful.

In this newsletter, I want to talk to you about cravings, and what they mean. Often people associate cravings specifically with food, however there is so much more to the root cause of our cravings. Hopefully the information below gives you something to think about the next time you reach for that chocolate bar.


Picture this, you are at a function and the beautifully decorated table is filled with different cupcakes, cakes and pastries, or you go to your favourite sporting game and walk into the arena to the smell of hot chips and doughnuts. You get this immediate, uncontrollable urge to grab hold of anything and start consuming it. That describes a craving - an intense, powerful desire for something.

How are we supposed to ignore that feeling? We don’t, we succumb to it, feed our craving, enjoy every mouthful and then feel miserable afterwards. Berating ourselves, trying to work out why we just couldn’t say NO! And we convince ourselves that next time it will be easier, we will be stronger and we won’t indulge.

At the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) we are taught to accept and welcome our cravings. It doesn’t matter what we crave, the important thing is understanding why you crave what you crave. Once we understand that our bodies don’t make mistakes we can accept that cravings are just a method in which our body can tell us what we need.

Historically, food is generally what we turn to when we experience a craving and we view food as our medicine in an attempt to fix the underlying imbalances. But really what are these cravings trying to tell us?

There are 8 primary causes of cravings:

1. Dehydration – the body doesn’t send a message that it is thirsty until you are on the verge of dehydration. Dehydration can be misinterpreted for being hungry, but majority of the time when we get that rumble in our stomach or that desire to eat something all we really need is a drink.

So the next time you get this feeling not long after eating, go for a full glass of water and take note on whether this feeling goes away. If after 20 minutes you can still feel this urge, reach out for a health snack.

2. Lifestyle – Emotional eating is a common way for people to fill the void. This is experienced by many when they are dissatisfied with a relationship, have an inappropriate exercise routine, are bored, stressed, uninspired by their job or lacking in spiritual guidance.

3. Yin / Yang Imbalance – Certain foods can be described as having yin qualities (expansive foods which provide the feelings of lightness, elevations in mood and relief from stagnation). Refined sugar would be the best example to describe as having yin qualities. Whilst other foods have more yang qualities (contractive foods which give us a feeling of strength such as meat)

4. Inside Coming Out – Often cravings come from the foods we have eaten from our childhood or that remind us of a special occasion. This should not be ignored but instead we satisfy these cravings by having a healthier version of the food you are craving. For example, chocolate cake can be swapped for a sweet potato brownie, fish and chips can be made by grilling the fish and baking the chips and ice creams can be replaced by thick smoothies… Mmmm, yummy!

5. Seasonal – It is very important to listen to what our body is telling us and often the body craves foods that balance out the elements of the season. In summer, people crave cooling foods like fruit, raw vegetables and ice-cream. In winter our body craves hot and heat-producing foods like soups, stews and meat. Foods taste better when they are in season and also have the most nutritional benefit at this time. Knowing what fruits and vegetables can be sourced locally is a great way to keep track of this so eating watermelon during the winter months is not an ideal option.

6. Lack of Nutrients – Cravings can often come when our body is getting an inadequate amount of nutrients. For example, salt cravings are produced when we lack minerals especially Zinc. If our body is lacking in nutrients, it often looks for non-nutritional forms of food to supply itself with the energy: caffeine, sugar, alcohol etc.

7. Hormones – Fluctuating hormone levels, especially for women during the menstruation period, often results in craving certain foods. At these times, it is best to pause for a moment rather than impulsively reaching for something and consider what it is exactly that your body is asking for, are you craving something sweet or something salty? Something bitter, pungent or spicy? Are you craving something crisp and dry or moist and liquidy?

8. De-evolution – When things are going well, sometimes a self-sabotage syndrome occurs. We suddenly crave foods that throw us off balance and then we have more cravings to re-balance. In these moments, it may not be food that we are craving at all. The nourishment we require may be from needing a little excitement in our lives or maybe some comforting.

So as you can see, cravings can mean many different things and once we can learn to deconstruct these cravings, our body can start to heal. Cravings are not a weakness, they are important messages that our bodies our sending us to help you maintain balance and to find harmony and happiness in your life.

They encourage you to look for foods, deficits and behaviours that are the underlying causes of your cravings and work out strategies and ways to overcome them.

Next time you experience a craving, stop and listen. Working to understand your cravings is one of the best places to begin to build a mutually loving relationship with your own body.


Keren is the founder of Vital Assurance, and hopes to bring to you her passion for healthy eating and living.