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.
What is unique to the training I received from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) as opposed to other dietary or nutrition course available is the concept of “Primary Foods”.
Primary Foods refer to our lifestyle factors that help create optimal health. They can be broken down to four core groups: relationships, physical activity, career and spirituality.
In 2010, following a change to dietary guidelines, the USDA replaced their food pyramid (MyPyramid) with a food plate (MyPlate) identifying that the following food groups that need to be incorporated in your diet: fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins, with some dairy added too. IIN incorporates the same concepts in their plate (fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains) but also makes some variations: replacing dairy with water, adding healthy fats and oils and the most important variation, inclusion of the four core groups of your Primary Food. As Joshua Rosenthal, founder of IIN, explains: “The food you eat plays a critical role in your health and happiness…. But the four forms of primary food truly nourish you and make your life extraordinary.”
Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. When your primary food is balanced and satiating, your life feeds you, making WHAT you eat secondary food. The more primary food we receive, the less we depend upon secondary foods. The opposite is also true. The more we fill ourselves with secondary foods, the less we are able to receive the primary foods of life.
Let’s explore the primary foods in more detail:
Relationships – relationships come and go and during the course of our lifetime we have relationships with our parents, grandparents, siblings, partners, children, friends, colleagues, the list goes on and on. The quality of these relationships plays a large part in the quality of a person’s life. We need to surround ourselves with people that will help us grow and develop and be the best that we can. Establishing relationships with people we enjoy being around that make us smile and laugh. Spending time and energy in relationships whereby the person does not support us and does make us feel good can truly be toxic to not only our minds but also to our bodies and can impact on the quality of our health. All relationships take a lot of work, but they can be extremely rewarding.
Physical Activity – Our bodies were made to move. If we think of our ancestors they were constantly on the move, they had to hunt and gather to live. In today’s society not only do most of our jobs involve sitting down all day, but at the end of the day we can also have all our groceries and meals delivered to our front door. Unless we are consciously moving, we forget that we need to. Physical activity does not necessarily entail training for a marathon or going to the gym 2 hours a day, it is simply about moving around. Perhaps you can take the flight of stairs instead of the lift, or get off the tram one stop earlier or just take your children to the park. Physical activity can be simple and different forms or exercise will give you different types of energy and will nourish your body differently.
Career – if we calculate how we spend the hours in our day, most of the waking part of our day is spent at work. Now let’s be realistic and how many of us can say that we absolutely love the work that we do and look forward to waking up and going into work each morning? I know I can!
But this took many years of trying different career paths to really find where my passion is and what drives me. Feeling helpless and unhappy in our jobs definitely is not a nourishing lifestyle. Finding work that you love is essential to living a healthy, balanced life. So many of us complain constantly about what we do but feel powerless to make a change, I strongly urge you to have the courage to make your job a more positive place to be. Discover what work means to you and what you need to achieve to be happy and nourish you. Feeling happy and productive in the place you spend most of your time will dramatically increase your sense of well-being.
Spirituality – Joshua Rosenthal says “Spiritual nutrition can feed us on a very deep level and dramatically diminish cravings for the superficial rewards of life”. We all search for the meaning in our lives and spiritual practice has a different meaning for everyone. Some people may find it in religion, or through meditation or yoga and others through the universe. Embrace synchronicity, believe that things happen for a reason and that you end up meeting people at the right place at the right time, things happen for a reason. Learn to read the signs, feel the direction in which life wants to go and then use your intelligence and creativity to make it happen.
It’s easy to overlook all of the things that contribute to our sense of nourishment and fulfilment. It’s not just the food we eat that affects our health, but all of the other factors present in our daily lives. Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a spiritual awareness are essential forms of nourishment. I will support you in achieving all of your goals, from eating the right foods for your body to living an inspired, fulfilling life.
The effect of stress on our body is completely underestimated. When talking about toxins in our body, the biggest one of all is stress. It is a proven contributor to all the major causes of DEATH including Heart Disease, Diabetes, Stroke and Cancer. Click on the link below to hear more about the impact on stress on our bodies.
Karen from Positive Healthwellness recently put together a great infographic that comprehensively covers how stress affects the body. See the image below, and click the image to visit their website.
Your career is one of the "primary foods" in our lives, and how happy you are at work will have a direct impact on how you feel outside of work, and can become a road block to your weight loss goals as well as affect your general well being. Here is a great TED Talk that explores the correlation between success and happiness, and how we have it completely backwards and are thus unable to truly be happy.
I have battled for many years with my weight and self-image, and over the years I have jumped around trying all different types of eating styles and methods looking for ways to get my body to respond to how I wanted it to.
What I have learnt is that I have had a love-hate relationship with food, and in actual fact, it wasn't about food at all, but about the way I was feeling about myself. Instead of loving my body and nourishing it, I would feed it a lot of negative talk and self-doubt which would manifest as stress, and therefore would not enable my body to work optimally.
More recently, and especially the past few months, I have tried to release all the negativity towards food and weight and so I wanted to share with you some of my tricks.
1) Don't beat yourself up for what you ate yesterday
No one eats perfectly... including me!! And really, what is the definition of perfect??? Take each meal as an opportunity to nourish your body and feed it with love. It's not serving your body to think about what you may not have eaten correctly and this will not assist you to reach your goals.
2) Practice mindful eating
Sit, chew and breathe with food! Try to remove any distractions, T.V's, phones, computers, iPads etc.... The more we use our senses and appreciate the food that we eat, the more our brain will be signalled that it's satisfied and therefore, we will be less likely to overeat.
3) Enjoy your food
Don't turn an enjoyable experience into a stressful one! Do not allow the negative thoughts of "I should not be eating this" or "I'm a failure and have no control over what I eat." This will increase the amount of stress your body will be experiencing, which in turn will increase your cortisol and potential fat storage.
4) Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations
Affirmations have a really powerful effect that can change your beliefs, behaviours and actions. They can help improve your relationship with food.
5) Stop comparing!
With social media these days we are surrounded by photos of beautiful women and perfect bodies but what you don't know is all the potential photoshopping that is happening in the background to create the image that you have seen.
Also remember, your body and nutritional needs are different from your friends, your sister and even your mother!! What works for one person may not necessarily work for you. Focus your energy on learning to understand your body and what works for you!
6) Are you hungry, or is there something emotional going on?
Learning to identify your hunger signs as compared to eating to satisfy your emotional needs can have a huge impact on your relationship with food.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to identify the differences:
Did you skip a meal or ‘forget to eat’?
What did I eat in my last meal and how long ago was it?
Do you use food as a reward mechanism?
What is going on for me right now?
Always stop and identify what it could be and if you realise that you are not actually hungry, then do something else that is pleasurable.
Go for a walk, massage, hot bath, manicure, watch your favourite TV show with a cuppa, read a book or have a chat with your bestie!
Remember, we only have ONE body. Feed it with the nutrients, love and care it deserves.
Treasure it, love it and it will love you back.