Cravings: Good or Evil?

Cravings.  We all have them.  Some of us may be more prone to food cravings then others.  However, unless you lose your sense of smell or taste, you are always going to have them.

We can all relate to the pregnant woman who craves pickles and ice cream.  Okay- maybe that’s just in TV shows, but admit it– us women probably had some kind of craving during pregnancy.  For me, I craved hamburgers, pretzels and cheese.  Do you ever stop to think about exactly where cravings come from?

There are a few different reasons for cravings.

1.  We have become conditioned to craving a certain food, based on our child hood.  Say, whenever you were sick your mom made you chicken noodle soup, so now when you get sick,that is what you crave.  Or maybe you had cookies every day after school, and now you are wondering why you are eating sweets every afternoon.  Maybe you grew up eating pretzels all the time like me.  So my pretzel craving is more out of habit.

2.  There is an emotional component. We crave creamy foods when we are depressed. Ice cream is a typical go-to comfort food.  Carbohydrates (especially baked goods) also aide us in depression, as eating it actually increases our feel good hormone, serotonin.   Craving crunchy, salty foods may mean we have some anger to deal with. The act of crunching is our subconscious way of soothing our anger.

3. There is a physical reason.  Did you know that a major salt craving could be due to lack of mineral, specifically magnesium?  If salt is your weakness, try taking a magnesium supplement and see what happens.  Craving sweets or carbs could be due to a lack of serotonin.  (the feel good hormone I mentioned)

Now that you know that there are real reasons for cravings, how would you feel if somebody told you that your cravings are bad?  Being made to feel less-than for having a craving is like telling someone that they are a bad person for breathing.  Cravings are as natural as breathing.

So what do we do?  We fall into the trap of thinking that we need to suppress our appetite with pills.  We think if only I didn’t crave a certain food in the first place, my life would be wonderful.  Sure, maybe losing your appetite for a certain food will help you to not eat as much and even lose weight, but what happens when your favorite tool gets taken away?

I am all for trying things that don’t seem like punishment.  I admit to have not tried this but some people swear by a tongue cleaner.  They are not just for dental purposes– they can actually help with cravings by removing some of the left over food from before.  However, what if your cravings are due to a mineral deficiency?  You are not getting to the root of the problem.

Look, I get it.  I have both starved myself, and binged on food.  My craving has always been for chips and pretzels.  However, I have learned to stop and ask myself before hand if it’s something I really need.  If I feel that it’s okay to eat at the time, I am mindful of my food and I put it on a plate and eat it slowly. I savor every bite so that i feel satisfied when I am done eating.  I enjoy the food because pretzels are not evil.  (maybe not a health food, but I practice the 80/20 rule… strive for mostly “clean” foods)

The mind is a powerful thing and I feel that before we try to suppress our cravings, we need to learn tools for handling them, as well as figure out if there is a deeper reason, weather it be physical or emotional.

By the way, I focus a lot on Mindful Eating with my clients, and this is a lot of what we talk about.   I am so excited to have my friend from Your Photo Solutions  helping me make a “Mindful Eating Journal” for YOU…. stay tuned for more details! 🙂

Kellie McGarry
Certified Health Coach


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