What Are You Really Craving?

This post was originally published by me a year ago on Facebook, on 12 April 2017. Since it resonated with people so deeply, I’m reposting it here on my blog.

One of the markers you’re truly happy: you’re pulled only to food that’s great for you.

I’ve struggled with eating disorders since the age of 9. For much of that time I’d have irresistible food cravings, and I’d binge on sugar and dairy. For some of that time it was visible externally, but for much it wasn’t, because I’d cover it up with ridiculous amounts of exercise and fat burning supplements.

Now I’m a certified health coach, and for the last year (and for much of the last 4 years), I’ve eaten clean, fresh and often organic food most of the time. But for my first 3 months after returning to London from New York, I was struggling in silence with reverse culture shock, feeling isolated amidst the pressures of entrepreneurship and finding my feet again, and it happened again. Those insatiable urges. You’d think I’d never eaten before. And it finally really hit me.

Not just that positive emotions, relationships, purpose, balance, and time in nature are as much food as real food, but that very specifically, we’re pulled to sugar when we’re searching for emotional sweetness, and dairy for serenity – which is incredibly effective at alleviating anxiety.

Each time I’ve committed to finding ways to get more sweetness, more emotional connection and serenity in my life that don’t involve food, those food cravings have stopped. And as soon as I stop making my emotional needs a priority, they return.

If you’re craving bad food or even giving into it, whether for the first time or whether it’s so normal you barely even question it anymore, whatever you do don’t judge yourself. Look at yourself with the compassion you would show a friend and ask yourself what’s really going on. Go on an emotional treasure hunt. Ask yourself what’s really missing. Because it’s almost certainly not food.

And if it’s sugar, ask yourself how you can experience more sweetness. Ask yourself what you need to do to experience more connection, more love, more intimacy, and quality time with people who make you feel good. If it’s dairy, ask yourself how you can experience more serenity, more self care, bubble baths, candles, meditation, vacation/holiday time, whatever healthy forms of decompression make you feel most contented.

Curbing chocolate cravings

When we’re consuming junk, we develop an addiction cycle where our bodies continue to crave it. However, when we start detoxifying our bodies, we start to be able to hear our true cravings. At this point, we begin to recognize that our bodies are craving what we’re lacking.

If you’re craving chocolate, it can be a sign of sugar addiction, especially if you haven’t cut down on/detoxed from sugar either for a while or ever. (I’ll cover this more in a separate post.) But, whether you’re addicted to sugar or not, chocolate cravings can also be a hint your body’s low on magnesium. Dark chocolate especially is a good source of magnesium, so your body might tell you that you need it. But it’s not the only source, you can satisfy the root of the craving with multiple options: dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, avocado, bananas for example, as well as topping up with magnesium supplements. If you’re in doubt about your vitamin levels or concerned about deficiencies, it’s worth asking your doctor for a nutrition blood test, especially if you’ve never had one before.

I never used to like mushrooms, as a child I decided they were far too similar to slugs for my liking. But we developed a friendship last year, and now I love them dearly! And I’ve noticed I’ve been craving them the last few weeks. Why? They’re an amazing source of vitamin D and it’s dark right now for many of us so we’re getting less vitamin D naturally from the sunlight. I’ve been taking supplements but nothing beats the real stuff.

Our bodies are so smart.

What food are you craving right now?