If you’ve ever found yourself doing laps of your kitchen trying ever so hard not to open the freezer and dig into the choccie ice cream you are very familiar with a craving. If you’ve ever sat at your desk trying to focus on your most critical task and you can’t stop thinking about that warm, creamy café latte, you know all about cravings.
Cravings have a loud, booming, unforgiving voice that is so hard to ignore, that we often don’t ignore it. Then we regret it and our self-diminishing chatter begins.
There are possibly hundreds of reasons we have cravings, and of course a craving looks so different from you to me. You might love any food that is crunchy, or sweet, or salty or something fatty or it might be strictly caffeine that sets your craving-calling on fire.
So, why crave? What’s going on? Let’s dig in.
Craving reason #1
You have poor gut health.
You may become increasingly familiar with phrases like intestinal permeability or leaky gut. This is a super common condition that can be instigated by stress, alcohol, antibiotics, food intolerance and more modern day conditions.
When you think about the fact that:
- 80% of your immune system is in your gut
- 90% of serotonin (your happy hormones) are produced in the gut
- your gut has more nerve endings than your brain,
it makes sense that a lack of integrity in the gut may just impact on your overall health.
You also have a really delicate balance of bacteria in your gut and these little guys have very important roles in maintaining balance in your digestive tract. They assist digestion, help protect your system, create the breakdown of waste. They’re important little contributors and if your gut isn’t in good shape they are likely to be out of balance. Leaving the gates open to parasites and infection can have a serious impact on your cravings. Read all about it in reason #4.
Factoring in these elements you may be experiencing hormone disregulation, depression, anxiety. Have you ever noticed a tendency to go to the craving foods when you’re a bit down in the dumps?
Craving reason #2
Let’s call this one addiction.
“But it’s only sugar, not drugs. I’m totally not addicted!” If you haven’t listened to the Food Matters production “Hungry For Change”, we recommend you do. Many studies discussed in this production clearly show that sugar has the same chemical reaction in the brain as cocaine. Is sugar addictive? Yet bet it is. Sugar is a particularly addictive substance so don’t for a moment think it’s an easy give up – you will need to plan.
Cravings reason #3
Do you find you snack when you’re:
Welcome to food-is-a-hug club! Often we make the choice to snack when these emotions arise as a temporary escape. Often clients tell us that food like chocolate is a reward. And it might be a reward for simply going to work or a task that perhaps isn’t really reward-worthy. If you can pause and identify why you are really making the choice, it may just allow space for a better choice. Often these feelings are quite temporary so a little distraction is an ideal re-router.
Cravings reason #4
Parasites and fungus LOVE sugar and will send your cravings through the roof.
It’s all a bit gross and no one really wants to talk about it, but we are basically walking bugs with a brain and arms and legs. To pretend we’re not harbouring these little dudes is just plain ignorant. We all have them but let’s get very clear that a healthy inhabitation is fine. It is when the parasites or fungus have a greater negative impact on your health/mind/emotions and behaviour than is healthy. Are they negatively impacting on your wellbeing? Are they making decisions for you?
Paul Chek of the Chek Institute would say something like ‘to the degree that the parasite is controlling you, is the degree to which you need to address the parasite overgrowth’. That means if you don’t have any mad sugar (or salt) driven cravings and you don’t experience the cascade of parasite symptoms like:
- Mood instability
- Jaw grinding
- Cold hands and feet
- Bloating and gas
- Irregular bowel movements
- Fungal impressions on your skin
- Bed wetting
- Drooling while asleep
- Unclear thinking
- Crawling sensation under skin
- Hair loss
- Allergies – then it’s probably not a fungus or parasite problem.
If parasites and fungus are dominant they will almost literally get in the car and drive you to the 7 eleven for a kit kat. They are in charge. You’ll be able to recognise if it is a parasite or fungus driving your cravings because the craving becomes a little more manic – more like “sugar or death”.
When you experience a craving take a moment to identify where it comes from. This will help you going forward to manage each craving as it pops up. Here are some ways to mitigate the craving:
Staying hydrated is really one of the easiest ways to maintain great health. Often a hunger pang is actually your body calling out for water. Staying really well hydrated is likely to supress both hunger and cravings.
Identify the voice.
What’s actually driving your craving? Can you identify with any of the above? Once you can figure out where the craving comes from you are more able to address it appropriately.
We don’t often recommend you avoid your problems, but in this case we say distract, distract, distract! Often the circuitry that may be driving your craving will only need a few moments of distraction to rewire and send you on your way. We recommend following these simple steps:
- Have a big glass of water
- Go for a walk, talk to a workmate, do a lap of the stairs at work, get some fresh air, do squats in the loo. Get the blood pumping and the endorphins flowing
- Laugh – get the endorphins flowing with laughter not chocolate. Something that tickles your fancy on YouTube? Got a funny workmate?
- If that all fails give yourself a time frame – say 3 minutes. If, after the timer has run out you’re still desperately keen on the salty, crunchy snack, then go for it. This time. Maybe aim to increase that timeframe each time around.
Replace and prepare.
When you’re packing your bag for the day, pack some healthy treats like a crunchy apple or some nuts. When the craving hits – BAM – you’re sorted.
Be prepared to go hard or go home. Set yourself a time frame of no less than 21 days and strictly avoid your craving food. You may find at the end of the 21 days your tastebuds are over that food anyway.
Brush your teeth.
Big thanks to the gorgeous Chris Karr for this nifty tip. If you’ve brushed and flossed you’re not as likely to put your hand back in the cookie jar. Cleanliness rules supreme.
Some resources we recommend around cravings:
Food Women and Desire by Alexandra Jamieson
Hungry For Change by Food Matters