Friday, July 11, 2014

Got Cravings?: Three Things to Consider When You Just Can't Stay Away From the Snack Bar

Often, when we rush to satisfy a craving, we are actually eating to bury unpleasant emotions or as a means of diverting attention away from the root of a problem. Sometimes, we find ourselves in an “eating rut,” gravitating toward certain foods at the same time of day, every day, simply out of habit. 


When cravings strike, ask yourself the following questions:

1.     Am I actually hungry, or am I bored or stressed out?

2.     Did I have a decent lunch, including something warm like soup, some good protein and fat, and vegetables with spices and flavor?

3.     Did I have something sweet to finish the meal, and did I leave the tabled feeling satisfied?

If you answer “no” to many of these questions, you have probably been consuming too many sweet or starchy foods (making your blood sugar swing from one side of pendulum to the other), instead of feeding it the fuel that your body really needs.

If you were able to answer “yes” but still crave sweet, salty, or starchy foods, then you are most likely suffering from excessive worry, stress, being overwhelmed, or angry about something.

If boredom or stress is the cause of your craving, find a productive way to address the true issue. At work, perhaps getting up from your desk and walking down the hall and back can break the monotony of too much time in front of the computer. Sometimes, cravings for baked goods or other sweets are an attempt to provide distraction from uncomfortable relationships, an out of control schedule, or a house full of chaos. The negative effects of stress can be lessened when you find one area of your life that you do feel you have a say-so over, and focus on maximizing it: set a non-negotiable bedtime, make a recurring date with a friend to exercise, carve out one hour a week for your favorite creative outlet.

When your cravings are the result of less-than-satisfying lunches, experiment with different combinations of food, a variety of seasonings, and diverse textures until you find a lunch that is satisfying to you. Too often, instead of treating this meal as an important opportunity to fuel yourself for the second half of the day, it’s treated as an after-thought, or an annoyance. A few hours into the afternoon, the rebound of this neglect is usually a quick-energy food like some salty chips, a sweet candy bar, or a sugar-laden soda, setting you up for an afternoon and evening of eating in response to the wild swings of your appetite.

Sometimes, cravings for sweets can be alleviated by incorporating some naturally sweet foods into your regular meals. Carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and even radishes and turnips are great vegetables that satisfy these cravings. Nutty tasting whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley are some unexpected sources of sweet satiety. Fruit is a great dessert to include, as well. Cut cantaloupe or watermelon, chilled grapes or other berries, and some fresh peaches satisfy your sweet tooth while providing your body with LOTS of nutrients and plant fiber, too.

After exploring your cravings and taking steps to understand and alleviate them, you may still really, REALLY want that chocolate, those chips, or some other favorite indulgence from time to time. When that happens, seek out the best-quality treat you can find. Why settle for waxy chocolate, flavorless chips, or any other sub-par "goodie"? By getting the best-quality of whatever it is that you're craving, you'll often need less to satisfy that yearning (plus, it's often more expensive, so you will want to make it last longer). Allow yourself a small serving and then put it away - completely - and let yourself enjoy the sense of getting enough.

By taking time to explore the cause of your cravings, you will begin to develop some strategies for addressing them in the healthiest ways possible. Creating a sense of mindfulness in one area of your life can create mindfulness in others, as well!

Elly Haddad is a certified holistic health and wellness coach, and founder of Elemental Fit, based in Nashville, TN. She helps individuals and groups understand the important influence that diet & lifestyle have on health, happiness, & overall wellbeing. Elly is also a writer and public speaker, conducting workshops and seminars in various cities in the US. She can be contacted directly via email here

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