Food Cravings work like this: your body is low in a vitamin, mineral, or fatty acid and it yells, loudly, at you to put it in your mouth. The irony with many of our bodies right now is that even though we are much larger than we wish we were and maybe we’re eating much more food than might be healthy for us, we’re actually starving because the foods we are eating are so low in actual nutritional value. This is why you can eat an entire meal and then still feel hungry and continue to graze all night. Your very cells are yelling at you to please, give them some actual nutrients.
Our processed and prepackaged foods have been engineered to make us crave them and eat a lot of them at a time or repeatedly. They trick our taste buds and our brains into never feeling full so we keep eating more and more. They are created to crunch or melt a certain way that makes our brains happy and trigger our salivary glands so we will remember it the next time we see the package. You can see it starts to become less about “will power” and more about science at that point, and those franken-food scientists are working against us.
Changing what you eat to real and non-processed foods will help, but you’ll most likely have some growing pains. It helps if you know what your body is actually saying when it’s asking for some potato chips, so consider this your cheat sheet. (More concise cheat sheet here.)
Overeating in General: You can’t put your finger on it, but you’re hungry for something. You’re grazing off and on for hours. Little bits of that food, little bits of this food, never feeling satisfied. The end result is that you’re eating way more than you anticipated in a day and your stomach is having digestion issues.
Our bellies are happier when we eat and then give them a break for a couple of hours to do their work. If we keep putting things in, they don’t ever get to concentrate fully on the task at hand. Our digestive juices get thinner because they have to go further. Our foods don’t get fully digested in the belly before moving to the intestines, which means we aren’t getting the nutrients from them and they are fermenting in there and becoming toxic. We’re also confusing our brains because they never get to give the signal of, “Hey! I’m hungry! Feed me!” and we actually unlearn how to tell when we’re hungry.
The first thing to do is cut out all heavily processed and packaged foods from the store. The engineers of those food-like products have created them specifically to do just what they’re doing to your body. Those snack food companies have employed scientists to create combinations of chemicals that will trick your taste buds and hormones into never being satisfied with what goes in your mouth, so you don’t know why, but you just want more and more. These pretend foods contain synthetics and chemicals that at best are confusing to your body and at worst are simply poison. Cut them out.
If you’ve been eating many of these products and now choose to stop, your body will go through withdrawals. Not maybe – it will. These are highly sophisticated products and your cells, even though they might know it’s not good for them, want them, crave them, can’t get enough. I wish I could quit you, junk food. So, be prepared for that if at all possible. Know that you’ll get headaches and backaches and even unexplained all-over muscle aches. Know that you’ll be on your way to Crabby Town for a few days and the smallest thing might set you off. Know that you’re going to spend ten solid minutes day-dreaming about a bowl of ice cream before you realize what’s happening. Consider weaning slowly off of the things that seem to cause you the most pain. And I say that in love, because I was once a Dr. Soda freak just like many of you.
The good news? All that pain is indicative of your body balancing. Way to go, body! Our bodies are so awesome! You’re going to want to help facilitate built up toxins unloading with foot baths and deep breathing/meditation and upping your cruciferous veggie intake.
And when those cravings come up, look at the following options and see if you can identify them and make them disappear.
Sugar and Sweets: Sugar is a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates trigger our brains to release serotonin, which makes us feel good. When we taste something sweet, our body releases endorphins that make us feel relaxed, calm and “high.” Add to that the practice many people have of rewarding behaviors with something sweet and we program ourselves to crave them.
If you’re craving sweets and sugar, try eating a little fruit or dark chocolate along with some protein or cruciferous veggies. Craving sugar might mean your energy is lagging and what you want to do is even it out. If you eat a sweet, sugary treat, you’ll get an instant “high,” and then a short time later, you’ll get a dip in energy again. If you eat a protein, it will give you much longer source of energy. Throw in some cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts or kale, which have sulfur, because one reason you could be craving sugar is your organs are working super hard to balance. Cruciferous veggies will help bind those toxins and rid them from your body.
But, please do put that little bit of chocolate or fruit in there for the actual sugar if you want. If we deprive ourselves, our brains, completely of the thing it’s craving, it turns it into a mind game where it might be all we can think about. We might end up eating and eating other things for hours while our brains are refusing to shut off thinking about sugar. And then hours later, when we finally give in, and maybe give in to a huge amount of sugar, we’ll have some guilt and shame attached to it. And we don’t need that noise, friend.
During this healing time, if you’re eating real fats, high-quality proteins and real fruit sugars occasionally in your meals, and eating at regular intervals throughout the day, not allowing yourself to get too hungry between meals by spacing them every few hours, unhealthy sugar cravings will eventually end.
Bread and Carbohydrates: Carb cravings are associated with a drop in serotonin and it’s something that millions of people experience late in the afternoon, especially if they’ve allowed themselves to consume too much caffeine or sugar earlier in the day. Carbohydrates from refined bread, noodles and other grains turn into sugar in our bodies, so really what your body is saying is it needs to balance out energy similar to when it’s craving sugar.
If you can only think about breads, try proteins, sprouted lentils, and dark, leafy greens which have nitrogen. Nitrogen is found in the amino acids in the protein and they’ll help even out your energy in the long run.
If you just need to eat some bread, and remember that we want to keep you from thinking about a particular food all the live-long-day that you can’t have, try sourdough bread made from real sourdough starter and not from yeast. (Check the label.) It’s easier to digest than other breads which means you may have a much smaller reaction to it. A piece of toast with a real fruit preserve (for sugar) and a swipe of goat cheese (for nitrogen) might be just what you need to move on.
Salty Foods: Craving salt might be your body’s way of saying it’s thirsty. It might be craving electrolytes like chloride and sodium. It might mean your adrenals aren’t working well and they need some help. And it also might mean that since you’ve cut out all those highly-processed, prepackaged foods, your body is experiencing what it perceives as a little salt-deprivation.
Lemon water is an awesome electrolyte balancer. Drink some water with squeezed lemon or other fruit or veg like rosemary with raspberries or cucumber with mint. Try eating a high-water-content fruit or veggie like celery, which has sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphorus, or apples which have potassium, or half a banana which is high in potassium and magnesium. Coconut water is a good choice. (But don’t drink too much if your body is new to it, or you might end up in the bathroom in a few hours chained to the toilet.)
What about sports drinks? Well, basically they are colored sugar water with a ton of harmful stuff like chemicals, synthetic sugars, artificial everything and probably high fructose corn syrup, which is why they give you a charge of energy. Many of them contain too much sodium and not enough of all the other electrolytes.
Real Celtic salt and Himalayan salts have the best electrolyte values. If you get “Real Sea Salt,” it may have a de-caking ingredient that isn’t so great, so check the label. As a general rule, people in the United States get too much sodium because they are eating so many prepackaged and processed foods. When you cut those out, remember that including real salts is important. The average adult needs less than a teaspoon a day, but without this important mineral, a person can experience hyponatraemia with symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and nausea. We also need adequate salt to help all the electrical functions of the body, including positive energy.
Fried Foods: If you are craving fried foods, you probably need to eat more healthy fats. It may be that you’ve cut out whole-fat dairy, or all dairy, and tried many “healthier, low-fat” options during this important healing time.
Here’s what happens when we eat something “low-fat”: First, our mouths, our taste buds that were expecting something with a certain taste or “mouth-feel” end up disappointed, because the low-fat, processed food we just ate didn’t taste, oh, quite right. It was also probably full of sugar, artificial sugars, salt, emulsifiers (guar or xanthum gums), soy by-products (hydrolyzed stuff or lecithin) and “natural flavors” (MSG or similar) that are trying to do the tricking.
Second, those ingredients I just listed go to work in your bloodstream. Some of them confuse your brain into thinking you haven’t really eaten anything of consequence yet, which triggers over-eating. Some of the others make your blood-sugar spike and then drop a short time later. Some kill your cells because they’ve been designed to “excite” them into a frenzy. And then we finally get to the “low-fat” part. What used to be something that your body could metabolize is now a broken fatty acid chain and can’t be used in the same way as a whole, real fat could by your body’s systems. Which means it will stay in parts of your body way too long. Which means inflammation.
To put it in short story format – your body simply can’t digest it.
Try putting real, whole fats back in your diet. If you’re allergic to dairy right now, try avocados. If you can’t do butter, try ghee, where the milk-solids have been removed. If you can’t do organic pasteurized cow milk, look into raw. Or goat.
When they remove all or part of the fat in dairy, they remove the oleic acid and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has been shown to help with weight loss, along with the palmitoleic acid which has been shown to help against insulin resistance and diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Fat is not the enemy here. Real, whole fats are awesome. Your cell membranes need it, as do your hormones. They also help slow down the absorption process of your digestion so you don’t get hungry as quickly. And they help you absorb many vitamins and minerals that are hard to absorb otherwise. This is really important right now.
But, by all means, cut out all the man-made fats like trans fats and refined polyunsaturated fats in “vegetable” oils. Definitely go “low-fat” that way.
If you’re craving fried foods, eat something high in calcium like dark greens. Collard greens, kale, spinach, and kelp are all great choices. Cover them with a real, whole fat, like butter from pasture-raised cows or olive oil. Top it with some Himalayan salt and fresh cracked pepper!
Caffeine: Caffeine hits your brain and increases the neuron activity, which then releases adrenalin. Why do we crave that? Because we’re just plain tired. Our adrenals are exhausted. Our brains are foggy. Our muscles feel pooped. You put in that caffeine and it can help alleviate those issues for a bit.
The issue is that if you have very much, it has some downers tacked on like prompting our bodies to lose calcium and magnesium, both of which we need to heal, and actually making our adrenals more tired because the effect of caffeine can last up to 18 hours. That’s a long time for them to be on and eventually it doesn’t work as well as it used to, so we increase the amount we are taking in. That will ruin our sleep, which we need to regenerate our health.
What we really need to do is give our bodies sustained energy throughout the day, which usually means iron and protein. That puts us back to making sure we have our 4-5 small meals throughout the day, all which have a portion of protein in them.
If you just can’t stop wishing for coffee or soda, aka caffeine, try a small portion of steak or dried fruit. If you don’t want to do red meat, try beans and add dark, leafy greens. Dried figs or prunes are great and Eggs are also rockstars for this right now.
Emotional Eating: Part of what we won’t cover in this section is what emotions you might be having that could be triggering your eating. If you feel like you’re eating more for comfort than for hunger, please check Emotional Healing.
Your Thymus! Thumping your thymus might sound a little weird, but it’s actually something you can do anytime during the day to give yourself a little pick-me-up instead of caffeine. And it does much more than just that.
Your thymus is an endocrine gland underneath your sternum, directly below your thyroid. Giving it a few thumps wakes up your endocrine system, gets your immune system running and clears your energy.
Chronically ill people notoriously have endocrine systems that simply don’t run. They are sluggish and just plain tired out. They’ve been overworked and overloaded with infection and inflammation for years. They need a little help getting things going again. You need to support it and love it back into action.
The thymus gland is responsible for creating T-cells, a very important task. T-cells make up who we are and tell our immune system what parts of our body is ‘Us” and what parts are not. If the thymus isn’t working right, your body can’t tell what is “Self” and what is “Foe.” If you’ve got an autoimmune disease, your thymus is not doing its job.
To locate your thymus, make a fist and place your thumb in the hollow of your throat, keeping your knuckles pressed to your chest. Your pinkie finger now rests where your thymus lies.
Pull your hand away from your chest and using your fist, pound gently on your thymus a few times like you’re Tarzan for about as long as two deep breaths. If you’re too sensitive for pounding right now, use your fingertips and do it as gently as feels right and work up to the pounding. Do this a few times a day as a pick me up and as a healing measure.