Friday, October 11, 2013

Dealing with Cravings

The hardest part of changing your dietary habits is exactly that: getting used to the change. Our bodies often give us signals of what it wants - sometimes those signals come from an emotional place. Sometimes they're from a "biological need" type of place, and other times it's the bacterial flora in our guts that is speaking to us.

Many of us have grown up as "emotional" eaters. We seek comfort foods to comfort our souls.
This isn't always a terrible thing. The smells from a kitchen remind us of being younger. Maybe your relatives had a secret family recipe that still makes you smile. And I think it's fine to give in to that "comfort" on occasion. More detrimental issues seem to come up when we start using food too often as a crutch for safety or as a shield for our emotions.

So how do we protect ourselves?

1) Treat yourself on a special occasion. Thanksgiving is this weekend in Canada. I tend to move away from paleo and indulge in gluten-free stuffing with my turkey. And I might do a bit more baking than I normally would. The point is that it's okay to give yourself a special occasion in which to enjoy a tradition or a comfort food. Each year on my anniversary with my boyfriend we go out to an amazing restaurant in Toronto and I actually order and eat restaurant dessert. For some reason, when I pair it with digestive enzymes and I keep myself low-stress that day, knowing that I can "cheat" for one day, by body is generally okay with it. The point is not to guilt-trip yourself over one cheat meal.

2) First things first, take care of your basic needs: When did you last eat an actual meal? Like with veggies and protein. Do you need real food first? Do you need to drink some water first? Do you need to put your feet up and rest with eyes closed for 5 minutes before running to the fridge? Take a breath and ask yourself what you actually need in that moment. Sometimes I find I just need comfort, and that could be in the form of a hug or contact with a loved one. Check in with yourself before going to the kitchen.

3) No slippery slopes! Maybe you're craving salty or sweet. If you need to curb that craving, do so in small amounts. When I'm feeling like I need chocolate so badly, I only get dark (dairy-free soy-free, 70-85% cocoa) chocolate and I break off only small squares and fully enjoy one piece at a time. Let it melt in your mouth, or chew slowly. Mindfullness eating will help you to not scarf down massive amounts of sweet or salty. I also find it helps to "cleanse your palate" in between. Drink water or herbal tea between bites. By "rinsing off" the chocolate residue from your tongue, you tend to crave it less and less.

If I crave salt, I go for a healthier alternative: Homemade kale chips or slices of cucumber lightly sprinkled with salt (or with homemade guacamole).

4) Don't make one cheat day into everyday cheat day. So you've had a really rough day. Like a seriously shitty day and you just want to go home and forget about the rest of the world. That's totally cool, but fill your personal space with things that will make you bubbly and not just weigh you down. This is especially true if you're finding that every day seems to be a really shitty day. Try not to form habits of going straight to foods that satisfy those cravings everyday. Otherwise your body may start to expect it and it will make it harder for you to resist!

5) Don't listen to your bad gut bacteria and yeast: As mentioned above, the more sugar you consume, the more you tend to crave it (this also goes for bread... grain carbohydrates get broken down into sugars!). This is when your bacterial flora - if populated by Candida yeast or bad gut bacteria will start to feed on the sugars you consume and they LOVE it! The more you give them, the more signals they'll send you to keep it coming!

We all have cravings, and it's okay to satisfy them occasionally. It's how you do it and what habits form from those cravings. Stay in full control of your body, but also make sure to tune into yourself to find out what you might actually need. And as always, other means of stress reduction always helps! Although it's easier said than done, just keep an open mind to other comforts than food and think about what your cravings might actually be telling you.

What about cravings to food sensitives like gluten and bread??
It helps that if there is a food that you don't react well to (ex. gluten), yet you keep having cravings for it (like bread), remember what it feels like to consume that food. For me, gluten makes me bloated, gassy, heavy; I feel like I have less energy, and it often comes with abnormal bowel movements. Remembering how terrible that all feels makes me not want bread and pasta. Give yourself those reminders if you need them.