This is a big subject … with many varying opinions out there on emotional eating!
Why do we crave certain foods? Sometimes it is a nutrient deficiency… but you are not going to crave cookies and sweets because of a nutrient deficiency …. If you find yourself craving a protein food or fat food; this could be from a nutritional deficiency and your body is asking for more protein, or iron or fat.
A hankering for kale? It is something.
Yes, sometimes we do crave fresh food and vegetables like kale or broccoli. Many times this desire for fresh ingredients appears when your body needs more Vitamin C, calcium, iron or magnesium. While I wish more people would get cravings for vegetables … I think we are less likely to hear those cues, though it does happen; for example sometimes traveling I do not have access to local organic greens. After a couple weeks I find myself craving kale! This is most likely due to my increased need for folate (due to the fact I don’t convert folic acid to folate) or either I need detox support (due to impaired detox pathways) and cabbage foods help me greatly with this.
If you begin to crave fruits and vegetables, then indulge away! Just be careful to not eat too much fruit ~ It IS very healthy for us, but needs to be eaten when its in season, in a moderate amount and not with other food. More on that here.
If you are craving something like vegetables or protein … GO FOR IT! Eat it!
If you are craving sweets, or salty crunchy foods or otherwise unhealthy for you foods — it may be an emotional attachment that comforted you somewhere in your past.
While I don’t like to dwell too long on our challenges, broken relationships, coworker issues, childhood experiences … There are times we need to take a brief look (for a limited period of time!) at it to see how it is driving our subconscious behaviors and try to figure out what the hook is.
I also do not believe in the white knuckle approach. If we white knuckle avoid a food that is providing comfort or emotional relief without something productive to replace it with … you may just find yourself with another habit that is even worse for you than the one you are trying to get rid of …
If we can identify the hook, and work with that, those cravings will fall away instead of us taking the white knuckle approach to not eating something that is calming our emotions.
Before we get into our dramas, let’s start with something easier, and one I see often in my health coaching:
Is night time or evening eating your issue? For example ice cream, pretzels, chips, these are some of the evening food cravings. Wine can fall into this category too.
Eating at night, or at least 2-3 hours before bedtime is not helpful. During sleep we detox. You can not digest and detox at the same time — the same organs perform both functions. If you eat before bed you will compromise your detox time, it is best to not eat 2-3 hours before going to bed.
Many people crave food at night, in these circumstances, sometimes it is as easy as needing to relax, a food can help us to relax. Especially if you are a type A person who likes to stay busy. If you have nothing to do it is hard to relax at night. So eating is a way for your to STOP and sit down and relax and unwind.
If this is your hook, then you can explore other ways to find a way to relax that appeal to you. For example; make a nice tea: https://www.befitbodymind.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Tea-pdf-for-posting.pdf On page 3 of this document on teas for morning and evening time is my favorite relax in the evening hibiscus tea recipe — along with many other recipes.
Another great suggestion is take an epsom salts bath. The magnesium from the epsom salts will help to relax you and you will absorb magnesium through your skin which most of us can use a little more of.
Got essential oils? Go ahead and make a little spa night … every night is spa night at my house 🙂 In your bath Add a drop or two of lavender or frankincense, or a flower or tree essential oil that is calming to you to about a 1/4-1/2 ounce of carrier oil and stir well. Add a cup of epsom salts to your bath water and stir up the bath then add in your carrier oil with essential oils to your tub. Soak and enjoy! You could also diffuse a relaxing scent such as marjoram or tulsi while you soak. Ahhhh so lovely.
Neuroplasticity and eating patterns
If night time eating is your thing, explore and see if relaxation is your hook and then explore with other ways to relax. If you find something you like, as you do it more and more nights the old patterns of your night time eating will fall away because you rewired new neural patterns of habit. What we practice we create neural pathways for.
What are you practicing for eating junk food at night?
Become Aware of the the Hook to the emotional food.
- Common hooks? Wanting fo feel Love or reward; comforted, or maybe to numb yourself, or as I spoke about above, just to relax.
- Once we know the hook, what’s the lesson in it for us? There is a deeper meaning that we can explore and make this hook our teacher about a hidden trigger that is influencing our behaviors — and maybe even beyond food but also in our interrelations.
- And lastly what are we going to do about it? What are several options for you?
Tips to help you identify your Hook
—These tips are mostly from my notes from workshops and articles with Dr. Deanna Minnich, one of the FMx doctors in my school.
Eating because of emotions is one of the main reasons for overeating. Rather than expressing emotions, we tend to stuff them down with food, which our body may translate as “comfort” and “fulfillment” at times that we may not feel so comfortable and fulfilled. While this may provide a temporary good feeling, it is usually replaced by the uncomfortable feeling of overeating.
Lets start to dig in to this big topic of emotional eating by looking at common triggers, and then have fun learning what it can mean for you if you crave sweets or salt or even hot and spicy foods.
What are you craving and what may be connected to the food you are craving?
First…Are you just dehydrated?
Many hunger pangs and cravings may have a simple solution: Drink more water! We often misinterpret the signals our body is giving us, most people are chronically dehydrated. The next time you reach for something sweet or salty try quelling the craving with a tall glass of filtered water. You may be surprised at how it makes you feel.
- Make a point to drink half your body weight in ounces every day of clean filtered water. Or as a broad recommendation I tell my clients to fill up 2 quart mason jars with water (or liter jars when I am teaching in Europe) and drink them before the end of the day … and finish your water a couple hours before bedtime to not break your sleep to urinate.
- My water schedule looks something like this; I drink half a quart upon rising, one quart throughout my day, and the last half quart after I am done teaching or working.
Sweet – Craving sweets?
This is the number one crave taste I hear my clients report the most.
Emotionally symbolic of craving sweet foods is usually because someone is not experiencing the joy of sweetness in their lives. Their days are full of the daily grind and what they need to do.
Vitamin P (Pleasure) Plan an activity you enjoy everyday! Even if it is only a 15 minute walk in nature, reading a good book on your porch, treating yourself to a massage, or getting to your favorite hobby.
Experiencing more of the sweetness of life may be just what you need instead of a cupcake.
If you have an overwhelming sweet tooth, the best suggestion I offer is to get your blood sugar balanced first. Eating more fat and/or protein is the quickest and easiest way to balance your blood sugar. Instead of just eating a candy or cookie, have some nuts or yogurt with it.
Ice Cream May be better for you than Prozac ….
If nuts or yogurt won’t do it for you, a sweet like ice cream is a better option than cookies or cake as the fat in the cream will not allow the sugar in the ice cream to put you on a roller coaster blood sugar ride. Just find ice cream made with real ingredients; grass-fed (and finished) whole cream, sugar, and maybe some vanilla or chocolate or fruit.
The insatiable sweet tooth – And your blood sugar
Fluctuating blood sugar levels may be to blame if you reach for sweet snacks throughout your day. As blood glucose (blood sugar) levels rise and fall making you happy one moment and grumpy the next, your body craves sugar for the next energy boost.
Sugar does release endorphins within the body that make you feel happy or comfortable. This ‘sugar high’ can also lead to the over-consumption of simple carbohydrates and result in binging. We tend to over-consume carbohydrates because they’re easily digestible and give us the same boost as sugar.
It is important to become aware of this habit and replace it with healthier options like eating bigger meals with more protein and fat to avoid snacking at all. Snacking is not healthy, it constantly feeds your body to burn blood sugar instead of fat for energy taking you on a daily roller coaster ride. Try to eat 2-3 meals per day and no snacks, if you can not last to your next meal; you either did not eat enough food in general, or you did not have enough protein in your meal, or … its time to get your blood sugar balanced so you can make it several hours without snacking (this usually takes about two weeks to reset). More information on this is beyond the scope of this article, please contact me if you need more information.
We now have a better understanding of the role of how carbs and sugars can impact our health if over-consumed and we are more empowered to reduce sugar and flour in our diets.
In my experience, I’ve noticed that there are the people who crave sweet foods, and those who never go near sweet foods, but they can’t stay away from salt (me!) – salty snacks, drinks, and even sprinkling salt on foods.
Salt does an interesting thing in our bodies: it attracts water. When we eat lots of salt, we move the water in our bodies with it. The salt is like a magnet for movement and flow, which is important for helping people to “go with the flow” of life and stop worrying so much about the little details.
How do we go with the flow? Believe in the higher plan of the unfoldings of your life. Instead of worrying over situations and thinking of all the negative outcomes that could occur … Instead imagine how it can turn out to be good. Dream up the best possible scenario about your situation and take an observer approach, watch where it can lead you!
Creativity is another reason we could be craving salt. Salt attracts water, water is associated with creativity. Perhaps you work in a job where you are not able to express your creative ways? Is there another way you can be creative?
Still craving salt?
If you suddenly develop an intense desire for chips or pretzels, you may be iron-deficient. When we crave salty things, it’s a signal to consume foods with more iron, eating foods high in calcium, potassium and iron can combat these cravings.
Eating yogurt or making a salad with dark, leafy greens will all aid in keeping our sodium habit at bay while increasing calcium and iron levels. To up potassium intake eat more, sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas, and citrus fruits.
Important to know: During intense exercise or an ashtanga practice, your body will actually lose sodium and seek to replace it. If you’re outside working or moving, your body will lose salt through the process of sweating, this can increase your cravings for salty foods.
Crunchy/crispy foods, Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Those people with crunchy food cravings are not as much about the taste of the food as it is searching for a particular texture. The crunch and crispiness of foods gets noticed – with every crunch, it’s a subtle cry of “hey, look at me!”
It means you want Attention, There may be a variety of reasons behind needing attention.
- Maybe there’s something you are trying to say, but can’t.
- Perhaps you are angry and want to “snap” back at someone, but feel restrained.
- You might also feel that you need a “pat” on the back for a job well done.
Crunchy foods give us a fake center stage. When you feel called to be in the spotlight to speak your truth or to make something known, rather than tune into crunchy foods, see if you can understand what you really want to say.
Write your words down and practice saying them. When you feel confident, or safe and ready, try to express what you have been wanting to say; you may be surprised on how beneficial it is for people to hear it!
Cravings for caffeine can mean you want a push to “come alive”.
With caffeine, its a intellectually type of “aliveness” – People with cravings for caffeine feel a call to action in their intellect.
They want to be in the midst of it all, intellectually processing and absorbing all the information they can, and even remembering it so that they can be at the “forefront”. They are the mind jugglers.
However, at the core of all that juggling, is mental exhaustion. The caffeine gives the false impression of keeping it all together and being mentally sharp, but in actuality, it exhausts us further, especially in excessive amounts throughout the day.
Rather than your next cup of joe’ when you dip in the afternoon, try taking a 10-20 minute nap.
While coffee is not a bad food, and even has some benefit for most people (as long as its organic, coffee is a heavily sprayed crop), when you get a dip in the afternoon this is a sign your body just needs a little rest. If you grab a cup of coffee instead you are asking your adrenals to work overtime when all they really want is a little rest time. Once in a while your body can handle this stress, but done day after day it can wreck havoc with your adrenal hormones and lead to adrenals that are not functioning at their best.
Next time you feel a dip in energy try a 10-20 minute nap, when you awaken you will feel your brain re-powered, recharged, and able to concentrate clearly.
Spicy, like it hot?
Like caffeine those who crave spiciness in their life are looking to “come alive”. Those who like spicy food — even to the point at which their eyes well up with tears, are most likely looking for intensity and action in their lives. They may feel bored to tears when their real craving is to be crying for joy and excitement because of the adventurous person they are.
However, with caffeine, it’s a different type of “aliveness” – people who crave spicy foods need this wake-up call on a physical body level; they need to do something.
In addition to creating action, spicy foods also rev up the imagination and our ability to be intuitive, so when you get the urge to eat spicy, start thinking of ways to “spice up” your life. What would spice up your life?
Spice is healthy and stimulating to our digestion. People with more kapha dosha especially do well with spicy foods, so if you crave spice it is not bad as long as it is spicy vegetable curry you are eating and not spicy chicken wings …
Stress … and how it impacts our cravings
Stress & Chocolate
Stressed? Craving a chocolate bar… a few squares are not a bad idea — of course it has to be 70% or higher, organic, fair trade chocolate without any soy emulsifiers …
Let me start with: Chocolate is very good for us and loaded with anti-oxidants! If you are stressed, Eat Chocolate! Why does society try to make us feel guilty for eating chocolate? It is important that it is healthy organic dark chocolate and NOT a snickers bar … or even a Hershey’s bar which uses yucky, unhealthy vegetable oils in their candy bars.
Stress can produce chocolate cravings. Unsurprisingly, chocolate is also known to raise brain serotonin levels which generate feelings of happiness or pleasure.
If you are experiencing stress, then eat chocolate!
Another reason we may crave chocolate is due to a magnesium deficiency (chocolate contains high levels of magnesium). Women may also pine for chocolate due to hormonal changes, or, craving chocolate could mean the body has a vitamin B shortage.
I’ll have fries with that … Stress and Fat
We’re all guilty of stress-eating and binging on certain foods when we’re bored or overwhelmed, but during periods of stress our body will naturally crave fattier foods for comfort. Fat is not bad for us, it just has to be not fried fats or processed vegetable oil fats like most chips and fries are fried in.
Indulging shamelessly in a large order of fries could also mean our body is actually craving fat, however, not all fats are created equal. The next time you feel the need to order anything fried, try healthier options like avocados (or a good guacamole), olives, an egg, or nuts — which are high in ‘good’ fats.
Not really stressed but craving fat? It could mean you’re deficient in essential fatty acids like omega-3s, our bodies do not naturally make omega-3s, you can supplement them or use oils like flax or hemp to up your intake, and of course adding low mercury fish to your diet is very healthy and a good source of the essential fatty acids.
Cruchy and stress
We may also crave crunchy when stressed, as I mentioned earlier wanting a crunchy food usually means you have something to say but can’t say it … in a stress situation, if you have something positive to say, how can you say it? Can you practice saying it to yourself in the mirror first? Saying out loud to yourself or a “safe” friend what you want to say will help you say it when the time is right.
If it is something negative you want to say, then it might be better to crunch it away on a food like roasted cashews or celery with a little horseradish and sprinkle of salt, roasted almonds make a nice crunch too, as do cucumber slices. If none of these will work my go to crunchy salty “bad” food is organic blue corn tortillas chips …
How to make cashews taste like pretzels — I miss those little pretzels! I have found a way to satisfy my pretzel “tooth” with organic cashews: Purchase organic whole cashews, soak them overnight, then roast them for a long time at a low temperate, 225o Turning them every 20 minutes, I like them toasty and roast them for 1 hour + 20 minutes.
Sweet and Stress
Sweet is also commonly craved when stressed, the same applies here as I spoke about earlier; relieving stress is good, a little sweet in moderation may not be so bad. Ice cream is a better option if you crave sweet and something with chocolate in could be helpful.
You still need to eat your vegetables and good protein
A healthy diet and lifestyle hinge on one thing: Balance. It’s perfectly normal to satisfy cravings in moderation, but, you should also assess your diet during these instances.
Don’t think because you had an emotional eating episode that you should starve yourself the rest of the day, instead follow it with a healthy vegetable and protein meal.
Pay attention to consume foods in every color of the rainbow. If you don’t know what colors of foods you have been consuming throughout the day, its time to pay attention to it! Here are some tools from the Learn & Thrive section of my website to help you with that: Plan to eat a Rainbow of color nutrients every day. The chart for kids is also a very useful tool for adults.
- IFM’s Phytonutrient Spectrum Foods
- IFM’s Phytonutrient Spectrum Foods for Kids
- IFM’s Phytonutrient Spectrum Day-of-Recipes
PMS and emo eating
Yes you do crave more carbs (and calories in general) if you are PMSing.
PMS’s hormonal changes a few days before menstruation does come with some appetite and mood changes for some women. When PMS strikes emotional well being sometimes is replaced with anger, irritability, exhaustion, and increased appetite — usually emotional based so you could crave any of the tastes I have covered already.
Before we jump into foods though. Let’s take a brief look at PMS … I like how Dr. Christiane Northrup talks about PMS … it is just the motivation you need to address what is not right in your life each month! Don’t ignore it. Women get a chance every month to take a glaring look at what is not right in their life, if you are moody about something and PMS makes it bigger don’t be afraid to make some changes in your life.
And yes they even have studies proving women eat more during PMS time. Sometimes as much as 1100 kcal more per day! Trying to stuff words with food? Perhaps.
While medicine and science have tried to explain these moods swings, they can not (in the past they blamed it on witchcraft … or water on the brain(?). Nor has modern medicine had any luck in treating them with diuretics, progesterone, muscle relaxers, etc.
Foods that increase serotonin seem to have the best success at helping with PMS.
Increasing serotonin is easy for most people. This little neurotransmitter messenger that is more in our gut than in our brain (surprise to modern doctors) is made when a non-fruit carbohydrate is eaten. If you are experiencing PMS eat a carby food that is not fruit once or twice each day. Try to choose foods low in protein as protein can reduce serotonin from being made. Consider this therapy or medicine and not necessarily a source of your nutrition for the day! You still need to eat your vegetables and high quality protein.
Good snack choices include:
- Organic home popped popcorn in coconut oil
- a good piece of toasted crusty sourdough bread with olive oil or butter
- a good healthy serving of rice with some butter and thyme
- or even pasta, … as long as its organic and not made with enriched flour (due to folic acid being added to enriched flours). Have your pasta with veggies, garlic, olives, and olive oil.
- Organic blue corn tortilla chips
- AND PIZZA 🙂
Sometimes you have to allow yourself some indulgences <3 But you still eat your vegetables and good quality protein meals! Ist dein gemusse!
When you really don’t want to eat but are hungry for something ….
Eating out of boredom? Worry? Loneliness? Afternoon lull? You just feel hungry for no reason at night?
Many times when we get hungry at night it is because we did not eat enough protein or a good solid meal with lots of vegetables in the day. If this is the case, while it is best not to eat at night a small handful of cashews or almonds might hit the spot and end the craving. Make sure to make a plan of eating at least 2 good solid meals without any snacks the next day and you might realize how craving food at night is just a symptom of a poor diet.
Same principal for a late afternoon craving or binge habit, usually not enough lunch, or protein during your day to support your activities of daily living. Try to eat a bigger lunch with more protein and see if you get as much of a craving in he late afternoon.
Other times when you are craving a snack or otherwise unhealthy food … it may be best just not to eat. Instead of heading for the cupboard for a cupboard to mouth food … take pause. Ask yourself:
What are you hungry for? Think about some of the different tastes, textures, and flavors … what appeals to you? Pay attention to what would satisfy your craving; is it crunchy or crispy? Warm? Cold? Salty? Sweet? Try to figure out what would truly satisfy.
If it is something junky, and you have eaten well that day getting all the good veggies and protein you need for he day … and you really don’t want the extra calories and maybe additional weight … then I have some suggestions.
Take a 5 minute walk, do a kitchen yoga routine, go outside!, dance right where you are, sing a song …. see if you still feel like eating the food. If your “binge” time hits after work or in the afternoon (common times) these above tips just may nip the craving. And don’t forget to drink a big glass of water, that alone could cure the crave.
If you still feel like eating, Ask yourself; who are you? What are you up to? Does this food support your well being or health of your body?
Familiar with EFT tapping? This is a useful tool from TCM, a 5 minute tapping session standing right in your kitchen can be very effective at ending a crave. Here is a link to a popular tapping site that I like, The Tapping Solution, they have some tapping sessions available at no charge right on their site.
And I have a little tapping routine I like where you tap on all your meridians. We will do that together at the end.
Your gut and your cravings
You know your microbes could be driving your craving … and this might not be good if the bad bugs are the ones hollering the loudest in your gut.
In my younger days we had this saying, “the devil made me eat it”, or “the angel in me came out today” … these are really just ways we had back then of depicting our good gut bugs and bad gut bugs. Remember the old cartoons with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? Those are your gut bacteria! We want more angel bacteria than devil bacteria! We want the angel bugs to holler the loudest.
You slowly change your microbial diversity by eating fresh whole foods (nothing processed), avoiding sugar and sweets, eating lots of organic local fruits and vegetables, and fermented foods. If this is interesting to you, one of my favorite Ayurvedic doctors, Dr. John Douillard wrote a nice article about our microbes driving our taste buds here.
And I just want to leave with this … Too many times I see people eating bad food because “someone made it with love” and “love makes it all good” … Well I am here to tell you, food made with Love is truly home cooked food made by that person with wholesome ingredients and good thoughts! If it is anything other, DO NOT EAT IT.
Pre-prepared Grocery Store food is not cooking with Love!
Below is a tapping session I frequently do (not from The Tapping Solution), on The Tapping Solution site they have tapping meditations especially for dealing with food and cravings.
EFT Tapping on your Meridians
Physical tapping helps to move energy, chi or prana, in other words physical tapping can help blood flow, neurons move, lymph flow, hormones secrete …. stretching can help move energy too and remove tension and stuck energy as well, so can shaking out — also good is massage.
Stand up or Sit tall and shake yourself out, start with your hands, take it into your arms and legs, now shake your booty 🙂
Tapping on al the ends of the meridian points with affirmations can help remove stuck energy and therefore cravings and even just odd emotions you want to shake.
Just lightly tapping with your fingertips:
Tap on the top of the head and say with inhale “I open my self to higher information”
Peace sign fingers between the eye brows (bladder points) “I am open, hopeful, vital, and fully alive”
Sides of eyes on bones (gall bladder points) “I assert myself peacefully releasing all anger and resentment”
Stomach points, about worry on cheekbones “I trust in the process of life”
Under nose — end of governing meridian, two finger tap and say “I am grounded in gratitude”
Under neath low lip, central meridian “I am centered in spirit”
K27 – kidneys — connected with fear just below collar bones on both sides (think Tarzan) “I move forward with courage”
Thymus bone on chest bone center— “my immune system is strong and healthy”
Spleen points below ribs — also neuro-lymohatics for liver (on right side) “I nourish myself with kindness”. tap both sides strongly — this can even improve digestion.
center of both wrists together — pericardium — pericardium job is to take care of heart. Tapping center of wrists together say “I take good care of my heart”.
Ends of pinkies — tapping both tougher — heart meridian — “I love myself deeply and completely”
inside of wrist at the end of the thumbs (lung meridians) tap both hands together — one hand facing toward body one hand facing away. “I let go of stale chi, I breathe in pure clear chi”
karate chop point tapping both together or just tapping one hand. Small intestine meridian — has to do with making decisions. “I know what I want I am decisive”.
Flare of nose — large intestine meridian. schmoosh down skin on over teeth — tap with both fingers at the flare of both nostrils. “I let go of anger, fear, guilt, and shame”.
Shake out again and end with a “whoosh” as you sweep down each arm.
Credits: The above session can be found on video, Nick Polizzi with the Sacred Science posted this video with Maryna Allan taking us through this tapping session.