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What Are You Really Craving?

Ordering grilled salmon in a restaurant is a fine idea, and there’s nothing wrong in general with shopping for easy-to-prepare foods. But where is the body in all of this? If you order the grilled salmon to be virtuous, but you’re not in the mood for fish and you’re longing for risotto, your body won’t be fed in the same way. The meal will be nutritious, but it may not be nourishing. You won’t experience the same pleasure.

Now, the tricky part about cravings is differentiating between the needs of the body and the capricious desires of the mind. Is it truly your body that wants ice cream or spicy cheese nachos, or is it your mind that wants them, to provide a momentary distraction from stress, worry, anxiety, loneliness? It could be that you don’t want food at all; maybe, as Woodman suggests, you’re really craving sweetness in your life. (Or in the case of nachos, more spice.)

Maybe the cells of your body really are crying out for ice cream or nachos; maybe you’ve been on a highly restrictive diet since eighth grade, and your cells are starved for fat. If that’s the case, you might want to engage your body in a dialogue; maybe another kind of fat—olives, avocado, coconut oil, organic butter—would appeal even more strongly.

Sometimes our cravings are what our minds call “healthy” cravings, for foods like fresh melon or walnuts. Because we indulge those cravings without mental or emotional suffering, those aren’t the issue. Other cravings for foods that cause adverse physical reactions in the body—like sugar for a diabetic, or wheat for someone with Celiac—simply shouldn’t be indulged. And if you have a clinical eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, I encourage you to seek one-on-one, professional help.

For everyone else, try this out: the next time you have a food craving that’s causing you distress, just stop what you’re doing and notice. Where is the longing in your body? What exactly is it saying? If possible, find a place where you can be still and quiet for at least 10 minutes. Get comfortable, close your eyes, and just sit with the craving. What comes up? What words, images, physical sensations, emotions, are behind the craving?

Sometimes, when  you’re sitting at the edge of a craving, you’ll find that your body wants to move in a certain way; allow it that freedom, and see if it’s offering a clue to what’s really going on. Begin to write about your cravings in a journal; it’s a fascinating exploration into the inner landscape. Sometimes, you’ll find that a craving really is signaling a nutritional deficiency in your body. But you may also notice that, most of the time, your cravings have nothing to do with food.

What do your cravings look like?  Please post your comments; I’d love to hear.

Read more: Spirit, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Inspired Eating, Self-Help, , , , , ,

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Lisa Turner

Lisa is a chef and nutritionist with more than 30 years of professional experience and formal training in food, nutrition and product development. She’s written five books on food and nutrition and is the creator of The Healthy Gourmet iPhone app, and has been a featured blogger for many national sites, including Huffington Post and Whole Foods Market. Lisa is a faculty instructor at Bauman College of Culinary Arts and also teaches food and nutrition classes and workshops to individuals and corporations. She's a black belt in Ninjutsu, an active volunteer in the Boulder Valley school lunch system, and an avid wild food forager.


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10:14AM PDT on Jun 28, 2013

Very interesting! Thanks

2:56PM PDT on Sep 13, 2012


6:32AM PDT on Sep 12, 2012


5:12AM PST on Dec 1, 2011

A lot of this resonates. When I was young, if I knew I had some sweets or something tasty to eat that evening, somehow it felt very 'glamorous'. It was different and exciting, something to look forward to. I still feel quite similarly ... so I suppose the thing to do is find some non-fattening forms of excitement!

12:27PM PDT on Aug 11, 2010

Very interesting thanks for the info it helps a lot.

5:17PM PDT on Aug 9, 2010

Very interesting, thanks!

7:24PM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

Try getting the most nutrients out of foods...

PS.: feel free to share info and recipes at Nutritional Trashed Thx ;-)

12:23AM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

Interesting article and so true!
I have one question though.
What is that ghastly looking stuff in the pan, for crying out loud?

6:21PM PDT on Aug 7, 2010

im always in the mood for strawberries..yumm...and dark chocolate!

4:05AM PDT on Aug 6, 2010

Really interesting. I find that when I allow myself one unhealthy meal (e.g. high in fat or salt) my body craves more fatty and salty foods for the rest of the day.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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